A ban on pregnant women and children under 16 using cellphones may be on the cards if new legislation being mooted by government is enacted.
A draft policy document produced by the department of health shows government is concerned about the potential health risks associated with using mobile phones.
The document, which is likely to spark a public outcry, proposes an outright ban on pregnant women and children using cellphones, at least until the scientific community can prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that there are no deleterious side effects to people’s health.
The department cites international research that purports to show there is a link between cellphone radiation and a range of health problems, including leukemia and lymphoma, especially in children. It cites research that says radiation from cellphones can also cause Alzheimer’s disease and has been linked to autism.
Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi says he has consulted closely with communications minister Roy Padayachie and the telecommunications regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA, about the department’s plan. He says the proposed ban enjoys widespread support in government.
The department of health intends calling a public hearing at which it wants to hear presentations from public health experts and telecoms engineers about the best way of implementing the legislation.
The department’s decision to draft legislation follows a November 2009 resolution by a Norwegian panel to call on mobile providers to suspend the roll-out of wireless networks amid fears that they can affect the health of children, pregnant women and their unborn babies. The panel warned that “new biologically based exposure limits are crucial to guide new technology development towards solutions that are not harmful to health”.
“The global roll-out of wireless technology has outpaced both health studies and calls for more restrictive public safety limits,” the Norwegian panel said.
Any move to ban the use of cellphones is likely to be met with fierce resistance. Children under 16 are some of the most prolific users of mobile technology, glued to their handsets as they send messages on instant-messaging services such MXit and BlackBerry Messenger.
The department of health hopes to conclude consultations on the proposed legislation in the next few months, before sending the law to parliament for ratification in the second half of 2011. — Staff reporter, TechCentral
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