UK mobile phones to carry health warnings

"The leaflets should be available in the shops, probably before Christmas, but we don't know exactly what date or exactly what they will say," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Health who asked not to be named.

Already 34 million mobile handsets have been sold in the UK, according to the Federation of the Electronics Industry (FEI), a group representing the mobile telephone industry. Some estimates have put a quarter of those users under the age of 18 though the FEI feels that number, "may be a little bit high," according to an FEI spokeswoman who asked not to be named. About 4.5 million handsets were bought at Christmas last year, and sales are expected to be high again this holiday season, the FEI spokeswoman said.

The government leaflets are expected to warn parents to monitor and limit the amount of time children spend talking on the mobile handsets, a warning which is based a report published last May by the UK's Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP), entitled "Mobile Phones and Health" and known as the Stewart Report after William Stewart, chairman of the IEGMP.

The report singled out mobile phone use by children, the elderly and the infirm as cause for increased concern. "Children may be more vulnerable because of their developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head and a longer lifetime of exposure. We believe that the widespread use of mobile phone by children for nonessential calls should be discouraged," Stewart said in a press conference last May.

The IEGMP did not set out guidelines for how many minutes per day would be considered safe for a child to use a mobile phone, nor did the group give its age definition of a "child." But the report did, however, urge the mobile phone industry to "refrain from promoting the use of mobile phones by children." Some companies currently allow for cheaper phone usage after 6 p.m.

At the time, the Department of Health publicly welcomed the report's findings, adding that the government has already commissioned an additional "multimillion pound research strategy, spanning several years," and that they would print out leaflets to be sold with mobile phones, warning of possible health risks to children, according to Yvette Cooper, Minister for Public Health.

"The leaflets aren't really news, I guess it's the fact that we're almost ready to publish them that is causing attention," said the Department of Health spokeswoman on Monday.

Also adding fire to the debate are two articles published on Friday in The Lancet medial journal presenting conflicting views on the public safety of mobile phones. The Lancet articles, by Dr Kenneth Rothman, of Epidemiology Resources in Boston, Massachusetts, and Gerard Hyland, a theoretical biophysicist at the University of Warwick in England, look at the issue from the viewpoints of epidemiology and mechanism, respectively. In his Lancet article, Rothman found that driving while using mobile phones was the greatest health risk posed by the technology. Heavy mobile users were involved in twice as many fatal road accidents as light users, according to Rothman. The Stewart Report did recommend that drivers should be "dissuaded" from using either handheld or hands-free phones while driving.

And while both Lancet articles agree that there is no conclusive evidence about the possible health risks posed by mobile phones, Hyland claims there is enough evidence that "the low intensity, pulsed radiation currently used [in mobile phones] can exert subtle non-thermal influences," especially in the case of children, putting them at increased risk of headaches, memory loss and sleeping disorders.

Furthermore, Hyland criticises the mobile telecommunications industry for hiding behind the Stewart Report. "The Stewart Report, published in May, 2000, makes some sensible recommendations, but unfortunately some of its greyer areas are now being exploited by the industry to obfuscate the issue," Hyland said in the article.

"The Stewart Report did state clearly that mobile phones were not proved to cause adverse health effects," the FEI spokeswoman said. "When it comes to the leaflets, we don't know that the Health Department have confirmed they will be available before Christmas but we agree that first of all, the health and safety of children are a top priority."

As for the study promised in May by the Department of Health, little progress has been made on that front. "We said in May that we had commissioned a study. The group that will take that study forward has not yet been established nor have we determined how much it will cost," said the Department of Health spokeswoman.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Laura Rohde

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Imou: At home with security

Modern living is all about functionality and security for everybody from the very young to the very old. With Imou anybody can enjoy smart life – the solution is at their fingertips.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?