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Scientist Urges Curbs On Children’s Use Of Cell Phones

Scientist Urges Curbs On Children’s Use Of Mobiles
Journalist: Edna Fernandes
May 12, 2000

Children should be discouraged from using mobile telephones because of potential health risks, the chief of a British government-commissioned inquiry into the phones’ safety said on Thursday.

Sir William Stewart of Tayside University in Scotland said however that there was no firm evidence that mobiles damage the general population’s health.

But it could take a decade for evidence of risks to emerge and if harmful effects were found, they would be more likely to be seen in children because their bodies are still developing.

“In line with our precautionary approach at this time we believe the widespread use of mobile phones by children for non-essential calls should be discouraged,” he told BBC radio.

Stewart and other scientists working on the inquiry were set to publish their report later on Thursday.

The report, which could spark alarm among Britain’s 24 million mobile phone users, will be a blow to the huge cell phone industry which has sought to tap the vast youth market.

The inquiry’s findings come just days after the government gained a 22 billion pound ($34 billion) windfall from an auction of mobile phone licenses.

Stewart said there was some preliminary evidence that emissions from mobile phones could cause subtle biological reactions, such as changes in response times.

“That does not mean that these effects lead to disease. But this is a new technology and we are recommending…that a precautionary approach be adopted until new information is available,” he said.

Children had thinner skulls, smaller heads, and their nervous systems were still developing, which made them more vulnerable to any adverse effects from the phones, he said.

The inquiry committee was established last year after reports that radiation from mobile phones could trigger cancer, memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

Stewart said the public ought to have more information when they buy mobiles, and there should be better planning about the location of mobile phone masts.

He said he would continue to use a mobile phone but would not recommend that his grandchildren did so.

On Wednesday, a source close to the inquiry told Reuters that the scientists were worried by “odd findings.”

“One odd finding came up when we looked at microwave radiation on nematode worms. That showed odd changes to the protein structure,” said the source. “It was a kind of heat shock on the protein. You know, slightly cooked.”

The Health Ministry declined to comment ahead of the report’s publication.

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