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Britain To Fund Research Into Mobile Phones
December 08, 2000

Britain announced plans on Friday for a $10 million research program into the potential health hazards of mobile phones.

England's Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson said leaflets advising people to keep calls short and to discourage children from using them will also be included with each new phone.

"It is essential that we provide people with the evidence on this issue to allow them to make an informed choice about using their mobile phones," said Donaldson.

Although there is no irrefutable medical evidence about health risks the government is taking a precautionary approach.

Nearly half of Britain's population, more than 25 million people, own a mobile phone. A quarter of users are under 18 years old.

The research program and leaflets follow a report from a government inquiry into the safety of mobile phones that was published in May.

Sir William Stewart, who led the inquiry, will head the research program that will be funded by the government and the mobile phone industry.

"On the basis of the precautionary approach outlined in the Stewart report, the leaflets provide advice that, if you use a mobile phone, you can choose to minimize your exposure to radio waves by keeping your calls short," Donaldson added.

The leaflets will also contain information about living near mobile phone base stations and the specific absorption rate (SAR), which is how much radio wave energy the body absorbs from each mobile phone.

Beginning next year there will be a European Standard method for measuring SAR which will be provided with each phone.

Scientists say the jury is still out on whether mobile phones cause brain tumors or other health problems. Some researchers claim they are the cause of headaches, sleeping disorders and memory loss.

Children could be more vulnerable to any potential ill effects because they have thinner skulls, smaller heads and their nervous system is still developing.

A study released earlier this month showed hands-free mobile phone kits could boost the brain's exposure to radiation. The government leaflet said more studies are needed to assess the SAR of the hands-free kit.

Research in the United States has shown that heavy users of mobile phones are involved in more fatal road accidents than people who use them less often.

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