Warning: Cell Phones May Trigger ADHD and Other Behavior Problems
July 04, 2012
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By Dr. Mercola
If you're pregnant, there is compelling evidence that you should use extreme caution when using a cell phone, and at least take care to keep it as far away from your developing baby as possible.
The latest animal study suggests that the increasingly prevalent neurobehavioral disorders in children -- conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) -- may be related to exposure to radiofrequency radiation from cell phones while in utero.i
Hyperactivity, Impaired Memory Linked to In Utero Cell Phone Exposure
Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine positioned a cell phone above a cage of pregnant mice. The phone was transmitting an uninterrupted active call for the entire 17 days of gestation.
When the offspring were later tested, they showed signs of ADHD, including reduced transmissions in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. As researchers noted:
"The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is responsible for executive functions by screening distractions and maintaining attention in goal-oriented behaviors. Impairment of the PFC leads to dysregulated behavior/emotion such as ADHD."
They further explained:
"Mice exposed [to cell phone radiation] during pregnancy had impaired memory, were hyperactive, and had decreased anxiety, indicating that in-utero exposure to radiofrequency is a potential cause of neurobehavioral disorders. …The exposure to cellular telephones in pregnancy may have a comparable effect on the fetus and similar implications for society as do exposures to other common neurodevelopmental toxicants."
It's widely known that children, due to their thinner skulls, smaller brains, softer brain tissue and far more rapidly dividing cells, are even more susceptible to damage from cell phone use than adults, which suggests that babies in the womb, who are perhaps the most vulnerable population of all, may be at similar or greater at risk. The researchers expand:
"During critical windows in neurogenesis the brain is susceptible to numerous environmental insults; common medically relevant exposures include ionizing radiation, alcohol, tobacco, drugs and stress. The effects of these agents are dependent on dose and timing of exposure. Even small exposures during periods of neurogenesis have a more profound effect than exposure as an adult …environmental exposures occurring in fetal life can lead to persistent neurological deficits."
Cell Phones May Cause "Certain Harm" to Fetal Rat Brains
This was the conclusion of a study in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine,ii which sought to evaluate the intensity of oxidative stress and the levels of neurotransmitters in the brains of fetal rats chronically exposed to radiation from cell phones.
Four groups of pregnant rats were exposed to different intensities of cell phone microwave radiation -- one group that was left unexposed, and three groups that were irradiated three times daily for either 10, 30, or 60 minutes at a time. After three weeks, the fetal rats were examined for changes in their brains. Studies on humans have corroborated these findings. All of the irradiated groups exhibited significant neurological differences, with researchers noting:
"Through this study, we concluded that receiving a certain period of microwave radiation from cellular phones during pregnancy has certain harm on fetal rat brains."
Studies Involving Human Children Show Increased Behavioral Problems With In Utero Cell Phone Exposure
In 2008, researchers analyzed data from nearly 13,000 children and found that exposure to cell phones while in the womb, and also as children, was linked to more behavioral difficulties.iii Pregnant women using handsets just two or three times a day was enough to raise the risk of their babies developing hyperactivity and difficulties with conduct, emotions and relationships by the time they reached school age -- and the risk became even greater if the children also used the phones themselves before age 7.
The 2008 study revealed that mothers who used mobile phones were 54 percent more likely to have children with behavioral problems. When the children also later used the phones themselves by age 7, they were:
- 80 percent more likely to suffer from difficulties with behavior
- 25 percent more at risk from emotional problems
- 34 percent more likely to suffer from difficulties relating to their peers
- 35 percent more likely to be hyperactive
- 49 percent more prone to problems with conduct
Then, in 2010, the researchers looked at a larger group of children -- nearly 29,000 -- and also considered additional variables that could be swaying the results, and the association was found once again.iv In that study, children whose mothers used cell phones while pregnant were 40 percent more likely to have behavioral problems and this rose to 50 percent when the children also used cell phones themselves. The researchers even accounted for family history of behavioral problems, inattention of the mother, breastfeeding and time spent with the child -- and the association still remained.
If You're Pregnant, Is Cell Phone Use Safe?
That's a decision you'll have to make for yourself after considering the evidence, such as the studies noted above. I do believe there is more than enough evidence to warrant everyone limiting their cell phone use and taking precautions, and I have long recommended that, barring a life-threatening emergency, children should not use a cell phone, or a wireless device of any type. A fetus is even more vulnerable than a child, so take that into consideration as well. As a parent you have a responsibility to protect this young life.
Many government agencies across the globe are taking these risks very seriously. The European Parliament has called for schools to be wireless free, in addition to hospitals, day care and retirement living facilities.v And in a report published by Mobilewise, a UK charity, medical experts and Mobilewise call on government and industry to provide warnings and advice on ways to reduce the risk of health damage when using mobile phones, especially in order to protect children.
The report "Mobile Phone Health Risks: the case for action to protect children" warns that children's health is being put at risk by the failure of government and phone companies to respond to the growing body of evidence linking mobile phone use with health hazards.vi It includes a chart of more than 200 peer-reviewed studies from numerous research institutions that link mobiles to serious health problems.
These include brain tumors and impacts on 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.
The telecommunication industry is much larger than the medical industrial complex, and they have far more influence than the drug companies. They're also mirroring many of the same tactics as the tobacco industry to pedal their wares. There is already robust scientific evidence that cell phones and other wireless devices pose significant health risks to all of us, and especially to children and pregnant women. So while these findings are not being widely publicized in mainstream media, it makes sense to take action now to protect yourself and your children.
Understand the media has significant conflicts of interest, given the millions of dollars in advertising dollars they receive from the wireless industry. ElectromagneticHealth.org has estimated telecom ad revenues might total as much as $6-60 million annually at U.S. newspapers and business magazines, based on a sampling of ad space in major papers and magazines. The average percentage of telecom ad space during the sample period was applied to the published print ad revenues of the publications, as a gauge of the magnitude of potential telecom revenues to these publications.
Camilla Rees of ElectromagneticHealth.org says:
"Not only are several large media organizations sitting on the fence on this subject, shirking their responsibility to the public (though many are following the subject closely), but some of them, it appears, may intentionally be supporting the interests of the telecom industry, as is also the case with some universities. In both cases it appears protecting important sources of revenue is what is most important to them. "
Rees co-led a detailed analysis of an Economist article last Fall that was endorsed by over 30 leading international scientists, portraying the Economist article in question as riddled with "technical errors and misleading statements."
The Economist critique stated:vii
"With this unsigned opinion piece (which appeared to be a news article) containing so many technical errors and misleading statements, The Economist has undermined its reputation for independent and probing analysis. The Economist owes its readers a better accounting of the science on this important public health issue."
So, until the damn of denial is broken regarding media coverage of the hazards of microwave radiation, look to the independent science, and independent reporting sources, that have not been influenced by commercial interests.
Top Steps for Safer Cell Phone Use
You can help to minimize your exposure to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and other wireless devices by heeding the following advice:
- Children Should Always Avoid Using Cell Phones: Barring a life-threatening emergency, children should not use a cell phone, or a wireless device of any type. Children's brains are far more vulnerable to cell phone radiation than adults, because of their thinner skull bones.
- Reduce Your Cell Phone Use: Turn your cell phone off more often. Reserve it for emergencies or important matters. As long as your cell phone is on, it emits radiation intermittently, even when you are not actually making a call. If you're pregnant, avoiding or reducing your cell phone use is especially important.
- Use a Land Line at Home and at Work: Although more and more people are switching to using cell phones as their exclusive phone contact, it is a dangerous trend and you can choose to opt out of the madness. SKYPE offers a portable number via your computer that can plug into any Ethernet port while traveling.
- Reduce or Eliminate Your Use of Other Wireless Devices: You would be wise to cut down your use of these devices. Just as with cell phones, it is important to ask yourself whether or not you really need to use them as often as you do. And most importantly, do not even consider having any electronic or wireless devices in the bedroom, as the electric, magnetic and microwave fields can significantly interfere with the quality of your sleep.
If you must use a portable home phone, use the older kind that operates at 900 MHz. They are not safer during calls, but at least many of them do not broadcast constantly even when no call is being made. There is a new Siemens Eco DECT phone on the market, where if only one handset is activated, it can be set to only radiate during a call as opposed to 24/7. However, since many people have multiple portable phone handsets this is not, as of yet, a practical solution. And, unless one knows to deactivate the radiation through putting the phone into Eco Mode Plus mode, it will still be continually emitting microwaves.
Note the only way to truly be sure if there is an exposure from your cordless phone is to measure with an electrosmog meter, and it must be one that goes up to the frequency of your portable phone (so old meters won't help much). As many portable phones are 5.8 Gigahertz, we recommend you look for RF meters that go up to 8 Gigahertz, the highest range now available in a meter suitable for consumers.
Alternatively you can be very careful with the base station placement as that causes the bulk of the problem since it transmits signals 24/7, even when you aren't talking. So if you can keep the base station at least three rooms away from where you spend most of your time, and especially your bedroom, they may not be as damaging to your health. Another option is to just simply turn the portable phone off, only using it when you specifically need the convenience of moving about while on a call.
Ideally it would be helpful to turn off your base station every night before you go to bed. You can find RF meters as well as remediation supplies at www.emfsafetystore.com. But you can pretty much be sure your portable phone is a problem if the technology is DECT, or digitally enhanced cordless technology, unless you are using the new Siemens Eco DECT phone, with only one handset active, and the phone set to only radiate during conversations through the Eco Mode Plus feature.
- Use Your Cell Phone Only Where Reception is Good: The weaker the reception, the more power your phone must use to transmit, and the more power it uses, the more radiation it emits, and the deeper the dangerous radio waves penetrate into your body. Ideally, you should only use your phone with full bars and good reception.
- Also Seek to Avoid Carrying Your Phone on Your Body as that merely maximizes any potential exposure. Ideally put it in your purse or carrying bag. Placing a cell phone in a shirt pocket over the heart is asking for trouble, as is placing it in a man's pocket if he seeks to preserve his fertility and sexual function.
- Don't Assume One Cell Phone is Safer Than Another: There's no such thing as a "safe" cell phone.
- Keep Your Cell Phone Away From Your Body When it is On: The most dangerous place to be, in terms of radiation exposure, is within about six inches of the emitting antenna. You do not want any part of your body within that area. Most people are surprised that cell phone manuals themselves specifically state to not place the phone against your body!
- Respect Others Who are More Sensitive: Some people who have become sensitive can feel the effects of others' cell phones in the same room, even when it is on but not being used. If you are in a meeting, on public transportation, in a courtroom or other public places, such as a doctor's office, keep your cell phone turned off out of consideration for the 'second hand radiation' effects. This would especially apply to places where reflections would be high, such as in a metal elevator, train car or automobile. Children are also more vulnerable, so please avoid using your cell phone near children.
If you are using the Pong case, which redirects the cell phone radiation away from the head and successfully lowers the SAR effect, realize that in redirecting the radiation away from your head this may be intensifying the radiation in another direction, perhaps toward the person next to you, or, if in your pocket, increasing radiation intensity toward your body. Caution is always advised in dealing with any radiation-emitting device. We recommend cell phones be kept 'Off' except for emergencies.
- Use Safer Headset Technology: Wired headsets will certainly allow you to keep the cell phone farther away from your body. However, if a wired headset is not well-shielded -- and most of them are not -- the wire itself acts as an antenna attracting ambient radio waves and transmitting radiation directly to your brain.
Make sure that the wire used to transmit the signal to your ear is shielded. The best kind of headset to use is a combination shielded wire and air-tube headset. These operate like a stethoscope, transmitting the information to your head as an actual sound wave; although there are wires that still must be shielded, there is no wire that goes all the way up to your head.