Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Radiation fears prompt possible restrictions on wi-fi and mobile phone use in schools

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 01 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3428

Rapid Response:

Protecting children from mobile radiation

You reported (BMJ 2011;342:d3428) on the Council of Europe’s recommendation that children be protected from the electro-magnetic radiation emitted by wireless equipment in schools.

Since then, the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) has classified such radiation as a possible carcinogen.

The evidence for children’s particular vulnerability is accumulating. Most recently a study by the University of Orebro, published in the International Journal of Oncology (Int J Oncol. 2011 May;38(5):1465-74) found almost a fivefold increase of astrocytoma among subjects who started mobile phone use before the age of 20.

Since the Council of Europe has little influence over national health policy and the IARC classification will take time to translate into practical advice, we as medical practitioners and professional bodies have a role in ensuring timely action is taken to protect children.
Previous public health threats (tobacco, asbestos, x-rays) indicate that the evidence of risk often increases as research progresses. Given a latency lag of up to 20 years for many tumours, we are in danger of repeating these public health disasters.

We have an opportunity now to help public health agencies navigate this complex area of unquantified risk .
We should encourage the adoption of proportionate safety measures, mindful of the benefits of mobile phone technology but reflecting the potentially serious risks, particularly for children.

Yours faithfully,

Kevin O’Neill FRCS (SN)

Consultant Neurosurgeon, Charing Cross Hospital

Trustee of MobileWise and Brain Tumour Research Campaign

Competing interests: none declared

07 July 2011
Kevin S O'Neill
Charing Cross Hospital