Motorola defends safety of its cellular phones

January 26, 1993|By New York Times News Service

CHICAGO -- Like many business people, Wanda Melton has never worried that using a portable cellular telephone would cause her health problems.

"I'm not aware of any health-related risks from using my car phone," said Ms. Melton, a real estate agent in Annapolis, Md. "There are five or six agents in our office who use car phones, and I don't think any of them are concerned about their safety."

In fact, cellular telephone manufacturers are in the middle of a growing battle about the safety of the devices, as questions arise about the high-frequency electromagnetic waves used in cellular technology.

Yesterday, Motorola Inc., the largest manufacturer of portable cellular telephones, held a teleconference to defend the safety of its cellular phones.

Referring to numerous studies conducted by Motorola and independent researchers, Edward F. Staiano, president and general manger of Motorola's general systems sector, said that "none of this scientific inquiry has demonstrated the existence of health risks from the use of cellular telephones."

While not discussing it directly, the company was likely responding to publicity following a televised interview Thursday on CNN's "Larry King Live." In it, David Reynard of St. Petersburg, Fla., contended that the brain cancer that killed his wife had been caused by her habitual use of a portable cellular telephone. Mr. Reynard is suing the telephone's manufacturer, NEC Corp. of Japan, and a subsidiary of GTE Corp. that provided the service.

For years there have been debates about the health effects caused by electromagnetic fields. Much of the concern focused on low-level radiation emitted from video display terminals and high-voltage transmission lines. The controversy intensified last year with health concerns linked to electromagnetic fields generated by electric motors in such widely used consumer products as hair dryers and razors.

The controversy about cellular telephones takes the debates into a new territory, the high-frequency electromagnetic waves used in communications. These high frequencies have been known to cause burns to the body, or so-called thermal effects.

Yesterday, Motorola reiterated warnings that users should not press body parts against the antennas of cellular telephones.

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