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General Health : Environment Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Cell phone use during pregnancy may cause behavioral problems in children
By Sue Mueller
May 21, 2008 - 11:35:51 AM

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WEDNESDAY MAY 21, 2008 ( -- Prenatal and postnatal use of cell phones may affect children’s brain causing behavioral problems in the children, according to a new study published in the May 7 issue of Epidemiology.

The study found women who used cell phone while pregnant were more likely to give birth to children with behavioral problems.  The risk of developing behavioral and emotional problems is higher if children themselves used cell phones before the age of seven.

The study of more than 13,000 children showed that using the handsets just two or three times a day was enough to raise the risk of hyperactivity and difficulties with conduct, emotions and relationship in the children by the time they researched school age.

Media reports that the official Russian radiation watchdog body known as The Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection warned against both pregnant women and children using cell phone and claimed that the risk cell phones poses is not much lower than the risk to children's health from tobacco or alcohol.

The study was conducted by researchers from UCLA School of Public Health and Institute of Public Health University of Aarhus in Aarhus, Denmark.

But what makes the study particularly significant, according to a UK newspaper Independent, is that one of the authors has been skeptical that cell phones pose a risk to health.

Dr. Leeka Kheifets, a UCLA professor, serves on a key committee of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, which sets the guidelines for exposure to cell phones or mobile phones, according to the Independent.  

Kheifets reportedly wrote three and a half years ago that studies on cell phone users "to date give no consistent evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to radiofrequency fields and any adverse health effect" as cited by the Independent.

For the study, the researchers followed 13,000 mothers who were recruited to the Danish National Birth Cohort early in pregnancy and whose children reached 7 years of age in 2005 and 2006.  The mothers were surveyed for the health and behavioral status of their children and exposure to cell phone use during and after their pregnancies.

After adjustment for potential confounders, they found those children who were exposed prenatally and postnatally to cell phone use were 80 percent more likely to have behavioral problems.  

Compared to children whose mothers who did not use cell phone, the risk for children whose mothers used cell phones during pregnancy was 54 percent higher and the risk increased with the amount of potential exposure to the radiation.

The researchers also found children whose mothers used cell phones during pregnancy were 25 percent more likely to have emotional problems, 34 percent more likely to have difficulties relating to their peers, 35 percent more likely to be hyperactive and 49 percent more likely to have conduct problems, the Independent reports.

They concluded "Exposure to cell phones prenatally-and, to a lesser degree, postnatally-was associated with behavioral difficulties such as emotional and hyperactivity problems around the age of school entry. These associations may be noncausal and may be due to unmeasured confounding. If real, they would be of public health concern given the widespread use of this technology."

While this study was not meant to reveal any causal relationship between prenatal use of cell phones and increased risk of children's behavioral problems, some experts tend to believe that the effect of the cell phones on children's health is real.

Dr. Sam Milham from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the University of Washington School of Public Health, one pioneer of research in this field, was cited by the Independent as saying last week that he trusted that the results were real.  

According to Dr. Milham, cited again by the newspaper, recent Canadian research on pregnant rats showed exposure to similar radiation resulted in structural changes in their offspring's brains.


Epidemiology. 2008 May 7.
Prenatal and Postnatal Exposure to Cell Phone Use and Behavioral Problems in Children.
Divan HA, Kheifets L, Obel C, Olsen J.
From the a Department of Epidemiology, UCLA School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; and bInstitute of Public Health, Department of General Practice, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark.

© 2004-2008 by unless otherwise specified

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