EnglishSpanishPortugueseFrench
 
Print

EMF and Children - L2

Do the International exposure guidelines protect children?
What do experts say about possible harmful effects to children from mobile phone technology?
What research relevant to children has been done and what are the conclusions?
What more research relevant to children needs to be done?
What about children living, learning and playing near base stations?
Do children absorb more RF energy during a phone call than an adult?
Should there be any restrictions on children using mobile phones?
National expert panel conclusions regarding children and mobile phones
EMF and children - summary

Do the International exposure guidelines protect children?

The WHO has a clear position on RF and mobile phones:

  • International guidelines governing RF exposure from mobile phones and their base stations are in place
  • Those guidelines protect everyone in the population, including children, and incorporate large safety margins.

Specifically in relation to the international (ICNIRP) guidelines and children, the WHO advise;

“The ICNIRP guidelines were developed to limit human exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) under conditions of maximum absorption of the fields, which rarely occurs, and the limits incorporate large safety factors to protect workers and even larger safety factors to protect the general public, including children. Thus, the limits in the ICNIRP guidelines are highly protective and are based on all the available scientific evidence”

WHO children and mobiles clarification statement
http://www.who.int/peh-emf/meetings/ottawa_june05/en/index4.html

top

What do experts say about possible harmful effects to children from mobile phone technology?

All of the reviews over the last ten years by expert panels and government agencies have agreed that the scientific evidence does not demonstrate any established health risks from the use of mobile phones and their base stations operating within international guideline limits. This is true regardless of age.

The WHO monitors scientific research on mobile phone safety and in 2010 updated its public information on mobile phones and health concluding:

"A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use"

WHO Fact Sheet 193 June 2011 - Electromagnetic Fields and Public health: mobile phones

Whilst no adverse health effects have been established for people using mobile phones, the WHO continues to promote further research.

top


What research relevant to children has been done and what are the conclusions?

Published research relevant to the use of mobile phones by children includes:

  • whether children’s heads absorb more RF energy than adults
  • any effects on cognition (such as the ability to think, reason and remember)
  • animals during pregnancy through to young adulthood examining potential biological  effects (for example changes in brain structure or function and birth defect inducing effects)

 
Overall this research found that the range of absorption in children’s heads is within the variation of the adult population; no effect on cognition, and no consistent evidence of harmful effects from exposure at levels below internationally recognized guidelines.

In 2009, a report titled "Children's health and RF EMF exposure" was issued by the Mensch Umwelt Technik (MUT) of the Julich Research Institute, Germany. The report is based on the scientific opinions of 7 international recognized experts and 4 advisory experts from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland as well as on series of workshop discussions.

The 2009 Children’s health and RF EMF exposure report concludes:

"Overall, the review of the existing scientific literature does not support the assumption that children's health is affected by RF EMF exposure from mobile phones or base stations."

“there is no conclusive evidence that SAR levels from mobile phones are higher in the heads of children than adults”.

Childrens health and RF EMF Exposure - September 2009

top

What more research relevant to children needs to be done?

The WHO 2006 RF Research agenda identifies some priority research areas for children expressing them in terms of research underway and new research to fill certain gaps in knowledge.

In March 2009 a new research project commenced specifically focused on young people, called MOBI-KIDS, was announced.  MOBI-KIDS involves research groups in 13 countries and plans to study about 4000 young people between 10 to 24 years over a 5 year period.

Another study, called CEFALO, began in 2005 and involves children and adolescents 7-19 years of age in Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. Final results are expected before the end of 2010.

The WHO has announced its research agenda will be updated in 2010.

top

What about children living, learning and playing near base stations?

Mobile phone base stations operate in accordance with international guideline limits on radio wave exposure. Actually exposure to RF from base stations is very low, a fraction of the international guideline and standard levels.

These standards and guidelines are based on detailed, independent evaluations of an extensive scientific database of studies relating to radio waves and health. Scientific expert reviews and government agencies have been consistent in concluding that these guidelines are reliable safeguards for all segments of the population, including children.

The ICNIRP reviewed the current scientific literature and reaffirmed their existing radiofrequency guidelines in 2009. As part of this review ICNIRP acknowledged some new studies showing a small theoretical increase in calculated radio signal absorption levels for people less than 1.3 m in height (corresponding approximately to children aged 8 or younger).

The ICNIRP summarises this by saying;

“However, this is negligible compared with the large reduction factor of 50 (5,000%) for the general public”.

http://www.icnirp.org/documents/StatementEMF.pdf

In reality this would mean standing very close (within about 5 m) directly in front of a base station antenna which is virtually impossible at most sites because these areas are not accessible to the public.

 top

Do children absorb more RF energy during a phone call than an adult?

Some computational studies have reported that the peak of RF energy absorption in the heads of children is higher than that of adults. In early studies this was based on flawed scaling of the child’s head compared to an adult.

The consensus of several studies is that the absorption of energy in a child’s head is within the variation across the adult population and that current mobile phone compliance testing procedures are conservative for all persons, including children (Christ et al., 2009; Kainz et al., 2005)

top


Should there be any restrictions on children using mobile phones?

The conclusion by expert groups is that there is no established evidence of harmful effects to children from RF exposure below internationally accepted standards.  However, some expert groups, in reviewing the question of whether there should be restrictions on children using mobile phones, have recommended that there should be a “precautionary” approach while further research is ongoing.

In 2005, the WHO convened a workshop specifically to examine the issue of mobile phone safety and children.  Recognizing that some parents may be concerned about mobile phone usage by children, the WHO states:

"Present scientific evidence does not indicate the need for any special precautions for the use of mobile phones. If individuals are concerned, they might choose to limit their own or their children's RF exposure by limiting the length of calls, or by using "hands-free" devices to keep mobile phones away from the head and body.”

www.who.int/peh-emf/meetings/ottawa_june05/en/index4.html

In 2010, the WHO issued the most recent advice on mobile phones and health updating the information on how to effectively reduce mobile phone exposure:

“In addition to using "hands-free" devices, which keep mobile phones away from the head and body during phone calls, exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls. Using the phone in areas of good reception also decreases exposure as it allows the phone to transmit at reduced power.”

WHO Fact Sheet 193 May 2010 - Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones

Sending text messages, which is very popular with younger people including children, is a simple way to reduce exposure.
 

top

National expert panel conclusions regarding children and mobile phones

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) - children and mobile phones:

"Community concern has been expressed with regard to mobile telephone use by children. At present, there is insufficient evidence in the science to substantiate the hypothesis that children maybe more vulnerable to RF EME emissions from mobile phones than adults."

"It’s recognised that parents provide mobile phones to their children for different reasons, including their child’s personal security as well as the assurance of their child being constantly contactable.  It is recommended that, due to the lack of any data relating to children and their long term use of mobile phones, parents encourage their children to limit their exposure by reducing call time, by making calls where reception is good, by using hands-free devices or speaker options, or by texting."

ARPANSA Fact Sheet – Mobile Phones & Children (2010)

UK Government on children and mobile phones

The UK Government recommends limiting children’s use of mobile phones as a precaution. This is because children are still developing and may be more sensitive to RF fields. Their advice is for children to use mobile phones for essential calls only, and to keep calls short.

UK Government Leaflet

The Health Council of the Netherlands:

“It is unlikely from a developmental point of view that major changes in brain sensitivity to electromagnetic fields still occur after the second year of life.” As a result, they believe there is no reason to recommend limiting mobile phone use in children.” (2002)

Health Council of Netherlands report

Irish Government Expert Panel:

“Recent expert analysis has concluded that there are no major effects due to focusing of the RF field in the head or to other properties of a child’s head that might result in higher absorption of RF energy (Christ and Kuster, 2005; Keshvari and Lang, 2005).”

“Even though children are using mobile phones at a younger and younger age there are few users under the school age of five. Children tend to use their phones for sending texts rather than voice calls; this reduces their exposure. The use of hands-free kits also reduces exposures but these are not popular among children.”

"Three expert groups have reviewed the question of whether there should be restrictions on children using mobile phones. Two have recommended that there should be some restrictions, while one has suggested that it would make no difference. Given this disagreement it seems prudent to suggest that mobile phone use should be limited in younger children. However, there is no specific scientific justification for this advice.”

 Irish Government Report 

top

EMF and children summary

The consistent conclusion of reviews by more than 20 expert panels since 1995 and health agencies is that the scientific knowledge shows that there is no evidence of harmful effects to the general population – including children – from radio frequency (RF) exposure below internationally accepted standards. However, there are still some gaps in scientific knowledge, and the WHO has prioritorised further research into the use of mobile phones by children.

On mobile phone safety and health, the WHO states:

"A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established for mobile phone use”

The WHO also provides information on how to effectively reduce mobile phone exposure:

“In addition to using "hands-free" devices, which keep mobile phones away from the head and body during phone calls, exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls. Using the phone in areas of good reception also decreases exposure as it allows the phone to transmit at reduced power.”

WHO Fact Sheet 193 May 2010 - Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones
 

 Additional resources...

 top

 

Home // Site Map // Contact Us // Admin Developed by AMTA, GSMA and MMF