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expert reaction to a study on mobile phones and behaviour, as published in a BMJ specialist journal

Research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, a BMJ specialist journal, linked mobile phone use with behavioural problems.


Prof Patricia McKinney, Emeritus Professor of Paediatric Epidemiology, University of Leeds, said:

“”The conclusions from this large study, associating behavioural problems in very young children with mobile phone use, over-interpret the results. There is no scientific basis for investigating exposure of the growing baby when pregnant mothers use a mobile phone, as exposure to radiofrequency radiation from mobile phones is highly localised to the part of the head closest to the phone; there is no evidence to suggest that other parts of the body, such as the abdomen where the baby is growing, are affected by mobile phone use.

“We also have no evidence that a pregnant mother’s behaviour is related to her mobile phone use and thereby affecting her baby. The risks linked to prenatal exposure are therefore questionable.””


Prof David Coggon, Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Southampton, said:

“”This study appears to have been well conducted, but the pattern of results suggests that the observed increase in behavioural problems may have been caused by factors other than mobile phone use. When the authors took into account considerations such as quality of parenting, estimates of risk were reduced, but confounding influences of this sort are unlikely to have been fully eliminated.””


Prof David Spiegelhalter, Professor of Biostatistics, University of Cambridge, said:

“”I am sceptical of these results, even though they will get a lot of publicity. One finding is that very young children who use mobile phones show more behavioural disorders: this may well be the case, but is it plausible that the first causes the second? The authors suggest that precautionary measures may be warranted because they have ‘virtually no cost’, but they ignore the cost of giving intrusive health advice based on inadequate science.

“The authors say that ‘early exposure to cell phones could carry a risk which, if real, would be of public health concern’. Well, I might just as well say ‘Paul’s psychic abilities, if real, would revolutionise our thinking about molluscs.””


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