By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Cell phones and tablet computers may be coveted holiday gifts, but parents should consider the potential health effects of these devices before giving them to children, according to the Environmental Health Trust (EHT) and Healthy Child Healthy World (HCHW) , two educational groups focused on environmental health.
The two groups have put out a news alert citing the emerging science about how microwave radiation from cell phones and tablet computers can have a disproportionate effect on children’s bodies. In the statement, they warn:
“Few people appreciate that all of these wireless devices come with manufacturers’ fine print warnings not to hold them next to an adult body, or that controlled studies show that microwave radiation from cell phones weaken the brain’s protective barrier and produce fewer and more damaged offspring and sperm.”
Manufacturer safety warnings, the groups note, are simply not sufficient to protect children because they were designed to meet a test for a “typical user” who never was typical: “… a large fellow with a big head who talks on his phone for less than half an hour a day.”
Laxity in government regulation allows for this minimum test, leaving children exposed, literally, to far more daily cell phone radiation and doubly at risk because their brains can absorb twice as much radiation as an adult, according to a study by the non-profit EHT.
Adults also are exposed to considerably greater microwave radiation than cell phone manufacturers and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines hypothesize, because of how people use their phones.
What’s in your pocket?
The FCC thresholds, based on that hypothetical adult talking on a phone for brief periods, did not factor in the possibility that people would keep their live phones in their shirt or pants pockets all day long, according to the EHT’s founder, Dr. Devra Davis. The group’s alert explains:
“Radiation from cell phones carried in shirts or pants pockets of adults is four to seven times higher than the guidelines set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S. For the smaller bodies of children, of course, levels would be even much greater.”
Back to the fellow with the large head – the EHT maintains that he represents only 3 percent of the population, and therefore, there are no calculations about the dangers of microwave radiation for the remaining 97 percent.
Furthermore, the FCC guidelines don’t even attempt to add up the radiation exposure from carrying around a live phone all day.
“The standard for cell phones has been developed based on old science, old models and old assumptions about how we use cell phones, and that’s why they need to change and protect our children and grandchildren,” said Dr. Davis, who has written a book on the hazards of cell phone radiation, Disconnect. (Read reviews here.)
In Disconnect, Davis explores the research on cell phones and how radiation from this technology has been shown to damage human cells, raising concerns about its effects on fertility and potential to trigger cancer.
Research in this arena can be described as “emerging” at this time. Early findings show definite effects of this type of radiation on human cells, which raises red flags. The position of the National Cancer Institute is that there are no “conclusive” studies linking cell phone use to cancer, but the NCI’s fact page acknowledges that studies have found alterations in human biology that appear to be caused by cell phone emissions.
Test for tablets: Kids should be able to follow instructions
The two groups also are warning parents about giving small children tablet computers, such as iPads and iterations, because these wireless devices can harm children in a different way. In some cases, close-up exposure to the flashing lights of video games has triggered seizures. Though this is a rare occurrence, parents should be aware of it, according to the EHT and HCHW.
In addition, the groups warn about the potential dangers of radio waves from wireless or WiFi devices, such as the iPad and other brands of tablet computers.
Noting that even Apple warns that people concerned about exposure to WiFi radio waves should keep the devices at arm’s length, the groups say that can be difficult for children. especially small children.
The takeaway – make sure kids stay safely back from their tablet computer screens, and consider keeping small kids away from the devices until they reach an age where they can use them responsibly.
While many groups have joined the EHT and HCHW in warning about exposure to cell phone microwave radiation – because cell phones are commonly used and stored next to the body, the scientific consensus on WiFi has so far concluded that it is relatively safe.
Low-level radio frequencies from wireless networks do not present a significant health threat, especially when people maintain a reasonable distance from the transmitting device, according to a report by Kenneth R. Foster , professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. An excerpt:
“Wireless networks operate at low power levels and, consequently, the levels of exposure to users of Wi-Fi-equipped computers are low. Other people, who are not using Wi-Fi-enabled equipment, experience still lower exposures to RF energy. The maximum power output of client cards (located in computers) or access points (typically located in the ceiling of public areas with hotspots) is typically lower than the maximum power output of most mobile telephones. Moreover, this signal characteristically falls off as the square of the distance of the user to the antenna of the transmitter.”
- Environmental Health Trust’s Campaign for Safer Cell Phones
- Find a lower radiation cell phone at the Environmental Working Group’s Shopping Guide to Low Radiation Cell Phones (Hint: Consider Samsung phones, which hold six places on the Top 10 Safest List.)
- Safety Tips for Cell Phones by EWG - Text more, talk less; Buy a lower radiation phone; Limit kids’ talk time, plus more tips.
Copyright © 2011 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network