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Protect children in the digital age by reducing wireless radiation

In these days of digitalization of the world from smart-toothbrushes to baby monitors, few are asking about the long term impact on the developing brain and body from growing up in a sea of radiofrequency radiation that did not exist even four years ago. While pregnancy remains a time of intense interest in protecting mother and child, the need for protection does not end with birth. Research from around the world indicates that the rapidly growing young child faces special vulnerabilities to toxic chemicals as well as to wireless radiation. This article reviews the latest evidence on cell phone radiation and other digital wireless transmitting devices and provides simple guides to raising smarter and healthier children

“But everyone else has one!” is heard increasingly in pre-Kindergartens and elementary schools. There are iPhone and iPad plastic baby teething rattle cases. But, in fact there are no test standards for the safety of these devices nor for the thousands of apps that can be installed for infants and toddlers.

No research has been carried out to show that using such devices early in life provides any advantage in learning or development. There are growing reasons for concerns about what all this means for the young mind and body. So, why give your four year old a smartphone or digital toy?


Do establish an electronic bedtime

Establish an electronic bedtime so that all screens and tech are turned off an hour (preferably two) before bed. Research shows the blue light from screens and the wireless radiation disrupts sleep patterns. Ensure bedrooms are free of all screens and wireless devices. Power off all wireless devices in your bedroom. Consider powering off wireless devices in your home. This includes routers, gaming consoles, home cordless phone bases and mobile phones. Be sure to charge cell phones away from sleeping areas. Don’t sleep with an active cell phone. Use airplane mode if you need the alarm function.

Do take precautions with your children

Research is revealing that wireless radiation could pose serious health risks and it could take decades to understand the effects. The best approach with children is precautionary: Reduce their exposure. When you hand a child any tech device such as a cell phone or tablet or laptop, be sure to turn the Airplane/Flight mode on and the WiFi off. These network settings will disable the antennas and stop the device from transmitting radiation. Keep children at a distance from cell phones and other wireless devices. Cell phones and tablets should not be used as toys.

Do use wired not wireless connections when possible

Simple choices at home can make a huge difference in your family's daily exposure. Connect your home phone, printer, speakers, and entertainment gear by a cord or cable with all wireless features off. Remove the Wi-Fi router and get a non-wireless router. If you cannot remove it, turn it off when not in use, put it on a timer or turn it off every night. Make sure it is located far away from living areas. Each time you choose a cord instead of wireless you are decreasing sources of radiation in your home. Exposure is cumulative so it makes sense to decrease exposure whenever you can.

Do take precautions with your cell phone

Parents need to protect their brains too! Always use a headset or speaker when using a cellphone and keep the phone at a distance from your body. Research shows that people who used cell phones for more than 30 minutes a day for ten years have a doubled risk of brain cancer. Those who started as teenagers have 4 to 5 times more risk. Children’s brains are developing through the teen years and are more vulnerable than adults. Such research resulted in the The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classifying wireless radiation known as radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as a “possible human carcinogen. “(Group 2B) in 2011. EHT scientists concluded in 2013 that new evidence indicates that such radiation is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Do turn your cell phone off when not in use

Cell phones emit radiation even when they are not in active use. Every minute they are checking in with the nearby tower via short bursts of radiation called a tower handshake. iPads and Computers also connect like this with the router. You can easily decrease your family's firsthand and secondhand radiation exposure by turning off cell phones, wireless networks and devices whenever you aren't actively using them.


Do not use your cell phone in the car

Unless your phone antenna runs through your card radio, turn wireless devices off in the car. Devices emit higher radiation searching for closer cell towers as the car travels on the road. The metal surroundings of your car further intensifies the exposure because the radiation bounces back. Going on a road trip? Download music and movies onto your devices at home so that you can turn the WIFI off when you are in the car.

Do not carry your cell phone in your bra or pocket

Never carry cell phones against your body. Cell phones have fine print safety warnings that recommend people keep phones at a distance from their body. Case reports are accumulating of young women with no history of breast cancer getting a diagnosis of breast cancer that develops under the antennas of the phone years after storing their cell phones in their bra. Wireless radiation has also been shown to damage sperm. Research shows that men who carry cell phones in their pants pocket have lower sperm counts and higher rates of erectile dysfunction. Power off devices before storing them near your body.

Do not rest wireless tech on your belly if you are pregnant

If you are pregnant, do not rest your cell phone, tablet or laptop on or near your abdomen. Research shows that prenatal wireless exposure can result in neurological damage to offspring. A recent Yale study showed that exposed mice had increased hyperactivity and decreased memory. Many doctors are recommending that pregnant women decrease exposure.

Do not keep a baby monitor right next to your baby

Cordless baby monitors emit constant radiation into the nursery all night long. Children’s nervous systems and immune systems are developing at a rapid rate, so small exposures can have large effects later in life. Children also have more active stem cells which have been shown to be more impacted by microwave radiation exposure.

Do not keep your home cordless phone

Swap out your cordless home phone for a corded land line phone. DECT phone bases emit constant 24/7 radiation and constitute a primary source of exposure in the home. Order a longer headset cord so you can move about the room. Some cordless phones made in Switzerland by Siemens are programmed to operate only when talking. These eco-dect phones, unlike most sold in the U.S., do not emit radiation 24/7.

Jumping cartoon

Simple steps like these can help safeguard your family's health. Our children will have a lifetime of exposure to wireless radiation and authorities around the world are recommending precautions. Children absorb more wireless radiation than adults and are more vulnerable to its effects. With accumulating research removing any safety assurances we once had, it simply makes sense to decrease unnecessary exposures to children whenever you can.

The absence of definitive research on the health impacts of wireless radiation should not be confused with proof of safety. Assuming things are safe until we have incontrovertible evidence they are not—as happened with tobacco and asbestos—is not a path we can afford to take.

Move forward into the 21st century by using technology more intelligently and with respect for future generations.

More expert advice about Children's Health

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Devra Davis, PhD MPHPresident and Founder

Devra Davis, PhD, is president and founder of the Environmental Health Trust, She lectures at UCSF, Berkeley, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Harvard, and other universities, and was founding director of the Center for Environmental Onco...

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