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10m Study To Examine Health Risks Of Mobile Phone Use

Journalist: Nic Fleming
June 02, 2005

Scientists on a committee set up by the Government are planning a 10 million programme of research into whether mobile telephones harm children and long-term users.

Members of the Mobile Telecommunications Health Research (MTHR) programme committee are negotiating with industry and government departments to obtain funds for the work.

While some studies have suggested links between mobile telephone use and health problems, including cancers, headaches, memory loss and immune system problems, no conclusive evidence has been produced.

Most of the 29 studies part-funded by governments over the last four years will be complete by the end of this year.

Prof Lawrie Challis, chairman of the MTHR, told The Daily Telegraph that a second phase of research was needed because diseases such as cancers could take more than 10 years to appear after exposure to its cause and because not enough work had been carried out on the effects on children.

Prof Challis said: "Most studies that have reported recently have not shown an association for exposures of less than 10 years. While there is at present no convincing evidence of health effects from mobile phones, most users will have had their phones for an average of only six or seven years.

"Therefore, I believe we need a large international cohort study that would see whether those who use their phone more than others develop more cases of a range of diseases and illnesses." Little research on the health of younger mobile telephone users has been carried out because of ethical issues surrounding exposing under-age volunteers in laboratories and because many children use pay-as-you-go handsets, making their exposure levels hard to verify.

"It is not unreasonable to say that if there are health hazards associated with mobile phone exposure, it just might be that children are less well protected," Prof Challis said.

"Children will have a whole lifetime of exposure whereas today's adults don't, and there is some evidence that they might absorb more radiation than adults because their brains are still developing.

"There has been hardly any work looking at the effects on children and we believe we have found ways around some of the ethical and practical difficulties that have prevented this kind of work in the past."

A quarter of the research money would be spent on the British contribution to a proposed World Health Organisation cohort study of 250,000 people in Britain, Germany, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

Data on how many people got a range of diseases and illnesses such as different cancers, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's would be cross-referenced with information taken from mobile operators on how much those taking part had used their telephones.

With most people having had a mobile for an average of seven years, the study, which could start next year, would follow participants for five years, giving an accurate picture of any long-term effects.

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