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Wednesday, December 17, 1997 Published at 14:57 GMT


Japanese cartoon triggers fits in children
image: [ A character in the popular children's cartoon Pokemon ]
A character in the popular children's cartoon Pokemon

More than 600 children in Japan were taken to hospital after feeling sick while watching cartoons on television. Some suffered convulsions, while others complained of eye irritation.

Dr John Duncan of the National Hospital for Neurology assesses the risks for British children (1' 39")
They are reported to have fallen ill after seeing a cartoon monster flash its eyes.

Experts say the children may be suffering from photosensitive epilepsy, which can be caused by flashing lights.

Japanese newspaper headlines on Wednesday were dominated by reports that at least 530 schoolchildren suffered convulsions, vomiting and other symptoms while watching the cartoon, called Pokemon.

[ image: Cartoon monsters: A health risk?]
Cartoon monsters: A health risk?
Pokemon stands for the English "pocket monsters," and is based on characters in a video game produced by Nintendo.

The programme, aired every Tuesday at 6.30 pm, has an audience of millions of children.

Japanese mass dailies Mainichi, Yomiuri and Asahi carried front-page stories reporting the seizures, which they said took place about 20 minutes into the show.

The Yomiuri said the cartoon featured a scene in which a bright red explosion filled the screen.

It quoted a doctor specialising in epileptic fits as saying he believed the symptoms were similar to fits that some children were susceptible to when they play video games.

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