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UK To Order
Restrictions On Children's Mobile Use
Ministers have instructed the chief medical officer to draw up guidelines restricting children's use of mobile phones following a report from leading scientists that suggests they may be at risk.
The report, commissioned by the government last year, will be published on Thursday and say children should be discouraged from using mobiles because they are more vulnerable to the radiation.
But the government is concerned that without more specific advice, the report could spark panic among Britain's estimated 24m mobile users and anger the mobile telephone industry that has just forked out billions of pounds for new licences.
"We will publish the full report and let the public see what the conclusions are for themselves, but then we need the chief medical officer to sit down and draw up detailed guidelines," said one Whitehall official.
Professor Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, will be asked to look at an age restriction and length and number of calls. Ministers, concerned about the vacuum in official advice to phone users, will urge him to make his recommendations as soon as possible.
Details of the report have leaked out over the last few weeks, hinting that the scientists have given mobiles a clean bill of health. One leak suggested the greatest hazard posed by mobiles is using them while driving.
However, the report will underline a range of serious concerns and recommend much more research is done on the subject, especially on long-term effects.
Government officials say ministers did not see a copy of the report until the end of last week - after the end of the GBP22.5bn ($34.7bn) third generation mobile phone auction - to avoid accusations of having information which could affect the value of the licences.
The committee 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 which showed that radiation from phones stimulated 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.