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Monday, February 25, 2002

Cell phone shields that don't work

CERTAIN shields touted as protecting cell phone users from radiation don't work as advertised and may cause the wireless devices to emit even more energy, the US Federal Trade Commission has announced.

The agency, according to an AP report, said it had filed charges against two companies for promoting the shields with unsupported claims such as "prevents electromagnetic waves from penetrating the brain" and "blocks up to 99 percent of the radiation."

"There is no scientific evidence that their products work as they claim," said Howard Beales, the FTC's director of consumer protection. "These companies are using a shield of misrepresentation to block consumers from the facts."


Last year, Congressional investigators reported that current research doesn't show the energy emitted by cell phones is harmful, but "there is not yet enough information to conclude that they pose no risk."

The report from the General Accounting Office said long-term studies now under way may offer firmer answers, but it will likely be years before it is known for sure whether cell phones are a health risk.

But even if there is a danger, cell phone shields are not the solution, Beales said.

The FTC said shielding products that block only the earpiece are ineffective because the entire phone emits radiation. Shields may also interfere with a phone's signal, causing it to draw extra power to communicate and emit more energy.

The agency said cell phone users who want to limit exposure to electromagnetic emissions should limit cell phone use, use a hands free headset and avoid using cell phones where the signal is weak.

The number of cell phone subscribers has surged to more than 131 million, according to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, the leading industry trade group.