New Scientist  [Printer-friendly version]
January 11, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: A report issued by the UK's National
Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), a government advisory body,
calls for a "precautionary approach" to cellphone use.]

By Will Knight

Recent studies suggesting cellphone radiation may pose a health hazard
have prompted UK experts to warn parents against giving mobile phones
to young children.

A report issued on Tuesday [Jan. 4, 2005] by the UK's National
Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), a government advisory body,
calls for a "precautionary approach" to cellphone use. The study
acknowledges that there is no firm evidence that cellphone radiation
is harmful but warns that the possibility also cannot be ruled out.

"I don't think we can put our hands on our hearts and say mobile
phones are safe," said Sir William Stewart, chairman of the NRPB, at a
press conference in London on Tuesday.

The NRPB report repeats concerns first raised in an influential study
into cellphone health affects published in 2000 by the Independent
Expert Group on Mobile Phones, also set up by the UK government and
led by William Stewart. However, the new report adds that scientific
research published since 2000 provides fresh evidence that cellphone
radiation may be harmful to users. DNA damage

This research includes a European study published in December 2004
indicating that radiation from cellphones may damage DNA, a Swedish
study from April 2004 showing a correlation between mobile phone use
and auditory nerve tumours and Dutch research from October 2003,
linking cellphones to impaired brain function.

But the NPRB report says these studies must be replicated by other
research laboratories before any conclusion can be reached.

Zenon Sienkiewicz, principle scientist at NRPB, notes that
complicating factors will also have to be investigated, such as
whether some people are more susceptible to cellphone radiation than
others. "All we're saying in the report is let's not close our minds,"
he told New Scientist.

Stewart says parents should not give cellphones to children under nine
years old because they may be particularly susceptible to any ill
effects of cellphone radiation. This is because they have smaller
heads, meaning the radiation can affect a greater part of their brain,
and less fully developed nervous systems.

Service suspended

"If there are risks -- and we think that maybe there are -- then the
people who are going to be most affected are children, and the younger
the children, the greater the danger," Stewart said.

Shortly after the report was published, UK company Commun8, which
launched a mobile phone service aimed at children, announced that it
would suspend operations.

But other representatives of the industry took a positive view of the
report. "The key point of the NRPB advice is that there is no hard
information linking the use of mobile telephony with adverse health
effects," said Mike Dolan executive director of the UK Mobile
Operators Association.

The NPRB report also recommends that older children and adults
consider limiting their phone use and sending text messages instead of
making voice calls whenever possible.

The rate of cellphone development is another cause for worry,
according to the report. Third generation (3G) phones typically
produce more radiation than older handsets, but there have been few
studies of the health effects of these devices specifically. The board
also said further research should be carried out into the effects of
wireless networking technology such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Related articles:

Cellphones May Boost Forces on Biological Tissue

3G Base Stations May Cause Headaches

Cancer cell study revives cellphone safety fears

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