Should we ban our children from using mobile phones & tablets?

The debate rages on – is there a connection between mobile phone use and cancer, or not? Right now, the research, along with the experts are divided.  Given our ever increasing reliance on mobile devices along with the World Health Organisation’s latest classification that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields are possibly carcinogenic, perhaps it just makes good sense to keep our children away from this technology.  Quite aside from the potential brain tumour they may (or may not) develop now or in later years, there is certainly a new set of behaviours emerging around technology addiction in our young folk and this alone is very disturbing.

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Potential health risks of mobile devices

In 2011, the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as Group 2B - possibly carcinogenic to humans.

This means that there is some evidence that the radiation given off by mobile phones is harmful but the evidence is not strong enough to be conclusive.  The panel of experts specifically limited the risk to two types of brain tumours, glioma and acoustic neuroma.  Whilst they did not quantitate the risk, there is some evidence of increased risk of gliomas in heavy users of mobile phones.  Heavy users are defined as using their phones for an average of 30 minutes per day over a 10 year period.

Today, mobile phone use has become much more prevalent and it is not unusual for people to use mobile phones for an hour or much more a day.  This increasing use is tempered, however, by the lower emissions, on average, from newer technology phones, and the increasing use of texting and hands-free operations that keep the phone away from the head.

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What does world-renowned brain surgeon, Dr Charlie Teo say?

Controversial brain cancer surgeon, Charlie Teo takes on cases that other specialists deem inoperable. He says that while the jury was still out on mobile phones and other forms of electromagnetic radiation, we should not take risks.

"With the mobile phone I encourage you to put it on loudspeaker and step outside rather than sticking it up to your brain."

According to Dr Teo, there has been research done that both supports and refutes the connection between mobile phone use and brain cancer, however, studies that found no link were usually at least partly funded by telecommunications companies.  The Interphone study has been the largest study to date which found that phones were safe for all but heavy users.  It was partially telco-funded.

"(Brain cancer is) the most lethal cancer known to mankind. It kills young people and it appears to be affecting more people than it did ten years ago. I believe there may be a link between mobile phones and brain cancer," Dr Teo said to News.com.au.

But others say Dr Teo is a scaremonger. The CEO of the NSW Cancer Council, Dr Andrew Penman says “Mobile phones have been widely used in Australia for nearly 20 years now. Contrary to concerns about mobile phones, we have seen absolutely no associated increase in brain cancer cases in Australia or overseas.”

The team at Sydney University who have conducted the latest Australian research on the subject also concluded in 2016 that there has been no rise in brain cancer incidence compatible with increasing mobile phone use.

Specifically, what does the research say about children?

The problem with everything we’ve told you so far is that the research has focussed on adults and as such we don’t really know what’s going on with children’s brains.

What we do know is this…

  • Millions of young children are using wireless devices today.
  • Mobile phones and wireless devices operate by emitting microwave radiation.
  • Children have thinner skulls and higher levels of brain fluid which can make them particularly vulnerable to the effects of electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation.
  • Wireless radiation impacts brain development.
  • Our children may be at risk.

A child's brain is not fully developed until around the age of 20 and due to the thinner skull, it is extremely sensitive to the effects of any type of EMF radiation (which can penetrate more easily).  The radiation can enter all the way into their midbrain, where tumours are more deadly.  In addition, children’s cells reproduce more quickly, so they’re more susceptible to aggressive cell growth. Children also face a far greater lifetime exposure. According to Professor Lennart Hardell of Sweden, those who begin using mobile phones heavily as teenagers have 4 to 5 times more brain cancer as young adults!

Did you know that after leukaemia, brain tumours are the second most common cancer type in young people under 25 years of age?  Little is known about what increases the risk of brain tumours. The overall objective of the MOBI-KIDS study (which is currently underway and involves 13 countries) is to assess the potential link between the risk of brain tumours and environmental risk factors, including use of communication devices.

So, there’s a lot we have yet to learn.  But don’t we know enough already?  Certainly these 100+ scientists petitioning the UN feel that there is enough evidence right now to warn of the dangers of mobile and Wi-Fi technology for children!

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What about the behavioural aspects of technology usage in children?

Ever noticed how a child with an ipad or phone acts?  Engrossed, you say? What about… hard to separate from the device when the time is up?  This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of adverse and addictive behaviour that parents and experts are starting to see emerge which includes aggressive temper tantrums, poor attention, apathy, disconnection from friends, the outdoors and other interests.   This new technology addiction in children has been likened to a drug, hence the newly coined term “digital heroin”.  Experts say that in extreme cases, a full digital detox is the only effective treatment.

Interestingly, in a study of over 13,000 children the incidence of emotional symptoms, behavioural problems, inattention, hyperactivity and problems with peers increased by 54% with the mothers use of a mobile phone, and by 80% when the children, at the age of seven, used mobile phones themselves.

If you didn’t already have a bit to think about, then consider this.  Autism may be linked to electromagnetic radiation levels in the mother’s bedroom during pregnancy. A pilot study found over 20 times higher microwave power density levels in the sleeping location of the mother of the neurologically impaired child.

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Recommendations for reducing your child’s exposure to dangerous EMF radiation

With all this in mind, it’s important at whatever stage of your child’s development, to avoid unnecessary electromagnetic fields from mobile phones and other devices.  The harm to babies and children is real and yet the full outcomes are still largely unknown.

Here are our top tips:

  1. Don’t let children use a mobile phone.
  2. Keep your own phone use to a minimum and turn it off when you can. Whenever it is switched on, it is emitting radiation intermittently.
  3. Use hands free and texting to reduce exposure. Consider using a wired head-set that is shielded. Unshielded headsets can be worse than no head set as the wire acts as an antenna to your head.
  4. Only use a mobile phone when you have excellent reception.  Weak reception means more radiation.
  5. Don’t carry your mobile phone on your body and don’t sleep with it near your head.
  6. Reduce your Wi-Fi use and the number of Wi-Fi devices you have. Use fully wired alternatives if you can.
  7. If you must use Wi-Fi at home, then give some consideration to the location of your modem and keep it as far away from children’s bedrooms as possible. The signal is the strongest at the modem.  Also, turn off the Wi-Fi at night while you sleep.
  8. Consider using EMF protection devices to limit what your brain and body is absorbing. There are various shields, mats and jewellery that are now available.

For more information on how you can reduce your family’s exposure to unnecessary EMF radiation, or to book your Home Consultation, contact us at info@thehappyhabitat.com.au.