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Study Links Cell Phone Use to Behavioral Problems

May 28, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

New research is suggesting that the children of mothers who use cell phones while pregnant are more likely to develop behavioral problems.  This, based on a study of 13,159 children in Denmark in the late 1990s.  The research claims to show a link between use of handheld telephones by pregnant women and problems such as hyperactivity in their children.  Also, the study indicates that these risks are increased if the child then uses a mobile themselves before the age of seven.  The report is being published in the journal Epidemiology.

The scientists behind the research at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Aarhus in Denmark stressed that the results "should be interpreted with caution" and checked by further studies.  The scientists did say that, "If they are real they would have major public health implications."  The study raises renewed questions over cell phone safety, which—in the past—has been linked to serious problems such as brain cancer.

The research indicated that pregnant women who did use handsets were 54 percent more likely to have children with behavioral problems.  If the children later used cell phones themselves, the figure rose to 89 percent.

Meanwhile, a study last month—conducted by Ashok Agarwal—suggests men’s fertility may be decreased with cell phone usage.  Cell phones emit radiofrequency electromagnetic waves and scientists have reported potential adverse effects on brain waves, the heart and endocrine system, and DNA, says Agarwal—director of the andrology lab at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation—and his co-authors in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Agarwal's team studied 361 men under age 40 being evaluated for infertility; men whose personal or family history might explain a low count or other sperm abnormalities were excluded.  The scientists further divided the patients into four groups based on how long they said they talked on a cell phone daily. Researchers then analyzed the men's semen and found a strong link between length of time spent on a cell phone and sperm count and quality.  Men who talked over four hours daily had lower counts, more poor "swimmers," and abnormally formed sperm.  Agarwal said one reason for these effects could be the heat generated by the phones; sperm production is sensitive to temperature.  British infertility specialist Iwan Lewis-Jones, who, like Agarwal, is conducting studies of cell phones' impact on sperm specimens said location of the phone is important.  In ongoing research Agarwal says, he found sperm quality decreases in specimens left sitting next to a phone in talk mode for as little as an hour.

Meanwhile, another new study suggests that frequent cell phone use may increase the risk of cancer.  "The areas of greatest concern for us are the areas that are closet to the antenna and the antenna in most cell phones are in the handset and in the older days we had bag phones and that was down in the car and it was further removed from the body but with handhelds we always hold it up to our ear." said Doctor John Lynch of St. Bernard's Hospital.


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