Environmental Health Trust Reveals Risky Patterns of Cell Phone Use by Middle Schoolers
Important New Zealand paper and UK Charity MobileWise Scientific Review: Cell Phone Use Today Places Children At Risk Cited Among Several Reports
BERKELEY, CA – November 9, 2011 — Key figures in the arena of cell phone safety spoke today at a California City Council education forum in Berkeley. The impact of cell phones on children was a major theme of the day’s speeches. Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, founder of Environmental Health Trust (EHT), cited several studies, including a recent report that EHT coauthored, on radiofrequency exposure among children. She also highlighted an important new New Zealand study led by Mary Redmayne finding that in-pocket use of cell phones by middle schoolers exposes their reproductive organs’ to prolonged exposure to cell phone radiation. Additionally, she unveiled an important new UK report that calls for interventions to protect children from the long-term health risks of cell phone radiation.
Cell Phones and Children’ Heads
According to the EHT report, children absorb twice as much microwave radiation from cell phones as adults, and radiation from cell phones carried in shirts or pants pockets is four to seven times higher than the guidelines set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which determines exposure guidelines in the United States.
The reason for the discrepancy, EHT says, is that the process to determine radiation exposure from cell phones involves the use of a mannequin model that approximates a 6-foot 2-inch tall, 220-pound man. Because this model head represents only about three percent of the population, the test will not accurately predict the radiation exposure of the other 97 percent, including children, nor does it estimate exposures from pocket use.
“The standard for cell phones has been developed based on old science, old models and old assumptions about how we use cell phones, and that’s why they need to change and protect our children and grandchildren,” said Dr. Davis.
Cell Phones and Sperm Damage
Dr. Davis also cited a New Zealand study led by researcher Mary Redmayne of the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Science at Victoria University in Wellington. Redmayne found that a majority of New Zealand adolescents carry a cell phone switched on in their pants pocket for more than six hours a day. Even where schools ban phones, more than two in five middle schoolers regularly sent texts from within a side pocket; a fifth carried one for more than 10 hours a day, and used it in-pocket. Research suggests this may impair future fertility and/or reproductive integrity.
According to the study, 43% of student participants admitted to breaking rules about cell phone use. A high-exposure group of risk-takers was identified for whom prohibited in-school use was positively associated with high texting rates, carrying the phone switched-on for more than 10 hours/day, and using them in-pocket.
The Redmayne team concluded that fertility research in humans finds important time and dose-dependent deleterious effects from cell phone exposure on sperm. Genotoxic effects have been demonstrated from “non-thermal” exposures, but not consistently. According to the study, there is sufficient evidence and expert opinion to warrant an enforced school policy removing cell phones from students during the day and promoting precautionary policies.
In response to the study’s findings, fertility expert, Ken McNatty, PhD, DSc, FRSNZ, a Professor of Cell Biology and Biotechnology at Victoria University of Wellington, NZ said “Doctors need to start asking patients with fertility problems about their cell phone use. It’s long been known that infertility in males or females can be caused by DNA damage to sperm or eggs, through exposure to X-irradiation or industrial chemicals. Now there is evidence to suggest that cell phone microwaves also cause DNA damage to sperm in a time- and dose-dependent manner.”
New Report Calls for More Safety
Dr. Davis also spoke about a new report published today by UK charity MobileWise, warning that children’s health is being jeopardized by the failure of government and phone companies to respond to the growing body of evidence linking cell phone use with health hazards. Dr. Davis and other public health experts working with MobileWise are calling on government and industry to respond to the new evidence, and to provide warnings and advice on ways to reduce the risk of health damage when using cell phones, especially for children.
The new report, “Mobile Phone Health Risks: The Case for Action to Protect Children,” brings together for the first time more than 200 peer-reviewed studies from a range of research institutions linking cell phones to serious health problems. These include brain tumors and potential damage to fertility, genes, the blood-brain barrier and melatonin production, as well as other biological effects thought to have a role in the development of cancer. Endorsed by a number of eminent doctors and scientists, the report highlights the growing and substantial body of evidence that has been obscured in the debate over these risks.
“It is better to be cautious now than it is to be sorry later,” said Dr. Davis. “We have learned this because of previous experience involving substances and products that were used indiscriminately for a long time until the health effects became undeniable. We do not want to see a future generation have to deal with fertility issues that can result from damage to sperm as well as female reproductive health. We want our children and grandchildren to have the right to produce healthy offspring when and if they chose to do so.”
The studies cited are all available on www.saferphonezone.com
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