No plan to study 'cancer phones'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 June, 2011, 12:00am


Neither the Food and Health Bureau nor the Health Department has looked into potential health risks from mobile phones, and they have no plans to do so, despite a new report that radio waves from the phones may cause brain cancer.

Telecoms watchdog Ofta also declined to launch any such research, saying it is the department's job.

The responses come days after a World Health Organisation agency said radio waves emitted by cellphones were 'possibly carcinogenic to humans' and were associated with an increased risk of brain cancer. The WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer report called for research to fill knowledge gaps in this area, saying existing data was limited and inadequate.

A spokeswoman for the bureau and the department said neither had 'commissioned any research on mobile phone use and its impact on human health', although the bureau could provide funds for research.

'The Health and Health Services Research Fund, administered by the Food and Health Bureau, will consider funding applications for public health, health services research or traditional Chinese medicine from local researchers working in the public, private and academic sectors.'

Hong Kong has one of the highest mobile phone use rates in the world, with 13.7 million handsets, representing two for almost every man, woman and child, or 193.2 per cent, and more than 23,000 base stations. In addition, there are almost 7 million internet accounts.

In the WHO report, agency director Christopher Wild said it had 'relevance for public health ... as the number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children'.

Earlier this week, Francis Fong Po-kiu, president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, urged Ofta to research this area.

But an Ofta spokeswoman said: 'Any research about the impact of mobile phone use to human health should be handled by the Department of Health.'

The Consumer Council spokeswoman said it was 'concerned about the report and we are exploring ways to conduct research on the issue'.

Dr Samuel Chiu Kwok-wing, a cancer specialist at Baptist Hospital, said brain cancers occurring on the side that people used their mobile phones were a 'real fact that we need to believe'. 'But there is no definite causal relationship', he said. 'We definitely need more data and research to make such conclusions.'

SmarTone-Vodafone, 3 and CSL and health minister Dr York Chow Yat-ngok did not respond to repeated requests for a response to the report.