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EMF Studies

06 July 2014

Study of Cognition, Adolescents, and Mobile Phones: British Medical Journal Article

Our comment on this photo:  These children are holding their
cell phones too close to sensitive areas of their body.
Some 2,500 children aged 11-12 will be followed for three years.  Their exposure to mobile phones and other sources of non-ionising radiation will be measured by access to their mobile phone company records, by questionnaires, and, in a minority of the volunteers, by radiation “badges” worn for 48 hours. Measures of cognition such as memory, response times, and attention will be taken at the start of the study and repeated at the end.The study has been commissioned by the U.K. Department of Health, using a pool of money to which government and the mobile phone industry contribute equally.

Study will look at effect of mobile phones on children’s cognitive development
BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g3407 (Published 20 May 2014) 
Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3407

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1. Nigel Hawkes

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A new £1m (€1.2m; $1.7m) study is to investigate whether any link can be found between children’s use of mobile phones and their cognitive development. The researchers behind the study believe that by following 2500 children and comparing their cognitive development with their exposure to radiofrequency radiation they will be able to answer this longstanding question.

The Study of Cognition, Adolescents, and Mobile Phones (SCAMP) aims to recruit 2500 children aged 11-12 and follow them for three years. Their exposure to mobile phones and other sources of non-ionising radiation will be measured by access to their mobile phone company records, by questionnaires, and, in a minority of the volunteers, by radiation “badges” worn for 48 hours. Measures of cognition such as memory, response times, and attention will be taken at the start of the study and repeated at the end.

Paul Elliott, director of the Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College in London, said that research into possible links between mobile phone use and cancer in adults had been reassuring. But these had mostly been short term studies—less than 10 years—and that evidence on long term use and use by children was limited and less clear.1

Asked at a press briefing in London if it were possible in a non-randomised trial to measure effects on cognition that were likely to be small and to attribute them unequivocally to mobile phone use, Elliott said that this was a case where a controlled trial was impossible. By the age of 11 60% of children in the United Kingdom use mobile phones, and by the age of 14 the proportion has risen to 90%. “This is a prospective observational study, and we have to make the best effort we can,” he said.

The study’s principal investigator, Mireille Toledano, added, “We have picked a time period at which children are starting to own their own mobile phones and a period in which there is cognitive development. We are capturing quite a large amount of data from different sources, and therefore we will definitely have changes in cognitive development and changes in mobile phone use during the study. If we have been able to capture very closely all the factors which we know already affect cognitive development, we will able to take them into account. So we have a good within-cohort ability to identify any changes in cognitive ability that might be due to mobile phone use.”

Schools in outer London will tomorrow begin receiving letters inviting them to participate in the study. In those that are selected, all children in year 7 (11-12 year olds) will be included, as long as their parents agree. A target of 2500 has been set to provide sufficient statistical power to reach any conclusions. “If we get more, it will be great,” Elliott said.

Cognitive measures will be taken at the beginning and end of the study, while a smaller group of between 200 and 500 children will be asked in the middle year of the three year study if they would like to wear radiation meters for 48 hours to give a precise record of exposure and to fill in an activity diary.

The study has been commissioned by the Department of Health, using a pool of money to which government and the mobile phone industry contribute equally. Other studies into the possible health effects of mobile phone use continue, though none has so far produced any results unequivocal enough either to confirm a link or rule one out.

References

Wise J. Mobile phones are given the all clear by UK group. BMJ2014;348:g1477, doi:10.1136/bmj.g1477.

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http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g3407

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