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Children Face Higher Health Risk From Cell Phones

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But extensive scientific reports have detailed non-heat-related effects from long-term exposure. Although government warnings have been issued worldwide, most of the public is unaware of such warnings, they write.

"There are toys being sold to infants and toddlers that are dangerous," Morgan says. "The risk from exposure to any carcinogen is higher in children, and the younger the child, the higher the risk.

The review authors "continue to raise appropriate concerns related to the ever-increasing role of technologies that emit nonionizing radiation, including cell phones and certain toys," says L. Dade Lunsford, MD, professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. Lunsford was not involved in the study.

"They indicate that certain types of tumors, at least as reported, may have increased in incidence, including the most malignant brain tumors and perhaps hearing nerve tumors," he tells Medscape Medical News. But he says there are issues with some of the data, and that many of the reports are anecdotal. Also, it’s unclear whether the perceived increase in tumors may be due to better diagnoses at earlier stages, he says.

The potential health risks related to cell phone use, especially brain tumors, have remained a hot-button issue. Studies have been inconsistent and results have been conflicting. There is no consensus about the degree of cancer risk posed by cell phone use, if any at all.

Take-Home Messages About Safe Use

Wireless devices are now part of everyday life, "but they can be used in a manner that is safe enough," Morgan says.

Morgan and his colleagues have made some recommendations.

The first is that "distance is your friend." He says holding a cell phone 15 cm (about 6 inches) from your ear "provides a 10,000-fold reduction in risk."

Unless a cell phone is turned off, it is always radiating. When not in use, it should not be kept on the body. The best place for a cell phone is somewhere like a purse, bag, or backpack.

Devices should be kept away from a pregnant woman's abdomen, and a mother should not use a cell phone while nursing, Morgan says. "And baby monitors should not be placed in an infant's crib."

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