When you're pregnant you try everything you can to ensure your unborn baby's health. You avoid certain activities that might be harmful to your developing child—no hot tubs, scuba diving, or alcohol. But should you add cell phones to the list?
According to a study appearing in the July 2008 edition of Epidemiology, researchers found evidence that pregnant women who used handset cell phones, which generate low levels of non-ionizing radiation, were more likely to have children with behavior issues after birth.
The study looked at responses from over 13,000 Danish women who answered questions about their cell phone use and then about their children's behavior until the age of seven. Scientists compared the behavior of children whose mothers regularly used cell phones to those who used them infrequently or not at all. Overall, researchers found that 54 percent of children were more likely to exhibit behavior problems if their mothers were more frequent cell phone users. If the children were also early cell phone users themselves, they were 80 percent more likely to have behavioral issues.
While the findings may seem startling at first, Dr. Leeka Kheifets MA, PhD, of UCLA, one of the study's authors, cautions that more research needs to take place before scientists conclude that cell phones pose a significant risk to unborn babies: "I think that we found an association between cell phone use and behavioral problems, but that doesn't mean for sure that there is a cause and effect relationship," says Dr. Kheiferts. In other words, behavioral issues in children whose moms frequently used cell phones are not necessarily a direct result from cell-phone generated radiation. Perhaps mothers who used cell phones regularly didn't pay as much attention to their children, leading the children to act out and exhibit bad behavior.
What You Need to Know
At the heart of the debate over whether cell phone use can cause health problems—not just in pregnant women but in anyone—is the way wireless devices work. A cell phone uses radiofrequency waves, a form of electromagnetic radiation, to transit messages to and from cell towers. According to the National Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these waves are the same as those your microwave generates to heat food but at a much lower amount.