No cell phones for kids!

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Protecting children from cell phone radiation

“I think we shouldn’t wait 20 years to experiment on our children. That’s why we need to take precautions.” Dr. Devra Davis, Director, Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Research Institute.

Is there a link between cell phones and cancer? The debate rages on

No one can say exactly what cell phones do to our brains when we continuously rest them against our heads. At best, it’s nothing to worry about. At worst, the frequent exposure will mean a huge increase in brain cancers down the road. Given that the consequences are largely unknown, many undecided experts are suggesting that we limit cell phone access for children and start using a head-set. A handful of scientists, including Dr. Davis and her colleague Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, are recommending that children never use cell phones, except for emergencies. Since cell phones are not a necessity, should parents err on the side of caution?

No conclusive studies

While rumours and recommendations have been floating around since 1986, there has not been one conclusive study. We simply haven’t had the technology long enough to study the long-term effects of cell phone use, especially on children. After all, this is the first generation of eight-year-olds with cells.

“It may be another 10, 20 years before we have the necessary statistics to make those recommendations. What we do know from radiation studies, whether it was people exposed in Hiroshima or kids treated for cancer with radiation, is that sometimes it took 15, 20 years before people developed cancer, secondary that we could attribute to the radiation,” Dr.Paul Song, a radiation oncologist in Los Angeles, stated on Larry King Live in 2008.

Using SAR to measure RF

Cell phones are much different from traditional land lines. A super-sophisticated radio, a cell phone operates on the radio frequency (RF) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s similar to the non-ionizing radiation given off by radio towers, televisions and microwave ovens. While studies have shown that these waves are too weak to damage DNA, science can’t yet explain the biological connection between non-ionizing radiation and cancer.

There are safety standards in place to limit exposure to radiation. SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) is the measurement of the strength of the magnetic field being absorbed by the body. In Canada and the United States, the maximum SAR allowed is 1.6W/kg. In Europe, it’s 2W/kg.

Children are more vulnerable

According to two studies completed in France and Germany, small children absorb twice as much radiation when using cell phones as adults do, due to their small ears, and thinner skin and skulls.

The French report, completed for TELECOM ParisTech by Dr. Joe Wiart, found young children can have radiation exposures twice that of adults, possibly even higher.

The second study, conducted by Niels Kuster, director of the IT’IS Foundation, had the same results. Completed for the German Federal Office of Radiation Protection (BfS), the study concluded that children’s eyes and bone marrow received more exposure.

The studies' findings support a 1996 study by Prof. Om Gandhi at the University of Utah, which found that radiation penetrates the brain of a child 4.2 times faster than an adult brain, and a child's eye more than 12 times faster.

It’s better to be safe than sorry

Ultimately, research must continue to determine whether or not there is a definite link between cell phone use and cancer. Unfortunately, this may mean waiting another 10 to 20 years to get answers. While prominent neurosurgeons, researchers and scientists may disagree about the data, they are unanimous about one recommendation: Children under the age of 12 and pregnant women should not use cell phones. With our lives potentially on the line, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Cell phone users (of any age) may want to read the following recommendations:

  • Use a headset or keep the phone on speaker mode so you can move away from your head. The Air Tube Headset is considered the safest.
  • Take your cell out of your pocket so sensitive body bits aren’t exposed to radiation. You want to be able to have kids!
  • Limit your cell phone use. Move to a land line for longer conversations.
  • Stop usage immediately if your ear feels warm. Change sides frequently to avoid overexposure to one side of the head.
  • Send text messages whenever possible.
  • Avoid using the cell in a car or on a train. SAR levels increase when your cell is searching for a signal.
  • Keep your phone away from your head at night. Get a wind-up clock or battery-operated alarm clock and turn the phone off at night. (An electronic radio is just as bad!)
  • Choose a phone with the lowest SAR rating. CNET, SarValues and the FCC (USA Federal Communications Commission) all have SAR ratings for the most popular cell phones. You can also contact the phone's manufacturer.