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UK Agency: Don't Give Cell Phones To Young Children
Associated Press
January 11, 2005

Parents should not give mobile phones to children age 8 or younger as a precaution against the potential harm of radiation from the devices, the chairman of the National Radiological Protection Board said Tuesday.

Some experts deemed the warning unfounded and unwarranted, but a company that recently launched a phone aimed at young children said it was suspending sales until it has time to evaluate it.

Sir William Stewart, chairman of the NRPB, said there's no conclusive evidence showing a clear danger, but said a growing amount of research shows that mobile phone use may have health implications, making it wise to adopt a ``precautionary approach,'' particularly with children.

``I don't think we can put our hands on our hearts and say mobile phones are safe,'' Stewart told a news conference. ``When you come to giving mobile phones to a 3- to 8-year-old, that can't possibly be right.''

The report cited recent studies in Sweden and Germany suggesting a potential health risk including brain tumors. It also noted research showing that radio waves can ``interfere with biological systems'' and a recent paper suggesting ``possible effects on brain function resulting from the use of (next-generation) phones'' which are becoming more common.

Many experts have dismissed those studies and other research performed to date as very inconclusive.

Even the NRPB report acknowledged that some of the work cited has ``limitations,'' and encouraged a large international study which has been proposed.

Still, while ``there is no hard evidence at present that the health to the public, in general, is being affected adversely by the use of mobile phone technologies,'' Stewart said he was ``more concerned'' about the implications for health than five years ago, when he last reviewed the issue.

Studies showing the phones could affect health ``have yet to be replicated and are of varying quality, but we can't dismiss them out of hand,'' Stewart said. ``This is still a relatively new area and the divergent views show how more research is needed.''

Dr. Philip Stieg, chief of neurosurgery for New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, cautioned against alarm.

``None of us would want children harmed by this technology, but at this point there isn't any evidence that would support the comments,'' Stieg said of Stewart's remarks.

He suggested that since most of the research done so far has focused on adults, it may be time to do a clinical trial focusing on cell phones and children.

``It's one of these things where you hate to be wrong. Do I think it's good for a child to be on a cell phone for hours at a time? For multiple reasons it's not that good. They should be doing homework. They should be getting exercise,'' he said. ``But I would rather have my child have a cell phone and call me if they're in trouble or needed my help.''

Mike Dolan, executive director of the Mobile Operators Association, also said the weight of scientific evidence so far ``does not suggest that mobile technologies operating within international health and safety guidelines cause illness.''

Britain's Department of Health said its advice to be cautious in allowing mobile phones for youths under 16 remains in force.

In reaction to the report, a company named Communic8 said it was suspending sales of its MyMo phones, which were designed for children aged 4-to-8. The phones store up to five numbers that can be easily dialed in an emergency.

``We launched the product specifically because we thought it could address security concerns of parents,'' said marketing director Adam Stephenson. ``We absolutely do not want to damage children's health.''

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