Mobile phone radiation hazards for children. What do studies say?
Most parents would react strongly or be very concerned if their children had significant exposure to the pesticide DDT but would not flinch/bat an eyelid at giving their child a mobile phone to use. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRIC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classifies DDT, Leading,Gasoline fumes and more than 250 other agents as Class 2B Carcinogens - “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Another entry on that same list is radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF/EMF). Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Field (RF EMF) radiation is an invisible form of energy which can cause damaging health effects if left uncontrolled.
The main sources of RF/EMF are our beloved televisions, microwave ovens, cell phones, and Wi-Fi devices.
Though there are many studies which have not shown a proven connection/causality. The caveats being people have either studied only a shorter duration upto 10 years or not studies in children in many cases because of ethical issues. Scientists don’t yet have all the answers because many of the dangers could take another 20 or 30 years to show up. A brain tumour typically develops unseen for at least 20 years before being diagnosed. Hence many public health experts believe that, we cannot wait for science to be conclusive.
Although at present all the evidence – and knowledge of their anatomical differences – suggests they are at higher risk.
Why should we be more worried for our kids?
Children absorb about 60 per cent more radiation into the head than adults .Their immature nervous system makes them more susceptible to the long-term effects. Because they now start to use mobiles at a young age, their lifetime of exposure makes them vulnerable to the dangers for a prolonged amount of time.
According to American Academy of Pediatrics when cell phones are used by children, "the average RF energy deposition is two times higher in the brain and 10 times higher in the bone marrow of the skull," than for adults. A July 2008 peer-reviewed study shows that children under the age of eight absorb twice the amount of radiation into their brain tissue as adults due to their lower skull thickness.
Which are the condition /hazardous effects implicated with mobile radiation exposure?
To date, the scientific research has produced more than 200 studies suggesting a range of health dangers. These include:
Brain tumors :
The study has shown that children who use mobile phones have a possibility of developing non-malignant tumor in the brain and ear.A World Health Organization study (Interphone) released in 2010 showed that using a mobile for more than half-an-hour a day for ten years increased the risk of a brain tumour.
Although the data are conflicting, links between MWR and cancer have been observed.The average time between exposure to a carcinogen and the diagnosis of a resulting solid tumor is 3 or more decades. In recent years, glioblastoma (a type of brain tumor) rates have increased in Denmark and the United States, and brain cancer incidence has increased in Australia.
Effects On The Brain:
Scientists have discovered that just 2 minutes of the phone call can alter the electoral activity of the kid’s brain for up to an hour. The radio waves from the mobile penetrate deep into the brain, not just around the ear. The disturbed brain activity could impair children’s learning ability and other behavioral problems like ADHD (Attention deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome). It could even affect their mood and ability to learn and concentrate at school.
According to a peer-reviewed Nov. 2008 study in the journal Epidemiology, exposure to cell phone radiation while in the womb "was associated with behaviour difficulties such as emotional and hyperactivity problems around the age of school entry."Pediatricians also have noted altered sleep patterns and sleep disruptions with children having a mobile phone near their beds.
Genetic damage :
In humans, the major deleterious effects on the fetus include fetal wastage (miscarriage), teratogenicity (birth defects), mental retardation, intrauterine growth retardation and the induction of cancers (such as leukemia) that appear in childhood. Birth defects and mental retardation are the adverse effects which are of the most immediate concern for expectant mothers. Fortunately, not all exposures to ionizing radiation result in these outcomes. The risk to the fetus is a function of (a) gestational age at exposure and (b) the radiation dose.
Keeping these devices near your laps/ pant pockets have been associated with a reduced sperm function.
A study in Cleveland showed that cellphone radiation-exposed human sperm die three times faster, swim significantly more poorly, become more deformed, and develop significantly more damage to their DNA.
A word about about tablets/laptops:
Tablets and laptops exposure should be handled with the same caution as cellphone exposure. SAR (specific absorption rate) between these two devices are as much as the cellphones.Furthermore, peak level radiation is many times higher than peak level radiation of cellphone. Instead of treating the tablets/laptops as radiofrequency transmitters and receivers as declared in the user manual, parents and children treat them as toys.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MY CHILD /KEEP MY CHILD SAFE?
Do not let your child use cell phone when the signal is weak. It will increase the power to the maximum, as the phone attempts to connect
Do not let your child make calls in buses, trains, cars, and elevators. The mobile phone works harder to get the signal out through the metal, which increases the power level
It’s possible for cell phone users to reduce their exposure by spending less time on the phone or by using a hands-free device,wired earphones or speaker mode when making a call
Sleep is important for growing kids. You can set some ground rules with a phone curfew to ensure your child gets a good night’s rest.Definitely do not let kids sleep with their phones under their pillows
Buy them a basic phone: that doesn't include an Internet access. Good old landline phones and computers with wired internet systems are preferred. That way the purpose of communication in emergency is served while reducing the hazards
Designate times that the cell phone needs to be turned off -- for instance, during family meals, after 10 p.m, and during school hours and study time at home
For now,it is advisable to avoid carrying cell phones in front pants pockets, due to a potential radiation risk to the reproductive system. Keep the phone as far from the body as possible. Unless a cell phone is turned off, it is always radiating. When not in use, it should not be kept on the body. The best place for a cell phone is somewhere like a purse, bag, or backpack
Turn airplane mode on when giving a child a technology device or when a cell phone is near a pregnant abdomen, to prevent exposure to radiation
Turn off wireless networks and devices to decrease your family’s radiation exposure whenever you aren’t actively using them. As an easy first step, turn your Wi-Fi router off at bedtime
Practise what you preach : If you don't want him or her to compulsively check the phone, don't do so yourself. You are your child's No. 1 role model, whether your child admits it or not
And think long and hard about whether your child actually needs rather than wants that phone.
What about legislation?
The cellular industry should take immediate steps to reduce emission of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from phones
The companies should clearly mention the product safety guidelines and not in extra fine print
There should be avoidance of marketing their products to children
The mobile towers should not be allowed to be built near schools
The radiation exposure limits should be revised
What do other governments say?
The UK Department of Health recommends that children under 16 should use mobile phones for short, essential calls only
The French government has banned advertising of mobile phones to children under 14 and is banning mobile phones in schools
The European Environment Agency has called for governments, industry and the public to adopt measures to reduce children’s exposure
The Israeli parliament has recommended an education programme to alert pupils to the potential dangers of mobile phone use
San Francisco has passed regulations obliging the mobile manufacturers to adopt mandatory radiation labeling on mobile phones
What do the Manufacturers say?
All device manufacturers advise that cell phones should be at least 5 millimeters, or about ¼ of an inch away from your body or brain. With the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6s, the company advises users to keep the cell phone at least 10 millimeters, or about half an inch, away from your body or brain. See the safe distance for your phone. For iPhone 5 and iPhone 6, this is located under: Settings -> General -> About -> Legal -> RF Exposure.
For laptop computers and tablets, the minimum distance from the body is 20 cm (about 7.8 inches).
Share this info with your friends, family, and schools so that they can make these simple changes as well.
Disclaimer : "This handout is made on standard medical guidelines and is purely informative. Not to be used for treatment. The handout is IP of TPN. Any commercial use or misuse by third party will invite legal action"
This article has been written by core team of pediatricians of The Pediatric Network which keeps parents updated on current issues relevant to children. The articles are thoroughly researched, reviewed and updated as per the latest information available.