Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald
November 19, 2005


By Danielle Teutsch

A world-first study will begin in Australia this week to find out if
mobile phones are damaging the health of children.

The study of 12- and 13-year-olds will measure if mobile-phone use
affects factors such as hearing, memory, sleep and ability to

It follows recommendations by the World Health Organisation that more
research be urgently done on whether children's central nervous
systems are more vulnerable than adults' to the effects of
electromagnetic radiation.

Australian children have one of the highest rates of mobile-phone
ownership in the world -- almost half of those aged 13 to 15 and a
third of those aged 10 to 13 own one.

The National Health and Medical Research Centre study, which will
follow 300 Melbourne children over three years, is being conducted by
the Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research.

The children will have their cognitive functions, hearing and blood
pressure tested at regular intervals, ACRBR executive director Dr
Rodney Croft said. "These are areas that are likely to be affected, if
there are any effects," he said.

Several studies have shown EMR exposure causes no harm to the physical
development of children over age two or a higher likelihood of cancer.

Dr Croft said the research was a response to community concerns about
children and mobile phones.

"What we are working on is the precautionary principle," he said.

WHO radiation program coordinator Dr Mike Repacholi, who was in
Australia last week as part of a workshop on EMR and health effects at
Melbourne's Swinburne University, said filling the gaps in research
was a high priority because of the increasing number of children using
mobile phones.

"Children as young as five are using mobile phones," Dr Repacholi
said. "Yet international standards on exposure [to EMR] are the same
for children and adults."

He said children absorbed more radiation because of their smaller
heads and thinner skulls. This could possibly cause behaviour,
learning and concentration problems.

"So the net result is that children do receive higher exposures," he
said. "We could see some subtle effects on the central nervous

In January, the British Government's chief adviser on mobile phones,
Sir William Stewart, said children aged three to eight should not use
mobiles and older children should strictly limit their use until more
research had been done.

Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association spokesman Randal
Markey said new research was welcome but more than 400 studies on
mobile phones had already shown no health consequences, either for
adults or children.

Mr Markey said advice from the WHO, the Health Council of the
Netherlands and the US Food and Drug Administration was that limiting
the use of mobile phones by children was unnecessary.

"The present information does not support that mobile phones for
children should be limited," he said.

Copyright 2005. The Sydney Morning Herald.