Baby Monitors: Are you unwittingly putting your baby at risk?

Your newborn baby is the most precious thing in the world.  So, you wouldn’t dream of putting their health or livelihood at stake, would you?  Baby monitors mean protection. Don't they? The unfortunate truth is that many parents are, unwittingly, putting their infant at risk of harmful radiation from standard, widely-available baby monitors.

 Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

Baby monitors are high on the wish list of items for expectant parents.  And it’s easy to understand why.  They allow Mum and Dad to keep a close, watchful ear (and eye) on what’s going on in Baby’s sleep environment. Plus, they allow the parent to respond to Baby’s cries or actions if necessary.

When baby monitors first came into full commercial existence, they tended to use the FM radio frequency as a means of communication.  Humans have adapted to radio frequencies and at low intensity, these 40 Mhz analogue monitors posed little harm.

Technology has advanced since those days. Now we have new baby monitors that use modern digital technology.  And this is where the risks come in…

Would you place your baby next to a microwave oven to sleep?

Today’s baby monitors tend to use WiFi (2.4 Ghz), Bluetooth (a form of WiFi) or DECT technology to transmit signals.  This technology has been great for eliminating the interference that was a common irritation with the older analogue models.  However, it means the units now emit continuous, pulsing microwave radiation from both the base station and the handset.  The folk at Powerwatch say placing your baby within a metre of its wireless baby monitor provides the equivalent  microwave radiation as from a mobile phone tower just 150 metres away.

Baby Monitors Cot_The Happy Habitat

Not only will the radiation fill baby's nursery but also the surrounding rooms because it passes through walls.  That means baby will absorb radiation from the monitor all night long.  Parents too expose themselves when they place the receiver near their heads in their bedrooms or on/near their bodies.  Popular wearable handsets allow the radiation to be absorbed straight into your skin.

According to Dr Magda Havas PhD, renowned expert on the biological effects of electromagnetic pollution, “digital frequencies from Bluetooth, WiFi and DECT technology have now been proven beyond doubt to be highly biologically active to the human body.”

But what's the harm?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organisation. Did you know that in their 2011 statement they classified all radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans?

Children and babies are unfortunately considered more vulnerable to this type of radiation than adults.  That's because they have thinner skull bones, higher levels of water in their heads and a smaller size.  Radiation Education says this makes kids “like antennas”.  What also adds to the danger is that microwave radiation has a cumulative effect. So, if a person’s exposure starts as a newborn baby, they are likely to see the outcomes sooner.

The possible health concerns cited by those against childhood exposure to microwave radiation include links to autism (read the scientific paper here), sleep disturbances (due to the suppression of melatonin production caused by electromagnetic radiation), erratic heart beat and possible damage to the immune and reproductive systems.  Note that not all these concerns can be fully backed by research right now.

National Association for Children and Safe Technology (NACST) was founded by concerned parents in the US and is committed to ensuring the safe use of technology for our children.  They provide these three warnings to parents:

  1. Baby monitors emit microwave radiation constantly while powered on (both the base and the parent handset).
  2. Baby monitors have fine print warnings that the device should be 20 cm from the body.
  3. Baby monitors are not safe because a baby's brain is developing and is the most vulnerable to damage from microwaves.

The opposing view

Other experts tell us not to over-react.  One such person is Professor Rodney Croft, Director of the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research who stated to the Herald Sun newspaper in 2014 that the dangers of wireless monitors were extremely small.  That's because they emit similar levels of radiation to mobile phones, which are apparently a hundred times less than the level considered dangerous.

“Given it is quite a low level of exposure people are getting, it tends to give us a fair bit of confidence that it is unlikely that there will be a problem” said Professor Croft.

To date, most of the research has been conducted on adult males. So it's fair to say we just don't have sufficient evidence of the effects of this technology on our kids. 

But given what we do know now, are you willing to gamble with your child’s health?  Until the facts are in and the outcomes are known, then why chance it? Below are some things you can do now if you’re at all concerned.

Precautions for baby monitors

Whilst all wireless baby monitors are a problem, the high frequency digital models are thought to be the absolute worst.  Analogue monitors are a better choice than digital. Try to find one that is non-pulsing and low frequency in the 35-50 mHz range - that's the only wireless option we believe you should consider.  Even analogue monitors, however, should be kept at least one metre from baby's bed and if possible, used sparingly.

Here are some useful precautions on wireless baby monitors from Dr Magda Havas’ website, thanks to the Swiss Health Board:

  • Place your baby monitor at least a metre away from baby's cot.
  • Do not use systems that transmit continuously.
  • Do set the baby unit to voice activation mode.
  • If your baby monitor is mains operated, ensure that the adaptor is plugged in at least 50 cm away from the cot.

Safe Kids UK advises that the radiation drops away the further you place the device from baby. This means that if you double the distance of the baby monitor from the infant, the level of electromagnetic radiation will be reduced by a factor of four.

Safer alternatives

Experts seem to agree that the safest baby monitor for you is a wired one that uses the power outlets to communicate.  These wired intercom systems enable multiple receivers to be added around the home. The downside is that they can be noisy and they can add dirty electricity.

According to the Institute of Geopathology, South Africa, the safest baby monitor is one of the following - IP-Cam with Security Features; IP Security Camera; or IP Surveillance Camera.  Being LAN only, these have no radiation at all.  They warn, “please don’t go for the W-LAN type!”.

If you can get your hands on a German-made Hartig and Helling MBF 3333 baby monitor then it’s a good choice . It operates on the safer 40 Mhz analog radio band and most importantly is voice activated. The unit only emits radiation when the voice reaches a certain level. Its transformers are also low EMF.

Other safe baby monitor options are listed here.

It really is a bit of a minefield! If you’re unsure of what is safe or poses a risk to your baby, please do your research and ask questions.  If you’d like help navigating this area, feel free to contact us at info@thehappyhabitat.com.au or fill out the form below to enquire about our Pregnancy and New Baby Home Audit.

Baby Monitors_The Happy Habitat
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation, classified all radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
— IARC, 2011
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