#1143:UK Department of Health under pressure to increase precautions over children’s mobile phone use
From Eileen O’Connor:
More news in the Telegraph:
Department of Health under pressure to increase precautions over children”™s mobile phone use
Pressure is increasing on the Government to increase public health warnings over mobile phones as more fears emerge over their possible risks.
By Martin Beckford
Published: 7:00AM BST 24 Oct 2009
The Department of Health has not updated its advice to consumers for more than four years, while other countries have begun to implement stricter guidance as mobile use has become widespread even among children.
The long-awaited publication of the Interphone final results paper, which will include a public health message, is likely to force a revision of advice even if there is no conclusive proof that mobile phones cause brain cancer.
Many experts argue that greater precautionary measures are needed now that there are an estimated 4billion people using mobile phones worldwide.
They believe action must be taken even though proof of a link between the radiofrequency radiation emitted by handsets and health problems has not been proven, because cancerous tumours can take decades to develop, and because it may be difficult to prove an increased risk solely by asking people about their former mobile phone usage.
Professor Lawrence Challis was Vice-Chairman of the Stewart Committee, the British Government”™s pioneering investigation into mobile phones in 2000 that led to the current advice that children should be “discouraged” from making long calls or using mobile phones except when essential.
He believes the Interphone results could be down to “recall bias” as people who have developed brain tumours are likely to believe they must have been caused by something, such as their previous use of mobile phones.
But while further research continues, Prof Challis believes it is sensible for greater precautions to be taken ”“ particularly regarding children. This is because young people are already known to be more susceptible to the effects of ultraviolet radiation and air pollution.
Prof Challis told The Daily Telegraph: “The Stewart report recommended that they should not use them to any extent. As time has gone by, that has largely been ignored and my own feeling is that is now virtually impossible to say teenagers should not have mobile phones.
“I think the advice to secondary school children is to use them sparingly to text rather than phone, given the uncertainty. I don”™t see any reason why children at primary school should have mobile phones.”
He also called for improvements to hands-free kits in order to reduce the radiation they emit, and for the Government to force manufacturers to make shoppers more aware of the RF radiation emitted by different handsets, known as their SAR ratings. Most can only be found by reading the instruction manual once the handset has been bought.
Dr Siegal Sadetzki, a member of the 13-country Interphone team who conducted the Israeli study, added: “Most studies including ours show we do see something happening in what we call long-term users.
“As a specialist in public health, I say why shouldn”™t we take simple measures just to be on the safe side to limit exposure, especially when we are having so many children who are using them?”
It is understood that Interphone has given assurances to health groups that despite industry funding for the project, it will not “bury” negative results.
However some members of the Interphone team believe the increased risks found in some areas are too small to draw any conclusions from, and may be simply down to design flaws.
They want the final results paper to be limited to the data and leave the public health considerations to politicians, and their disputes over the conclusions have delayed its publication for three years.
One said it was “scary” to consider how much importance will be placed on their findings by governments and industry, while another feared that making a bold statement now about possible risks could “prejudice” what they might say in the future should a link be ruled out.
Dr Christopher Wild, the Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is running Interphone, said in a statement: “The Agency conducts research with relevance to cancer prevention and control and hence we would wish to include public health messages from the Interphone study in as far as the evidence itself permits valid conclusions to be drawn.
“For the sake of objectivity we would also point out the limitations of our research findings. Countries will then make their own public health decisions based on the scientific evidence we and others provide, plus other considerations at national and regional level.”
Radiation Research Trust
& Rewire Magazine