- Parents were yesterday left confused after experts
told them to decide for themselves whether their children should risk
using mobile phones.
- Sir William Stewart, head of an official inquiry into
the safety of mobile phones, said their widespread use by children for
non-essential calls should be discouraged.
- But he said parents should judge the risks for themselves
and make an "informed choice" as to the extent to which their
children should be using such technology.
- Parents were not given guidance on what length of time
was safe for a child to chat on the phone per day, nor were they told whether
children should use handsets or headsets.
- The Government's former chief scientific adviser did
not specify what age range the recommendation referred to, but said: "The
younger the child, the more care should be taken about allowing them to
use mobile phones."
- The National Family and Parenting Institute said parents
who were already confused about the issue of mobile phone safety would
be disappointed with the recommendations which did not offer "clear
- NFPI chief executive Mary MacLeod said: "Since there
have been conflicting messages about the health risks of mobile phones,
many parents may not be in a position to make an informed judgment."
- Speaking at the launch of the long-awaited Stewart Report,
Sir William said there was no substantiated evidence that mobile phone
emissions were harmful, but there was some evidence that exposure might
have subtle biological effects.
- He and his team of experts said a "precautionary
principle" should be followed by all users, but children in particular
should limit the time spent using their handsets until further research
- He said if there were any currently unrecognised adverse
affects, children might be more vulnerable than adults because of their
developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues
of the child's head and a longer lifetime of exposure.
- Around one in four of Britain's 25 million users is
aged under 18 and more are expected to be signed up when the new generation
of phones allow e-mail and Internet access, appealing to the younger end
of the market.
- The Government-backed report recommended that the mobile
phone industry should refrain from promoting the use of mobile phones by
- Public health minister Yvette Cooper said the Government
and mobile phone industry had a responsibility to continue a programme
of research "to seek answers to these gaps in our knowledge".
- She confirmed a comprehensive, multi-million pound research
strategy, spanning several years, was already being prepared. _____
- Cell Phone Warnings Create Mass Confusion
- By Jo Revill - Health Correspondent http://www.thisislondon.co.uk
- Parents are today left in total confusion over whether
to let their children use mobile phones.
- However, the government declines to give parents any
guidance on how long each day a child can safely spend on the phone, whether
it should be a hands-free set or traditional mobile, the type of phone
or even the age of the child.
- The experts say that the younger the child, the more
cautious parents should be and that, generally, all "non-essential
calls" should be discouraged.
- But the chairman of the group, Sir William Stuart, the
Government's chief scientific adviser, has admitted that when his grandchildren
reach the ages of seven and five he will not allow them "unfettered
use" of a phone.
- At a packed press conference in London, Sir William said:
"The balance of evidence is that if there are going to be problems,
children are likely to be the most susceptible to them.
- "At present, there is no evidence of problems but
there is evidence of minute biological changes to the electrical currents
(in the brain). One has to be sensible about this. It is for parents to
make up their own minds on the issue."
- However, the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones
called for firms to stop targeting children and teenagers to increase their
market share. Some companies offer children free calls after 6pm to boost
- The group's overall conclusion is that there is nothing
at present to suggest emissions from mobile phones are harming people.
But it is known that radio-frequency radiation can produce subtle biological
changes. As yet, no one knows whether this will produce adverse health
- The group recommends a rolling research programme to
look at all the science, and another review in three years to assess the
risks. It also calls for:
- Schools to be given the right to protest against the
base station masts being sited on their grounds or buildings.
- Drivers to be made aware of the dangers of talking on
a mobile phone while driving because it slows down reaction time.
- Further testing of hands-free kits because it is not
clear whether they are more or less dangerous than normal mobiles.
- A leaflet to go to every household explaining the situation.
- A website which will tell customers what the specific
energy absorption rate (SAR) is for their particular phone.
- At present, there are around 25million subscribers in
the UK, which means around 40 per cent of the population is covered, with
nearly half having a prepaid phone.
- The turnover of the industry was estimated at £5.8
billion last year with Vodafone having the greatest turnover.
- Charles Reiss writes: The Government has delivered a
swift response to the report - but appears hesitant over how far to go
in pushing the mobile phone industry to cut back on marketing its products
to children and warning all concerned of the health risks.
- A lengthy announcement from Public Health Minister Yvette
Cooper promises fresh guidance to schools and local education authorities
on the use of mobiles by children. It says an explanation of radiation
measurements should be printed on each mobile phone box, as a menu option
on the phone screen, and as a label on the machine itself.
- Ms Cooper also says the Government is "minded"
to compel full planning permission for all new telecommunication masts
but warns that there will need to be "wide consultation" before
any action is taken.
- It is clear ministers are squeezed between the wish to
play safe on cautioning about possible dangers and the risks that over-heavy
warnings and controls could do needless damage to a thriving market.
- Ms Cooper stresses "the urgent need for further
research into the potential health effects" of mobiles and says the
Government is commissioning a comprehensive programme with the aim of establishing
a more solid verdict over the next few years.
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