OOOPS:Three Volvo models pose electromagnetic risk-study

STOCKHOLM, Feb 14 Reuters reports that three models made by Volvo Car Corp, known for its safety-conscious luxury sedans, have electromagnetic fields up to 80 times higher than levels considered safe, a study published on Thursday said.

The test conducted by Swedish magazine Vi bilagare showed that Volvo's V70, S60 and S80 models subjected the driver to magnetic fields of up to 12-18 microtesla, while it said levels above 0.2 microtesla are considered possibly harmful.

A microtesla is a unit measuring magnetic field strength. A normal level in Swedish apartments is 0.1 microtesla, but at the workplace the level may be twice that due to electronic appliances such as computers, the magazine said.

A Volvo Car spokesman did not dispute the microtesla measurements of the study conducted by a the magazine which tested a total of 14 cars including models from Ford, Volkswagen (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: VOWG.F), BMW (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: BMWG.F), Mercedes Benz , Saab , Renault and Toyota .

The three Volvo models fared worst in the study which measured exposure of several body parts to the electromagnetic fields in each of the cars' seats. The highest microtesla levels were measure on the drivers' left foot area.

Clearly lower levels were measured in Volvo's S40 model.

Volvo said the magnetic fields in its cars were well below the recommended level set by the European Union which mainly concentrates on the exposure of the head and body to the fields.

Volvo was concerned at the possible impact on sales of the report -- the top story in Sweden's two main tabloids -- and planned an information campaign to allay customers' fears.

There was no scientific proof that such electromagnetic fields may be the cause of illnesses such as cancer, the spokesman said.

``Because there is no evidence about risks of electromagnetic fields in cars, Volvo is not currently taking technical or other measures,'' the automobile group, owned by U.S. automaker Ford Motor Corp , said in a statement.

Some studies have found magnetic fields may be a cause of childhood leukemia and miscarriages, but there is considerable uncertainty around the issue.

Vi bilagare quoted Kjell Hansson Mild, researcher at the Swedish National Institute for Working Life, as saying it was not known how the electromagnetic fields affected different parts of the body but that they could affect pregnant women.

``How can Volvo call its cars safe for children?'' he was quoted as saying by the magazine, one of Sweden's top car magazines.

Hansson Mild was not immediately available for comment.

VOLVO SEES SHORT-TERM SALES DIP

Volvo Car spokesman Lennart Strom said the company had received several customer calls following the magazine report.

``In the short term, we may unfortunately lose customers,'' he told Reuters. But he said he believed sales would return to normal once clients received factual information regarding the effects of electromagnetic fields.

He said the discussion was similar to the debate about possible radiation from mobile phones, with consumers confused by a mixture of correct and incorrect data.

``At the end of the day, it is a question of which kind of a society we live in: wherever you go you'll be faced with electromagnetic fields. If you don't dare drive your Volvo car, you don't dare take a commuter train,'' he said.

The three models tested have strong electromagnetic fields because in each of them the engine is located in the back of the car with a power cable running to the front.

More half a million S60, S80 and V70 models have been sold worldwide.

Volvo cars are considered a potential engine for growth for Ford, the world's second-largest automaker, at a time when the entire industry has been hit by the global downturn.

Sweden's AB Volvo sold the car business to Ford in 1999, and now mainly makes trucks

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