How Radiation from Electronics Affect Children

Child using a cell phoneIn science and medicine, it is widely accepted that children are not just miniature adults. Children’s bodies are different than adults’ on a physical, chemical, and biological level. This is because children are not mature and their bodies are still developing. Their hormones, enzymes, tissues, and cellular responses to environmental toxins are all different from adults. Children are more fragile. Stressors, such as exposure to radiation from electronics, otherwise known as Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR), can have a profound effect on their immature bodies.

Figure 1. Graphic depicting age vs exposure. EMR is able to penetrate further into the brain tissue of the young.

For example: Early studies show that Electromagnetic Radiation from cell phones is able to penetrate the brain of the young much more so than that of adults. This is most likely due to the higher water content in children’s tissues than adults. In addition, because  cell phone use has been on the rise, more and more children are using cell phones. One study indicates that as many as 20% of 3rd graders now have their own mobile device. Parents may think giving their children cell phones is great for safety reasons, as children are then able to communicate with them or help at any time. However, it is important for an educated parent to realize that cell phones may pose a danger in itself to their young, just because children’s bodies are still maturing and the technology is still very new. For these types of reasons, children’s exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation has been a particular interest area for researchers in the past few years.

Figure 2. One-fifth of US third graders own cell phones. Source:

Studies around the World

In Belgium and Greece as of 2013, researchers have been busy trying to devise methods for measuring the spatial and temporal Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Field (RF EMF) exposure of both children and adults in indoor environments. Recognizing the potential danger of over exposure, scientists have positioned dosimeters throughout multiple buildings and used statistical analysis to analyze the exposure amounts. They found that exposure met international limits. However, exposure was present in at least 75% of indoor microenvironments. Exposure was higher during daytime than night time, due to increase in voice and data traffic on cell phones at night. In Germany 2011, multiple studies have been conducted to investigate a possible influence of EMR. Thousands of children and adolescents were randomly selected for interview and assessment. These volunteers were asked to carry personal dosimeters with them to measure their radiation exposure over a typical 24-hour period. The detectable levels of radiation were found to be below the current recommendation levels, so therefore the study was not continued. However, in Germany, the government recommends exposure limits for its citizens whereas some countries, such as the US, do not. Also, the authors of the German study conceded that long-term studies are needed.

In the US 2011, a paper was published detailing the impact radiation exposure can have on developing fetuses and young children. The paper described the knowledge to date, including risks of exposure being greatest at specific intervals of human development. For instance, exposure at 2-7 weeks of gestation could result in a multitude of birth defects, miscarriage or still birth. While the paper focused primarily on the effects of exposure to ionizing EMF, this paper also highlighted the lack of good data to support the impact of other forms of non-ionizing radiation.

A Swedish review in 2013 sought to summarize all previous work to-date on mobile phone use and effects on children. The review discussed the apparent inconsistency of potential risks reported. In addressing the apparent conflict, the paper pointed out that some studies failed to examine cell phone users for a period of time long enough to detect brain cancer. Other studies mistakenly classified exposures, such as microwave radiation exposure to that from cell phones and put them in the control group. Given the preponderance of new evidence, the World Health Organization has advised that Electromagnetic Radiation from cell phone and other wireless devices constitutes a possible human carcinogen.

Studies have indicated that the risk of brain tumor is significantly elevated for those who have used cell phones for over a decade. Swedish studies indicate that those who began using cordless or mobile phones regularly before age 20 have a greater than 400% increase risk for developing ipsilateral glioma or cancer on the side of the brain where there was cell phone radiation exposure. An additional Swedish study corroborated these findings, showing an increased risk for developing two types of brain cancer corresponding to over a decade use of cell phones. In the US, class action lawsuits are even forming. Whether or not these lawsuits will succeed still remains to be seen.

Figure 3. Cell phone lawsuit. Image shows brain cancer in the region of brain near cell phone contact.

Caution is Advisable

Research is still on-going. Cell phones have only become popular and mainstream in the past decade. Therefore, only now are the long-term effects of radiation from electronics beginning to come to light. Erstwhile, high resolution computerized models, based on imaging data, show that children are more susceptible to the effects of EMFs. Many governments, phone manufacturers, and public health advocates have continued to advise consumers that precautions be taken to avoid undue Electromagnetic Radiation exposure. Users are advised to minimize the exposure of electronic devices to the body by maintaining a safe distance from them, such as by not holding them up close to their body or ear. One might also try a radiation shielding device to prevent touching their electronic devices with bare skin. As children’s bodies are developing, it makes sense to especially minimize their exposure to EMF.

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