Children Face Higher Health Risk From Cell Phones
The potential harm from microwave radiation (MWR) given off by wireless devices, particularly for children and unborn babies, is the highlight of a new review.
Although the data are conflicting, links between MWR and cancer have been observed.
The review, by L. Lloyd Morgan, senior science fellow at Environmental Health Trust, and colleagues, was published online July 15 in the Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure.
The authors reviewed the current literature showing that children face a higher health risk than adults. They looked at peer-reviewed cell phone exposure studies from 2009 to 2014, along with cell phone radiation data, government documents, manufacturers' manuals, and similar publications.
Children and unborn babies do face a greater risk for bodily damage that results from MWR given off by wireless devices, according to Morgan and colleagues.
The rate of MWR absorption is higher in children than adults because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls are thinner, and their relative size is smaller. Fetuses are particularly vulnerable, because MWR exposure can lead to degeneration of the protective sheath that surrounds brain neurons, they report.
Multiple studies have shown that children absorb more MWR than adults. One found that that the brain tissue of children absorbed about two times more MWR than that of adults, and other studies have reported that the bone marrow of children absorbs 10 times more MWR than that of adults.
"Belgium, France, India, and other technologically sophisticated governments are passing laws and/or issuing warnings about children's use of wireless devices," the review authors write.
They write that MWR exposure limits have remained unchanged for 19 years. They also note that smartphone makers specify the minimum distance from the body that their products must be kept so that legal limits for exposure to MWR aren't exceeded. For laptop computers and tablets, the minimum distance from the body is 20 cm (about 7.8 inches).
The authors explain that current exposure limits were set up based on the wrong assumption that tissue damage from overheating is the only potential danger of wireless devices.
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.