Alarming new research from Sweden on the effects of radiation raises fears that today's youngsters face an epidemic of the disease in later life. The study contends that children and teenagers are five times more likely to get brain cancer if they use mobile phones. The findings are especially frightening considering how many American teens have their own handset.
Roughly 60 percent of American teenagers own a cell phone, according to U.S. Cellular statistics, and spend an average of an hour a day talking on them—about the same amount of time the average teenager spends doing homework. And cell phone companies are now marketing to younger children with colorful kid-friendly phones and easy-to-use features. According to market research firm the Yankee Group, 54 percent of 8 to12 year olds will have cell phones within the next three years.
The Swedish research, reported this month at the first international conference on mobile phones and health, claims that youngsters are more at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing and because – since their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner – the radiation penetrates deeper into their brains.
The study sprung from a further analysis of data from one of the biggest studies carried out into the risk that the radiation causes cancer, headed by Professor Lennart Hardell of the University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden. In a speech before the conference, Professor Hardell expressed his belief that children under 12 should not use mobiles except in emergencies and that teenagers should use hands-free devices or headsets and concentrate on texting. At 20 the danger diminishes because then the brain is fully developed. Indeed, he admits, the hazard to children and teenagers may be greater even than his results suggest, because the results of his study do not show the effects of their using the phones for many years. Most cancers take decades to develop, longer than mobile phones have been on the market.
But David Carpenter, Dean of the School of Public Health at the State University of New York – who also attended the conference – said: "Children are spending significant time on mobile phones. We may be facing a public health crisis in an epidemic of brain cancers as a result of mobile phone use."
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