- Children under the age of eight should not use mobile
phones, parents were advised last night after an authoritative report linked
heavy use to ear and brain tumors and concluded that the risks had been
underestimated by most scientists.
- Professor Sir William Stewart, chairman of the National
Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), said that evidence of potentially
harmful effects had become more persuasive over the past five years.
- The news prompted calls for phones to carry health warnings
and panic in parts of the industry. One British manufacturer immediately
suspended a model aimed at four to eight-year-olds.
- The number of mobiles in Britain has doubled to 50 million
since the first government-sponsored report in 2000. The number of children
aged between five and nine using mobiles has increased fivefold in the
- In his report, Mobile Phones and Health, Sir William
said that four studies have caused concern. One ten-year study in Sweden
suggests that heavy mobile users are more prone to non-malignant tumors
in the ear and brain while a Dutch study had suggested changes in cognitive
function. A German study has hinted at an increase in cancer around base
stations, while a project supported by the EU had shown evidence of cell
damage from fields typical of those of mobile phones.
- "All of these studies have yet to be replicated
and are of varying quality but we can't dismiss them out of hand,"
Sir William said. If there was a health risk - which remained unproven
- it would have a greater effect on the young than on older people, he
- For children aged between 8 and 14, parents had to make
their own judgments about the risks and benefits. "I can't believe
that for three to eight year-olds they can be readily justified,"
- David Hart, general secretary of the National Association
of Headteachers, called last night for a ban on mobiles in schools.
- Mobile phone companies reacted furiously, saying that
the report fanned public concern without presenting new research. The youth
market is highly lucrative because teenagers are more likely to use video
downloads and other services.
- The World Health Organisation is preparing to publish
an international report, drawing on hundreds of studies conducted over
a decade, which many hope will give a definitive judgment on mobile phone
- The board's report says that while there is a lack of
hard information of damage to health, the approach should be precautionary.
Sir William said: "Just because there are 50 million of them out there
doesn't mean they are absolutely safe."
- One school in the North East has begun using mobile scanners
to prevent pupils using mobiles in class. "Outside college hours it
is up to parents, but in our care if mobiles are found on children, they
are confiscated and returned to the parents," David Riden, vice principal
of Tollbar Business and Enterprise College in New Waltham, said.
- One group that appears to target young users is Richard
Branson's Virgin Mobile, which derives much of its revenue from the 16s-35s
market. It denies targeting under 16s but has cornered a large slice of
the youth market with cheap voice and text messages.
- They were also four times as common on the side of the
head where the phone was held
- Acoustic neuromas occur in 100,000 people a year and
can cause deafness
- They can be treated by surgery. In most cases the patient's
hearing is saved
- Brain tumors affect about 4,700 new patients a year in
- They are becoming more common - the UK Brain tumor Society
says that incidence has increased by 45 per cent in 30 years
- The causes of primary brain tumors are unknown, so it
is hard to identify specific risk factors