Australia says no to mobile phone health warnings

Despite a decision last week by the U.K. Department of Health to issue health warnings on mobile telephones, the Australian government has rejected a similar move.

However, the leading mobile phone industry body, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has agreed to make information on energy emission levels of mobile phones available to the public.

The information will be available next year and will be provided inside the box when purchasing a new phone.

In the U.K., the government announced that leaflets warning of potential health risks associated with its use will be in the packaging of all mobile telephones sold.

The leaflets will be prepared in time for Christmas sales and is an interim safety measure until the government completes a “multimillion pound research” study on health threats associated with mobile phone use.

The U.K. government acted following the release of a report by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP) which identifies health risks particularly for children, the elderly and the infirm.

In a statement the AMTA said there is no credible evidence of health effects from phones but will allow the public to make informed judgements.

“We are awaiting the development of an international standard on emission levels which is expected in coming months,” the statement said.

Australian Telecommunications Minister Richard Alston’s spokesman Sasha Grebe said the government was aware of the IEGMP report but believes the findings are inconclusive.

Grebe said the use of warnings in the U.K. is “that government’s position” but the approach here is one of industry self-regulation.

“The report did raise concerns about potential health risks, but no steps will be taken by Alston to introduce similar warnings because industry has developed its own standards,” he said.

However, the Community Public Sector Union (CPSU), which represents 250,000 employees, said the government and employers have a duty of care considering the proliferation of mobile phones and the increasing use of wireless technologies in the workplace. “This issue is particularly relevant to insurers of workers compensation,” CPSU assistant secretary Stephen Jones said.

The AMTA decision to publish energy emission levels follows discussions with the Australian Communications Authority and similar moves in the U.S.

According to the AMTA, there are more than 8.5 million mobile phones in use in Australia and the National Health and Medical Research Council is presently undertaking a A$4 million (US$2.15 million) study into mobile phone safety.