MP’s Seek Action Over Safety Fear For Mobiles
The Scotsman
October 23, 1999

Lower limits on mobile phone emissions were recommended yesterday by a Commons committee.

Although MPs conceded that there was no evidence to prove microwave radiation from the phones was harmful, they said manufacturers should be made to adopt tighter guidelines.

The science and technology committee’s report said that guidelines on exposure limits had been established by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) “before the major increase in frequency and duration of use was envisaged and this has led some to suggest that the guidelines should be revisited”.

It added: “We agree with the NRPB that there is no validated scientific evidence to justify lower exposure limits. Nevertheless, the extent to which many are calling for more research justifies a precautionary reduction in maximum exposure guidelines.”

The report recommended that these guidelines be introduced quickly, but did not specify a time. It also made allowances for compliance and said that a grace period should be given to network operators.

The Government has already asked the NRPB to set up an independent group to look at the state of research into the health impact. However, the MPs said this should only be a “temporary measure”. They said there must be more research and “constant vigilance” in a rapidly changing field.

The MPs called for the recommended emission limit to be cut to a fifth of its present level, to bring the UK into line with the rest of the European Union. They said most mobiles already met the standard, but the lower level would help to reassure the public. The MPs also called for the Government to spend more on research.

According to the report, some studies have linked radiation from mobiles with cancer and others have found evidence of the phones causing headaches, nausea, sleep problems and memory loss.

The MPs said the Department of Health’s Pounds 60,000 research programme “falls seriously short of adequacy and is insufficient to underpin its policy decisions”.

They added: “We therefore call for an expanded research programme to provide for a regular review of the public health implications of mobile phone technology.”

Publishing the report, the committee chairman, Dr Michael Clark, said the present budget of Pounds 60,000 funds “about one man and a dog”. He added: “One man and a dog is not enough for our fastest-growing industry.”

Asked why emission guidelines should be reduced if there was no danger to the public, Dr Clark said that bringing them down to the levels in the rest of the EU would improve consumer confidence. “It is not appropriate for us to be the odd one out on this,” he said.

The Federation of the Electronics Industry, which represents mobile phone makers, said it welcomed the report, particularly the agreement that there was no scientific basis for limiting exposure to mobile phone radiowaves.

The director of the federation’s mobile telecoms advisory group, Michael Dolan, said: “We support the committee’s recommendations for the establishment of an independent and appropriately funded research programme to address outstanding scientific questions.”

* Edinburgh City Council is to investigate the possible health risks to staff using mobiles, writes Andrew Walker.

Donald Anderson, the administration leader, has called for the inquiry.

He said: “The well-being of staff is a priority and we want to move quickly to find out whether there is a potential risk to their health.

“At present, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest there is a risk from using mobile phones and calling for this investigation is a precautionary measure.

“At the same time, risk cannot be ruled out and it is vital we ensure we do everything possible to look after our staff.”

The investigation will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee today.