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U.K. Starts Hearings On Safety Of Cell Phones
Reuters
November 11, 1999
A team of British experts began unprecedented public hearings on Thursday to gather evidence about potential health risks from mobile phones, officials said.

The panel of independent experts, formed in April by then Health Minister Tessa Jowell, held the first of five planned hearings across Britain by taking testimony from other experts and ordinary mobile phone users.

Other hearings will be held in Liverpool, Cardiff and London, panel members said.

The 10-member panel, which includes physicists, doctors and a specialist from the World Health Organization, will put together a report on the safety of both phones and transmission towers by late March or early April.

“This is the most extensive public consultation in Britain to date on the safety of these devices,” William Stewart, the British government’s former chief scientific adviser, told Reuters.

“We wanted to make this as wide-ranging a study as possible — to look at the vast amount of evidence that’s coming in.”

Some medical experts have suggested that microwave radiation absorbed by the brain from heavy use of mobiles could cause brain tumors as well as other serious side effects, including headaches, nausea, tiredness and sleep problems.

But to date there has been no consistent medical evidence showing there is a health problem from mobiles, and one study earlier this year showed they could even have a positive effect on people’s reactions.

Stewart said he was making no assumptions about the increasingly ubiquitous devices.

“Do I have a mobile phone? Yes. Will I continue to use it? Yes. But I have children and grandchildren, and I think all of us just want to make sure that the public is as safe as it can be,” he said.

Despite occasional fears about the effects, global mobile phone sales zoomed ahead by 51 percent to 163 million last year, according to U.S.-based market researcher Dataquest.

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