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Children may be at Risk from Mobile Phone Waves

May 27, 2000 · 

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Published in TODAY
(May 27, 2000)

LONDON – Children should be discouraged from regular use of mobilephones, afar-reaching study commissioned by the British government said this week, while stressing that damage to health had not been proved.

Young people already account for around a quarter of the more than 27 million mobile phone users in Britain and are a major potential market for the next generation of phones which will provide Internet access, I In response to mountina safety concerns, the government last year appointed an independent panel of scientists to conduct research.

The chairman of the panel, William Stewart of Tayside University Hospital, told reporters that the study emphasized “a precautionary approach,”

He said that he would continue to use his from mobile phone but would not alow his grndchildren “unfettered access.”

The study found: “The balance of evidence to date does not suggest that emissions from mobile phones and base stations put the health of the UK population at risk.”

But it added: “There is now some preliminary scientific evidence that exposures to radiofrequency radiation (RF) may cause subtle effects on biological functions, including those of the brain.”

“This does not necessarily mean that health is affected but it is not possible to say that exposure to RF radiation, even at levels below national guidelines, is totally without potential adverse health effects.”

The survey identified children as beino, the most at risk because of “their developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head, and a longer lifetime of exposure,”

It recommended that the mobile phone industry should refrain from promoting the use of mobile phones by children and advised that “the widespread use for non-essential calls should be discouraged.”

Turning to base stations, antennae used to relay signals from one area to another, the report stressed there was no proof that they posed a threat to health, but advised they should be positioned away from sensitive sites such as schools and hospitals.

Stewart would not define what the report meant by children, but said: “The younger the child, the more care you should take.”

The report comes hot on the heels of auctions at which operators bid a total of f22.5 billion for third-generation mobile phone licenses.

Mobile phone companies were said to be privately furious they had not been warned about the findinas of the report before they made thcii, bids, Publicly, however, they were reticent in their reactions.

Vodafone AirTouch, the world’s biggest mobile company, and British Telecom, have both invested in next-generation licenses.

Vodafone AirTouch would not comment, while British Telecom welcomed the report as “responsible and constructive.”

A spokesman said the company would take whatever steps were required, adding that “health and safety are at the heart of BT’s ethos.”

Leader of the House of Commons Margaret Beckett dismissed claims that, while the auctions were still going on, the report was selectively leaked to minimize fears about possible dangers.

“I am always a little wary of articles which alleae there is a deeplaid plot,” she added.

In a statement, Minister for Public Health Yvette Cooper said: “We welcome this group’s report which breaks new ground. It is the world’s most comprehensive review of the possible health effects of mobile telecommunications.

A telephone expert consulted during the study was not reassured by the lack of proof about health dangers.

“This (no proof) is what they were saying about smoking,” said John Simpson, general manager of Micro Shield, which makes phone shields to protect against the possible ill effects.

By Barbara Lewis

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