We've all done it. We've handed our cell phone to our preschooler, toddler, and even our infant to distract or entertain her. At the time, it seemed like a harmless way to survive the grocery store or the car ride. Many of us have also given in to the teenager's concern over the need for a cell phone. But that little device that we have all come to rely on can cause some serious harm.

Cell Phone Radiation

The World Health Organization recently added cell phone use to a list of carcinogen hazards that includes lead, engine exhaust, and chloroform. The decision was based on the findings that cell phone use leads to an increased risk for glioma, a type of brain cancer in "heavy users." Heavy users were defined as those who use their cell phone for 30 minutes every day, and tumors were found mostly on the side of the head where the cell phone was most often used.

Children Are More Susceptible

Because of their developing system and thinner skulls, children are more vulnerable to the effects of cell phone radiation. In a 2008 article published by the Environmental Health Perspective, Leeka Kheifets, an epidemiology professor at UCLA states,

"Concerns about children's potential vulnerability to RF [radiofrequency] fields have been raised because of the potentially greater susceptibility of their developing nervous systems. In addition, their brain tissue is more conductive, RF penetration is greater relative to head size, and they will have a longer lifetime of exposure."

A study in the June 7, 2008 issue of Physics in Medicine and Biology confirms this, saying that a child's brain absorbs up to twice as much RF as an adult's. This could be dangerous for their growing brains and rapidly dividing cells. In addition, the California Department of Health Services found that EMF exposure is a risk factor for childhood leukemia and other conditions.

What You Can Do to Limit Your Family's Exposure

  • Cell phones are a great tool to use in an emergency situation and parents should have one on hand when away from home, whether at the playground or traveling. But that should be the extent of your cell phone use. If you've done away with your landline, bring it back.
  • Don't use your phone when the signal is low. Your phone is working harder to make the call and is therefore emitting more radiation.
  • Choose texting over talking. Your phone emits less radiation when you send a text than when you make a call.
  • Use a headset when on your cell phone. If you don't have one, put it on speaker and hold the phone away from your body.
  • If you do have to use your cell phone, put your baby down somewhere safe and move away from other children. If you are unable to leave the area where your children are, don't answer the cell phone or make the call unless it is an emergency.
  • Don't let your child play with the phone because, even when not in use, it is releasing some radiation. Never let your child talk on your cell phone unless it is an emergency.
  • Don't let your child have a cell phone until she is at least 16 years old. A British study by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones found that children are more vulnerable to health risks associated with cell phones until about age 16.
  • Don't buy a radiation shield. By blocking a bit of radiation, they force the phone to work harder at connecting and therefore the phone releases even more radiation.
  • Purchase a cell phone that emits less radiation. The Environmental Working Group website includes a widget that allows you to see what level of radiation your phone releases and compare it to other phones.

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