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15/01/2009 - French government consider mobile phone legislation

In a bold and groundbreaking move, the French government are now the first European government to publicly announce a proposal for an outright ban on some aspect of mobile phone usage based exclusively on potential risks to health.

Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo has proposed new legislation that will lead to ban on the advertising of mobile phones to children under the age of 12. It will also be illegal for sales of phones that are intended for use by children under the age of 6, and it will be compulsory for all handsets to be sold with accompanying earphones.

In September, the European Parliament voted 522 to 16 to urge ministers across Europe to bring in stricter radiation limits for phones, and the European Environment Agency has also issued a warning.

Whilst similar to the recommendations of other countries (Toronto's Department of Public Health has advised that children under eight should only use mobiles in emergencies and teenagers should limit calls to less than 10 minutes. The Russian Ministry of Health says that young people under 18 should not use the devices, and Israel's Health Ministry has also advised caution), this is the first recommendation to have made its way into proposed national legislation. It is a much needed first step on the road to governmentally introduced precaution on behalf of the public that it represents.

The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority have also recommended that children should favour texting over calls, use hands-free where possible, not use their phone in cars and trains, limited both number of calls and call duration. They feel that an outright ban is inappropriate due to the benefits that they provide, but believe that precaution is appropriate.

Sadly, the United Kingdom appears to be falling behind in their acknowledgement of the steadily increasing evidence that mobile phones may present a serious threat to health. Despite the UK Government Department of Health advice that children and young people under 16 should only use mobile phones for "essential purposes" and even then not for prolonged periods, public awareness of this advice is minimal.

Links

Download proposed bill - The proposed bill itself
Daily Mail coverage - Daily Mail coverage by Peter Allen and Fiona MacRae
Independent on Sunday coverage - Independent on Sunday coverage by Geoffrey Lean
Daily Telegraph coverage - Telegraph coverage by Peter Allen
Business Day coverage - Coverage in Business Day
Finnish authority website - Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) website
Department of Health website - UK Department of Health website


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