Health Ministry: 'New' cellphone guidelines restate familiar information

Senior offical says Sunday's warnings contained "absolutely nothing new."

Cellphone 224.88 (photo credit: Bloomberg [file])
Cellphone 224.88
(photo credit: Bloomberg [file])
A senior Health Ministry official who on Sunday released guidelines on the use of cellphones said Monday he was amazed some Hebrew newspapers had made alarmist front-page headlines out of them since they contained "absolutely nothing new" and were based on information already released by the World Health Organization and other foreign agencies. Dr. Itamar Grotto, the ministry's head of public health, told The Jerusalem Post that he had only posted the guidelines on the ministry's Web site "for the record." The Post had previously published all the recommendations previously issued by the ministry and by international agencies. Only last week, the Environmental Protection Ministry issued a recommendation that cellphone chargers not be connected to the wall less than half a meter away from people, especially near their beds. The Health Ministry guidelines advise limiting the use of cellphones by children, in hospitals, in elevators and other places where reception is poor; not wearing cellphones on the body; and avoiding the use of Bluetooth wireless devices attached to the ear. The ministry does, however, recommend the use of earphones, even though it has not yet been proven that they are safer than holding the phone to the ear. Some researchers have suggested that the earphone may carry harmful electromagnetic radiation directly to the head. The ministry stated on its Web site that there still has not been any concrete proof that ongoing cellphone use causes brain cancer or other disease, as it may take 30 or 40 years of accumulated exposure to electromagnetic rays until disease appears - and there may be no danger at all. But to be on the safe side, as children have smaller distances from their ear to their brain and the tissue is less developed, needless use of the phones by children should be avoided, the ministry said, and the other guidelines should be followed. "I am not an expert in electromagnetic radiation or cellphones," said Grotto. "We based on ourselves on outside recommendations. Our guidelines contain nothing new, and the [Hebrew] media made a big fuss. Those who didn't did the right thing." Meanwhile, based on the media reports, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman - director-general of the Israel Council for the Child - sent reporters a letter about "dangers to children" posed by cellphones that he had sent three-and-a-half years ago to then-communications minister Dalia Itzik. He said he had never received any response at the time. Kadman called for printed warnings to minimize use by children to be included in every cellphone kit box.