Cell Phones Risk To Child Health
May 11, 2000
A government-backed panel is expected to deliver a blow to the mobile phone industry today when it announces that concerns about their safety are real enough to warrant curbs on their use by children.
The independent panel of scientists was set up by the government last year after fears that microwave radiation produced by mobile phones sending and receiving calls could damage brain cells.
The results of the panel’s inquiry will be announced today. Yesterday it emerged that the panel had found ‘a risk of a risk’ in their experiments, and would recommend that children be discouraged from using mobile phones for ‘non-essential purposes’.
The Department of Health refused to comment before the announcement. But a source close to the inquiry said the panel was unhappy with the way mobile phone advertising targeted the youth market.
‘Sometimes letting a child carry a mobile is fine. But we’re talking about the fashion aspect,’ the source said.
One of the findings to cause concern was that though the microwaves generated by mobile phones might not be strong enough to damage brain cells by heating them, they could ‘switch on’ genes normally switched on by stress.
Another source said: ‘While there is no evidence of risk, some biological findings indicate there is a risk of a risk. If there is a risk, children are always the most susceptible.’
It is not clear what age limit the government would set at which new guidelines on mobile phone use would come into effect. Under-16s are not allowed to smoke, but if under-16s were discouraged from using mobile, it would hurt the phone companies. Young people account for about 25% of the mobile phone market.
The government may face a backlash from the big mobile phone operators, which have just agreed to pay pounds 22.5bn for licences to operate a new generation of services.
Nicky Scott, an analyst for the Ovum consultancy, said: ‘It depends on what they call children. If you’re talking about under-10s or under-12s it’s going to have a minimal impact. If you’re talking about the teenage market, the effect is slightly worse, but I don’t think panic will set in.’