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Mobile scaremongers want warning stickers on EVERYTHING

This'll get The Mail into a right lather

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Analysis Mobilewise - the tireless promoters of the dangers inherent in mobile telephony - has a new report blaming mobiles for everything from cancer to infertility, and it wants sticky warning labels to alert the world.

Not that Mobilewise has any new research to report, or any specific claims to make, it's just bundled all the various mobile phone health scares into one convenient document [pdf] and picked out the evidence supporting its conclusion that mobs are dangerous and that the government is deliberately suppressing that information.

The report pretends to be impartial, and the group claims it published the report because "mobile phone users are repeatedly hearing contradictory studies on the health effects of mobiles". That would be more convincing if it wasn't for the fact that pretty much all the studies have concluded that there are no health effects, but why let the facts stand in the way of a good scare?

If looks could kill... then mobiles would be blamed for them too

The usual comparisons to smoking are made, pointing out how cigarettes cause cancer. Sadly, there's not space to mention how CRTs cause miscarriages, or GM potatoes kill rats, or even the dangers of eating soft-boiled eggs and/or soft cheeses, or anything sweetened with cyclamate, all of which turned out to be bunk.

Some people said smoking kills, turns out they were right. Some people say mobile phones kill - they must, therefore, also be right.

Cyclamate is particularly interesting as it's only Americans who still think the artificial sweetener is dangerous; everyone else is happily consuming the stuff daily and has been since the 1950s. In the 1980s, the US National Academy of Sciences decreed that "the totality of evidence from studies in animals does not indicate that cyclamate (or its metabolite) is carcinogenic", but still the sweetener is banned in the US and appears on the World Health Organisation's list of possible carcinogens.

Mobile phones also appear on that list, something the Mobilewise report makes great play of by quoting the definition at length yet failing to spot that the list also includes dangers such as exposure to bracken and joinery.

The report claims to quote more than 200 studies, but references them only in the appendix rather than linking specific claims to specific studies. That would make the individual claims easier to qualify but would, apparently, make the text too cluttered.

Much is made of the Interphone study, a ten-year analysis of cancer rates among mobile users. The fact that the study found marginal increases in cancer rates among heavy phone users is highlighted, but the report didn't have space to record that the same study found the light mobile use actually decreased the risk of cancer, though it did have space to point out that historical studies are useless as they don't allow for modern usage patterns.

Public warning about public warnings

The recommendations mirror those made in May by the Council of Europe, and the Council's magnotherapy-inspired report is quoted at length. Mobilewise calls for lots of public information films and projects, and warning stickers on everything. The group also wants more studies, lots more studies, to be funded with a special tax on mobile phone use. Mobilewise sensibly stops short of some of the council's more mad as a box 'o frogs suggestions, such as communicating by Heliograph or cutting rural schools' access to the internet access.

Given the EU is already committed to spending millions more on COSMOS - a 25-year study into the impact of mobile telephony on health - one has to ask how much more money Mobilewise would like us to spend on establishing the safety of mobile telephony.

We should keep an eye on the safety of mobile telephony, of course. When the yuppies from the 1980s start dropping dead it will probably be time to decide how much we value our mobiles, but until then the biggest danger from a mobile is being hit by the car within which it's being used. ®

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