Ban mobiles in schools

28 July 2000

Daily Telegraph
(c) 2000 Nationwide News Proprietary Ltd

EDUCATION Secretary David Blunkett has written to every school in Britain urging them to ban children under 16 using mobile phones except in emergencies. Mr Blunkett has sent guidelines warning of the potential health risks posed by mobile phones to pupils, particularly younger ones.

The advice follows a far-reaching inquiry led by former government chief scientist Sir William Stewart, which concluded that children could be more vulnerable to the effects of microwave radiation, which are unrecognised at the moment.

While he did not find conclusive evidence that mobile phones were harmful, Sir William said more research was needed to be sure and urged a "precautionary principle" in the meantime.

He said that youngsters under 16 might be more vulnerable to this radiation because they have thinner skulls and nervous systems that are still developing.

Mobile phones, increasingly a "must-have" accessory for many fashion-minded teenagers, have already been banned from many classrooms after teachers were interrupted by their ringing and pupils spent more time writing text mes-sages than essays.

Now teachers have been told to make sure pupils under 16 only use them in a crisis.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: "Whether or not schools allow mobiles is up to them.

"What we are saying is that children aged 15 or under should only use them in emergencies.

"They certainly should not be using their mobiles all the time, and when they do it should only be for as short a time as possible.

"Children under 16 have thinner skulls and therefore need to be much more careful.

"We don't yet know the effects of mobile phones, which have only been around for five years, so we are suggesting that caution is used."

The guidance letter will be followed next month by a leaflet drawn up by the Department of Health summarising Sir William's advice.

Ministers want all mobile phone retailers to display the warning information at the point of sale and are also discussing plans to send them out with bills to reach as many customers as possible.

In his report in May, Sir William advised that the younger the children, the less time they should spend on mobiles.

The inquiry followed reports that radiation from mobiles could trigger cancer, memory loss and Alzheimer's disease.

The Sun, UK Press, November 2003

TEACHERS have been ordered to ban their pupils from using their mobile phones amid rising safety fears. UK Education secretary David Blunkett has taken the unusual step of writing to ALL schools in England and Wales. Mr Blunkett said mobile phones should only be used by pupils under

A spokesman for Mr Blunkett said: "We felt we had to issue guidance on the widespread use of mobile phones in schools. The department of Health is taking the lead but we have a responsibility where pupils are concerned. We felt we had to get the message across that the non-essential use of mobile phones should be discouraged."

Mr Blunkett's order to schools follows an investigation led by ex-Government chief scientist Sir William Stewart earlier this year. He warned that children could be susceptible to damage from radiation because their immune system is not fully developed. He also pointed out that the younger the child, the more years they could be exposed to radiation.

The report backed claims that minor health complaints like headaches, earaches and skin problems may be linked to mobiles.

Also this in April 2001:

15 April 2001
The Mail on Sunday

(c) 2001 Associated Newspapers. All rights reserved

A WARNING by the Department of Health about the dangers for children using mobile phones was watered down after pressure from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Insiders say the trade department was worried that it would scare parents and damage the multibillion-pound telecommunications industry.

It has also emerged that a DTI official dealing with the advice was working out his notice before moving to mobiles giant Vodafone.

Nick Williams is understood to have told bosses of the potential conflict of interest but was ordered to continue his work.

The revelation comes two weeks after MPs urged the Government to toughen up the planning restrictions on mobile phone masts.

Under-18s now account for up to a quarter of Britain's 28 million mobile users and are the market's biggest growth area. Much advertising is targeted at youngsters.

While there is no proof mobiles are bad for health, there is a genuine fear of as yet unrecognised hazards because of the gaps in scientific knowledge.

Now scientists fear the Government may be putting children at risk by understating the potential dangers.

Last year's Stewart Report concluded the risks to those under 16 would be particularly grave because of their 'developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head and a longer lifetime of exposure'.

Later the DoH drew up a leaflet containing advice from the Chief Medical Officer. This recommended that under-16s should not use mobiles at all but gave guidelines for minimising the risk if they had to. Millions of copies of the leaflet, Mobile Phones And Health, were printed and were due to be sent to every household.

Education Secretary David Blunkett was so concerned he wrote to every school, urging them to ban under-16s from using mobiles except in emergencies. By the time the leaflet was published in December, however, the warning had been toned down.

It simply restricts itself to advising how mobiles should be used, saying calls should be kept short and that the phone should be used for essential purposes only.

It adds: 'Young people should make their own informed choices about the use of mobile phones.' Instead of being sent directly to homes, the leaflet was available only in shops, which were required to stock it but not display it.

Scientist Dr Roger Coghill, who in 1999 lost a legal bid to force the Government to put health warnings on mobiles, said the warning is too weak.

'It is so disappointing,' he said. 'We have discovered scientific evidence to show that there are problems with using a mobile close to the head for more than five minutes at a time. It is especially worrying for children.'

Whitehall sources confirmed there had been a 'big battle' between the DoH and both the DTI and No 10 over the wording.

A DTI source said the DoH was scared of repeating the mistakes it made with BSE and, in its determination to be cautious, had gone 'way beyond what the Stewart Report said'. He added: 'It would have scared many parents and that would have been unfair to the industry.' Nick Williams, who was responsible for mobile phones policy at the DTI, was serving out his notice when he contacted the DoH to ask it to change the wording.

He took up his job as a public policy executive with Vodafone in March after a three-month 'cooling-off' period required by Cabinet Office rules. These prevent civil servants who move to industry from abusing their positions.

Bosses knew of the potential conflict of interest but told him to carry on because there was no one else to deal with the matter.

A friend insisted Williams was not responsible for the final version of the leaflet. He admitted Williams had contacted the DoH by email over his concerns but claimed it did not reply.

Last night Norman Baker MP, the Lib Dems' consumer affairs spokesman, asked why he had to continue working on a matter crucial to his future employer in view of the possible conflict of interest.

He said: 'In any power struggle it is clear the DoH loses out to the DTI.

Money comes first and children's health somewhere thereafter.' The DTI would not comment on Williams's involvement with the leaflet, claiming confidentiality.

The DoH claimed the changes were minor. It said: 'There was a lot of discussion between officials and Ministers but that's not the same as saying some departments pressured other departments.'


TEACHERS have been ordered to ban their pupils from using their mobile phones amid rising safety fears

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