Dr Mary Redmayne – Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Population Health Research on Electromagnetic Energy, Monash University
Radio frequency radiation exposure of children and workers
Use of, and the EMF radiation exposure of wireless devices has increased dramatically over recent years.
Dr Mary Redmayne, addressed those gathered about children’s and workers’ exposure to radio frequency radiation (RF), in particular the international approaches to policy and advise. She identified that there are personal devices that emit the high frequency radiation over which we have a great deal of control but often are not aware that these devices are potentially harmful to ourselves and our children. In addition there are the device in our environment that the individual does not have control over and are effectively pushed upon us by others. It was noted that in recent years the use of wireless devices had significantly increased, especially amongst younger people, and that Wi-Fi and BYOD (Bring your own device) are now very common in schools.
The approaches to prevent health effects in the population, varies greatly in different countries. Approaches can be in the least stringent category where research into thermal effects (the cells of the body need to show signs of temperature increases – being cooked) are the only research considered. Between the most and least conservative approach, the thermal effects are considered, plus some research on non-thermal effects, which produces a precautionary approach for public places like playgrounds for children and warnings or recommendations are given. Then there is also the most stringent approach where short term effects and biological effects are also taken in account and used to set policy.
The first catagory may say, ‘no need for extra protection for children’. The second, may promote advise to minimise exposure for children. This in contrast to the most stringent countries, where they may advise or have laws about how equipment should be used and involves very clear warnings. For example Taiwan has put a ban on wireless devices being used by under 2-year-olds.
It is interesting to realise that countries like the USA, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Japan and Estonia, in line with the World Health Organisation and European Commission base their approach with regards to permitted exposures on acute thermal harm only and this is just based on an average of 6 to 30 minutes of exposure(!). Countries like Denmark, Finland and Australia are not much better but they do issue some recommendations in regards to radiation exposure of children.
Lithuania, Luxembourg, Italy, Slovenia, Belgium and Israel then see fit to take the thermal harm into account, but they do have advice and/or laws to reduce or minimise children’s exposure to radiation exposure from personal devices.
The matter is taken much more seriously by the Republic of China, Poland and the Russian Federation, who look at biological effects and aim to prevent immediate thermal effects and chronic non-thermal damage.
Here are some laws and policies implemented and aimed at minors:
In her presentation, Dr Redmayne also explained that Russia’s opinion is that exposure should not effect homeostases, meaning no effect should be found regardless if they produce illness or symptoms.
It was noted that epidemiological evidence suggests that adolescents with higher mobile phone usage have the following issues and that this is not accommodated for by the current Australian standards or even any advisory policies:
- Faster reaction times (simple and associated learning) (Abramson et al 2009, Thomas et al 2010)
- Make more errors (working memory) (Abramson 2009; 3G exposure: Leung et al 2011)
- Epidemiology regularly shows changes in alpha frequency and spectral power in the brain (Curcio et al., 2005; Croft eet al., 2008; Ghosn et al, 2015)
- and increased risk of headaches (Redmayne et al. 2013; Chiu et al, 2014, Augner et al.,2012, Hillert et al. 2007, Chia et al.,2000,Söderqvist et al., 2008)
Wi-Fi and BYOD (bring your own device) policy in NSW, Australia
The Australian state New South Wales (NSW) has currently the following aims; that secondary colleges have a Wi-Fi network accessable by centrally managed wireless access points in every learning space and library. This boiled down 22,000 access points (Pauli, March 2010). That means over a total of 521 high schools, there is on average 42 access points per school and so that would mean 1 access point per 9 students, which, when you think about it, seems an extremely high amount.
Stephen Wilson, CIO of the Department of Education and Training, NSW, proudly states that ‘It is the largest centrally-monitored network in the world.’ and that they are constantly neck-to-neck with the US Airforce.
Dr Redmayne also commented that the frequent use of internet by people can lead to a sort of addictive effect. Even the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) states “being connected 24 hours can lead to excessive internet use, which can have a negative impact on the wellbeing of the user and his/her friends and family. Attention to the issue of potential for harm to the user is increasing.”
Many phones base their safety rating on a distance of 1cm from the body
The recommendation was made that children, the school staff as well as the board, should be taught about some technical aspects of radiation and signal strength to create more awareness, which may also be an interesting school project. Knowing where to find the SAR rating on a device and how to set it to flight mode would be worthwhile skills to pass on. Many phones base their safety rating on a distance of 1cm from the body, which is a serious problem because most users including children have phones on their heads and bellies when using these radiation emitting devices.