Human guinea pigs to test mobile phone risks

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The British Government has commissioned a study using human guinea pigs to test whether the prolonged use of mobile phones carries serious health risks.
 
Eighteen volunteers are taking part in the study which is part of the Department of Health’s radiation protection research programme. The tests, which are being carried out at Bristol University, are designed to detect short-term memory, reaction times and awareness in mobile phone users.
 
The volunteers will spend between 20 minutes to half-an-hour with a handset fixed to their heads, and carry out a series of tasks. Some of the handsets will be dummy ones, others will be real. It is part of a bigger project at Bristol University looking into the effects of microwave radiation on human beings.
 
Some scientists have suggested that radiation from mobile handsets could cause brain tumours, cancer, anxiety and memory loss, and there has been increasing concern amongst the public about the possible side-effects.
 
Dr Alan Preece of Bristol University, who is conducting the research, wrote in an article last year: “The facts are that cell phones emit either continuous microwaves at about 900 MHz or pulsed microwaves at 1.8 GHz and these must cause a small amount of tissue heating, including brain tissue.”
 
Dr Preece says he has had a lot of enquiries from people worried about the effects of mobile phones. “There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence of people feeling weak, having memory problems and depression.”
 
Official figures published last November showed that nearly one in five households in the UK possessed a mobile phone. 

UK criminals get mobile

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British police and trading standards officers are warning that a new trend in mobile phone services is being exploited by criminals.

In one case, a pensioner handed over £9,000 of life savings to bogus builders.

Pre-pay mobiles, which involve no contracts or rental charges, have been very popular since they came on the market last year.

Airtime is paid for in advance through a voucher system.

Because there are no credit checks, contracts or connection charges involved in signing up for the phone and no monthly invoices afterwards, the users are hard to trace.

But the system’s anonymity is of increasing concern for law enforcement agencies.

Trading standards officers say the phones are being used by criminals to commit offences.

Senior officer Steve Playle said: “When I come to try to trace the subscriber of a mobile phone that’s been used for crime it’s impossible to find out who’s been using that phone.

“No details will exist – they’ll be anonymous basically,” he said.

Because the technology is new, the problem of its criminal use is only just coming to light.

Trading standards officers are currently hunting a gang of bogus builders making use of untraceable phones.

The builders dupe people into pre-paying for work that is not needed and is never carried out.

The mobile phone industry says it will work with police to combat crime.

But trading standards officers have written to the government seeking a clampdown.

Steve Playle, a senior officer, says the authority and police want new phones to be registered.

“I’m all in favour of trying to widen mobile phone ownership but clearly the regulators have overlooked the problem that these phones can be used for crime, and that’s something they really must tackle,” he said.

The industry regulator, Oftel, says it will be closely monitoring the situation.