Children’s mobile claims run counter to weight of scientific experts

Today’s claims about children and mobile phone safety run counter to the weight of expert scientific findings and parents can be reassured that the World Health Organisation (WHO) says strict science-based safety limits provide ample protection for all users of mobiles, including children.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), Chris Althaus, said the industry places the highest importance on safety issues and relies on the expert judgement of bodies such as the WHO to make decisions based on the weight of scientific evidence about the safety of mobile phones and base stations.

AMTA was replying to a British newspaper report in the Independent that claimed new research had found children and teenagers were five times more likely to get brain cancer if they used mobile phones.

Mr Althaus said Dr Lennart Hardell’s claims about children were alarmist and had not undergone the proper process of review by scientific peers.

“Mobile phone handsets and base stations are designed, built and tested to comply with strict science-based safety standards, which are recognized by national and international health agencies, including the WHO, as providing protection for all members of the community,” he said.

“The standards include significant in-built safety margins and provide protection for all users, including the elderly, children and others regardless of the frequency of use.

“People can be confident that there is no biological, medical, or statistical basis to assert a link between mobile phone use and brain cancer.

The WHO’s most recent health advice says:

None of the recent reviews have concluded that exposure to the RF (radio frequency) fields from mobile phones and their base stations cause any adverse health consequences.

Also, the Chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which developed the safety standard that protects all users, including children, concluded:

The protection system using basic restrictions and reference levels makes the ICNIRP guidelines flexible and applicable to virtually any exposure condition, and any group of population. Therefore, there is no need, or justification, for a special approach to the protection of children.

Mr Althaus said claims about mobile safety and children were based on the assertion that children were more at risk because their brains and nervous systems were still developing and their skulls were thinner allowing radio frequency energy to penetrate deeper into their brains.

He said there was no evidence for singling out children because scientific evidence did not indicate differences in the absorption of electromagnetic energy from mobile phones between adults and children.

The most recent study into rates of absorption of RF energy by children, conducted by the Irish Government Expert Group (October 2006), found that there were no major effects that could lead to a higher absorption of RF energy in a child’s head. The report concluded:

Recent expert analysis has concluded that there are no major effects due to focussing of the RF field in the head or to other properties of a child’s head that might result in higher absorption of RF energy.

Some media reports have mentioned the BioInitiative Report, however, the Health Council of the Netherlands said recently it had used scientific data selectively and not in a balanced and objective manner.

For more information contact Randal Markey, AMTA, (02) 6239 6555 or 0421 240 550