| A common theme emerging from many of the recently published studies, has been the need to look at the special risks which children may be subjected to from continued cellular phone use. |
In the UK Government’s Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones report in May 2000 (commonly referred to as the Stewart Report), particular concern was stressed about the susceptibility of children whose nervous systems were still developing and might therefore be more vulnerable. In addition their skulls were thinner than adults and thus allowed greater levels of energy to be absorbed into the brain tissue. Of equal concern was the fact that by starting phone use at an early age, children would have a longer cumulative lifetime of exposure, with greater corresponding implications for the possibilities of contracting diseases with long latency periods.
The Stewart Group recommended that:
“In line with our call for the precautionary approach, the widespread use of mobile phones by children for non-essential calls should be discouraged. We also recommend that the mobile phone industry should refrain from promoting the use of mobile phones by children”
Similar reservations over mobile use by children were expressed in 2001 by the French Government and by Germany’s Institute of Ecology in a report commissioned by one of the country’s leading network operators. The head of Germany’s National Radiation Protection Board, Wolfram Koenig has also urged companies not to target children in their advertising.
Despite these concerns, child usage has actually increased and Chairman of the Stewart Group, Sir William Stewart, was recently reported as being highly critical of the cellular industry’s obvious reluctance to follow his Group’s recommendations. At the annual conference of the British Association for The Advancement Of Science in September 2001, Sir William condemned “Back to School” promotions he had seen which had included mobiles in a list of things children need before they start the new term. Sir William called this type of marketing irresponsible and called for the price of both calls and handsets to be increased in a move to deter children’s usage.
The concern about children’s exposure is backed up by research. Published studies by Prof. Om Gandhi et al from the University of Utah, showed that the current method used to determined radiation absorption rates involved the use of a phantom adult head, which was of course much bigger than that of a child. As a result in reality the radiation field would encroach further into a child’s brain and absorption rates (SAR''s) would be 50% higher in the head of a 5-year-old and 20% in a 10-year-old. This would mean that for many phone models, safety standards were being exceeded when used by children. Interestingly no allowance was made in the experiments for the fact that children’s skulls are also thinner, which would further exacerbate the problem.