The Case for Extra Precautions
Worldwide, children and young people are the fastest growing group of mobile phone users. This growth is actively encouraged by professional advertising campaigns from the mobile phone industry, extolling how indispensable the phones are to their life styles. The scientific community has sounded a clear warning that this trend can be detrimental to the health of our youth. As we await further research, the message is one of caution. Every parent must ask themselves, is it worth the risk? Key statements of concern from the scientific community are included below:
In 1999, as a result of public concerns about possible health hazards from mobile phone technology, the UK Government formed the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP) to examine possible effects of mobile phones and transmitter base stations. This group was headed by Sir William Stewart, the famous British biochemist and president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. What made the Stewart Inquiry unique was that it was made up almost entirely of biomedical specialists.
Their report, “Mobile Phones and Health,” was released in April 2000. The IEGMP stated: “If there are currently unrecognized adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones, children may be more vulnerable because of their developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head, and a longer lifetime of exposure. In line with our precautionary approach, we believe that the widespread use of mobile phones by children for non-essential calls should be discouraged. We also recommend that the mobile phone industry should refrain from promoting the use of mobile phones by children.”
Sir William Stewart said at a science conference at Glasgow University in September 2001 that mobile phone makers often presented their products in advertisements as essential “back to school” items for children. Such ads were irresponsible, said Sir William. He added: “They are irresponsible because children’s skulls are not fully developed. They will be using mobile phones for longer, and the effects won’t be known for some time to come. Mobile phone technology has been led by the physical sciences. My own view is we ought to be doing more work on the potential biological effects.”
Concerns about children using mobile phones was specifically mentioned in a recent report (July, 2002) by the Science and Public Policy Institute, based in Arlington, Virginia, USA. The institute was founded by Dr. George Carlo, who formerly ran the U.S. wireless industry’s $28 million research program into the possible health risks of cell phone use. The report “Proposals for Supplementary Funding” states on page 4: “Special concern for children followed from the research. Studies showed that radiation penetrated deeper into the heads of teenagers and children resulting in more exposure to potentially harmful radio waves than adults; the type of genetic damage that was found — micronuclei in human blood — is more likely to occur in growing tissue undergoing mitosis, such as growing brain tissue in children; the wireless industry had targeted children as a growth market and were succeeding in increasing cell phone usage among children and teenagers.”
On December 8th 2000, the German Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement advising parents to restrict their children’s use of mobile phones. They advised that all mobile phone users should keep conversations as brief as possible but that additional precautions are appropriate for children in view of “special health risks” associated with their growing bodies.
Dr. Gerald Hyland was an advisor in a small unpublished Spanish study that examined changes in brain activity after a child uses a mobile phone. The study, by Dr. Michael Klieeisen from the Neuro Diagnostic Research Institute in Marbella, Spain, found that a single call lasting just two minutes can alter the natural electrical activity of a child’s brain for up to an hour afterwards. It was also found that the microwaves penetrated deep into the brain and not just around the ear.
The subjects were an 11-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl. Using a CATEEN scanner linked to a machine measuring brainwave activity, researchers were able to make photographic images of the changes in brain electrical activity.
In a newspaper interview, Dr. Hyland said that he finds the results extremely disturbing. His comments are summarized here: “It makes one wonder whether children, whose brains are still developing, should be using mobile phones. The results show that children’s brains are affected for long periods even after very short-term use. Their brain wave patterns are abnormal and stay like that for a long period. This could affect their mood and ability to learn in the classroom if they have been using a phone during break time, for instance.
“We don’t know all the answers yet, but the alteration in brain waves could lead to things like a lack of concentration, memory loss, inability to learn. and aggressive behaviors. If I were a parent I would now be extremely wary about allowing my children to use a mobile even for a very short period.”
Excerpted with permission from “Children and mobile phone use: Is there a health risk? The case for extra precautions,” soon to be published in the Journal of the Australasian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, Melbourne, Australia. For the full article and additional references, see the section on electrical sensitivity on our home page: www.Latitudes.org.
Don Maisch is in the PhD research program, Science and Technology Studies, University of Wollongong, Australia. His research and published papers have focused on health effects of exposure to magnetic fields, and chronic fatigue syndrome. He is a member of the Australian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.emfacts.com
Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, Mobile Phones and Health, Advice to Industry (1.53), pp 8, April 2000.
“Mobile Phone Adverts for Children Irresponsible”, J. Radowitz, PA News, 10 Sept., 2001.
”German Academy of Pediatrics: Keep Kids Away from Mobiles”, Microwave News, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp 5, Jan/Feb 2001.
“The Child Scrambler – What a mobile can do to a youngster’s brain in 2 minutes”, U.K. Sunday Mirror, 27 December 2001.4 Personal correspondence with Dr. Gerard Hyland, University of Warwick, Department of Physics, Coventry, England and excerpt from his Report for the STOA Committee of the EU. (Specifically dealing with children and mobile phone use)