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The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
"Radiation from phones may affect human tissue"
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Yvette Cooper MP, Public Health Minister
"We will be launching a major programme of research"
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Sir William Stewart
"I wouldn't recommend my grandchildren use mobiles"
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Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 20:25 GMT 21:25 UK
Mobile phone research ordered

Children's mobile use is under close scrutiny
Ministers have promised to fund comprehensive research into the possible health risks of mobile phones after experts warned they may pose a threat to children.

Sir William Stewart, the scientist behind the long-awaited study into mobile phone safety, told the BBC he would stop his own grandchildren using them.

I have got a grandchild of four and a grandchild of two and I would not be recommending that they have mobile phones

Sir William Stewart
Although Sir William's report says there is no current evidence of a health risk to either adults or children, it says children should be discouraged from making "non-essential" calls until further research is completed.

It also calls on mobile phone companies not to aim their advertising at children, and for a review into the planning procedures governing the siting of transmitter masts.

Although he said he would continue using his mobile, Sir William told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I have got a grandchild of four and a grandchild of two and I would not be recommending that they have mobile phones."

Sir William Stewart
Sir William Stewart headed the investigation
Sir William said if any unknown harmful effects emerged, they were likely to be seen in children because their bodies were still developing.

The 10-month Stewart inquiry report, published on Thursday, recommends a "precautionary approach".

The use of mobile phones is not totally "without potential adverse health effects", it says.

We need to introduce a widespread programme of research into these issues

Yvette Cooper, Public Health Minister

Sir William said: "The balance of evidence suggests that mobile phone technologies do not cause adverse health effects on the general population of the UK.

"But there's some preliminary evidence, and I emphasise very much preliminary evidence, that emissions from mobile phones may cause in some cases subtle biological changes."

He said this did not mean the effects led to disease, but stressed it was a "new technology" and recommended precautions until more information became available.

It is thought children could face more potential health risks from mobile phone emissions because their skulls are thinner and their brains are still developing.

The far-reaching inquiry took evidence from experts across the country and its panel included experts in physics, telecommunications, engineering, and neuroscience.

It was commissioned in response to fears that mobile use could be linked to memory loss, and even Alzheimer's disease.

Boy with mobile phone
Young people make up 25% of UK mobile market
Among the actions the reports recommends are:

  • Children should use phones only for essential calls.

  • Planning regulations for mobile phone masts and base stations which transmit and receive the signals around the country should be tighter.

  • Leaflets should be delivered to every home, explaining the technology and the potential risks - particularly those of using mobiles, even hands free, while driving.

    Approximately 24m people in the UK use mobile phones - a quarter of these are children.

    Yvette Cooper
    Public health minister Yvette Cooper has ordered more research

    Public health minister Yvette Cooper told the BBC: "We need to introduce a widespread programme of research into these issues, but in the meantime we will be circulating the recommendations of the Stewart report to parents across the country.

    "As a parent I think it must be sensible to have a more cautious approach when it comes to children's health."

    Ms Cooper said ministers would talk to the mobile phone industry over Sir William's recommendations that mobile phones should not be promoted to children.

    A consultation exercise on changes to the planning process for transmitter masts would also be launched.

    A spokesman for the Federation of the Electronics Industry (FEI) welcomed the report.

    He said: "We are pleased this independent report builds on the general approach taken so far by the industry.

    "We particularly welcome Sir William Stewart's confirmation that 'the balance of evidence does not suggest mobile phone technologies put the health of the general population of the UK at risk.

    "The industry will continue to support scientific research internationally within the framework of relevant World Health Organisation recommendations. In consultation with Government, we will support the research programme proposed by the report."

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    28 May 99 | Health
    Mobile phones: Don't hang up
    28 Apr 00 | Health
    Mobile phone fears 'unfounded'
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