International phone cards
UK government ministers are to order urgent new guidelines restricting
children's use of mobile phones following a report from leading
scientists suggesting they could be at risk.
A government-commissioned study, to be published on Thursday, will say
children should be discouraged from using mobiles because they are
more vulnerable to radiation emissions. Sir Liam Donaldson, chief
medical officer, will be asked to work with the author of the report,
Sir William Stewart, of Tayside University, to draw up new guidelines
on mobile phone use.
Sir William's report will dismay mobile phone companies, for whom the
youth market represents an estimated one-in-four of all sales.
Publication of the report comes within days of the Treasury's gaining
a 22.5bn windfall from the auction of third-generation mobile phone
licences. During the course of the auction, selective leaks to the
press suggested the government-sponsored report would give mobiles a
clean bill of health.
Although the report will stress there is no evidence currently
available that mobiles damage health, it will raise a number of
concerns. It will recommend much more research is done, especially
on the little-understood non-thermal effects of mobiles.
The government is acutely aware that the warning on health risks to
children could spark alarm among the UK's estimated 24m mobile users.
"We will publish the full report and let the public see what the
conclusions are for themselves, but then we need Sir William Stewart
and Sir Liam to sit down with other scientists and draw up detailed
guidelines," said one Whitehall official.
Sir Liam will be asked to look at whether a minimum age limit would
be appropriate and whether children should be told to limit the length
and number of calls per day.
Government officials say ministers were intentionally not shown copies
of the report until the end of last week -- after the end of the third-
generation mobile phone auction.
The committee of 12 experts was set up last year after reports that
radiation from mobiles could trigger memory loss, Alzheimer's disease
and cancer. The committee looked at all the available research
including two that showed radiation from phones stimulates the brain.
The report is expected to to recommend stricter planning controls on
the siting of transmission masts, advising that they are kept away
from schools, hospitals and residential areas.