Mobile phones have become ubiquitous with modern life. So much so, realizing either your battery is about to die, or there’s no signal, OR you’ve left it at home are all likely to induce panic. Our phones are designed to make our lives easier, so we take them with us wherever we go, whipping them out whenever the situation demands, and even when it doesn’t. This constant use, however, may be damaging our babies and young children.
Mobile phones using 3G, 4G and Wifi communicate through electromagnetic fields. There has been much public concern regarding the possible effects (cancer, neurological effects, developmental disability effects) of this exposure on babies whose skulls are thin and incomplete and whose brains are still rapidly developing.
So, given what’s known about EMFs, what’s the best course of action for parents? To understand more, MirrorOnline spoke to Dr. Philip Chadwick, Chair of the European safety committee on EMF.
You should limit your baby’s exposure…
“…To within existing safety limits,” Dr. Chadwick advises.
“These already contain an extra precautionary factor to account for particularity-sensitive individuals, and are tailored to take into account the different body sizes of children.”Having said that, I can’t see any point in allowing a small child to use a mobile phone except in an emergency so if someone’s worried then that’s something they could control.”
The reason safety limits have been tailored for usage around babies is that their tissues are different to ours. “In particular they have more water. That makes them a bit better at absorbing radio waves. Secret sexting codes you need to know to protect your child – do you know what LMIRL means?
On the other hand, they are smaller and that makes them less good at absorbing radio waves.”
Dr. Chadwick also points out the guidelines apply to children of up to three years of age.
“Once they’re old enough to walk and talk easily at the same time they’re not materially different to adults in this respect.
“It also only really applies to phones held close against the head or body, and not to base stations or Wifi.”
Dr. Chadwick also urges parents to not get unduly panicked about phone exposure.
“The safety test done for phones already include safety factors to cover children, even tiny ones, and we know that children are fully-protected in terms of meeting safety limits from these devices.”
What parents should also realize is significant exposure decreases with distance and only happens if the phone is close to the baby’s body. “So the single most effective thing to do if someone is worried is to not let the child make calls or play with the phone.” Potential side-effects and dangers of long and short-term exposure to EMFs.
An estimated 6.9 billion adults use phones, so the long and short-term side effects are understandably the subject of ongoing and costly (to the tune of $12 billion) research. What does your phone’s airplane mode actually do? This is why it’s important to use it during a flight
Dr. Chadwick explains: “We’ve got a good idea about the known effects of exposure (which are related to the radio signal being absorbed in the body in terms of heat) and we know this isn’t an issue for phones currently sold and used.”
“Indeed, it’s a condition of putting them on the market that they are shown to meet safety limits.” But there are some grey areas.
“On the long-term effects, it’s more messy. Of the substantial body of evidence we have, most of it shows nothing.
“Some does, and we have to take care not to ignore that.
“But there’s a problem: Because of the way we do science we expect about one in 10 studies, maybe more, to be ‘false positives.’”
A false positive is a test result which incorrectly indicates that a particular condition or attribute is present.
Dr Chadwick explains researchers would expect, “from the thousands of published papers to see several hundred indicating an effect even if there’s really no problem.”
There’s also something else to consider. It can incredibly difficult to accurately quantify how much a person has been exposed to EMFs.
“You have to guesstimate it from things like phone bills, so most of the work comes with a lot of question marks attached.
Why using your phone before you go to sleep can make you gain weight
It’s been reviewed by a number of independent expert groups over the years, and whilst none of them have said categorically there’s definitely no problem, none of them have actually said there is a problem.
“About the most robust statement was from the International Agency for Research on Cancer who said that this stuff was a possible carcinogen.
“Interestingly they say the same about orange oil and aloe vera.”
So should adults be worried for themselves about their long-term health?
Given how mobile phones have been used for about 30 years now, Dr. Chadwick’s personal opinion is, “if there were real public health problem here we’d have seen it by now.
Twenty years ago I was of the view we were embarking on a fairly brave experiment of giving almost everyone in the country a phone and seeing what would happen.
“Twenty years on, I’m quite relieved the answer to that experiment seems to be ‘nothing’.
“If you look at the population-level cancer rates then you really can’t see any rise in the sort of timescale you’d expect if phones were a problem.
“I find that quite reassuring; if it is a risk then it’s not a very big one and we probably have more things to worry about in everyday life.”