Can a Cell Phone Increase Your Child's Cancer Risk?

Health & Wellness on 03.01.11
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Last month, my son embarked on the bright and shiny adventure known as Middle School. Suddenly, his academic world quadrupled in size to a 2,000-kid student body populating two campuses traversed by a dark and scary tunnel that goes under the street. (Actually, it was only dark and scary in theory; in reality, it's a fairly bright, very well organized little rabbit warren of transportation.)

Despite what you might believe after seeing"Waiting for Superman," my son's public school classes are awesome; he has two of the most gifted teachers I've ever had the privilege of listening to at Back to School night. And I love that he's meeting new kids of all shapes, creeds, colors and sizes -- including some eighth graders who tower over my husband.

But my son is also learning some pretty serious lessons: The first week, he came home shocked to have seen a boy and a girl kissing behind a building. By the next week, when he turned the same corner to find two girls kissing, he was blase. (I guess Katie Perry did shake some things up in the adolescent world.)

And last week, an older boy threw out some pretty violent racial slurs on the basketball court, which my wise-beyond-his-years son shook off without response. Afterward, we talked about how there are ignorant people of all shapes, creeds, colors and sizes in this world -- the best thing to do is stay away from them.I was honored that he even shared the experience at all.

But this crash course in adulthood made my husband and me a little nervous. So we did what any responsible parents would do: We got him a phone.

Although I was reluctant for so many reasons, equipping my son with a phone has been extremely convenient for us. Not only are we reassured that he can reach us at all times, but with two other kids to carpool around, pick ups are infinitely easier when I can text him to come outside rather than schlepping the Barnacle inside the gates.

But the main reason for reluctance was my vague understanding that cell phones can be dangerous -- especially for tweenagers. Recently, my understanding was clarified by these facts from the non-profit Teens Turning Green, which empowers kids to take responsibility for their own environmental health, through consumer choices and political action. (Witness their latest protest, which shut down a San Francisco Abercrombie & Fitch store.) From TTG to me to you, here are the facts:

More than four billion people have cell phones. Half of those users are under the age of 20.

Long-term cell phone use significantly increases brain tumor risk.

Those who began using cell phones as teens have four to five times greater risk of developing malignant brain tumors.

Maybe that afternoon text isn't so convenient after all.

Thankfully, TTG is realistic about the problem;no teenager would be caught dead without a cell phone at the ready. So they established some guidelines to help our children protect themselves:

1. USE A HEAD SET
Using a speaker, hands-free device, or earphones when talking on a cell phone distances it from the body and head and minimizes exposure to radiation.

2. DON'T CARRY A CELL PHONE ON YOUR BODY
Even when they're not in use, cell phones emit radiation.

3. BEWARE OF A WEAK SIGNAL
When a cell phone is in standby mode or when the signal strength is weak or blocked, exposure to radiation increases. Limit your use at this time.

4. KEEP IT AWAY FROM CHILDREN
Studies consistently show that children are especially vulnerable to the effects of cell phone radiation. Generally, the younger the child, the more at risk he or she is.

5. DON'T LEAVE A CELL PHONE ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND.
You may be sleeping, but your cell phone is busy at work emitting radiation. Charge phones outside of your bedroom.

I may just print these up to pass out at the tunnel.


Tags: Kids Health