Cell phones have become part of most people’s daily lives, despite the scientific debate over potential long-term health risks. For parents, whether cell phones raise cancer risk in kids is a serious question — and one where science and the medical community still have more to uncover. Still, in news sure to raise alarm bells among parents and caregivers, a group of pediatric researchers recently released evidence linking cell phone use to health issues in children — along with a warning that the risks of radiation effects begin before a child is even born.
According to a report published in the Baltimore Sun, Wyoming-based health advocacy group Environmental Health Trust released its findings during the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Baltimore this week. The studies concluded that the microwave radiation in wireless devices and Wi-Fi signals are potentially harmful to kids, since children’s skulls are thinner and smaller than an adult’s. What’s more, Harvard and Yale researchers at the conference said that the health risks are higher in pregnancy, so expectant mothers should be extra careful, according to the Sun. EHT founder Devra Davis told the Sun that the study findings were significant enough to raise concerns:
As a scientist, I can tell you we have a lot of uncertainty; there is no a question about that. But as a grandmother, I can tell you we have enough knowledge that we cannot continue to experiment on our children.
But the research community appears to be split on whether those findings are actually cause for alarm. According to a report posted on the American Cancer Society website, major research institutions — including the ACS, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences — have so far found no causal link between wireless devices and cancer or other illnesses. And while the organizations each called for more research on the potential health effects, the ACS said the theory that kids were more vulnerable to exposure hasn’t been supported by the evidence gathered so far.
Those were caveats that the wireless communications industry were quick to point out, according to the Sun, as the CTIA, which represents many of the country’s major carriers, suppliers, and manufacturers, issued a statement addressing the claims in the EHT study:
CTIA and the wireless industry defer to the scientific community when it comes to cellphones and health effects. The peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose a public health risk for adults or children.
Still, the Harvard and Yale pediatric researchers said that while the early evidence from EHT and other health advocates signaled more questions than answered, it shouldn’t be dismissed. Dr. Hugh Taylor, chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, told the Sun that he gives pregnant mothers in his care specific advice about limiting radiation exposure for their unborn children: keep phones away from growing bellies. And — pregnant or not — Taylor said that women shouldn’t keep phones in their bras or shirt pockets. In addition, men should avoid keeping cell phones in their pockets, as radiation could cause impotence or low sperm count. And he added that parents should never put wireless baby monitors near infants’ heads.
It may be years before there is a clear answer in either direction. According to Cancer.gov, the next major international case study on risks factors for childhood brain tumors is due later this year. And future studies will have to unravel the factors in cancer risk to find any real causal relationship.
Still, when it comes to cell phone radiation exposure, the science may be split but the latest advice from pediatric researchers appears to be clear: better safe than sorry.