The Stewart report recommended that children should only use mobile phones in emergencies. The recommendation was based on the theory that children could be more at risk from the radiowaves emitted by mobile phones. This is because their brains are still developing and their skulls are thinner, making it easier for the radiowaves to penetrate them. Also if they start using mobiles at a young age, their cumulative lifetime use will be higher than adults. According to the Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation, “little has been published specifically on childhood exposures” since 2000. As a result, children are still advised only to use mobile phones in emergencies. However, surveys suggest that many children are ignoring the advice. A survey of 1,000 British children, carried out in 2001, found 90% of under-16s own a mobile and one in 10 spends more than 45 minutes a day using it.
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The researchers found other strange effects that muddied the interpretation of the studies: The rats exposed to cellphones seemed to outlive the rats in the control group, for example. There was no clear linear relationship between higher levels of cellphone exposure and more cancer at some tissue sites, and the cancer rate in the control group was lower than it should have been at other tissue sites.
The NTP studied radiofrequency radiation (2G and 3G frequencies) in rats and mice (33, 34). This large project was conducted in highly specialized labs that specified and controlled sources of radiation and measured their effects. The rodents experienced whole-body exposures of 3, 6, or 9 watts per kilogram of body weight for 5 or 7 days per week for 18 hours per day in cycles of 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off. A research overview of the rodent studies, with links to the peer-review summary, is available on NTP website. The primary outcomes observed were a small number of cancers of Schwann cells in the heart and non-cancerous changes (hyperplasia) in the same tissues for male rats, but not female rats, nor in mice overall.
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Third, most of the studies published so far have focused on adults, rather than children. (One case-control study looking at children and teens did not find a significant link to brain tumors, but the small size of the study limited its power to detect modest risks.) Cell phone use is now widespread even among younger children. It is possible that if there are health effects, they might be more pronounced in children because their bodies might be more sensitive to RF energy. Another concern is that children’s lifetime exposure to the energy from cell phones will be greater than adults’, who started using them at a later age.
The frequency of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation ranges from 30 kilohertz (30 kHz, or 30,000 Hz) to 300 gigahertz (300 GHz, or 300 billion Hz). Electromagnetic fields in the radiofrequency range are used for telecommunications applications, including cell phones, televisions, and radio transmissions. The human body absorbs energy from devices that emit radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation. The dose of the absorbed energy is estimated using a measure called the specific absorption rate (SAR), which is expressed in watts per kilogram of body weight.