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Revamping radiation standards

Mobile phone emission strengths may double in Australia following recommendations from the country's radiation safety body to lift safe human exposure levels to handset radiation.

Mobile phone emission strengths may double following recommendations from Australia's radiation safety body to lift safe human exposure levels to handset radiation.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has released a new set of guidelines for electromagnetic radio emissions. The new radiation protection standard seeks to prevent harmful effects of exposure radiation, and ARPANSA's research on mobile phone emissions is aimed to set safety limits for heating of tissues around the cheek and the skull.

"You're looking at a maximum temperature rise in tissue of something between 0.06 and 0.08 degrees Celsius," said Wayne Cornelius, head of ARPANSA's EMR and Laser and Optical Radiation section. "You can look at it another way and say that a mobile phone is comparable to a pen-light torch in its output," he added.

ARPANSA said the standard is not capable of making recommendations about safe levels of exposure in relation to more harmful conditions that some members of the community fear is linked to mobile phones. The absence of conclusive and consistent evidence in its research of epidemiological links between mobile phone use and more serious diseases such as brain cancer, leukemia and lymphoma make the task impossible, according to Cornelius.

"No one can rationally set limits of exposure unless they know precisely what the mechanism for causing a harmful effect is," he said. "No harmful effects (from mobile phone exposure) have been shown to occur other than those associated with heating."

ARPANSA reported its findings to the federal government in Australia.

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission sets limits for exposure of radio-frequency (RF) emissions from handheld mobile phones. It sets them according to Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), a measure of the body's rate of absorption of RF energy. The FCC has set the safe limit at an SAR of 1.6 watts per kg, averaged over one gram of tissue. Companies marketing phones in the United States must prove compliance with this limit with the FCC before they get approval.

ZDNet Australia's Andrew Colley reported from Sydney. contributed to the report.