A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

A few more words about the potential health risks to children from mobile phones...

August 5, 2005

A literature review on the topic by Luc Martens of Belgium’s Ghent University was posted on the Bioelectromagnetics Web site a few days ago. Anyone who doubts how little we know about all this should check it out.

Not counting the abstract, references and acknowledgments, the review runs just three pages —that’s it. There’s not much to say because we don’t know much.

Even the relatively long-running controversy over whether children absorb more radiation than adults due to their thinner skulls and whether the radiation penetrates deeper into their heads —sometimes referred to as Salt Lake City vs. Zurich or Gandhi vs. Kuster— remains unresolved (see MWN, N/D01, p.8). Or as Martens puts it, “There is still an inconsistency in the literature.”

The fact is that most of the literature on cell phone health risks is inconsistent. Not only don’t we know whether the unlimited use of mobile phones is riskier for children than for adults, we don’t know how great the risk is for adults.

Regardless of all this uncertainty, U.S. mobile companies, ever hungry for more profits, are now targeting children as young as six. The health issue is so far off the radar screen that in the last week, Time, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal have all run major stories on the selling of kiddie phones. Not one of them even mentioned health concerns.

Youri Grigoriev of the Institute of Biophysics in Moscow predicted this would happen after Eric van Rongen and the Health Council of the Netherlands’ finding that there is no scientific rationale to limit children’s use of cell phones.

To be fair, van Rongen is hardly alone. As we have made clear in earlier postings, the World Health Organization (led by Mike Repacholi) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (led by Paolo Vecchia) are similarly more concerned with maintaining scientific integrity than with addressing uncertain health impacts.

Here’s how Grigoriev closed his response to van Rongen and the other members of the council: “The resolution of the Health Council of the Netherlands that it ‘sees no reason for recommending limiting the use of mobile phones by children,’ opens the way for aggressive advertisement of a ‘cellular phone for each child’ and the possibility of using cellular phones by children without limit or control.”

That was last year. This year it has all come to pass.