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UK Mobiles To Come With Kid's Health Warning
October 23, 2000

The British government is planning that all mobile phones sold from November onwards will come with a leaflet advising that people under 16 should only use them for essential calls.

The leaflet warning comes in the wake of the so-called Stewart report from earlier this year, which concluded that although there is no firm evidence that excessive mobile phone usage can affect users' health, there is a definite need for growing children to be protected from potentially harmful problems - if it is subsequently determined that there is a problem.

The Stewart report, which only served to muddy the waters of the "do they, don't they," issues on mobile phones and health, was highly inconclusive, but has apparently spurred the government into issuing an under-16 health warning.

In his report, which took more than a year to compile, Stewart said that although there was no conclusive evidence that mobiles were harmful to health, children could be vulnerable because of their thinner skulls, higher tissue conductivity and developing nervous system.

Following on from the Stewart report, David Blunkett, the British Education Secretary, wrote to all schools in the UK, advising them of the possible dangers of children using mobile phones.

The British government, meanwhile, has said several times that significant amounts of further research are required to assess whether there are any effects on health from mobile phones and their transmitters.

In the summer, the British Minister for Public Health, Yvette Cooper, responded to the Stewart report by announcing that research into the issue is to be stepped up.

Backed by a multi-million pound fund, the NHS Director of Research and the chief medical officer, among other experts, have been asked to prepare a research strategy spanning several years.

Cooper said that because there are now 27 million mobile subscribers in Britain, and many more worldwide, mobiles phones are a popular and now virtually indispensable means of communication, transforming the way people live and do business.

Because of this, she said, it is vital that users should be able to make the most of the technology without concerns that it may impact on their health.

Cooper said that Stewart had stated that the balance of evidence does not suggest that mobile phone technologies are a risk to health.

"He points out that some biological effects may occur with mobile phone use, although these do not necessarily mean that health is affected. Importantly, his report states that currently there are gaps in scientific knowledge," she said.

"The government and the mobile phone industry have a responsibility to pursue an active and forward looking program of research to seek answers to these gaps in our knowledge," she added.

Cooper added that this is why the government is to rapidly expand the research program into the effects of mobile phone use. Further details of the research program, she said, will be announced later this year.

Cooper said that the report has recommended that the widespread use of mobile phones by children for non-essential calls should be discouraged. The study also recommends that an information leaflet be made widely available to the public, setting out the report's advice.

"We accept that recommendation. I think parents will agree that it must be sensible to be more cautious when it comes to children's health," she said.

The full Stewart report can be found on the report's Web site at

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