Mobile phone radiation and children: is there cause for concern?

6th December 2018

In our ‘wireless world’ we are constantly immersed not only in the use of our most beloved gadgets, but also in the mobile radiation (MR) emitted by them. Devices such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and even baby monitors emit an unseen form of radiation which can pose as a threat to our health and wellbeing, if not protected.

There is mounting concern in the scientific community and mainstream media about the health effects of MR. CNN picks up on a study which suggests that the rise in malignant brain tumours in the UK may be due to MR whilst the World Health Organisation classed wireless radiation as a class 2b carcinogen in 2011, putting it amongst the ranks of lead, car fumes and asbestos.

Nowadays it’s not just adults that have their own devices, but children too. Growing up glued to the screens of iPhones and iPads, it begs the question: are children at a higher risk to the health effects of MR? The Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure makes several points to validate this concern.

Children absorb more mobile radiation than adults

A 2010 study claimed that “childrens’ hippocampus and hypothalamus absorb 1.6 to 3.1 times higher MWR (microwave radiation) and the cerebellum absorbs 2.5 times higher MWR compared to adults”. In addition, “children’s bone marrow absorbs 10 times higher MWR radiation”. This is because children’s heads and brains are considerably smaller than adults’ and their skulls are thinner.

Unborn foetuses are equally at risk 

A study from the Yale School of Medicine draws the conclusion that a mother’s use of mobile device, both prenatal and post-natal, is associated with emotional and hyperactivity issues when children reach school entry age.

Microwave radiation is a class 2B carcinogen 

The radiation emitted from our devices is listed among the likes of chloroform, lead, nickel, asbestos and diesel. Common sense means we wouldn’t think about letting a child play with these substances, so why an unprotected mobile phone?

Exposure safety guidelines are dated and should be revised

Test standards for phones have not changed since being introduced in 1996 and are not representative of how a child will absorb MR. The American Academy of Paediatrics sent a letter in 2012 requesting a revaluation of the safety standards.

Mobile radiation standards are inadequate and don’t consider children 

Before launching a new mobile to the public, all wireless device companies i.e Apple and Samsung must have their products tested following SAR (Specific Absorption Rates) guidelines set by the Federal Communications Commission.

SAR is used to measure the rate that radio frequencies are absorbed using SAM (Specific Anthropomorphic Mannequin), a standardised model of the human head and body. The SAR result is then used to identify whether the device meets the safety guidelines set by the FCC and safe to be sold to consumers.

But the SAM used to measure the rate of radio frequencies absorbed by the body is that of a large adult at 6’2” and 220 pounds in weight. SAM represents only the largest 3% of the population,  meaning the smaller 97% will have higher exposure than the measured standard. With this in mind, it leaves concern for the smallest percentile of the population – children. Are mobile phones and tablets safe for their use?

There is a link between extended exposure and the growth of cancer

This can be said to be significantly more relevant for children. The modern day child is often introduced to mobiles and tablets as a means of entertainment, from as young as one.  Many have their own devices through pre-teen and adolescent years.

Cancer is said to take 10-20 years to develop, and with children absorbing considerably more MR than adults, is early exposure to wireless devices likely to lead to an epidemic in the future?

Today’s children are growing up to a lifetime of exposure

Whilst there appears to be more studies into the health effects of MR on adults than children – probably due to mobile devices being considered an adult possession – it is apparent that in this day and age, children are being exposed to the potential health effects of this radiation from a very early age.

Whilst some have attempted to shine a light on this, it seems that the issue is being somewhat ignored by modern-day safety regulations until MR is proven to be the cause of a major health concern. But as wireless devices have only become a staple in a child’s life in recent years, is it worth the risk of waiting to find out?