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Health Watchdog To Monitor Risks Of Everyday Chemicals
The Guardian
Journalist: James Meikle
August 06, 2003

Public health officials yesterday promised the first national system for monitoring the long term effects of low-level chemical and radiation exposure.

They moved possible threats from everyday environmental pollution up the political agenda by giving them priority alongside improved preparedness for terrorist attacks and defences against infectious diseases.

The health protection agency (HPA), responsible for public health in England and Wales, yesterday conceded that there was public concern about the health risks from use of mobile phones, industrial chemicals and pollution from landfill sites and incinerators. Unveiling its first five-year plan, it recognised that exposure to chemicals and poisons was greater in poor and disadvantaged areas and that children might be at greatest risk.

The current balance of evidence did not prove health problems are caused by mobile phones, although the chief medical officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, had strongly advised that children should only use them for short, essential calls.

"Since the brain and nervous system in young people is still developing it is considered that if there are any, as yet unrecognised, health risks from mobile phone use then children and young people may be more vulnerable than adults."

Clusters of childhood leukaemia had raised questions over exposure to ionising radiation, chemicals, micro-organisms or electromagnetic fields. "It is also notable that sensitivity to ionising radiation and certain chemicals may be higher in the developing embryo and foetus."

The HPA said: "More than 600 new chemicals enter the market place each month, adding to the 70,000 in regular use. Other technologies such as information and communication technology, involving radio frequencies, are advancing rapidly, and radiological equipment is widespread in industry and health care.

"While these developments bring many benefits, the public needs to be confident that any long term effects are anticipated and identified."

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