|INDEPENDENT EXPERT GROUP ON MOBILE PHONES CALL FOR EVIDENCE|
The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) is pleased to respond to the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones call for evidence. The RSE is Scotland’s premier Learned Society, comprising Fellows elected on the basis of their distinction, from the full range of academic disciplines, and from industry, commerce and the professions. This response has been compiled with the assistance of a number of Fellows including those with direct experience of communications technologies and ionising radiation.
In approaching this issue there is the need to balance several conflicting elements, complicated by the difficulty of being expected to 'prove a negative' in what can be an area of heightened public concern. Some key issues will be the development of mechanisms to provide a responsibility for monitoring radiation levels, maintaining an awareness of work elsewhere, and being pro-active in attempting to identify potential harmful effects in the future.
Specific comments on this issue are addressed below:
Issues arising from the growth in mobile phone use
Perceived health hazards
It should be noted that in many cases, the field strengths used for ultrahigh frequency (UHF) television (TV) broadcasting are considerably higher than those used for mobile telephony. Mobile phone transmitter base stations operate at 2-5 times the frequency of UHF TV but the mobile handset employs a much more sensitive receiver than that employed for TV reception and hence the lower field strength requirement. Reference to existing high power transmitter situations may also, therefore, be of value.
With reference to handset radiation into the head, there is a need to compare the radiation levels from a typical 0.1 to 1W handset with other radiation received from sources such as TV broadcasts and leakage from domestic 1 kW microwave ovens. Until these levels are established and the safe threshold defined, it will be difficult to be more definitive on the safety issues.
Need for research
In addition, there are some extremely difficult research issues relating to efficient system and antenna design. The Department of Trade and Industry has for some time been concerned to give momentum to research into radio-frequency related problems, and given public concern, it may be that some direction from the Research Councils in the guise of a managed programme would be justified.
With regard to the guideline limits for microwave exposure, it is prudent for the Government to adopt the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) recommendedguidelines to protect the public from possible harm, and because the existing National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) guidelines do not take account of the increased frequency and duration of use of mobile phones.
Further information is available from the Research Officer, Dr Marc Rands