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Mobile phones still failing to kill people – Nordic scientists

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Mobile phones still aren't killing people, according to the latest research from Norway, but in contrast to previous studies the Norwegians aren't calling for more money to fund research.

The fact that mobile phones don't cause cancer, or other medial condition, isn't news, but the latest study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health is almost unique in neglecting to call for additional research funding, though even then there's a note asking the government to maintain its commitments in the area.

The research was commissioned by the Norwegian government and looked at data from the multitude of studies, but comes down to the basic principle that if phones were really dangerous then illness rates would be increasing, which they aren't.

Not only is there no evidence of illness, but there's no mechanism by which illness can be induced. The heating effect of radio waves needs much more power than is allowed (about 50 times, but who's counting) and even microscopic effects haven't been seen to occur at the levels permitted by international regulation, so all we have is anecdotal evidence and self-diagnosis of genuinely unpleasant ailments.

The report (PDF, English summary, worthy but dull) is particularly damning of hypersensitivity: the ailment which sufferers claim makes it impossible to live near electromagnetic fields:

"We have no grounds to say that the symptoms are imaginary," say the scientists, implying just that and explaining: "An overall assessment of health and of possible adverse physical, psychological and social burdens, as well as the patient’s own motivation, is needed as a basis for medical treatment and other interventions." But, they emphasise, there is no scientific basis to recommend reduced exposure to electromagnetic fields.

They do recommend ongoing analysis of cancer and other aliments, and use of Norway's mast database to monitor for regional effects. We can't do that here of course, despite our own Stewart Report recommending exactly the same thing back in 2000. Everything Everywhere is fighting all the way to the European courts to avoid telling us where its base stations are, backed (incredibly) by Ofcom, which would prefer we didn't ask where the transmitters are*.

Two years ago Ofcom announced it would be creating a database of all radio transmitters to allow exactly this kind of analysis, but since then it has been ducking the question and trying to pretend the project never existed.

Radio transmissions don't make us ill, but refusing to reveal where they're coming from hardly inspires confidence. Fortunately the rest of the world does have public records, and as long as people elsewhere aren't getting ill then we're probably OK, which is pretty much what the report concludes. ®

* Ofcom even updated the Sitefinder service earlier this year, hoping that a Google Earth mashup would distract users from the increasing inaccuracy of the data, a strategy which seems to have worked.

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