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Get Phone Health Warning
Children were yesterday advised to keep their mobile phones away from their heads and laps as much as possible by scientists overseeing new research into potential dangers from radiation.
They advised against frequent use of mobiles over long periods by young people and encouraged them to text message instead. Even then they should keep the phones well away from "other organs which may be vulnerable", a warning particularly aimed at boys.
The precautions were advocated by Sir William Stewart, a biologist who chaired the inquiry into mobiles' safety which reported two years ago, and Professor Lawrence Challis, a physicist from Nottingham University, as they outlined the first research projects in a £7.4m programme which might take more than three years to complete.
Sir William said the balance of evidence suggested that emissions of radiation from mobile phones that were below present guidelines were not a danger. But some biological changes might occur.
Sir William, who chairs the management committee overseeing research funded by the government and industry, is not prepared to let his grandchildren, aged five and four, use mobiles.
He told BBC radio: "The reason we don't recommend long-term use of mobile phones by children is that their skulls are not fully fixed, their nervous system is not fully developed and as youngsters they are likely to be exposed longer during their lifetimes to mobile phone radiation. In many cases they are frequent users."
He was not against use in emergencies. He said: "A lot of children text message rather than voice message. There is good evidence that the amount of radiation from text messaging is much less than voice messaging."
The first 15 research projects, receiving £4.5m between them, include studies into the risk of developing brain cancer or leukaemia, the effects on blood pressure and hearing, and how mobile phones affect the performance of drivers.
Sir William said it was up to children and their parents to decide on the use of mobiles. "Parental responsibility is important. Those who sell phones in shops also have a responsibility."
Alan Milburn, the health secretary, yesterday wrote to the chief executives of mobile phone stores reminding them to ensure all customers get official guidance on the use of mobile phones.
The Federation of the Electronics Industry said it was committed to addressing any public concerns in an open way.