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Mobile phones banned in French schools over radiation fears

Mobile telephones are to be banned from French primary schools and operators must offer handsets that allow only text messages, under government measures to reduce the health risk to children.

Companies will also be required to supply phones that work only with headsets, to limit the danger from electromagnetic radiation, Health Minister Rosalyne Bachelot said.

The measures, which emerged from a six-week review of mobile phone and wi-fi radiation, have been attacked as inadequate by campaigners who accuse the state of playing down dangers. The campaign groups wanted a ban on mobile use by children under 14 and drastic measures to limit the power and location of masts.

The Government refused to act against masts, citing the absence of any evidence that they affected human or animal health. Experiments are to be carried out to test the feasibility of reducing the power of transmissions.

The government will limit children's use of mobile phones pending the results of international and French studies in the autumn. Telephone operators have been thrown on the defensive by hundreds of groups demanding the removal of phone masts near schools, hospitals and homes.

Radiation is often blamed for insomnia, headaches, fatigue and cancer. Libraries and other public spaces have switched off wi-fi internet after reports that the radio waves were harmful.

The operators are especially alarmed by court orders to remove phone transmitters, despite the absence of evidence that they cause harm. The appeal court in Versailles shocked the industry in February when it ordered Bouygues, one of the French operators, to dismantle a mast at Tassin la Demi-Lune near Lyons because families feared for their health.

The judges acknowledged that there was no existing evidence of a threat but there was no guarantee that a risk did not exist. The "feeling of anxiety" of the inhabitants was therefore justified, they said. (© The Times, London)

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