Intended for healthcare professionals


“Hands-free” mobile phones may be safer than the rest

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 19 August 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:468
  1. Roger Dobson
  1. Abergavenny

    Using “hands-free” kits with mobile phones seems to be safer than holding these phone directly against the head, according to research commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry.

    Tests showed that the kits offered “substantially” reduced exposure to radiation, and when ferrite suppressors were added to the earpiece cables, even lower levels of exposure were recorded.

    The research, carried out by an independent company, Sartest, found that the position of the phone, including which way the key pad is facing and how the earpiece hangs, can affect radiation absorption.

    “With a hands-free kit in use, the maximum body absorption depends on where the mobile phone is placed. If it is in the hand, the situation is similar to normal use of the phone against the ear. If it is in the pocket, then the body absorption is expected to depend on which way around the phone is placed. There will be a lower body dose by turning the keypad of the phone towards the body,” said the report.

    It recommend that users of hands-free kits should let the ear piece cable hang down naturally from the ear, keep the cable away from the phone's antennae, and not place the phone directly against the body.

    The Department of Trade and Industry said that all measurements taken of the phones tested were comfortably within exposure guidelines of the National Radiation Protection Board.

    The Consumers' Association magazine Which? reported earlier this year that the earpiece wire of the kits acted as an aerial, channelling three times the level of radiation to the head as an ordinary mobile phone.

    The “e-minister,” Patricia Hewitt, said: “It is important that the public is provided with clear and unambiguous advice about the use of hands-free kits. This report confirms that the kits reduce exposure for mobile phone users.”

    Embedded Image

    An orthodox Jew puts his mobile phone to the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem to let an absent relative pray at this holy site.


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