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Debate Over Cellphone Safety for Kids Continues

The American Academy of Pediatrics has chimed in on a report about the safety of cellphones for children. (V.Carter)
The American Academy of Pediatrics has chimed in on a report about the safety of cellphones for children. (V.Carter)
November 7, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Evidence is mounting that cellphones may not be as safe as we think. Earlier this year a study by the National Toxicology Program found that exposure to wireless radiation significantly increased the prevalence of highly malignant heart and brain cancers in rodents.

CTIA, the wireless industry association, has said that it's reviewing the study and that previous studies have shown no established health effects from radio-frequency signals used in cellphones. Regardless, new recommendations for children’s cell phone use were issued this fall by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Ronald Melnick is retired from the National Toxicology Program and National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and is now a scientific adviser at the Environmental Health Trust. He said cellphones emit radiation, so the more we can keep them off the body, the safer we will be - especially children.

"The penetration of the cellphone radiation into the brain of a child is deeper and greater,” Melnick said. "Also, the developing nervous system of a child is potentially more susceptible to a damaging agent."

The AAP recommends that cellphone use be very limited for children, and that when they are used, it should be primarily to text. If children do use a cellphone for calls, they advise the device be kept an inch or more away from the head.

All cell phone users are advised to avoid carrying phones against the body such as in a pocket, sock or bra. Melnick said cellphone manufacturers can't guarantee that the amount of radiation users absorb will be at a safe level.

Theodora Scarato, director of public policy and education affairs at the Environmental Health Trust, is a mother. She said she used to believe that what can be baught at the store is safe and has been tested for safety. But she said she no longer believes that is the case.

"If it were a drug it would be banned, or at least there would be a list of 'these side effects have been reported' or at least, 'We don't really know what the long-term effect is,’” Scarato said. “But we're not really given any information and little babies are given these phones."

She said it's hard as a parent to tell your children they can't have a cellphone, or to strictly limit the use of other electronics, but her family has done just that.

"It has not been easy making some of the changes we've made, but once we've done it we're doing fine!” Scarano said. “And I'm actually really thankful that we don't have devices beeping and interrupting all the time. Because there's nothing more important that my children's health."

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL