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PM - Mobile warning for children

PM - Tuesday, 23 September, 2008 18:22:00
Reporter: Richard Lindell

MARK COLVIN: New Swedish research suggests that children may be five times more likely to develop brain cancer if they use mobile phones.

The research argues that thinner skulls and smaller brains put children at much greater risk.

There have been many studies over the years pointing to the health risks posed by electro-magnetic radiation but none have found a causal link.

And critics say this research also falls short and that current health safety standards provide adequate protection.

Richard Lindell reports.

RICHARD LINDELL: Australia has one of the highest rates of mobile use in the world.

There are 21 million phones out there and more than half of all children under 18 own one.

But the health risks associated with a product in use for two decades are still hotly disputed.

Overnight, a Swedish study found that people who start using mobiles before the age of 20 are five times more likely to develop two types of brain cancers. One that targets the central nervous system and another benign tumour that can cause deafness.

MARC COUGHLAN: I think the issues that it raised are particularly whether or not, after latent periods for example 10 years, because mobile phones are becoming as you know much more common and more frequently used and I think we're spending more time on the phone.

So the question is whether after a latent period we're going to see more of these brain tumours and then in retrospect we might be looking back and I guess specifically for that paper it just raises questions as to whether children are more susceptible to the potential damage done by electromagnetic radiation. Because we do know the paediatric brain is a little bit more susceptible to any noxious stimuli.

RICHARD LINDELL: Dr Marc Coughlan is a Neurosurgeon at Sydney Children's Hospital. While he finds the issues raised by the study interesting, he says one study on its own is not cause for alarm.

MARC COUGHLAN: I would tend to tell my patients that until we have conclusive evidence, it would be prudent just to limit the amount of time spent on the phone and if at all possible use things like speaker phones to increase the distance between the actual mobile phone and the brain; so just to be really sort of sensible without alarmist.

But I think we're not far off getting a lot more papers out pointing towards whether or not there's just a tenuous association or whether there's a causal link, that's really the crux.

RICHARD LINDELL: The industry's peak body, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association says this study is flawed and no link, causal or otherwise, between mobile phones and cancer has been proved.

Its CEO is Chris Althaus.

CHRIS ALTHAUS: Around world all of the research is done into the impact on body. This covers all people, adults, children, the elderly and the current scientific view is that there is no support for special precautions for children. And this is a view that's formed after extensive research and World Health Organisation and related bodies are very firm on this view.

RICHARD LINDELL: Lyn McLean is a director of EMR Australia and consults to business and individuals on electromagnetic radiation. She argues that the standards set by the World Health Organisation are inadequate.

LYN MCLEAN: It is true that the mobile phone companies comply with the standards but the standards are allowing people to be exposed to a very great amount of radiation.

Now all the standards have been designed to do is to stop radiation damaging our bodies by heating up cells and that's a great think for them to do but the trouble is it's not protecting against any other affects.

And this is a real problem because a lot of these studies are showing problems from levels of radiation that are too low to cause heating. So in another words we have a different effect here altogether; something that the standards are not protecting against.

MARK COLVIN: EMR Australia's Lyn McClean ending that report from Richard Lindell

© 2008 Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Copyright information: http://abc.net.au/common/copyrigh.htm
Privacy information: http://abc.net.au/privacy.htm


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