Hands-free mobile equipment may actually increase the amount of radiation a user is exposed to by as much as three hundred percent, a Consumers Association (CA) report found Tuesday.
The report, published by the CA's Which? magazine, suggests that using a hands-free mobile phone set could be more harmful than holding a phone directly next to the ear, contrary to popular belief.
Which? tested two of the most popular handsets on the market, from Carphone Warehouse and BT Cellnet. Its research concluded that the wires leading to a hands-free ear piece act like an antenna, channelling a much more concentrated dose of radio waves into the ear.
Although there is no clear-cut evidence that the non-ionising radiation produced by mobile phones is genuinely dangerous, some scientific researchers have concluded that it may result in headaches, memory loss and even brain tumours.
The national radiological protection board sets limits on the levels of radiation mobile phones are permitted to emit but dose not believe that they produce sufficient radiation to effect DNA and cause cancer.
Although manufacturers are not accused of misleading consumers, Which? points out that there many people are confused about the benefits of hands-free kits.
Roy Brooker, one of the engineers who carried out the study, says that this is a real concern to the Consumer Association. "We were surprised that they didn't reduce radiation, as this would seem to be common sense. However, when we talked to radio engineers they weren't at all surprised. What we are saying is that consumers shouldn't assume that these reduce radiation."
Brooker is also keen to stress that other hands-free sets may not produce the same results.
The research was initially designed by Which? to test mobile phone "shields" also aimed at reducing radiation. According to Brooker these also, "on average, aren't very effective".
Managing Director of The Carphone Warehouse Charles Dunstone, however, disputes altogether the findings of the report on earpieces. He says in a prepared statement, "We are surprised by the Which report, as are several of the industry bodies that we have been speaking to, as all other research has contradicted their findings."