Our children have never known a world without cell phones. While most studies have found no raised risk of brain tumour the long-term effects of using a cell phone regularly are still not known as they have only been in widespread use since the 90′s.
Some ten year reports are now being published overseas that report increased incidences of tumours on nerves that connect the ear to the brain and in the UK, there has been so much concern that the Government and industry are jointly funding a series of studies as part of the £7.4 million Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme, the results of which will not be available for some time.
The official advice is only to let children aged 16 and under use cell phones when necessary and to text as opposed to making calls, though this can ramp up bills considerably. A recently launched cell phone for children aged 4-10, the Teddyfone, was widely condemned as irresponsible. A spokesman for the Mobile Operators Association said: “The companies we represent don’t market their products to under-16s, as recommended by Sir William Stewart (Chairman of the Health Protection Agency). We believe that it is a responsible policy and is in line with the advice on health.” Believe it or not, there are ways to use a cell phone responsibly that can reduce the effect of the radio waves being pumped through your head. It requires a brief explanation of how a cell phone works:
Cell phones are designed to transmit radio waves in all directions because base stations could be in any direction with respect to cell phone users. This means that a proportion of the radio waves they produce are directed towards the user’s body – your head, in short.
The radio waves that are directed towards the head of the cell phone user penetrate into the body tissues for a few centimetres and tend to be absorbed. In being absorbed, they give up their energy to the body tissues and this adds to the energy being produced by the body’s metabolism. If you use the cell phone for a long time (six minutes is considered a long mobile phone call) then your head may feel warm where you held the cell phone to it – this is the effect of the increase in energy in your head. Some people have reported headaches after long cell phone calls.
When you think how much smaller a child’s head is with thinner skin, giving them the same mobile an adult would use will potentially cause more damage. There are ways of buying a phone that will potentially harm you less as they all have to pump out radio waves to find a signal, though there are recommended limits and some cell phones have lower emissions – ask your retailer next time you change your handset.
The antenna is the main source of the radio waves that produce a Specific Absorption rate (SAR) in the body. Moving the phone away from the head, for example by using a hands free kit, will reduce the localised SAR in the head but may increase the localised SAR in other parts of the body and using a cell phone less will give rise to lower exposure and reduce the health risks.
Given that this is information that the Health Protection Agency issue via their website, it may surprise you to know that in the UK there is no explicit legislation that limits people’s exposure to electromagnetic fields, including the radio waves used in mobile telephony, but there are a number of other regulatory and voluntary routes through which exposure is controlled, which you can find on their website.
This is a very sensitive area as so much research is ongoing and any group of parents will have differing opinions on whether children should have cell phones or not (one million children under 10 already have cell phones).
But you might want to consider whether the benefits of staying in touch by phone are better than the potential health risks.