Children under the age of 7 absorb much more radiation than an adult and are therefore much more vulnerable. Many countries around the world recommend restricting the use of Wi-Fi and mobile phones for anyone under the age of 16. The European Parliament stated in 2008 (when levels were much lower than they are now) that the limits on exposure to electromagnetic fields which have been set for the general public are obsolete and called upon the Council to ‘set stricter exposure limits for all equipment which emits electromagnetic waves..’. This has not happened in the UK.
What are other countries doing?
Over 32 countries or governmental bodies within these countries have now issued recommendations to reduce exposure to RFR (1). In France for instance, Wi-Fi has been removed from pre-schools and primary schools have been ordered to shut off Wi-Fi when not in use, whilst children aged 16 or under are banned from bringing mobile phones to school. France has also recalled millions of phones because their national test agency found that 90% of all phones exceeded permissible radiation limits.
Unexplained symptoms in children that might be due to electromagnetic fields (EMF) exposure or radio-frequency radiation (RFR) include headaches, nosebleeds, nausea, inability to concentrate, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression as well as behavioural disorders. In adults we also see infertility, miscarriages, blood disorders, cancers, heart palpitations and more (2).
During pregnancy, women should take precautions to protect the foetus and the unborn child as they are particularly vulnerable. The brain begins to develop within four weeks of conception and undergoes continuous development until birth and beyond. Due to the rapid cell proliferation, the foetus and the unborn child are more vulnerable to any genetic damage that may be caused by EMR.
What the science tells us
Potential adverse effects of radio-frequency radiation (RFR) exposure from mobile phones and other wireless transmitting devices (WTDs) have a far greater impact on children than on adults because of the greater vulnerability of their developing nervous system and the fact that the marrow in young, thin skulls absorbs far more radiation than that of an adult skull (3). Mobile phone use prior to the age of 7 has been shown to be associated with a 23% increase risk of children developing emotional and behavioural difficulties by the age of 11, according to a Danish study of 24,499 children (4).
Numerous other studies suggest mobile phone use is associated with cognitive function, sleep deprivation and adverse child development (5). Exposure to masts situated around schools have also been studied and it has been shown that RFR exposure from these masts is associated with delayed fine and gross motor skills, working memory and ability to concentrate in adolescent students compared to similar groups of students who are not within the vicinity of masts (6). The mechanism of EMFs and their non-thermal impact on the neuro and endocrine system via the voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) activation has been extensively documented (7).
Other areas of harm include the association between keeping cell phones in trouser pockets and lower sperm quantity and quality impacting fertility rates (8). Whilst the mechanism is not yet fully understood it is believed to be due to the increase in oxidative stress.
Research studies looking at whether there is an increased risk of cancer associated with mobile phone use are highly contentious. However, research conducted by Hardell and colleagues, reveal a clear correlation between mobile phone use before the age of 20 and a higher risk of glioma and acoustic neuroma (9). In their paper ‘Mobile phone use and brain tumour risk: early warnings, early actions?’ they explain the short falls of studies falsely indicating no link and the distorted reporting of the results.
Simple tips to protect your child
- Don’t encourage your child to use a mobile or cordless phone unless absolutely essential as the younger the child is, the more vulnerable they are to the health effects.
- Teenagers can be encouraged to use texting or to put the phone on speaker mode.
- Don’t let your child sleep near a mobile phone, a cordless phone or near a Wi-Fi router. Even if the router is the other side of the wall, it can have an impact.
- Preference should be given to wired devices and connections.
- Turn off Wi-fi, Bluetooth and mobile data when not in use, in particular when children are nearby.
- Turn off your Wi-Fi router at night and when not in use.
- Don’t use your mobile phone in a car if you are with children and discourage children from using their mobiles when in a car, bus or train.
- Don’t keep your mobile phone close to your child.
- If you are caring for a baby, be aware of how close you are holding the baby to your mobile phone if you are making a call or texting.
- Don’t let your child carry a mobile phone switched on in a pocket.
- Don’t have a digital baby monitor – replace with a wired or analogue baby monitor. If this is not possible move it as far away from the baby as possible.
- Wireless Games Consoles – consoles like the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Sony Playstations emit significant levels of RF radiation and the transformer units on these devices emit high electric fields. Use wired versions of these consoles (possible with the Playstation) and switch these units off when not in use.
- Games, songs, stories etc should be downloaded and saved in advance by parents. However, their use must be limited and proportionate to the age of the child. Minimum use for children at preschool age, and no use at all for infants and children below 2 years of age.
- If your children’s school has wireless computer networks, wireless white board and other such devices, petition the school to use wired internet and only use it for limited periods of time.
- You could also petition the school to include safeguarding against EMF exposure in their curriculum.
It should be noted that schools have relied on Public Health England for guidance but PHE is relying on guidelines that are unsafe and obsolete. There are thousands of peer-reviewed papers calling for an urgent re-assessment of the position adopted by bodies such as PHE.
You may be interested to see the Russian recommendations, which are infinitely more stringent with regards to under 18s and use of technology (10). The latest recommendations put in place to protect children isolated during the Covid-19 outbreak (and therefore spending a lot more time on-line) are available at ehtrust.org.
https://wirelessriskassessment.org (see submission by Dr Sarah Starkey to the Westminster Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee Dec. 2017
http://wifiinschools.org.uk/resources/wifi+brain+July+2011.pdf (Wi-Fi alters brain activity in young adults)
https://assembly.coe.int Parliamentary Assembly: PACE calls on governments to ‘take all reasonable measures’ to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields.
- Environmental Health TrustDatabase of Worldwide Policies on Cell Phones, Wireless and Health; (2018) Available online at: https://ehtrust.org/policy/international-policy-actions-on-wireless/
- Microwave frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression. Pall ML. J Chem Neuroanat. 2016 Sep; 75(Pt B):43-51.
- Absorption of wireless radiation in the child versus adult brain and eye from cell phone conversation or virtual reality. Fernández et al, 2018. Environ Res. 167:694–9. J.envres.2018.05.013
- Prospective cohort analysis of cellphone use and emotional and behavioural difficulties in children.
Sudan M, Olsen J, Arah OA, Obel C, Kheifets L. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2016 Dec; 70(12)
- Risks to Health and Well-Being from Radio-Frequency Radiation Emitted by Cell Phones and Other Wireless Devices. Miller et al, 2019. Front Public Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6701402/
- Mobile Phone Base Station Tower Settings Adjacent to School Buildings: Impact on Students’ Cognitive Health. Meo et al, 2019. Am J Mens Health. 2019 Jan-Feb; 13(1):1557988318816914.
- Microwave frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression. Pall ML. J Chem Neuroanat. 2016 Sep; 75(Pt B):43-51
- Radiations and male fertility. Kesari et al, 2018. Reprod Biol Endocrinol
- Mobile phone use and brain tumour risk: early warnings, early actions?In: Late Lessons from Early Warnings, Part 2. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen. Denmark: (Hardell et al, 2013). Available online at: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/late-lessons-2/late-lessons-chapters/late-lessons-ii-chapter-21/view
- Restrict Screens, No Cell Phones And Minimize Wireless Radiation For Education During COVID-19 Quarantine: Russia Release Recommendations For Children’s Protection. EHTrust.org