Mobile phones 'should not be used
by under 12s' says scientist launching 30-year study into health risks
Last updated at 8:51 AM on 23rd April 2010
Children should not use mobile phones, a leading Government adviser warned
Lawrie Challis said children were not ‘little adults’ and that they should not be given
mobiles until they were at least 12.
teenagers should use their phones to send text messages rather than talk, the physicist
and expert on the effects of radiation
He said that
while there was no evidence that children are more sensitive than adults to the radiation
given out by mobile phones, the possibility could not be ruled
Challis, the former head of the government-funded Mobile Telecommunications and Health
Research programme (MTHR), said: ‘I think it is plausible because their immune system is
still developing and we do know that children are more sensitive to other things, for
'If a child is exposed to
excessive sunlight, they are more likely to get skin cancer than an adult exposed to the same
They are more sensitive to
pollutants. There is a thinking that they might be at increased risk.’
He acknowledged that some parents may get peace of mind from giving their young child
a mobile phone.
But he added: ‘I don’t see why with young children one shouldn’t be a little bit more
firm as a parent and say there are reasons why they think it is not a good idea, unless there are specific safety
reasons why it needs to be done.’
The recommendations come as the MTHR, of which he is still a member, launches a
30-year study tracking the mobile phone use and health of 250,000 Europeans, including 100,000 Britons.
Data on the number of calls and their duration will be compared with health records
to determine if the mobiles trigger or exacerbate cancers, including those of the ear, skin and brain.
The multi-million-pound study will also look at whether they raise the chances of
neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, as well as strokes and heart disease
and less serious conditions such as headaches and disturbed sleep.
No previous study has lasted as long or looked at such a wide range of diseases. The
first results will be available in five years. It will also be the first time that data on call frequency and
length will be provided directly by the mobile phone companies.
Past studies have relied on people remembering how much they used their phones, which
can provide unreliable results.
The researchers, from Imperial College London,
said the results of the work done up until now have been ‘reassuring’. But because dismarketeases such as cancer
take many years to develop, and many people have only had mobile phones for about a decade, there are ‘
important gaps in our knowledge’.
More than half of under-tens now own a mobile, with some handsets specifically
designed for children as young as four.
Graham Philips, of mobile phone industry watchdog
Powerwatch, said: ‘In an ideal world, mobile phones would never have hit the until we had a lot more testing but
everyone assumed they were safe.
‘They are here now and all sorts of people and businesses rely on them. However, far
more money and effort should be put into looking at whether there is an effect on health, and just how big it
But John Cooke, executive director of the Mobile Operators Association, which
represents the industry, said: ‘The advice from World Health Organisation is that there is no need for any
special precautions for the use of mobile phones for adults or children.
‘If parents are concerned, they can encourage their children to keep calls short, or
use hands-free devices.
‘Parents need to weigh up the tangible security benefits provided by this technology
against the possibility of future unknown health effects.’
Professor Challis was vice-chairman of the Stewart Committee, whose report formed the
basis of official advice which states that ‘excessive use’ of mobiles by children should be discouraged.