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Wider Debate Needed On Mobile Phone Risks
Letter sent to the Financial Times by:
Dr Charles Tannock MEP, European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium
August 31, 2000

Your report that mobile telephone makers selling phones in the US will begin to label handsets with radiation levels, as a result of growing concern among consumers about the possible links between mobile telephone use and health problems, is most welcome (August 29).

Having reviewed the scientific evidence for myself I tabled a question to the European Commission in the environment and public health committee of the European Parliament this year, asking for the Commission's views on the health implications of mobile phone use in view of the body of data already in existence suggesting a possible link between brain damage in adults and the use of mobile phones; I also asked what measures it proposed to protect children from this risk, given that a child's developing brain is more sensitive to electromagnetic radiation.

Although the Commission spokesman admitted, to his credit, that there is no known explanation for the doubling in incidence of brain neoplasms (tumours) over the past 10 years, I was disappointed to hear that the Commission proposed to take no action, even though it has banned the use of phthalates in children's toys on the basis of a single unreplicated study.

This inconsistency not only threatens the integrity of the precautionary principle; if the studies suggesting a link prove to be correct, it could also have serious health implications. Even if only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of worldwide users go on to develop tumours as a consequence, this should be a matter of considerable concern to legislators and the public authorities.

As a qualified doctor I felt it important to raise this issue, and I have written a parliamentary question to the Commission asking them to justify their decision not to consider precautionary measures to protect children in this case, at least until further scientific evidence is available.

It saddens me that the initiative reported in your columns should have had to come from the US rather than from Europe, but I remain hopeful that the debate about the risks to public health of mobile phone use will generate wider discussion on both sides of the Atlantic.

Charles Tannock
European Parliament
rue Wiertz
1047 Brussels, Belgium

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