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Mobile Phones Warning To Pregnant Women
Freelance Journalist: Alex Benady
June 28, 1998

PREGNANT women who use mobile phones could be damaging their unborn babies, according to scientific research to be published later this year.

Scientists have been aware for some time that the instruments emit microwaves that can raise the temperature of the human brain. But the research, by French scientists at the University of Montpellier, suggests that the risks from radiation emitted by mobile phones could be far greater than previously thought.

The findings will appear in the academic Journal of Bio-ElectroMagnetics. Papers are subjected to rigorous scrutiny by experts in the field before publication. The research points for the first time towards a link between mobile phones and possible damage to human embryos. Prof. Madeleine Bastide, who led the research, said this week that women should be wary of mobile phones while pregnant.

Her research indicated that the danger came from faint electromagnetic signals, radiated by most modern appliances. She said: "Mobile phones are probably the most dangerous followed by VDUs and televisions". Research was carried out on 6,000 chick embryos. It showed that those heavily exposed to emissions from mobile phones throughout their 21-day incubation period were five times more unlikely to survive than a control group.

Scientists say that human and chicken biology is sufficiently similar for the results to have worrying implications for pregnant women. Prof. Thomas Rosenquidst, of the University of Nebraska, said that the effects could happen so early in the development of an embryo that, in some cases, a woman might not even know that she was pregnant. Prof. Bastide said that more research was needed to assess the precise effects on human embryos.

She said: "We don't know exactly what would be the effects on humans. It varies according to the power of the source, the length of time of exposure and distance from the source. The effect is certainly bound to be far weaker than on the chicks. No woman uses a mobile phone for 24 hours a day and she wouldn't hold it near her womb. But it does suggest that there could be damage to human embryos."

Dr Cyril Smith, of the department of electrical engineering at Salford University, said that the research should be given serious consideration. He said: "Prof. Bastide is extremely well-respected. She has been looking at this issue for years. I believe that mobile phones could represent a cause for concern."

But he said that it was unlikely that the danger would be equal for all women. He said: "It probably works a bit like cigarettes - they tend to cause cancers in those with a genetic predisposition." However, Dr Michael Clark, a spokesman for the National Radiological Protection Board, said: "Claims like this are regularly made. But 99.9 per cent of all scientific work on mobile phones shows no effect other than the thermal [microwave] effect. There is nothing here at this point which would cause us to change our advice that mobile phones are basically safe."

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