Cell Phone Report: Children and Pregnant Women Require More Protection

Cell Phone Report Calls for More Responsible Management to Protect Children and Pregnant Women


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Cell Phone Report Calls for More Responsible Management to Protect Children and Pregnant Women

Cell Phone Report Calls for More Responsible Management to Protect Children and Pregnant Women

North Haven, Conn., Feb. 1, 2012—Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI) is releasing a new report calling for tougher standards to regulate cellular technologies—especially for children and pregnant women. This report is the first part of a project researching the health effects of cell phone use. EHHI has reviewed hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that have examined the potential health threats associated with cellular device use, along with the regulatory standards that have been adopted by the U.S. and other nations. This report provides the context for the second section of the project: an animal study designed to investigate the health effects on offspring of cell phone exposures during pregnancy.

John Wargo, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Risk and Policy at Yale University and lead author of the report, said, “The scientific evidence is sufficiently robust showing that cellular devices pose significant health risks to children and pregnant women. The weight of the evidence supports stronger precautionary regulation by the federal government. The cellular industry should take immediate steps to reduce emission of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from phones and avoid marketing their products to children.”

EHHI President Nancy Alderman explained how pervasive cell phones are in the United States. “There are nearly 276 million cell phone subscribers in the nation today, up from 97 million subscribers in 2000,” she said.

“More than 75 percent of teens own cell phones, and one third of them text more than 100 messages per day. Children between the ages of 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours per day—nearly half their hours while awake—on smart phones, computers, televisions or other electronic devices.

Exposures to electromagnetic radiation are increasing most rapidly among the youngest in our society, as service providers focus their advertising on children and educational markets.”

Dr. Hugh Taylor, coauthor of the report, summarized his concerns regarding neurological effects from cell phone radiation.

“The human brain is especially susceptible to numerous environmental insults that can produce irreversible damage during critical periods of nervous system development between conception and full maturity. A number of peer-reviewed studies reported changes in the nervous systems of rats, mice and humans following exposure to cell phone radiation. These include diminished learning, diminished reaction time, decreased motor function, reduced memory accuracy, hyperactivity and diminished cognition.”

Taylor explained differences in exposure between children and adults, “The thinner skulls of young children permit cell phone radiation to penetrate brain tissues more deeply than occurs in adults. Devices stored in pants pockets while in standby mode can expose rapidly developing reproductive organs to radiofrequency energy. Storage in shirt pockets will increase exposure to breast tissues. Children’s and fetuses’ rapidly developing nervous systems, more rapid rates of cell division, longer potential lifetime exposure, and longer average use per day all heighten their risks of adverse health effects.”

Wargo cautioned, “Cell phones have enjoyed exceptional freedom from government oversight and control to protect against health and environmental hazards before cell phone devices are marketed. There are no enforceable standards to limit human exposure to cell phone radiation. While the U.S. does not require any regulations to restrict advertising or warnings against use of cellular devices by pregnant women or children, many other nations do.”

Cell phones emit non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation that varies in intensity by model of phone, antenna configuration, and signal strength. Most users are unaware that new phones include warnings about the need to hold devices a safe distance from the body, often five-eighths to one inch. Since intensity of exposure falls exponentially as distance between the phone and body increases, users can limit their exposure dramatically by using speakerphones.

The World Health Organization in 2011 classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use. Yet some types of tumors take a decade or longer to develop, and if caused by cellular devices, would only be discovered by epidemiological studies that often take a decade to resolve. Since the average useful life of any device is now two years, these findings would be irrelevant to guide management of current technologies or patterns of use.

Summarizing a growing literature in the field of psychology, Wargo explained, “Cellular devices can create feelings of psychological dependency. Common effects reported in the literature include distraction, isolation, hyperactivity, inability to focus on complex and long term tasks, and a heightened sense of anxiety.”

The most immediate threat to public health is the increasing rate of highway fatalities and injury associated with use of cellular devices while driving. The federal government reports that at any one time, approximately 11 percent of all drivers are using their cell phones. Cellular device use while driving poses a serious and avoidable threat to public health and safety. The National Safety Council attributes 23 percent of all traffic accidents to cell phone use—at least 1.3 million crashes per year. Nearly 1.2 million of these are associated with phone calls, while 100,000 are associated with texting. The authors state this loss of life is fully avoidable.

The recycling of cell phones is also a serious concern to the authors. In 2012 nearly 220 million cell phones will be discarded in the U.S., and fewer than 10 percent of these will be recycled. This waste is especially hazardous when burned because of the release of dioxins from some plastic polymers, and diverse metals that do not break down.

Nancy Alderman, president of EHHI, summarized the group’s recommendations. “The government must take greater responsibility for testing cellular technologies before they are marketed to assure their safety, their proper disposal and to educate the public about safe patterns of use.”

Citation: John Wargo, Hugh S. Taylor, Nancy Alderman, Linda Wargo, Jane M.
Bradley, Susan Addiss. Cell phones: technology | exposures | health effects.
North Haven Connecticut: Environment & Human Health, Inc.; February 2012.

Cordless Phones (p. 17)

Digital Enhanced Cordless Telephone (DECT) cordless phones sold in the
United States today emit pulses of microwave radiation similar to cell
phones, in the frequency range of 1880-1930 MHz. Studies show that DECT
phones are the source of the highest levels of RF emissions in many homes
and a source of overall personal exposure to RF-EMF.11

… few studies have looked at exposure and health risks. A German study,for example, found no association between cordless phone use and brain tumors, while a Swedish study found elevated risks of brain tumors with long-term use of cordless phones.12

Radiofrequency Exposure: Young Children (pp. 18-19)

Childhood RF radiation exposure is a concern for several reasons:
* A child’s brain absorbs significantly more radiation than an adult’s brain.
* Children’s anatomical differences may allow greater exposure of their
brain regions from cell phone RF because of differences in electrical
conductivity in their bone marrow.13

Nineteen percent of children aged two to five are more likely to operate a
smartphone than swim, tie their shoelaces, or make their own breakfasts

Almost as many children aged two to three (17 percent) can play with
smartphone applications as children aged four to five (21 percent).
One-quarter of all U.S. children aged two to five know how to make a mobile phone call.14

Numerous phones are designed specifically for young children, some with applications for preschool children.

The design of educational applications has led to smartphone adoption in many schools. Outside the classroom, cell phone companies target children by offering free cell phones for kids when added to a family plan.

Phones like AT&T’s Firefly are designed for the smaller hands of kids 8 to 12, and Disney phones are specifically made for young children. Sprint’s family plan offers phone models for young children and different phones for teens. For very young children, Verizon offers the Migo, a phone with a simplified keypad that allows you to program in four numbers. Hello Kitty
Bluetooth wireless earphone and Bluetooth devices are newer products for kids.

Radiofrequency Exposure: Tweens and Teens (p. 19)

Seven out of 10 children in the United States aged 10 to 14 have cell
phones. These devices are now the dominant source of radiofrequency exposure in preteens and teens.

Those aged 13 to 17 … talk less than older populations-an average of 515 minutes per month, compared to 750 minutes among those aged 18 to 24.15

Frequent texting means cell phones are often kept in a pocket all day and
under a pillow or on a teenager’s bed at night.

Teenagers now tend to talk on mobile phones more than landlines, a trend
that will likely continue. Both teens and young adults in school and college
are also using mobile devices at school.

Radiofrequency Exposure: Adults (p. 19)

Nearly all young adults aged 18 to 29 – 90 percent-sleep with their cell
phone on or right next to their bed. Slightly fewer-70 percent-of those aged 30 to 49 sleep with their cell phones nearby, as do half of all of cell phone users aged 50 to 64.

Cell Phones in Schools (pp. 21-22)

Many U.S. classrooms contain wireless routers, which are a source of RF
exposure, even for those who do not use handheld devices.

Concerns about the health risks to children from cell phone RF energy has
resulted in efforts in France and throughout Europe to ban cell phone use in schools. Specifically, France prohibits the use of mobile phones in
kindergartens, primary schools, and colleges as precautionary measures to
reduce potential health risks.

Following France’s ban, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers
recommended that member states should “ban all mobile phones, DECT phones or
WiFi or Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) systems from classrooms and
schools.” The draft resolution still requires the council’s full
Parliamentary Assembly for approval.17

In the United States, many school districts restrict cell phones in schools,primarily because they can be disruptive to the educational environment.

Cancer (pp. 24-28)

Since RF-EMFs are emitted from cell phones in close proximity to the head,
the potential for brain tumors has been a concern. Most studies have focused on potential associations between cell phone use and only a few types of brain tumors.

Several studies have found an increase in the risk of developing some types of tumors after long-term exposure, but experimental studies are not available to explain the link, causing some to remain skeptical about the association.

Overall, 33 peer-reviewed epidemiologic studies on cell phones
and cancer have been conducted. Twenty-five of these studies have focused on brain tumors.22 Some have found a risk of cancer with long-term use of cell phones,23 while others have not.24

IARC’s Interphone study, the largest cell phone health study conducted,
found “suggestions of an increased risk of glioma at the highest exposure
levels” but notes “biases and error prevent a causal interpretation.”26 The Mobile Manufacturers forum notes that it provides assurance of the safety of cell phones, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that these biases and errors limit the strength of conclusions that can be drawn from it. Others argue that the study may underestimate the real risk of cell phones today, noting that the average present-day user in the U.S. could fall into this “highest level of exposure” risk use category after about 13 years.27 (funded in part by industry)

The Swedish researcher Dr. Lennart Hardell et al. have conducted six
independently funded studies on cell phones and tumors, using the Swedish
Cancer Registry, and has found a
consistent pattern of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma after
10 years of mobile phone use. Noting that the evidence

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To download the full report, visit http://www.ehhi.org.

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