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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK

UK Politics

Mobiles pose no health risk - MPs

MPs called for further research into the effect of mobiles on health

Mobile phone use poses no health risks, but the government is not spending enough on crucial research, according to a report by MPs.

The BBC's Christine McGourty reports: "There's no new scientific evidence"
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee even went as far as saying the only significant risk they could discern from mobile phones was to use them while driving.

But MPs did call for the government to lower UK maximum microwave exposure levels by a factor of five.

Ian Taylor speaks to News Online
Tory committee member Ian Taylor told BBC News Online: "There are two possible risks. If you hold a mobile phone while you are driving, that is the most likely way you are ever going to have any risk from it."

The former science and technology minister added: "The second is if you chain yourself to a mobile phone mast in protest, because you don't like its positioning as it obstructs your scenic view of the countryside."

More research needed

But although the MPs found no evidence of risks their report recommended that the government step up its research into potential health risks from mobiles.

[ image: Mobile phone masts are no risk to the public said MPs]
Mobile phone masts are no risk to the public said MPs
Committee chairman Dr Michael Clark said this was as some "uncertainties remain - some scientific results, albeit unreplicated, and anecdotal evidence, underline the need for further research".

At present the Department of Health spends about £60,000 a year looking into the health risks of mobiles.

Dr Clark said that amount of money could only fund a research team of "one man and a dog" and called for a team of up to 50 researchers co-ordinated by government, some of whom could be drawn in from industry.

He added the current situation was insufficient for an industry with 16 million customers, which was subject to rapid change driven by advances in technology.

Keeping an eye on technology

Mr Taylor also highlighted the need for research, saying: "As technology develops, it is necessary to keep an eye on it. People hardly used a mobile phone a few years ago but it is part of most of our daily lives.

"So in those circumstances not only are we using mobile phones more often, we are using them for longer periods. So it is wise to keep a check on it, not least because, if there were to be a health scare, the government is in a position to know from the latest research that it is likely not to be a serious one."

Lowering microwave exposure levels

In their report, MPs also called for the government to lower the maximum microwave exposure levels to those agreed by the European Union Health Council.

They said current guidelines on exposure limits had been established by the National Radiological Protection Board "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".

But their report added: "We agree with the NRPB that there is no validated scientific evidence to justify lower exposure limits."

Mr Taylor said the move was being recommended not because of a fear of any health risks but simply to adopt international best practice.

Ministers are expected to respond to the report within six weeks.

The telecommunications industry has welcomed the report, with the Federation of the Electronics Industry backing calls for more research and better co-ordination with government.

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