15 May 2017

Effects of Mobile Phones on Children’s and Adolescents’ Health: A Commentary

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Announcing a Special Section of Child Development
from © The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

Contemporary Mobile Technology and Child and Adolescent Development,
edited by Zheng Yan and Lennart Hardell, May 15, 2017

Article by
Lennart Hardell
Orebro University

Abstract

The use of digital technology has grown rapidly during the last couple of decades. During use, mobile phones and cordless phones emit radiofrequency (RF) radiation. No previous generation has been exposed during childhood and adolescence to this kind of radiation. The brain is the main target organ for RF emissions from the handheld wireless phone. An evaluation of the scientific evidence on the brain tumor risk was made in May 2011 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer at World Health Organization. The scientific panel reached the conclusion that RF radiation from devices that emit nonionizing RF radiation in the frequency range 30 kHz–300 GHz is a Group 2B, that is, a “possible” human carcinogen. With respect to health implications of digital (wireless) technologies, it is of importance that neurological diseases, physiological addiction, cognition, sleep, and behavioral problems are considered in addition to cancer. Well-being needs to be carefully evaluated as an effect of changed behavior in children and adolescents through their interactions with modern digital technologies.

Citation Hardell, L. (2017), Effects of Mobile Phones on Children’s and Adolescents’ Health: A Commentary. Child Dev. doi:10.1111/cdev.12831

Contact Lennart Hardell, Department of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine and Health
Orebro University, SE-701 82 Orebro, Sweden. lennart.hardell@regionorebrolan.se

Discussion

It takes a multidisciplinary professional community to produce this special section. It is a fruitful pairing to include articles from both child development and the bioelectromagnetics community, which gives an overview of the extensive scientific and public health knowledge on this topic. With respect to health implications of digital (wireless) technologies, it is of the utmost global importance in this conversation that cancer and neurological diseases, in addition to physiological addiction, cognition, sleep, and behavioral problems, be reported. The brain is the main target organ for RF emissions from the handheld wireless phone. The use of digital technology has grown rapidly during the last couple of decades. During use, mobile phones and cordless phones emit radiofrequency (RF) radiation. No previous generation has been exposed during childhood and adolescence to this kind of radiation. The brain is the main target organ for RF emissions from the handheld wireless phone.

An evaluation of the scientific evidence on the brain tumor risk was made in May 2011 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at WHO. Epidemiological studies provided supportive evidence of increased risk for brain tumors, i.e., glioma and acoustic neuroma. The scientific panel reached the conclusion that RF radiation from devices that emit non-ionizing RF radiation in the frequency range 30 kHz–300 GHz, is a Group 2B, i.e. a ‘possible’, human carcinogen. Later studies have replicated these findings and have thus strengthened the evidence.

In spite of the IARC evaluation little has happened to reduce exposure to RF fields in most countries. The exposure guideline used by many agencies was established in 1998 by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and was based on thermal (heating) effects from RF radiation neglecting non-thermal biological effects. It was updated in 2009 and still gives the guideline 2 to 10 W/m 2 for RF radiation depending on frequency.

In contrast to ICNIRP the BioInitiative Reports from 2007, updated in 2012, based the evaluation also on non-thermal health effects from RF radiation. The scientific benchmark for possible health risks was defined to be 30 to 60 µW/m 2 . Thus, using the significantly higher guideline by ICNIRP gives a ‘green card’ to roll out the digital technology thereby not considering non-thermal health effects from RF radiation. Thus, numerous health hazards are disregarded such as cancer, neurological diseases, psychological addiction, cognition, sleep and behavioral problems.

For obvious reasons the extent and severity of long-term health effects among children and adolescents using this technology are not know. However, there are already numerous peer-reviewed studies showing health hazards from wireless devices. Urgent action using the precautionary principle is needed.

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