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Heads Get The Call For Ban On Pupils' Mobiles
David Blunkett is urging all head teachers to prohibit pupils from using mobile phones except in emergencies and to restrict general use to those aged 16 and over.
The Education Secretary's written guidance follows the findings of the Government's own expert group of scientists which found that children were more vulnerable to the effects of mobile phone radiation.
The guidelines were accompanied by the new point-ofsale leaflet drawn up by the Government telling consumers of the potential health risks posed to children.
The guidance states that the "widespread use of mobile phones by children for non-essential use should be discouraged" and warns that youngsters aged 15 and under are at greater risk.
The briefing and the leaflet are based on the finding of the Government commissioned Stewart Report into the dangers of mobile phones and masts, published in May. Sir William Stewart said that while there was as yet no proven risk to health, there was conclusive evidence of biological effects from mobile phones.
Children whose brains are still developing were more vulnerable to the effects of the radiation than adults. Sir William has recently told Government officers he believes that 16 should be the cut-off point. Research papers considered by the committee linked radiation with memory loss, premature ageing, Alzheimer's disease and cancer.
The news has delighted campaigners concerned that children are being targeted by the mobile industry. Alasdair Philips of consumer group Powerwatch said: "Mobiles are not a toy."
The Education Secretary's precautionary approach is in direct contrast to the more dismissive attitude taken by the Department of the Environment regarding mobile phone masts. In a letter to all councils, Minister Nick Raynsford insists the Stewart Report found that as long as emissions fell below the recommended guidelines the masts were safe, so councils must ignore public concerns about the potential health risk.
It states: "It is our view that, if a proposed development meets the ICNIRP (international) guidelines as recommended by Stewart on a precautionary basis, it should not be necessary for a planning authority, in processing an application, to consider the health effects further."
What the Stewart Report actually recommends is "that public exposure levels are kept as low as possible commensurate with an effective telecommunications system." Experts estimate this could be up to 500-fold lower in power terms than the ICNIRP.
The Stewart Report also warns that living near a mast can have a detrimental effect on a person's well-being.
Anti-mast campaigner Alan Meyer, a solicitor, said: "There is a gloss within the letter which seems to indicate that the Stewart Report's recommendations regarding "well being" is to be either overlooked or probably glossed over."Nick Raynsford's letter also totally ignores the latest World Health Organisation Press release with its revised recommendations including taking into account 'public sensibilities' when siting decisions are taken."