Nigerian Minister disowns director over mobile phones claim 

“There are no proven health hazards resulting from the use of mobile phones, or proximity to telecommunications installations for now that could pose a risk to human health.”

The Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson, on Friday distanced herself from claims by a deputy director in her ministry that the use of mobile phones can cause cancer.

A deputy director, Department of Posts and Telecoms, Federal Ministry of Communication Technology, Ngozi Ogunjiofor, who represented theMinister at the launch of the Etisalat Flagship store in Abuja on Thursday, had identified cancer as one of the health hazards associated with the use of mobile phones.

‘’The most dangerous and important element in the communications sector are mobile phones, because of the health and other relate  risks they bring. Some radioactive elements in the mobile phone might affect the body and cause cancer and other health challenges,” Ms.Ogunjiofor is quoted to have said.

“Radiation from phones can cause problems, and this is why we are advising the public not to bring phones close to their body, or use in the rain.

“Radio waves produced by mobile phones could interfere with important electrical equipment, such as telecom masts, monitors, hospitals equipment’s and electrical systems on airplanes, and that is why the ministry made it mandatory for operators to install their masts five kilometres away from residential areas,’’ the director added.

Speaking on behalf of the minister, Ms. Ogunjiofor asked mobile phone operators to also enlighten the public on the risks of mobile phones, because this would also help members of the society to enjoy their lives.

“Mothers should not allow their children to play with mobile phones,  especially when they are not of the age of using a mobile phone and are not well educated on the use of it,” she said.

But, the Minister on Friday disowned Ms. Ogunjiofor, saying such claims were strictly the director’s “personal misinformed view”, as the statement was a personal opinion “not backed by proven scientific analysis.”

“There are no proven health hazards resulting from the use of mobile phones, or proximity to telecommunications installations for now that could pose a risk to human health,” the Minister said through her Special Assistant on Media, Efem Nkanga.

Ms. Nkanga said the director’s stance was not consistent with that of the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology.

She urged Nigerians to disregard the caution by the director on the use of mobile phones, as various researches conducted by international organisations on the safety of mobile phones use till date remained inconclusive.

“Until results of a definitive and conclusive research are obtained  with zero doubts on the safety of cell phone use, Nigerians can safely continue using their mobile phones,” the Minister’s spokesperson said.

In September 2013, the World Health Organisation, WHO, had published a report on studies it conducted on the greater likelihood of any adverse effect to human beings as a result of the use of handsets.

The research conducted almost exclusively on possible effects of mobile phone exposure had concentrated on the possibility of users having cancer and other health effects as well as electromagnetic interference and traffic accidents.

On cancer, the WHO noted that based on mixed epidemiological evidence on humans regarding an association between exposure to radiofrequency, RF, radiation from wireless phones and head cancers  there was no indication that environmental exposure to base stations, increased the risk of cancer or any other disease.

Though the research revealed other health effects from using mobile  phones, including changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns, it concluded that these effects were minor and had no apparent health significance.

On electromagnetic interference, the research agreed that when mobile  phones were used very close to some medical devices, including  pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, and certain hearing aids,  there was the possibility of causing interference with their operation.

However, it noted that the risk associated with such interference was much reduced for 3G phones and newer equipment, though it accepted that there was the potential of interference between mobile phones signals and aircraft electronics.

The study was, however, categorical on traffic accidents associated with the use of mobile phones, saying there was an increased risk of traffic accidents, between 3 to 4 times greater chance of an accident, when mobile phones, either handheld or with a “hands-free” kit, are used while driving due to distraction.

The conclusion by the WHO from the study was that while an increased risk of brain tumours from the use of mobile phones was not established, the increasing use of mobile phones and the lack of data for mobile phone use over time periods longer than 15 years warrant further research of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk.

With the recent popularity of mobile phone use among younger people,  and a potentially longer lifetime of exposure, WHO said it encouraged further research on this group to assess the health impact of RF fields on all studied endpoints.

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