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Medical Issues for Infants and Children

A comprehensive review of this topic can be found in the Bioinitiative 2012 report (http://www.bioinitiative.org). This 1479-page document reviews all relevant studies exploring the implications of electromagnetic exposure—for humans of any age. This panel of international experts first produced a full report in 2006, with this 2012 update reviewing about 1800 new studies.

In “Summary for the Public,” the authors of the report make the following strong recommendations concerning infants and children:

“Strong precautionary action and clear public health warnings are warranted immediately to help prevent a global epidemic of brain tumors resulting from the use of wireless devices (mobile phones and cordless phones). Common sense measures to limit both ELF-EMF and RFR in the fetus and newborn infant (sensitive populations) are needed, especially with respect to avoidable exposures like baby monitors in the crib and baby isolettes (incubators) in hospitals that can be modified; and where education of the pregnant mother with respect to laptop computers, mobile phones and other sources of ELF-EMF and RFR are easily instituted. Wireless laptops and other wireless devices should be strongly discouraged in schools for children of all ages.”

Here’s a link to this very readable “Summary for the Public.” http://www.bioinitiative.org/report/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/sec01_2012_summary_for_public.pdf

Here are excerpts from that summary:

B. Evidence that Children are More Vulnerable: Many studies demonstrate that children are more sensitive to environmental toxins of various kinds (See Section 24 for references - Barouki et al, 2012; Preston, 2004; WHO, 2002; Gee, 2009; Sly and Carpenter, 2012). Some studies report that the fetus and young children are at greater risk than are adults from exposure to environmental toxins. This is consistent with a large body of information showing that the fetus and young child are more vulnerable than older persons are to chemicals and ionizing radiation. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes a 10-fold risk adjustment for the first 2 years of life exposure to carcinogens, and a 3-fold adjustment for years 3 to 5. These adjustments do not deal with fetal risk, and the possibility of extending this protection to the fetus should be examined, because of fetus’ rapid organ development.

The Presidential Cancer Panel (2010) found that children “are at special risk due to their smaller body mass and rapid physical development, both of which magnify their vulnerability to known carcinogens, including radiation.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a letter to Congressman Dennis Kucinich dated 12 December 2012 states: “Children are disproportionately affected by environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation. The differences in bone density and the amount of fluid in a child’s brain compared to an adult’s brain could allow children to absorb greater quantities of RF energy deeper into their brains than adults. It is essential that any new standards for cell phones or other wireless devices be based on protecting the youngest and most vulnerable populations to ensure they are safeguarded through their lifetimes.”

The issue around exposure of children to RFR is of critical importance. There is overwhelming evidence that children are more vulnerable than adults to many different exposures (Sly and Carpenter, 2012), including RFR, and that the diseases of greatest concern are cancer and effects on neurodevelopment. Yet parents place RFR-emitting baby monitors in cribs, provide very young children with wireless toys, and give cell phones to young children, usually without any knowledge of the potential dangers. A growing concern is the movement to make all student computer laboratories in schools wireless. A wired computer laboratory will not increase RFR exposure, and will provide safe access to the internet (Section, Sage and Carpenter, BioInitiative 2012 Report).

C.Evidence for Fetal and Neonatal Effects: Effects on the developing fetus from in-utero exposure to cell phone radiation have been observed in both human and animal studies since 2006. Sources of fetal and neonatal exposures of concern include cell phone radiation (both paternal use of wireless devices worn on the body and maternal use of wireless phones during pregnancy). Sources include exposure to whole-body RFR from base stations and WI-FI, use of wireless laptops, use of incubators for newborns with excessively high ELF-EMF levels resulting in altered heart rate variability and reduced melatonin levels in newborns, fetal exposures to MRI of the pregnant mother, and greater susceptibility to leukemia and asthma in the child where there have been maternal exposures to ELF-EMF. Divan et al (2008) found that children born to mothers who used cell phones during pregnancy develop more behavioral problems by the time they have reached school age than children whose mothers did not use cell phones during pregnancy. Children whose mothers used cell phones during pregnancy had 25% more emotional problems, 35% more hyperactivity, 49% more conduct problems and 34% more peer problems (Divan et al, 2008). Aldad et al (2012) showed that cell phone radiation significantly altered fetal brain development and produced ADHD-like behavior in the offspring of pregnant mice. Exposed mice had a dose-dependent impaired glutamatergic synaptic transmission onto Layer V pyramidal neurons of the prefrontal cortex. The authors conclude the behavioral changes were the result of altered neuronal developmental programming in utero. Offspring mice were hyperactive and had impaired memory function and behavior problems, much like the human children in Divan et al (2008). See Sections 19 and 20 for references. Fragopoulou et al (2012) reports that brain astrocyte development followed by proteomic studies is adversely affected by DECT (cordless phone radiation) and mobile phone radiation.

Fetal (in-utero) and early childhood exposures to cell phone radiation and wireless technologies in general may be a risk factor for hyperactivity, learning disorders and behavioral problems in school.

Common sense measures to limit both ELF-EMF and RF EMF in these populations is needed, especially with respect to avoidable exposures like incubators that can be modified; and where education of the pregnant mother with respect to laptop computers, mobile phones and other sources of ELF-EMF and RF EMF are easily instituted.

A precautionary approach may provide the frame for decision-making where remediation actions have to be realized to prevent high exposures of children and pregnant woman. (Bellieni and Pinto, 2012 – Section 19)

D. Evidence for Effects on Autism (Autism Spectrum Disorders) Physicians and health care practitioners should raise the visibility of EMF/RFR as a plausible environmental factor in ASD clinical evaluations and treatment protocols. Reducing or removing EMF and wireless RFR stressors from the environment is a reasonable precautionary action given the overall weight of evidence for a link to ASDs.

Several thousand scientific studies over four decades point to serious biological effects and health harm from EMF and RFR. These studies report genotoxicity, single and double-strand DNA damage, chromatin condensation, loss of DNA repair capacity in human stem cells, reduction in free-radical scavengers (particularly melatonin), abnormal gene transcription, neurotoxicity, carcinogenicity, damage to sperm morphology and function, effects on behavior, and effects on brain development in the fetus of human mothers that use cell phones during pregnancy. Cell phone exposure has been linked to altered fetal brain development and ADHD-like behavior in the offspring of pregnant mice

Many disrupted physiological processes and impaired behaviors in people with ASDs closely resemble those related to biological and health effects of EMF/RFR exposure. Biomarkers and indicators of disease and their clinical symptoms have striking similarities. At the cellular and molecular level many studies of people with ASDs have identified oxidative stress and evidence of free-radical damage, as well as deficiencies of antioxidants such as glutathione. Elevated intracellular calcium in ASDs can be associated with genetic mutations but more often may be downstream of inflammation or chemical exposures. Lipid peroxidation of cell membranes, disruption of calcium metabolism, altered brain wave activity and consequent sleep, behavior and immune disfunction, pathological leakage of critical barriers between gut and blood or blood and brain may also occur. Mitochondria may function poorly, and immune system disturbances of various kinds are common. Changes in brain and autonomic nervous system electrophysiology can be measured and seizures are far more common than in the population at large. Sleep disruption and high levels of stress are close to universal. All of these phenomena have also been documented to result from or be modulated by EMF/RFR exposure.

  • Children with existing neurological problems that include cognitive, learning, attention, memory, or behavioral problems should as much as possible be provided with wired (not wireless) learning, living and sleeping environments.
  • Special education classrooms should observe 'no wireless' conditions to reduce avoidable stressors that may impede social, academic and behavioral progress.
  • All children should reasonably be protected from the physiological stressor of significantly elevated EMF/RFR (wireless in classrooms, or home environments)
  • School districts that are now considering all-wireless learning environments should be strongly cautioned that wired environments are likely to provide better learning and teaching environments, and prevent possible adverse health consequences for both students and faculty in the long-term.
  • Monitoring of the impacts of wireless technology in learning and care environments should be performed with sophisticated measurement and data analysis techniques that are cognizant of the non-linear impacts of EMF/RFR and of data techniques most appropriate for discerning these impacts.
  • There is sufficient scientific evidence to warrant the selection of wired internet, wired classrooms and wired learning devices, rather than making an expensive and potentially health-harming commitment to wireless devices that may have to be substituted out later.
  • Wired classrooms should reasonably be provided to all students who opt-out of wireless environments. (Herbert and Sage, 2012 – Section 20)

The public needs to know that these risks exist, that transition to wireless should not be presumed safe, and that it is very much worth the effort to minimize exposures that still provide the benefits of technology in learning, but without the threat of health risk and development impairments to learning and behavior in the classroom.

Broader recommendations also apply, related to reducing the physiological vulnerability to exposures, reduce allostatic load and build physiological resiliency through high quality nutrition, reducing exposure to toxicants and infectious agents, and reducing stress, all of which can be implemented safely based upon presently available knowledge.

K. Evidence for Cancer (Childhood Leukemia): With overall 42 epidemiological studies published to date power frequency EMFs are among the most comprehensively studied environmental factors. Except ionizing radiation no other environmental factor has been as firmly established to increase the risk of childhood leukemia.

Sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies of an increased risk from exposure to EMF (power frequency magnetic fields) that cannot be attributed to chance, bias or confounding. Therefore, according to the rules of IARC such exposures can be classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (Known Carcinogen). (Kundi, 2012 – Section 12) There is no other risk factor identified so far for which such unlikely conditions have been put forward to postpone or deny the necessity to take steps towards exposure reduction. As one step in the direction of precaution, measures should be implemented to guarantee that exposure due to transmission and distribution lines is below an average of about 1 mG. This value is arbitrary at present and only supported by the fact that in many studies this level has been chosen as a reference. (Kundi, 2012 – Section 12)

The entire report is available on-line. http://www.bioinitiative.org.