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26 February 2013

Belgium: New Measures to Protect Children from Mobile Phones

Belgian Minister for Health, Laurette Onkelinx
UPDATE (27 October 2013):  By royal decree, as of 1 March 2014, mobile phones that are specially designed for young children may no longer be introduced to the Belgian market. This concerns customized mobile telephones suitable for children younger than 7 years of age, for instance having few buttons and a shape attractive for children. Additionally, from this date forward, no advertising may be made for mobile phone use among the same age group.

Details concerning new measures aimed at protecting children from mobile phones 
RTBF, 25 February 2013 (translated from French)

Today, the majority of teenagers are hooked on mobile phones. The latest report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization (WHO) considers that its use is “possibly carcinogenic for humans” and that intensive use is dangerous. It did not need more for the Belgian authorities to react. There will be rules to follow.

The Ministers for Health and for Consumer Affairs are encouraging a better protection of young users. In order to limit use, there will be rules to follow which mainly concern sales and advertising.

There will no longer be advertising specifically targeting children younger than 14 years of age. Sellers will be obliged to inform their customers of the “specific absorption rate” of mobile phones, that is, the level of radiation of the device. The sale of mobile phones specifically designed for young children up to age 7 will be banned in Belgium.

« Possibly carcinogenic »

For the government, these are preventive measures. The desire to particularly protect children lies principally in the fact that, cumulatively, they will be potentially exposed longer to waves during the course of their lives.

« International studies clearly state that it is possibly carcinogenic ». If a risk exists, protection is necessary,” declared the Minister for Health, Laurette Onkelinx, to RTBF. This royal decree is her initiative, along with that of her colleague in charge of consumer protection, Johan Vande Lanotte.

The draft royal decree will be examined Friday in the Council of Ministers.

The Minister for Health has also announced the drafting, between now and the end of the year, of another royal decree aimed at rendering obligatory the sale of a headset with mobile phones.

“A child’s brain is a developing organ.”

Health risks (essentially, brain cancer) caused by wireless communication systems are the subject of scientific studies for which there are “diverging opinions”, stresses Luc Verschaeve, of the Institute of Public health (ISP). “There are a number of doubts and some indications of a possible risk”, he said.

In the 1.00 pm news on « La Première », Jacques Vanderstraeten, medical consultant to the « conseil supérieur » of health, explains that if these new rules aim principally to protect young persons, it is because « the brain of a child is a developing organ and thus, more sensitive to any eventual external influence » and that it is better to prevent than to cure.

According to a study by Crioc, the association for consumer defense, more than 90% of young persons aged 12 to 17 have a mobile phone. Dating from 2011, this study also showed that within this age range, nearly all 13-year-olds have a mobile phone.

Also, according to WHO, phoning half an hour a day for 10 years increases the likelihood of developing a glioma (malignant brain tumor) by 40%.

Translation by Meris Michaels

Original text in French : http://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_gsm-potentiellement-cancerigene-les-jeunes-vont-etre-mieux-proteges?id=7934895