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EME and Children

At Telstra, we understand that some parents may have concerns regarding the use of mobile phones and other wireless technologies by their children. We are committed to addressing these concerns responsibly. We rely on the expert advice of both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) for overall assessments of health and safety impacts.

Set out here are some frequently asked questions and answers covering electromagnetic energy (EME) and children’s health in relation to mobile phone use, wireless devices and Wi-Fi. ARPANSA also provide information at ARPANSA FAQ

Yes. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) EME exposure guidelines are based on careful analysis of the scientific literature and are designed to offer protection for all ages, including children and pregnant women, against identified health effects of EME with a large in-built safety margin.

In Australia, the ARPANSA EME safety standard is based on the international ICNIRP Guidelines.

This is a very important question and the focus of ongoing research.

The latest update from the WHO on mobile phones and health states "A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use."

However, the WHO notes that “while an increased risk of brain tumors is not established, the increasing use of mobile phones and the lack of data for mobile phone use over time periods longer than 15 years warrant further research of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. In particular, with the recent popularity of mobile phone use among younger people, and therefore a potentially longer lifetime of exposure, WHO has promoted further research on this group. Several studies investigating potential health effects in children and adolescents are underway”. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/

Due to the lack of sufficient data relating to children and mobile phone use ARPANSA recommend that children restrict their mobile phone use by using a headset, using the handset in hands-free mode, speaker phone or using SMS options to reduce exposure. ARPANSA advise as follows:

“Concern has also been expressed with regard to mobile phone use by children. At present, there is insufficient scientific evidence to substantiate the hypothesis that children may be more vulnerable to RF EME emissions from mobile phones than adults.

It’s recognised that parents provide mobile phones to their children for different reasons, including their child’s personal security as well as the assurance of their child being constantly contactable.

It is recommended that, due to the lack of sufficient data relating to children and their long term use of mobile phones, parents encourage their children to limit their exposure by reducing call time, by making calls where reception is good, by using hands-free devices or speaker options, or by texting.”

http://www.arpansa.gov.au/mobilephones/index.cfm

ARPANSA has reviewed this very question and advise as follows:

It is the assessment of ARPANSA and other national and international health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), that there is no established scientific evidence of adverse health effects below current exposure limits.

Wi-Fi devices and access points are low powered, typically 0.1 watt (100 milliwatts). Measurement surveys have shown that exposure to RF EME from Wi-Fi in schools is expected to be much lower than the limit for public exposure specified in the ARPANSA Standard.”

http://www.arpansa.gov.au/radiationprotection/factsheets/is_wifi.cfm

From an EME perspective, the personal exposure levels using an iPad or tablet are typically very low. Viewing web sites, watching videos and listening to music online all primarily involve downloading data to a device. This means the users are receiving information and not transmitting. Posting updates on social media like Facebook and Instagram, and sending emails all use very short bursts of transmitted data and therefore very low levels of EME.

Not unexpectedly, there will be slight variation in the EME absorbed in the heads of children compared to adults, simply due to the different tissue dimensions between children’s heads and adult’s heads. In some cases this may mean that the absorbed EME could be higher in a child’s head compared to that of an adult ,but within the range covered by the national and international safety standards. However, it is important to remember that the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) EME exposure guidelines are based on careful analysis of the scientific literature and are designed to offer protection for all ages, including children, against identified health effects of EME with a large in-built safety margin.

The WHO provides information on how to reduce mobile phone exposure:

"In addition to using 'hands-free' devices, which keep mobile phones away from the head and body during phone calls, exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls. Using the phone in areas of good reception also decreases exposure as it allows the phone to transmit at reduced power"

Source: WHO Fact Sheet: Electromagnetic Fields and Public Health: Mobile Phones, 2014

For compliance with the EME safety guidelines and maximum operating efficiency, Wi-Fi routers typically have a specified minimum separation distance of 20cm. Check your manufacturer’s Wi-Fi router operating instructions and safety information for the recommended separation distance that applies. We have information on Wi-Fi available here. https://www.telstra.com.au/consumer-advice/eme/wi-fi

There are no special restrictions on the use of Wi-Fi modems near children. However, Telstra recommends that Wi-Fi modems are best placed on a bookshelf or in an area clear of obstructions to provide the best reception in the home and ensure compliance with the manufacturer’s recommended separation distances. For compliance with the EME safety guidelines and maximum operating efficiency, Wi-Fi routers typically have a specified minimum separation distance of 20cm. Check your manufacturer’s Wi-Fi router operating instructions and safety information for the recommended separation distance that applies. We have information on Wi-Fi available here. https://www.telstra.com.au/consumer-advice/eme/wi-fi

Some people may be concerned about the exposure of children to EME, particularly in relation to their use of mobile phones, since they are physiologically still developing compared to adults. Also, children of today will be using mobile phones and other wireless devices for considerably longer than past generations.

The major health agencies such as ARPANSA and the WHO have found that the available scientific evidence does not substantiate a link between exposure to EME and harmful effects in adults, adolescents and children, including brain tumors.

The WHO states: "A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use."

However, the WHO also notes that “while an increased risk of brain tumors is not established, the increasing use of mobile phones and the lack of data for mobile phone use over time periods longer than 15 years warrant further research of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. In particular, with the recent popularity of mobile phone use among younger people, and therefore a potentially longer lifetime of exposure, WHO has promoted further research on this group. Several studies investigating potential health effects in children and adolescents are underway”.

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/

Such research is currently being undertaken as part of the 14 country international MOBI-KIDS study, of which Australia’s Monash University is a contributing research partner. The WHO has identified the work being undertaken by MOBI-KIDS as being of high priority in order to evaluate potential health risks of mobile phone use by children.

References

http://www.crealradiation.com/index.php/mobi-kids-home

It is also important to remember that the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) EME exposure guidelines are based on careful analysis of the scientific literature and are designed to offer protection for all ages including children. A wide safety margin has been incorporated into the EME guidelines meaning that exposure limits have been set well below the level at which adverse health effects are known to occur.

All base stations must comply with the strict EME safety standards regardless of where they are located. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) specifically provide the following advice in relation to base stations near schools:

“Because transmitters must operate below the ARPANSA standard, there is no particular advantage locating these away from schools. In fact, poor location of the transmitters can affect the performance of mobile handsets, requiring more power to be emitted from the handset to connect with nearby transmitters. This is potentially of greater concern as handsets are used near the body.”

Reference

https://www.communications.gov.au/sites/g/files/net301/f/EME_Schools_FACT_SHEET_FA2.pdf