Taiwan may ban the use of mobile phones in schools by students under the age of 15 amid concerns over potential cancer risks.
The island's Education Ministry will hold a public hearing later this month to study whether to impose such a ban, which could affect more than 2.5 million school children, ministry officials said yesterday.
'We will invite experts, parents, school representatives and doctors to discuss the issue at the meeting,' said Liao Shuang-ching, a spokesman for the ministry's Division of Environmental Protection Education.
He said proposals made at the public hearing would be reviewed by the ministry.
Another official said the hearing would be held before the end of this month. She said the decision came after appeals by legislators and environmentalists for a ban on mobile phones in primary and junior schools to reduce younger students' exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.
Chen Jiau-hua, head of the Taiwan Electromagnetic Radiation Hazard Protection and Control Association, warned last week of the possible risk and demanded the authorities devise measures to protect school children.
'The World Health Organisation has already labelled electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones as carcinogenic,' Chen said, adding that the ministry needed to do something because such radiation could affect children's learning abilities.
The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer said on May 31 that it had classified the electromagnetic fields as 'possibly carcinogenic to humans'. The classification was based on an increased risk of glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer associated with the use of mobile phones, the agency said.
The island authorities' reaction to the WHO report is in stark contrast to the Hong Kong government.
The Food and Health Bureau and the Health Department see no need to look into the potential health risk.
Telecommunications watchdog Ofta also declined to begin such research, saying it is the department's job.
The number of mobile phone subscribers in Hong Kong, a penetration rate of 193 per cent
- The number in Taiwan was 27.17 million