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American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends Reducing Childrens Exposure to Cell Phones

Sep 28, 2016

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued recommendations to reduce children's wireless cell phone exposure and updated their online resources for parents concerning cell phones and wireless devices.

AAP acted in response to a study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, finding that exposure to wireless radiation significantly increased the prevalence of highly malignant heart and brain cancers in rats, Digital Journal reports.

Dr. Jennifer A. Lowry, chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health Executive Committee, noted cell phones are not toys. "They have radiation that is emitted from them and the more we can keep it off the body and use (the phone) in other ways, it will be safer," Lowry said in a press release about the study results. The two-year study exposed rats to the types of radio frequency radiation that cell phones give off and compared them with a non-exposed group. Some rats developed cancerous tumors after being exposed to the radiation—showing a potential connection between exposure to radiation and an increased risk of cancer.

Among the study findings were brain tumors (gliomas) and malignant schwann cell tumors of the heart, as well as DNA damage in brain cells, according to Ronald L. Melnick, Ph.D., a toxicologist at the National Institutes of Health who lead the NTP study. Melnick called this a "major public health concern" because the tumors and DNA changes occurred in the same types of cells that have been reported to develop into tumors in epidemiological studies of adult cell phone users. He said the cancer risks may be greater for children because "greater penetration and absorption of cell phone radiation in the brains of children and because the developing nervous system of children is more susceptible to tissue-damaging agents."

AAP has updated the Healthy Children web page Cell Phone radiation & Children's Health: What Parents Need to Know. The AAP emphasizes children's unique vulnerability to cell phone radiation, reminding parents that that an FCC cell phone radiation test was based on the effect on adults, not children. "Children's skulls are thinner and can absorb more radiation," AAP explains.

The Healthy Children web page contains cell phone safety tips intended to reduce children's exposure to wireless radiation. Among the tips, children should:

  • use text messaging when possible,
  • use cell phones in speaker mode or with hands-free devices
  • hold the phone an inch or more from the head
  • avoid carrying the phone against the body in a pocket, sock, or bra

The web page further recommends that anyone who plans to watch a movie or TV show on a phone should first download the video, and then switch the device to airplane mode to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure. Phone users should monitor signal strength (the number of bars): the weaker the cell signal, the more radiation the phone gives off.

The AAP says more research is needed into how cell phone exposure affects human health long term, particularly children's health. Parents should not panic over the research results, AAP says, but take the findings as a reminder to limit exposure from cell phones and other devices that emit radiation from electromagnetic fields (EMF).

Since 2012, the AAP has supported the Federal Cell Phone Right to Know Legislation and has written letters to the FCC calling on the federal government to review and strengthen radiation standards for wireless devices in an effort to protect children's health.

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