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'Irresponsible' Mobile Firms Which Target Youngsters
Mobile phone firms cynically target children even though they may be most vulnerable to the effects of radiation, a leading scientist warned yesterday.
Sir William Stewart, who chaired the world's largest investigation into mobile phone safety, condemned promotions which suggested children buy a phone before
they start the new term.
He said charges should be increased to deter children from making too many calls.
Sir William told the annual conference of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Glasgow: 'I have grandchildren and I wouldn't allow them to use mobile phones. I have also seen
'Back to School' promotions which include mobile phones in a list of things kids need before the new term. That is really irresponsible.
He added: 'I support increasing the price of calls to get children to cut the number of calls they make and I would also be supportive of mobile telephones costing more. It is gen-
erally agreed that children would be the most susceptible group, if there was dangerous radiation coming out of mobile phones.
'This is because their skulls are not fully thickened and their nervous system is not fully developed.
'They are also set to use mobile phones over their whole lifetime - and we don't yet know the longterm effects of these phones.' Special incentives, such as 'Free minutes' per month, encouraged children to use the sets, though scientists have advised youngsters to cut down on calls to reduce the health risks.
Sir William's comments came on the same day as research emerged linking mobile phones with cancerous brain tumours.
A study by Swedish scientists found mobile users have more than double the normal risk of getting a tumour on the side of their head where they hold their mobiles.
Those who have used the phones for more than ten years are 2.6 times more likely to develop tumours and 3.5 times more likely to develop benign tumours on the nerve connecting the ear to the brain, it says.
The study's results add to mounting concern over the safety of mobiles - used by around 30million people in Britain.
They are regarded as a musthave item for the overwhelming majority of children. A survey of 1,000 youngsters aged 11 to 15 from across the UK found that nine of out ten of them own a mobile.
And 10 per cent of those questioned said they talked on them for more than 45 minutes a day, despite widely reported fears of health hazards.
Last year, the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, chaired by Sir William, concluded there was no evidence of harm to people's health, but called for more research.
He added: 'The balance of evidence to date suggests that radiation from mobile phones does not have health effects for the general public.
'But there are subtle biological effects, and we don't know what the long-term effects of these will be.' Other researchers have warned that low-level microwave radiation from the phones can heat the brain, causing headaches, memory loss, and dizziness.
In the Swedish research, results were drawn from a sample eight times larger than any previous study.
It is understood that after the research was previewed to a business conference in London earlier this year the mobile phone industry called an emergency secret meeting.
Professor Hardell, of Orebro University, Sweden, compared the mobile phone use of 1,617 patients diagnosed with brain tumours between 1997 and last June with a control group of healthy volunteers.
Professor Hardell's research was based on the use of analogue phones and produced no conclusive findings for the newer digital phones, which the vast majority of people now use.
But based on previous research, scientists expect digital handsets to have similar effects.
A number of mobile phone users have come forward in recent years to say they have been made ill by the devices.