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British Mobile Warning Triggers Dutch Withdrawal
Journalist: Lucas van Grinsven
January 13, 2005

A Dutch electronics retail chain this week withdrew a mobile phone aimed at children between the ages of four and eight after British scientists said children should be cautious using cell phones.

The BCC retail chain in early December launched "Foony", a brightly coloured handset with just a few buttons with which young children can call five pre-programmed numbers.

"We've stopped selling them until it is clear what the health effects of mobile phones on children are," Peter Brussel, manager of BCC which has 37 shops in the Netherlands, said on Thursday.

The retail chain, which was the exclusive sales agent for the phone together with mobile operator Debitel, said it had sold 500 phones and that customers could bring their phone back to the shop and get a refund.

The phone sold for 69.90 euros (49 pounds), including a telephone card with 32 euros worth of calling minutes.

Britain's National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), an independent advisory group, said on Tuesday there have been reports of adverse health effects due to mobile phone radiation.

Only last month, one European Union-funded study found that radiation harmed a cell's DNA. But few reports have been independently confirmed and they are of variable quality.

"We are still recommending a precautionary approach because there is still no hard evidence that the health of the public in general has been adversely affected by the use of mobile phone technologies," NRPB chairman Sir William Stewart said.

Stewart recommended children use mobiles phones for as short a time as possible. They should text messages instead of calling and use a phone with a low SAR value. Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is the rate of energy absorption in body tissue.

"We have got to be cautious. We can't say there will be no effects," he added.

Mobile phones have become a $100 billion (539 million pounds) a year industry. About 650 million are expected to be sold to consumers this year and over 1.5 billion people around the world use one.

BCC, which said Foony worked like any other mobile phone, has also asked two Dutch health and technology research institutes about the health effects of mobile phone radiation.

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