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Germany

To Yak or not to Yak?

German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin is out to save the huge number of mobile phone users in Germany from potential health threats.

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Watch out with that thing in your hand!

Is chatting on your mobile phone dangerous for your health? Nobody seems to be quite sure of that, but the question has led to a great deal of uneasiness in Germany, where the number of "handy" users is among the highest in Europe.

And German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin is taking no chances. He has now asked the manufacturers of mobile phones to participate in developing a quality seal for phones with especially low levels of radiation.

The minister wants the seal to be part of the so-called Blue Angel eco label series that denotes particularly environment-friendly products. He hopes that the quality seal will be a spur for mobile phone manufacturers to dedicate themselves to the topic of precautionary measures.

Is it dangerous or not?

But scientific experts are still unsure themselves whether the electromagnetic radiation that mobile phones emanate will have long-term damaging effects on human health.

Technically speaking the mobile phones do radiate electromagnetic rays, whether they're used or not. At present the radiation limit of mobile phones is about 2,0 Watts per kilogram of body weight. That's the reason they're banned in hospitals.

Jürgen Trittin admits there is no new research to prove that mobile phones are dangerous. But he says it's clear that parents are worried if the regular use of mobile phones could affect the health of their children, who are especially sensitive to radiation, he says.

A safer option

In one of the biggest studies undertaken so far, the World Health Organisation (WHO) under the leadership of its international cancer agency, is probing whether the use of mobile phones can lead to brain tumours. But the first results from this study are not expected before 2004.

But this uncertainty in the scientific world is one of the reasons why Germany's environment Minister is playing it safe. By way of the eco label he hopes to offer consumers the option of buying a mobile phone with reduced radiation levels.

Last year in December mobile service providers in Germany voluntarily declared to urge mobile phone manufacturers to get gadgets with the least possible levels of radiation into the market.

Couple of tips

Though research still has to come up answers to several worrying questions, scientific experts have begun dishing out some safety tips to mobile phone users.

The use of a modern handset is the first step to protecting against radiation, they believe. After all with the handset, the telephone no longer needs to be held up close against the head.

Research has shown that the electromagnetic field that reaches the head in case of a mobile phone, is reduced by almost 90 percent with the use of a handset. So no more nuzzling your ear into your mobile phone and whispering into it!

And never stow a turned-on mobile phone close to your heart, like in your shirt pocket or backpack, they warn. Keep it in the back pocket of your pants.

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