FRANCE

Mobile phone health risks: "I trust specialists more than big firms"

French scientist David Servan-Schreiber led a group of 19 cancer specialists in speaking out about mobile phone-related health risks - particularly for children - and calling for increased awareness of the dangers. We asked our Observers, including one of the doctors who signed the agreement, whether they think that mobile phones really are deadly.

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Cooking popcorn with mobile phone waves (a faked video posted on YouTube).

French scientist David Servan-Schreiber led a group of 19 cancer specialists in speaking out about mobile phone-related health risks - particularly for children - and calling for increased awareness of the dangers. We asked our Observers, including one of the doctors who signed the agreement, whether they think that mobile phones really are deadly.

The text, which was published in the French press on Sunday, recommends using handsfree sets and restricting their use by children under 12 to emergency cases. It also suggests that sending text messages is better than making calls.

How to cook popcorn with your mobile

This viral video which was launched as an advertisment for Cardo Systems (a Blutooth headset provider), restarted the debate about the dangers of mobile telephone use. It's had three million hits on YouTube.

"I have more trust in specialists than in big industries who always insist there's no danger"

Cécile Laval is a nurse from Paris. She has two sons, aged seven and 18.

My suspicions about mobiles go way back before this. My 18-year-old son has a mobile but I insist that he remembers to use the landline as much as possible to avoid harmful waves. For my seven-year-old I always said that I should be careful because he's still growing. I have heard work is being done and also about the chips that you can attach to your phone to neutralise the waves.

I always tell myself that if there are rumours about the potential danger of new technology, then it doesn't cost anything to take the information on board, whereas to do the opposite could cost you dearly. In any case, I have more trust in specialists than in big industries who always insist there's no danger. I'm going to try to stop my little one from buying a mobile until improvements have been made in the safety of these new technologies."

"If we started worrying about every little thing we wouldn't step foot outside anymore"

Priscille works for a PR agency in Paris.

I do feel concerned about this as in both my work-life and private-life I'm constantly carrying two handsets around with me. However, I've decided to be sceptical on this one. I tell myself that it must be fake because if we started worrying about every little thing we simply wouldn't set foot outside anymore. I do feel like I'm hiding my head in the sand because I'm sure they must be a little bit harmful at least. But it's impossible to do anything else.

I don't use the phone much out of work; in fact I could probably make more efforts like turning it off in the night or moving it away from me. But in my line of work, it's just impossible to avoid it. Everything happens on the phone."

"We must spread to word to prevent a crisis"

Philippe Presles is a doctor specialised in tobacco addiction studies and a master of business administration. He's the editor of the site e-sante.fr and the director of a health protection institute, l'Institut Moncey de Prévention santé.

It's a matter of getting together on this matter to raise awareness. There have already been several convincing studies taken out on this subject, one in particular by Israeli doctors, which were sadly not taken seriously. Some science-based journalists have also tried to raise the alarm, but without success. You often need a crisis to happen for people to become aware. But that's what we want to avoid.

That's why what David Servan-Schreiber is doing is so important. By getting all the big specialists in the field to sign a petition, he's drawing media attention to most of the recent work done by the CICR [International Centre for Cancer Research]. For example, we've got photos that show the effects of mobile-use on the brains of under-twelves, but we haven't been able to get them published so far.

For the time being the risks remain quite weak, but with booming numbers of mobile-users the question is one of paramount importance for public health. Prevention methods aren't complicated; there are ten day-to-day things you can do to help on our website."