Cape Town - An American scientist has warned that children and pregnant women should avoid using cellphones, cordless phones, tablets and smartphones that use wi-fi as such devices expose them to wireless radiation that could cause cancer.
Dr Devra Davis, an environmental health researcher and head of the US-based Environmental Health Trust said not only do pregnant women expose their unborn babies to a possible human carcinogen, there was evidence that cellphone radiation negatively affected the development of a foetus.
Speaking at the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) about harmful environmental factors during pregnancy, Davis said various prenatal animal studies had proven that cellphone radiation altered the DNA and brain metabolism, exposed newborns to compromised spinal cords and affected learning abilities. In males it reduced sperm count.
She said that while epidemiological studies had found no concrete evidence on the effects of wireless radiation on humans, people should not insist on proof of human harm before taking action.
“We should not rely on proof in a form of death or a disease before taking action… we should rather look at evidence that shows the risks. We now have strong evidence that shows wireless radiation is a possible carcinogen, if not a definite carcinogen,” she said.
Davis compared cellphone radiation to that of a microwave oven, arguing that the only difference between the two was power levels. This form of radiation was also in the same category of carcinogens as pesticides, lead and engine exhausts.
While many pregnant women understood the effects of other environmental factors on an unborn baby, including smoking, alcohol and contaminated foods, Davis warned that the potential damage of wireless radiation was underestimated by many, with some putting their cellphones in bras and pockets – exposing their developing babies to risk.
“A number of well-designed studies indicate that cellphone use increases cancer risk. Cellphones change the brain. Antennas for cellphones are continually searching for signals to send and receive information. The body or brain absorbs about half the radiation emitted from the phone at any time,” she said.
Davis said children also absorbed more radiation than adults as their developing brains contained more liquid.
Teenagers who started using cellphones from a young age were four to five times more likely to develop brain cancer in less than a decade, than those who didn’t use cellphones.
Davis warned that those who lived near cellphone towers also faced an increased risk of cancer.
She said having wi-fi at schools could put children’s health at risk from a very young age.
People could reduce health risks by using headphones rather than putting their phones against their ears as this significantly reduced the intensity of wireless radiation.
Dr Carl Albrecht, head of research at Cansa, said the organisation took a cautionary stance. - Cape Argus