Phones are everywhere. It’s no wonder that many current and expectant parents may wonder whether phone radiation could be harmful to babies. The truth is, phones have never been as prolific as they are now. And it may be some time before we truly understand the long-term consequences of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation. Especially on vulnerable populations such as infants and babies.
So, is phone radiation harmful to babies? Yes, phone radiation is harmful to babies. Research shows effects range from low birth weight and behavioral issues from prenatal exposure to childhood leukemia and autism spectrum disorders in babies. In this article, we’ll dive into the research. Ultimately you will see, it is prudent to take caution and limit (or eliminate) phone radiation exposure to babies.
Here’s what you need to know about the potential for phone radiation to harm babies (or pregnant women), and what you can do to potentially reduce their risk.
The Research: Phone Radiation and Prenatal Exposure
Phone radiation exposure and its effects on babies starts before they’re even born. There are many studies on prenatal exposure wireless communications exposure to babies.
A 2019 study from the Department of Health Statistics, School of Public Health and Management at Weifang Medical University in Shandong, China found extremely low frequency (ELF) exposure was associated with lower birth weights in girls:
Compared with girls with lower prenatal ELF-MF exposure, girls with higher exposure had a lower birth weight, thinner skinfold of triceps, abdomen and back, and smaller circumference of head, upper arm and abdomen in all three ELF-MF matrices. The differences were statistically significant for birth weight and most other growth measurements (P < 0.05)Ren, Y., Chen, J., Miao, M. et al.
A 2017 study found associations between maternal cell phone use during pregnancy and behavioral issues with children later on. Behavioral issues range from hyperactivity and inattention to emotional problems.
Overall, 38.8% of mothers, mostly from the Danish cohort, reported no cell phone use during pregnancy and these mothers were less likely to have a child with overall behavioral, hyperactivity/inattention or emotional problems. Evidence for a trend of increasing risk of child behavioral problems through the maternal cell phone use categories was observed for hyperactivity/inattention problems…among children of medium and high users, respectively). This association was fairly consistent across cohorts and between cohorts with retrospectively and prospectively collected cell phone use data.Birks, L., Guxens, M., Papadopoulou, E., Alexander, J., Ballester, F., Estarlich, M., … Vrijheid, M.
The BabySafe Project is an excellent resource for reading the latest research on the impact of wireless communication on the health of babies.
The Research: Phone Radiation and the Effects on Babies
After a review of many studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found evidence of an association between childhood leukemia and exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields.
This led to their classification of ELF radiation as a “possible human carcinogen” in their report: IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Volume 80 (read the entire report – it’s very illuminating).
Research in this 2012 report authored by Dr. Martha Herbert, PhD, MD from Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School reviewed the association between EMF exposure, such as that from wireless communications, and autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wrote an open letter in 2012 expressing concerns for pregnant women, child and teens related to their cell phone use. In the letter, AAP, which represents over 60,000 pediatricians stated:
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.American Academy of Pediatrics (2012)
At an event called, “Cell Phones and WiFi–Are Children, Fetuses and Fertility at Risk?”, co-sponsored by ElectriomagneticHealth.org and Environmental Health Trust, Dr. Hugh Taylor speaks about ADHD risk seen in mice exposed to cell phone radiation:
Why are Babies and Children So Susceptible to Cell Phone Radiation?
You might wonder why babies suffer from all these health effects of cell phone radiation.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) concludes children absorb more radiation because their skills are simply thinner. This places cell physically phones closer to their brains.
What’s scarier to think about is consider the lifetime exposure to cell phone radiation babies born in the last decade (and in the future will have). At least many of us had years of brain, skull and body development before cell phones were all around us.
In 2013, the American Academy of Environmental medicine
How Can You Protect Babies from Phone Radiation?
In any situation, it’s prudent to avoid radiation when possible. For babies, adults can reduce the amount of radiofrequency radiation by:
- Keep your phone a minimum of 3 feet away from a baby. This is simple and straightforward, keep phones at a distance from babies.
- Keeping calls shorter in nature. Calls can be reserved for emergency situations or situations in which information has to be conveyed quickly. Still don’t take them while holding your baby
- Use an EMF reducing cell phone case. These have the bonus of protecting you from cell phone radiation too.
- Use an air tube headset to distance the phone from your body.
- Turn off wifi anytime it’s not in use. Check out our guide on turning wifi off on all your devices and within the house.
There’s no getting around the fact children today are exposed to phone radiation for their entire lives (starting in utero). Phones and their EMFs are everywhere and that exposure is harmful. But there are things you can do to limit that exposure.
Speaking of reducing exposure, read up on our article on the benefits of turning off wifi at night.
Ren, Y., Chen, J., Miao, M. et al. Prenatal exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic field and its impact on fetal growth. Environ Health 18, 6 (2019) doi:10.1186/s12940-019-0447-9
Birks, L., Guxens, M., Papadopoulou, E., Alexander, J., Ballester, F., Estarlich, M., … Vrijheid, M. (2017). Maternal cell phone use during pregnancy and child behavioral problems in five birth cohorts. Environment international, 104, 122–131. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2017.03.024
International Organization for Research on Cancer. IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. Non-ionizing radiation, Part I: static and extremely low-frequency electric and magnetic fields. Vol. 80. Lyon: IARC; 2002.