Cell phones are fantastic, but it’s possible — just possible — that we have grown lax about the radiation danger they may pose to our kids.
Last year, the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) released partial findings from a study involving rats exposed to the same kind of radio frequency that cell phones emit. Some of the rats developed cancerous tumors, prompting researchers and organizations like the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) to call for further review.
Oddly enough, the study was one of the first in the United States, says Nicholas Newman, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Environmental Health and Lead Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). “There are a lot of studies in other parts of the world looking at exposure in adults,” Newman says. But little research is being done in the U.S. and even less focused on children.
FIRST, DON’T PANIC
The NTP’s study is not yet complete — an update will be released later this year, Newman says. And it should be noted that the rats in the study were exposed to very large amounts of radiation for extended periods of time, much more than the average cell phone user.
“The animal data suggests problems at high dosages,” says Newman. Plus, you can’t really design these kinds of studies in humans.
That means, until we know more, families should be more aware and careful of how they use cell phones and other radiation emiting devices. Don’t hold the cell phone to your ear for extend periods of time — put it on speaker phone. Texting is good!
“Phones are more often used as computers,” says Newman. “We don’t really use them as ‘phones.’”
It’s OK for kids to play games, listen to music and take pictures since these activities keep the phone at arm’s length. Anytime we can hold devices away from our bodies and not up to our ears is a good thing.
JUST BE AWARE
Radiation exposure doesn’t have to be at the top of your list of worries, but there are additional steps you can take to minimize exposure until the definitive word is out (see below for tips from the AAP).
Keep in mind that it’s always good for kids to unplug and get into other activities that don’t involve electronics.
“Let phones take a back seat naturally when you spend time together,” says Newman, “and enjoy the summer!”
CELL PHONE SAFETY TIPS FOR ALL AGES
The AAP recommends taking the following steps to reduce radiation exposure from cell phones.
- Text or use cell phones in speaker mode.
- Make calls short and hold phone an inch or more away from your head.
- Avoid carrying phone against the body, like in your pocket.
- If watching a movie on your phone, download the movie and switch phone to airplane mode.
- Watch signal strength — the weaker your signal, the harder your phone works, and that means more radiation.
- Avoid calls in enclosed areas like cars and elevators — your phone has to work harder to get a signal through metal.