How do cell phones affect young brains?

Mar 18, 2011 By Julie Deardorff

Cell phone safety warnings are generally designed for a large man with a big head who talks less than half an hour a day.

The average toddler's head, however, weighs about half as much and is far more susceptible to the the phone emits, said environmental health expert Devra Lee Davis, founder of the Environmental Health Trust, which campaigns for safer use.

As the debate over cell phones and cancer continues to rage, concern is growing over the effects of the phones - as well as devices such as the iPad - on .

A recent study published in the found that pressing a cell phone to the ear for 50 minutes altered the brain activity in 47 adult volunteers.

The study doesn't answer the million dollar question: whether the change in causes any harm.

The wireless industry group says no research has proven cell phones to be dangerous.

The National Cancer Institute, meanwhile, says there is no consistent link between cell phones and cancer.

But the NCI also notes that there's currently no data on cell phone use and risk of cancer in children and that children may be at a greater risk because their nervous systems are still developing at the time of exposure.

Meanwhile, cell phone use by children and is increasingly rapidly.

Experts worry that children's brains, encased in a thinner skull, may be more vulnerable to the effects of the radiation emitted by the phones.

Dr. Nora Volkow, the lead author of the JAMA study, said modeling studies have shown that a child's brain would absorb more radiation than those of adults. But Volkow said she's unaware of studies that have looked at the different developmental effects.

Some studies have suggested that the radiation can cross or affect the entire brain of children, who are still developing, versus a particular area in adults," said Dr. Stephanie Wagner, co-medical director of the neuro-oncology program at Indiana University Health and the IU Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis.

But studies looking at the effects of electromagnetic radiation in children and the risk of epilepsy and behavioral problems such as attention deficit disorder and aggressive behavior showed conflicting results, Wagner said.

Still, why take a chance, Volkow said.

She suggested that parents "teach their children to use their cell phones with a wired earphone and/or use the speakerphone mode and to avoid putting their cell phones directly on their ear."

Concerned?

If so, try these tips, starting with the most drastic, to limit exposure.

Avoid white noise baby apps. Some children are falling asleep to white noise played from iPhones or Blackberries under their pillows. But the phones must stay on for the app to work. "A cell phone is a two-way microwave radio," said Davis. "That means infants stay asleep with their brains being radiated by the phones all night long."

Don't let toddlers or young children use cell phones. Teenagers should limit use to head sets or texting to keep the antenna away from the brain, said Wagner. Or shift the phone between ears.

Review SAR levels. The Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is a measure of the amount of radio frequency (RF) energy absorbed by the body when using the handset. Before you buy your child a phone, search the government's cell phone database (fcc.gov/cgb/sar).

Follow the "one-inch" rule. Most cell phone manuals advise holding the phone "at least one inch" away from the head.

Don't carry a cell phone on your body. Place the phone inside a bag or some type of holster; this will help block the radiation from reaching the body.

Limit phone use when the signal is weak. The radiation increases as the device searches for a signal.

Explore further: Disabled people's health issues fall on deaf ears

4.3 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

WHO study suggests link between cell phones and tumors

Oct 27, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Preliminary results of an International investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest there may be a "significantly increased risk" of some types of brain tumors after use of ...

Cell phone may hurt child's health

Oct 09, 2007

Professor Kjell Mild of Sweden's Orbero University said young children are more at risk when using cell phones because of their thinner skulls.

Study finds mobiles excite brain cells

Jun 27, 2006

We know cell phones affect the brain. But the question of whether the electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile handsets that excite brain cells actually do any harm remains unanswered, however, by researchers ...

Choosing a Low Radiation Cell Phone

Sep 10, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- An Environmental Working Group (EWG) team has released a consumer guide on the radiation levels emitted by over 1,000 cell phones sold in the U.S. The guide is the most comprehensive ever ...

Recommended for you

Tracking spending among the commercially insured

2 hours ago

Recent growth in health care spending for commercially insured individuals is due primarily to increases in prices for medical services, rather than increased use, according to a new study led by researchers at The Dartmouth ...

Taking aim at added sugars to improve Americans' health

6 hours ago

Now that health advocates' campaigns against trans-fats have largely succeeded in sidelining the use of the additive, they're taking aim at sugar for its potential contributions to Americans' health conditions. But scientists ...

Drink up for exercise, but not too much

8 hours ago

With students heading back to school, fall sports are in full swing. In addition to training, eating right, and getting enough sleep, a significant key to health and performance is staying hydrated. However, the recent tragic ...

User comments : 0