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Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK


MPs study mobile phone health fears

A new group of MPs will examine mobile phone safety

Fears that mobile phone transmitters are linked to child cancers and other illnesses were discussed at a meeting of MPs and campaigners in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The meeting was attended by Welsh mother Jane Palmer who says her six-year-old daughter's epilepsy has been seriously worsened by a mast close to her home.

Graeme Macallister on the evidence against mobile phone masts
The Milford Haven woman told how her little girl, Nicola, had been weaned off medication before the mast was erected, but now has up to six fits a day.

Chaired by Liberal Democrat MP Phil Willis, the meeting was organised by Northern Ireland Families Against Telecommunication Transmitter Siting (NIFATT) and Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Both organisations are calling for transmitters to be kept away from sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals and residential areas in Britain.

Health fears will be aired

The meeting comes as some scientific evidence suggests potentially serious adverse health effects on people exposed to the electromagnetic-microwave radiation generated by masts.

These include links with child leukaemia and other cancers.

Official government bodies deny there is any useful evidence to suggest a link between mobile phones or transmitters, and human health problems.

But Mr Willis believes there is a "huge smokescreen" about the alleged health risks of transmitters.

[ image: MP Phil Willis will be chairing the meeting]
MP Phil Willis will be chairing the meeting
He told BBC News Online: "It appears to me there is a huge bias in favour of the industry and scant regard given to the possibility of a health risk.

"I fully accept there is no conclusive proof either way, but a lot of scientific data suggests there is a case to answer."

He is setting up an all-party group of MPs to investigate the issue further.

Speakers at the meeting included Professor Henry Lai, the world's leading expert in bio-engineering from the University of Washington and Sir Richard Doll, who discovered the link between smoking and cancer.

Mobile phone mast campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Graeme Macallister, said communities all over the UK are worried about these masts.

"This area urgently requires further research and we are pressing for the adoption of a precautionary policy both at local and national levels of government until more is known," he said.

He has also welcomed a planned three-year study by the National Radiological Protection Board into the effects of occupational exposure to the radiation.

The mobile phone industry has argued that there is no firm scientific evidence that either mobile phones or transmitters are a danger to health.

Tom Wills-Sandford, a spokesman for the Federation of the Electronics Industry, said that the organisation had not been invited to the meeting to give its view.

He said: "We welcome the formation of the all-party group and look forward to discussing the issue with them."

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