GSMA Slams Euro Call For Ban On Wireless In Schools

A European report that calls for a ban on mobile phones and Wi-Fi in school is “unscientific” says the GSMA

The ongoing debate over the supposed dangers posed by mobile phone usage and wireless signals has exploded once again. An influential European committee has called for a ban on mobile phones and Wi-Fi networks in schools – but industry body the GSM Association (GSMA) has denounced the report as an “unbalanced political assessment, not a scientific report.”

The Council of Europe’s Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs published a report earlier this month on the potential dangers of electromagnetic fields. The report recommended that European governments take precautionary steps to ban mobile phone and Wi-Fi usage in schools.

No evidence equals unkown danger?

The committee – whose vice-chairman is the former Labour Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Prescott – was studying low frequency radiation risk. Whilst the Council of Europe it is not officially connected to the European Union, it does have influence.

The report made its recommendation to reduce mobile and wireless use in schools, despite admitting that there is a lack of clear scientific and clinical proof. However, it said the lack of proof was reason enough to restric use, just in case, comparing  mobile phone raditation to other things whose dangers were once sunknown, such as asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco.

“Mobile telephony has become commonplace around the world. This wireless technology relies upon an extensive network of fixed antennas, or base stations, relaying information with radio frequency signals. Over 1.4 million base stations exist worldwide and the number is increasing significantly with the introduction of third generation technology,” said the report.

Euro committee recommends school ban

But it is the report’s recommendations to the member states of the Council of Europe that have angered some.

The report says member states should take “all reasonable measures to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields, especially to radio frequencies from mobile phones, and particularly the exposure to children and young people who seem to be most at risk from head tumours.”

And it is not just talking about mobile phones, but also the use of normal household DECT phones, Wi-Fi, WLAN and WIMAX and includes the use of baby monitors.

The most controversial of the committee recommendations however is to “ban all mobile phones, DECT phones or WiFi or WLAN systems from classrooms and schools.”

Long Campaign

This will be music to the ears of campaigners who have long been convinced of the dangers of low level radiation. Last year a local law was passed in California that stated that all mobile phones sold in San Francisco had to clearly display the levels of radiation they emit.

However the report’s recommendations and conclusions directly contradicts the advice from both the World Health Organisation and the UK’s Department of Health, which says exposure to electromagnetic fields poses little or no risk to human health.

And a study from Imperial College London in June 2010 also found no cancer risk for children born near mobile phone masts.

Another report by the UK’s Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme in 2007 also found no association between mobile phones and adverse health effects. However it now conducting a more detailed study into the long-term effects of mobile phones.

Despite this, the campaign group Powerwatch, which believes there are risks posed from electromagnetic fields, welcomed the draft resolution.

“We applaud the Council of Europe Committee for this Draft Resolution,” said Powerwatch. “It is long past the time when governments all around Europe should have started being more precautionary about these issues. The suggestions here are strong ones. They will meet with great opposition not only from the industry, but also from governments who now receive large annual tax incomes from wireless devices, especially mobile phone use. This has really thrown down a gauntlet. We await with interest to see who takes up the challenge and what they do.”

Political Report

But that drew short shrift from the GSMA, which reacted angrily to the committee’s findings.

“The Committee draft report is an unbalanced political assessment not a scientific report. It ignores the conclusions of the many authoritative reviews who have found that present safety recommendations provide protection for all persons,” said the GSM Association.

“It is disappointing that the draft relies on the BioInitiative report, which has been criticised by the Health Council of the Netherlands for not being ‘objective and balanced’ and the views of the European Environment Agency, which admits that it has no ‘specific expertise in EMF.’

The report will also raise eyebrows in UK schools, where Wi-Fi networks have become a standard part of teaching equipment, and pupils are increasingly working on wirelessly-connected laptops.