Radio signals for the next generation of mobile phone services can cause headaches and nausea, according to a survey conducted by three Dutch ministries on the impact of tomorrow’s data networks on health.

The study, the first of its kind, tested the impact of radiation from base stations used for the current mobile telephone network, against those for new third generation, or 3G, networks for fast data transfer — which will enable services such as video conferencing on a mobile device.

A base station, which usually covers a ‘cell’ area of several square kilometers, transmits signals to mobile phones with an electromagnetic field.

“If the test group was exposed to third generation base stations there was a significant impact,” a representative for the Economics Ministry said. “They felt tingling sensations, got headaches and felt nauseous.”

There was no negative impact from the signals for current mobile networks.

However, cognitive functions such as memory and response times were boosted by both 3G signals and the current ones, the study found. People become more alert when they were exposed to both.

The Dutch ministers responsible for Economic Affairs, Health and Telecommunications said follow-up research was needed to confirm the findings. They also said any longer-term health effects and biological causes needed to be looked at.

They will also discuss the study with the European Commission, the representative said. The double-blind laboratory tests — meaning no one in the survey knew if a base station was transmitting signals or not — exposed test subjects to levels of radiation average for third generation networks when they become commercial in coming years.

The GSM Association, an organization of mobile telecommunications operators, was not immediately available to comment.

The study was conducted by the Dutch technological research institute TNO.
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