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MICROSHIELD BUSINESS BOOMS

A manufacturer of mobile phone shield devices said business has been booming following the release of a Swedish study that linked mobile phone use with headaches, fatigue and tingling and heat sensations on the ear and skin.

“We’ve been inundated with calls. Our switchboard has been blocked,” said John Simpson, general manager of United Kingdom-based Microshield Industries plc.

Simpson said Microshield has received numerous phone calls during the last two years from users identifying with the symptoms similar to those outlined in the Swedish study.

“All fall into a fairly tight range of symptoms. We haven’t had any new symptoms for two years,” he said. “People can replicate the symptoms by moving the phone to the other side.”

Microshield, through distributors nearly worldwide, sells phone covers designed to shield users from radiation emitted from mobile phones.

The mobile phone industry has long accused phone-cover manufacturers of misleading the public about the safety of wireless handsets and the capability of their shielding products.

The popularity of phone shielding products is gaining momentum in Europe, however. A U.K-based biologist is bringing a test case against a mobile phone shop for failing to warn customers of the potential risks associated with mobile phone handset use. A U.K. newspaper, The Express, claimed British Telecom secretly tested a radiation shield for mobile phones after more than 100 engineers blamed serious health problems on handsets.

Microshield has been on the hot seat with Motorola Inc. in recent months over Microshield’s promotional claims. Last year, the company pulled its advertising materials out of the United States after Motorola said the company made claims about its product and about the safety of wireless phones that likely violated the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Motorola said Microshield claimed in its brochures, which were distributed at the Consumer Electronics Show last January and on its Web site, that cellular phones emit high levels of radio-frequency energy, or hot spots, which heat users’ brain and eye tissue like a microwave cooks food. Motorola also claimed the phone-cover maker selectively chose from various studies that concluded a causal relationship exists between cellular phone use and illness and failed to disclose the vast research that has concluded no causal relationship exists.

Motorola warned it would be forced to consider more formal action in the matter if Microshield did not comply. Simpson said his company did not have the financial wherewithal to defend itself in the United States. While the information in its brochures could be substantiated, the laws of advertising in the United States prohibited any statement that did not represent the overwhelming view of the scientific community, he said.

In Australia, Motorola sent a similar warning to Microshield’s Australian distributor, but the company is still distributing the product. Advertising laws are less stringent in Australia than in the United States, said Simpson.

Simpson said Microshield, which has sold more than 100,000 phone covers worldwide since 1996, is now ready to make a comeback in the United States with a partnership offer from a large safety-products distributor.

“We will be doing our best to stick to statements of fact, relying on our lawyer to study the laws. We want to word the material in such a way that we don’t transgress any laws, but at the same time we obviously would want to ensure our message was not diluted,” said Simpson.

Simpson expects Motorola will try to stop his company from distributing in the United States once again. Norman Sandler, Motorola’s director of strategic issues, said the company’s basic opposition to the need for phone covers and the way they are marketed remains unchanged.

“Our position with Microshield also remains unchanged,” said Sandler.

Microshield said it can confirm through testing that its product does shield radiation from handsets.

Codem Retail, a division of Merrimack, N.H.-based Codem Systems Inc., last year initiated an international launch of its product, PhoneShield, a wrap-around attachment that encases the upper half of a cellular phone. The company advertises its product on a Web site, siting various health studies. It said its product blocks radiation based on tests with Aprel Laboratories and other testing bodies. The company did not return phone calls at press time.

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