T U C S O N
Just like adults, children and teens are exposed to EMFs in their homes from many sources, including smart meters, cell towers, electric wiring, wi-fi routers and a growing list of smart devices. At school they may be exposed to many more—computers and laptops, wireless printers, the cell phones and fitness trackers of their teachers and fellow students, in addition to cell towers installed on or near school grounds.
Let’s get real intelligent and learn about the effects of EMFs on the health of children and teens ... and what you can do to protect them.
Some radiation-emitting products are made just for babies. Wireless baby monitors have been around for a while. Some new products on the market are smart changing pads, smart wearable onesies, smart cribs, and smart diapers with wetness sensors. One online seller of these products advertises that they are “Smart Products for Intelligent Parents and Healthy Babies”.
Parent checking diaper on smart phone
Children and teens are more vulnerable to EMFs
Children and teens are generally at risk for the same symptoms and diseases linked to EMF exposure as adults, and for the same basic reason: damage to their body at the cellular level (see here). However, what has become clear from years of scientific studies is they are more vulnerable to EMFs than adults.
The four reasons why children and teens have higher health risks are:
1. Their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner. This means that the same amount of radiation penetrates more deeply into their brains than adult brains and can reach the most sensitive parts.
2. Their brains have a higher water content. The higher extracellular water content of children’s brains means their brain tissues are more conductive, spreading radiation more widely and potentially amplifying the damage of exposure to EMFs.
3. They are growing. One of the cellular-level effects of EMFs is DNA damage. Because they are growing,
children’s cells are undergoing mitosis (the process of
dividing and multiplying) more rapidly than adults, and
thus DNA damage replicates more rapidly for them.
4. They are younger and have longer lifetime exposure. Greater cumulative exposure means they are more vulnerable to the long-term negative health effects of EMFs, like cancer. And with rapid advances in EMF-emitting technologies, they are increasingly exposed at earlier ages.
deeply into the brains of children
Cell phone radiation penetrates more
Evidence of health risks for children and teens
Most of the health risks we have already learned about were identified in studies of adults, or for entire populations regardless of age. Studies of child and teen populations have confirmed some specific risks for these younger age groups. Here are some examples.
Brain tumors (gliomas and acoustic neuromas) from exposure to cell phones. People who begin using phones before the age of 20 have a 400% increased risk of forming a brain tumor on the side of the head where they hold their phones.
ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) from mothers using cell phones while pregnant or children using them early in their lives. Also from exposure to magnetic fields in utero.
Cognitive dysfunction, behavioral problems and hyperactivity from exposure to cell phone radiation.
Speech problems from exposure to EMFs from cordless phones in utero.
Impaired memory from exposure to cell phones (from a study of teenagers).
Childhood leukemia from exposure to magnetic fields from power lines.
Asthma from exposure to magnetic fields in utero.
Risks to fetuses
Impaired fetal growth (lower birth weight, thinner skinfold thickness, and smaller head circumference) from exposure to magnetic fields in utero.
Increased risk of miscarriage from exposure to magnetic fields in utero.
The sensitive teenage brain
Human brain development does not stop in early childhood
as was previously believed. When kids hit adolescence,
their brain development speeds up sharply.
Neural pathways build out to strengthen
connections between brain cells, and the
prefrontal cortex (the center of executive
functioning) matures. Neuroscientists are
now calling adolescence the “new 0 to 3
years” because teens are learning at the
same extraordinary rate they did as babies and toddlers.
However this time of heightened learning is also one of heightened sensitivity to environmental stresses—lack of sleep, poor nutrition, drugs, alcohol, and addictive screen technology (e.g., social media and gaming). While so far there have been few studies of EMFs and teen brain functioning, it would not be a stretch to add their soaring exposure to wireless radiation to this list of environmental stressors.
Effects of screen use: Psychological, physical… or both?
As children’s and teen’s use of screen technology for socializing and entertainment has skyrocketed, awareness has risen of the negative effects of this screen time on their mental health and cognitive abilities. Some 40 books on parenting around screen use have now been written, along with many websites providing information and support as well as documentaries on the subject.
Research is ongoing. But parents should be aware that all of the hypothesized and proven negative effects of screen time on children’s and teen’s mental health and learning (e.g., lowered literacy and executive function, ADHD, depression, anxiety) could at least partly be linked to EMF exposure. This is because EMFs affect their brain functioning and are usually present to provide the information on the screens—all the more reason to take steps to protect them and teach them safe technology use.
See Dr. Martin Pall’s 2020 opinion on this topic in JAMA Pediatrics here.
What you can do to protect children and teens
Government regulations on EMFs do not protect adults and, given their greater vulnerability to health risks, certainly not children and teens. It is up to parents and caregivers to take safety measures while science and government regulations progress.
The best way to protect children and teens from the health risks of EMFs is to reduce their exposure to safe levels. You can start doing this with an assessment of EMF levels in their bedrooms, study spaces, and play areas. EMF Wellness provides professional assessments of all four types of EMFs and advises on how to mitigate them. Click here to learn about our services.
But there are many things you can do that make a big difference without bringing us in.
1. Turn off your Wi-Fi router at night
2. Don’t buy “smart” things you don’t need
3. Keep electronics out of childrens' and teens' bedrooms
4. Don’t buy or allow them to use wireless ear buds
5. Teach them about safe technology use from a young age to establish good habits.
Click here for more tips for protecting children and teens from ShieldYourBody.com.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that families not panic over the research showing negative effects of EMFs, but instead use it as a good reminder to limit children’s screen time and their exposure to EMF-emitting devices. It advocates for more research into how cell phones affect children’s health and a review of cell phone radiation standards to make sure children are protected. See AAP's cell phone safety tips for families here.
Protection for babies before and after birth
Learn about protecting babies from EMFs at Baby Safe Project.org.
Dr. Devra Davis, U.C. Berkeley, Environmental Health Trust.
"Most pregnant women understand that they should stay away from cigarette smoke, avoid alcohol and be careful about eating potentially contaminated foods of any kind. The weight of evidence clearly supports the need to protect pregnant women from wireless radiation exposures as well".