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Mobile Phones Tumour Risk to Young Children
London Times, January 12, 2005
under the age of eight should not use mobile phones, parents were
advised last night after an authoritative report linked heavy use to
ear and brain tumours and concluded that the risks had been
underestimated by most scientists.
Professor Sir William Stewart, chairman of the National Radiological
Protection Board (NRPB), said that evidence of potentially harmful
effects had become more persuasive over the past five years.
The news prompted calls for phones to carry health warnings and panic
in parts of the industry. One British manufacturer immediately
suspended a model aimed at four to eight-year-olds.
The number of mobiles in Britain has doubled to 50 million since the
first government-sponsored report in 2000. The number of children aged
between five and nine using mobiles has increased fivefold in the same
In his report, Mobile Phones and Health, Sir William said that four
studies have caused concern. One ten-year study in Sweden suggests that
heavy mobile users are more prone to non-malignant tumours in the ear
and brain while a Dutch study had suggested changes in cognitive
function. A German study has hinted at an increase in cancer around
base stations, while a project supported by the EU had shown evidence
of cell damage from fields typical of those of mobile phones.
"All of these studies have yet to be replicated and are of varying
quality but we can't dismiss them out of hand," Sir William said. If
there was a health risk - which remained unproven - it would have a
greater effect on the young than on older people, he added.
For children aged between 8 and 14, parents had to make their own
judgments about the risks and benefits. "I can't believe that for three
to eight year-olds they can be readily justified," he said.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of
Headteachers, called last night for a ban on mobiles in schools.
Mobile phone companies reacted furiously, saying that the report fanned
public concern without presenting new research. The youth market is
highly lucrative because teenagers are more likely to use video
downloads and other services.
The World Health Organisation is preparing to publish an international
report, drawing on hundreds of studies conducted over a decade, which
many hope will give a definitive judgment on mobile phone safety.
The board's report says that while there is a lack of hard information
of damage to health, the approach should be precautionary. Sir William
said: "Just because there are 50 million of them out there doesn't mean
they are absolutely safe."
One school in the North East has begun using mobile scanners to prevent
pupils using mobiles in class. "Outside college hours it is up to
parents, but in our care if mobiles are found on children, they are
confiscated and returned to the parents," David Riden, vice principal
of Tollbar Business and Enterprise College in New Waltham, said.
One group that appears to target young users is Richard Branson's
Virgin Mobile, which derives much of its revenue from the 16s-35s
market. It denies targeting under 16s but has cornered a large slice of
the youth market with cheap voice and text messages.
- Acoustic neuromas are benign tumours of the acoustic nerve
- A study in Sweden has shown that they are twice as common in
mobile phone users
- They were also four times as common on the side of the head
where the phone was held
- Acoustic neuromas occur in 100,000 people a year and can
- They can be treated by surgery. In most cases the patient's
hearing is saved
- Brain tumours affect about 4,700 new patients a year in
- They are becoming more common - the UK Brain Tumour Society
says that incidence has increased by 45 per cent in 30 years
- The causes of primary brain tumours are unknown, so it is
hard to identify specific risk factors
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