Cell phones are becoming increasingly popular in children. A 2015 survey finds most children get their first cell phone when they are 6-7 years old and 75% of American children under 8 have access to a Smartphone or Tablet. About three-quarters of teens have a cell phone. Here at Pong we feel it is important to ask the question “are cell phones safe for children?”
Cell phones emit radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic radiation. When a person holds or carries a mobile device in close proximity, the user’s head and body can absorb over half of the transmitted energy. In the U.S. the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets RF exposure limit for the general public to be 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6 W/kg) in Specific Absorption Rate (SAR).
Fig 1, SAR assessment equipment, showing robotic probe in a SAM head
Before a cell phone can be legally sold in the U.S. it must be certified for compliance with the FCC safety standards. Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) compliance testing uses a standardized model of the human head and body. The testing model (known as SAM, which stands for Specific Anthropomorphic Mannequin) is filled with liquids that simulate the RF absorption characteristics of adult human tissue. A robotic probe takes a series of measurements of the electric field within the SAM head and torso to calculate the SAR.
While the FCC safety standard applies to all body sizes (from small infant to large adult), the SAM testing model is based upon a large adult male 6’2” tall and 220 pounds in weight. According to a 2011 study, SAM represents only the largest 3% of cell phone users. –The smaller 97% of the population will have higher exposure than the measured SAR.
This is VERY concerning for the smallest and most vulnerable cell phone user group – children.
In an effort to investigate the differences in RF energy absorption from wireless devices between children and adults, Pong’s chief scientist, Dr. Wang, identified 33 scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals on children’s head and body SAR. She found that the vast majority (>94%) of the published studies reported higher SAR and deeper RF penetration for children compared to adults. Most studies attributed the differences in the head SAR between children and adults to the thinner ear, skin and skull of the younger children. Other factors that might contribute to the difference include changes in the tissue property (conductivity and permittivity) for different age groups. For example, a 2010 study demonstrated that a child’s head RF absorption can be over 2 times greater, and absorption of the skull’s bone marrow can be 10 times greater than adults. And the whole-body average SAR in children was consistently found to exceed the 0.08 W/kg safety limit set by the FCC. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a letter to Congressman Dennis Kucinich in December 2012, states: “Children are disproportionately affected by environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation.”
Not only do children experience higher exposure and deeper penetration from cell phone radiation, but they also face longer lifetime exposure. Many studies show that the health effects of wireless radiation are cumulative, but long term study data on the effect on children is not complete. Children’s developing nervous systems and immature immune systems make them more vulnerable to environmental toxicants, including wireless radiation so we feel this is reason to take extra precautions with children’s use of cellular devices.
In summary, we feel that children are not sufficiently protected by the existing FCC Safety Standard because no child model is used in the RF compliance testing. Research on children exposure indicates that action should be taken to limit children’s exposure to cell phone radiation and we encourage our readers to do so.
We feel strongly that everyone with children should take precautions on their cell phone uses. Please see our tips for reducing cell phone radiation exposure to get some easy tactics to use. We also suggest the use of a Pong cell phone case to assist in reducing radiation exposure.