(1) Cell phones and iPads are near the top of many youngsters’ wish lists this holiday season, but experts say the popular wireless devices come with some very real and very scary health dangers for children.
Few people appreciate that almost all wireless devices come with manufacturers’ fine print warnings not to hold them next to an adult body. Even more alarming is the fact that controlled studies show that microwave radiation from cell phones weaken the brain’s protective barrier and cause men to produce damaged sperm.
The kicker is this: Cell phones and other radiation-emitting devices are likely even more dangerous for children than they are for adults, say experts.
Children’s heads absorb twice as much microwave radiation from cell phones as adult heads do, according to a recently published scientific report from the Environmental Health Trust (EHT) and Healthy Child Healthy World, two nonprofit research and educational groups.
Guidelines by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that set safe limits on wireless device radiation are based on old assumptions that most users would be adult men. The standards were devised using a 6-foot-2, 220-pound man as the standard user, according to the EHT. These days, of course, smaller-bodied women and children use wireless devices as much as men.
Dr. Davis calls attention to an iPad fine print warning that states: “A small percentage of people may be susceptible to blackouts or seizures (even if they have never had one before) when exposed to flashing lights or light patterns such as when playing games or watching videos ... Discontinue use of iPad and consult a physician if you experience headaches, blackouts, seizures, convulsion, eye or muscle twitching, loss of awareness, involuntary movement, or disorientation. To reduce risk of headaches, blackouts, seizures and eyestrain, avoid prolonged use, hold iPad some distance from your eyes, use iPad in a well-lit room, and take frequent breaks.”
Said Dr. Davis: “Whoever wrote this probably had in mind the adult who can fork over $400 to $500 for the iPad. Yet nowadays, even babies and toddlers are learning to read from wired devices and falling asleep to white noise played from phones placed under their pillows. A child’s brain, healthy or otherwise, is cased in a thinner skull; that’s why they absorb more microwave radiation.
“The brains of children with learning problems, autism or other neurological disorders may be more vulnerable to damage than those of their healthy friends and family members.”
The iPad safety advice also includes information about exposure to radiofrequency energy. The pamphlet notes, “If you are...concerned about exposure to RF energy, you can further limit your exposure by limiting the amount of time using iPad WiFi +3G in wireless mode ... and by placing more distance between your body and iPad Wi-Fi +3G.”
There is controversy over whether radiation from wireless devices can cause brain cancer, but experts say that when it comes to children, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
Says Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, Executive Director and CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World: "There's no denying these gadgets are fun. My kids love them, too. But these technologies are developing faster than our ability to understand their potential health impacts. We're not asking parents to not buy or use them, we're simply asking them to take precautions. It's better to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to our children's health."
The EHT and other experts advise that a child should:
• Use the speaker phone feature or a hands-free headset which keeps the device farther away from the head during use.
• Carry their phone off their body, such as in a backpack or purse.
• Keep their phone fully charged. A device with a low battery emits more radiation.
• Should never sleep with a wireless device next to them.
Also, adults should never give their phones to a small child for use as a toy.