Study tracks health effects of mobile phones on the young

A long-term study has been launched in Australia in an attempt to discover whether children are at higher risk than adults from radiation emitted by mobile phones.

The study will track a sample of 300 12 to 13 years olds and measure whether mobile phone use has any impact on brain reaction, sleeping patterns or ability to concentrate.

Whatever its results the research is likely to add fuel to the fire of controversy which surrounds the possible dangers of the ubiquitous mobile phone and associated masts.

The study will be carried out by the Melbourne-based Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research, set up in July 2003 with a multi-million dollar grant and the health effects of mobile phones very much in mind.

The primary purpose behind the research is to assess whether young people whose physiology is still developing are more vulnerable to the effects of electromagnetic radiation than adults.

Scientific consensus says children absorb more radiation because they have smaller heads and thinner skulls.

But a question mark hovers over whether this could possibly cause behaviour, learning or concentration problems, or indeed any physical damage.

While many urge legislators to follow the precautionary principle, and limit the use of mobile phones among children until they have been proven to be safe, most reputable bodies, including the WTO, do not recommend such a course of action.

In January, however, Sir William Stewart, the British Government’s chief adviser on mobile phones, said children aged three to eight should not use mobiles and older children should limit their use until more was known about their impact.

The Australian research should clear up some of the questions which still divide the scientific community.

By Sam Bond

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