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Mobiles Are Damaging Our Children
The Scotsman
Journalist: Kate Foster
November 25, 2000

Parents have been warned that scientists have now linked the use of mobile phones to memory loss, sleeping disorders and epilepsy among children.

The new research suggests that mobiles could have much wider implications for ill health than previously believed, after conflicting government advice on whether or not they cause brain cancer, and prompted a warning that they should only be used by children in emergencies.

The study has renewed concern over the long-term effects on young people, with recent studies showing that a million children in Britain aged under 15 have a mobile phone, as do more than two-thirds of Scottish 15 to 24 year-olds.

The cancer link to mobiles has previously focused on their brain warming effect, but now Dr Gerald Hyland says his work suggests the real risk lies in the wider effects of low intensity radiation from mobile phones into the heads of users.

Known as non-thermal radiation, this is particularly dangerous to children because they do not have fully developed immune systems and, as previous studies have warned, their skulls are thinner than those of adults and are more vulnerable to the rays.

Dr Hyland, who is based in the physics department at Warwick University and at the International Institute of Biophysics, in Neuss-Holzheim, Germany, said: "The body is an electro-chemical instrument with exquisite sensitivity. The effect of microwaves from a mobile phone is a bit like interference on a radio. It has an impact on the stability of cells in the body.

"The main effects are neurological, causing headaches, lack of concentration, memory loss and sleeping disorders. It can also cause epilepsy in children. Children are particularly vulnerable because they are still developing their immune systems and are less robust than adults."

Dr Hyland's research, published in the latest edition of the respected medical publication The Lancet, follows his analysis of more than 100 earlier studies involving tens of thousands of people. He compared the biological effects of very low intensity phone radiation with a variety of health complaints.

He said: "If mobile phones were a type of food, they simply would not be licensed because there is so much uncertainty surrounding their safety. Mobile phones should not be given to children indiscriminately. They should be used only for emergencies. A spopkeswoman for the National Radiological Board, which is the government regulator of the mobile phone industry, said:

"There is still research ongoing into the issue and nothing proven to date but there's no reason why children should not be discouraged from using them as accessories."

The Scottish executive is due to produce two information leaflets in December to address concerns about mobile phone, and these will warn those aged under 16 against excessive use. A spokeswoman said: "The leaflets will give information to families who are concerned about mobile phone use."

A Cellnet spokesman said there was still no evidence of any risk from mobile phones but added that the mobile phone industry had taken seriously the findings of the Stewart inquiry on this issue in May. The inquiry urged parents to discourage children from using mobile phones, though it failed to find conclusive evidence that they damage health.

The latest health worry comes as the Scottish executive moved to allay public fears about mobile phone masts by announcing proposals to tighten up planning controls on their spread throughout the country.

Sam Galbraith, the environment minister, yesterday announced new measures which will, for the first time, bring all new ground-based masts, not just those above 15 metres , under local authority planning controls.

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