- The things European cows have to worry about these days. As if mad cow disease weren't enough, some people have been ruminating that mobile telephone signals could be driving cattle batty.
It turns out the concerns were overstated. At least, an 800,000 mark ($US357,000) study, ordered by the Bavarian state government and half funded by mobile operators, failed to prove that wireless phone transmissions harm cattle's health.
The results, presented last week to Bavarian Environment Minister Werner Schnappauf, were based on a field study conducted by Munich scientists on 38 farms in Bavaria and Hesse, half of them close to mobile network antennas.
According to the study, scientists observed changes in "cud-chewing behaviour" in some herds near the antennas -- but there was no solid cause-and-effect relationship. Otherwise, there was no conclusive evidence on health effects, though these could not be "100% ruled out." The study found no evidence that mobile antennas impacted milk production, fertility, or sleep hormone production.
No doubt farm animals across Europe will sleep easier.
"I'm glad those Bavarian cows are now allowed to use mobile phones again," says Bernt Ostergaard, telecommunications analyst at Giga Information Group in Copenhagen.
But Ostergaard adds, on a more serious note, that health concerns about mobile phones are by no means off the radar screen in Europe. A recent UK report warned parents about the frequency of young people's use of wireless devices; it follows earlier Swedish studies on the effects of mobile phone signals on rats. (See UK mobile phones to carry health warnings)
Ostergaard says, "I think there's a real issue, whether it be real or apparent. I think people in general are not going to stop using the phone, but they will think about how much they are using the phone."