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Is that a phone in your pocket...?

I know 4 year olds who can navigate their way around a smart phone better than I can. Although in saying that so could a blind, one armed monkey. I’m not renowned for my tech savvy abilities. It still amazes me though, how completely normal it is to see kids playing on phones everywhere you go.

Technology can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to enjoy a meal with friends and the kids start to play up. I will admit on occasion I have even surrendered to my child’s relentless pleas to ‘just play one game’ just so I can finish my meal in peace. However, I have enforced some rules around using phones, iPads and laptops for reasons you may not have considered.

Apart from the obvious and much discussed issue of too much screen time causing our kids to become anti-social, hyperactive morons, there are other issues which I believe are more concerning. Radiofrequency Radiation (RFR) is emitted from all wireless technology. Microwave radiation is a subsection of the radiofrequency band on the electromagnetic spectrum. All wireless devices; laptops, iPads, smart phones, cordless phones, baby monitors, wifi, wireless alarm systems, phone towers and microwave ovens emit microwaves.

“Yes but RFR is harmless,” I hear you say. Well not exactly. In 2011 the WHO1 classified RFR like that emitted from cell phones as a class 2B carcinogen, possibly carcinogenic to humans. This was because of overwhelming evidence from peer reviewed scientific studies that RFR increases the risk of acoustic neuroma and Glioma - a malignant brain cancer. Many independent scientists are calling for that classification to be upgraded to a class 2A-probable carcinogen. Many industry funded scientists are calling for it to be downgraded.

So what does that mean? It means that phones and iPads are not toys. They are two-way microwave radiating devices. Studies have shown an increased risk of brain tumours, salivary gland tumours, weakened sperm production, quality and motility, weakened cell membranes, blood brain barrier permeation, DNA damage and a host of other problems.

ICNIRP3 set safety standards for RFR in the 90’s which are based on thermal effects, that is, the point at which your organs heat up. Since then it is well established that non-ionising radiation causes biological effects at much, much lower levels. Regulatory agencies such as the FCC4 and ARPANSA5 base their guidelines on this outdated advice. Without going into all the reasons why the safety standards set by the regulatory bodies are inadequate and not protective of public health (that is a blog for another time) let’s just look at what the fine print warnings in your phone or iPad say. All manufacturers of smart phones and tablets provide a warning such as:

Apple....Only use carrying cases, belt clips or holders that provide at least 5/8 inch separation between your body and the cell phone... only use accessories that do not have metal parts.

When using a built in audio-receiver, always hold your cell phone with the dock connector pointed down toward your shoulder to increase your separation from the antenna.

iPAD ....To increase separation from the antenna, located at the top edge, orient the iPad in portrait mode with the home button at the bottom...

Motorola ....2.5cm away from body when transmitting. ...low levels of RF could accelerate the development of cancer in lab animals. In one study, mice genetically altered to be predisposed to developing one type of cancer developed more than twice as many cancers when they were exposed to RF energy compared to controls.

Blackberry –...always use a rim approved holster ... keep your cell phone .98 inches from your body, especially the abdomen of pregnant women and the lower abdomen of teenagers.

A holster? A belt clip? Seriously? I haven’t seen one of those since 1996. So I guess someone should tell all the teenagers not to carry their phones in their front pocket right next to their reproductive organs or in their bra and to start sporting a holster.

If you disregard the cautions, which you have probably never seen because let’s face it only nerds like me paw through the user manual to find the safety advice, you may exceed FCC regulations. WHAT?!! If you hold a phone against your ear, place a phone in your pocket or put an iPad on your lap you may receive more radiation than is recommended by the FCC. That’s right those ridiculously high guidelines that only consider at what point you will start to cook.

So you see phones are not toys but that doesn’t mean you have to throw them out and start living like the Amish. There are some really simple things you can do to protect yourself and especially to protect your kids.

  • Switch the phone/iPad to airplane mode. Kids should only ever use a phone or iPad on 'airplane’ mode with the wifi switched to ‘off’. Download movies onto the ipad so they don’t have to access the internet. Only let them play apps that don’t connect them to the internet.

  • No iPads or laptops on laps ever! Even if it’s on airplane mode it is a good habit to teach kids when they are young that laptops are not for laps.

  • Don’t carry your phone in your pocket unless it’s on airplane mode. Carry it in a bag.

  • If you have a pram do not place the phone in the pram pocket near the baby’s head.

  • Don’t charge phones in the bedroom and definitely do not let your teenagers sleep with a phone under their pillow. If you need your phone in the bedroom for the alarm then put it on airplane mode.

  • When making a call use speakerphone or airtube headphones and keep it short.

  • Texting is better than calling.

For more tips on how to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields go here

1 WHO – World Health Organisation 2 Bioinitiative Report 2012 is a report by 29 independent scientists, public health and public policy experts to document the scientific evidence on electromagnetic fields. 3 ICNIRP-International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection 4 FCC-Federal Communications Commission 5 ARPANSA- Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency

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