Home Your Tech Mobility Pre-natal mobile phone use leads to naughty kids

Danish research has identified a potential link between mobile phone use by pregnant mums and their children, linking this to the development of behavioural problems. According to the study, children exposed to mobile phones before birth and who used phones before the age of 7 were 50% more likely to have behavioural problems, while those who were exposed to mobile phones only before birth had a 40% increased likelihood of behavioural problems.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, ran from March 1996 to November 2002. It followed nearly 100,000 pregnant mothers who completed a detailed questionnaire on lifestyle factors, dietary habits and environmental exposures. When their children were seven years old, they were questioned again on information pertaining to the health of her child, cell phone use among children as well as among the mother's during pregnancy.

The study found that 'There is an association between prenatal as well as postnatal use and behavioural problems by age 7 years among a general population of mothers who are cell phone users. These results replicate the findings of an association observed among only early technology adopters. These new results also reduce the likelihood that these are chance findings or findings that did not adequately consider the influence of other important factors for behavioural problems. These results should not be interpreted as demonstrating a causal link between cell phone use and adverse health effects for children, but if real - and given the nearly universal use of cell phones - the impact on the public's health could be of concern.'

In other words, there is a correlation but not necessarily a causal effect.

Professor Rodney Croft, Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Radio Frequency Bioeffects Research and a Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Wollongong, said that "Although this new study is interesting in that it reports greater behavioural problems in 7-year-olds whose mothers reported more mobile phone use during pregnancy (than in those who reported less mobile phone use), the data is not strong enough to indicate that prenatal mobile phone exposure causes behavioural problems in children'. Professor Croft's main concern is that the nature of the study relied on parental 'parental recall of mobile phone use' and that this may not have been particularly accurate or measurable.

From the other side of the world, Professor Patricia McKinney, Emeritus Professor of Paediatric Epidemiology at the University of Leeds, said that "The conclusions from this large study, associating behavioural problems in very young children with mobile phone use, over-interpret the results.  There is no scientific basis for investigating exposure of the growing baby when pregnant mothers use a mobile phone, as exposure to radio-frequency radiation from mobile phones is highly localised to the part of the head closest to the phone; there is no evidence to suggest that other parts of the body, such as the abdomen where the baby is growing, are affected by mobile phone use'.

Similarly Professor David Spiegelhalter, Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Cambridge, said he was 'skeptical of these results'.

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