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Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority: Children’s mobile phone use should be limited

07/01/2009
Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) has prepared a position paper, according to which children’s mobile phone use should be restricted for example by favouring text messages instead of talking. Although research to date, has not demonstrated health effects from mobile phone’s radiation, precaution is recommended for children as all of the effects are not known. Position paper is published (in Finnish) in the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority’s website.

In relation to mobile phones children are given special consideration. They will have more time to use a mobile phone for a longer period of time than adults who started using mobile phones more than 10 years ago. The long-term risks from the use of mobile phones can not be assessed before the phones have been in use for several decades. Additionally, children’s brains are developing up to the age of 20 years.

“With children, we have reason to be especially careful, because there is not enough research on children’s mobile phone use. Unfortunately, it will not be easy to obtain this information in the future, either, because of ethical considerations, the use of children as research subjects must always be heavily justified”, according to STUK research director Sisko Salomaa.

STUK position paper notes that the children’s mobile phone use could be, restricted in the following ways:

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favouring the use of text messages rather than calls,
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parents limiting the number of calls and their duration,
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children can be advised in the use of hands-free devices, which reduces the exposure significantly. When communicating on the hands-free device the phone should be kept a couple of centimetres away from the body,
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talking in an area with low connectivity or in a moving car or a train should be avoided.

However STUK does not deem it justified to ban children’s use of mobile phones altogether. As mobile phones also promote security, since it facilitates easy communication with parents.

If an adult is concerned about their own exposure, it can be reduced in the same way as mentioned above for children.
Pacemakers and mobile phones

In it’s position paper STUK also points out that the mobile phones may interfere with pacemaker operation. Pacemakers disruption is usually harmless, but it can cause unpleasant sensations, such as increased heart beat. It should be noted, however, that disruptions with defibrillator equipped pacemakers may also cause a dangerous electrical pulse to the heart.

Patients with pacemakers can use mobile phones safely if the phone’s distance from the electronic parts and electrode wires of the pacemaker is at least 20 centimetres. Therefore in practice, for example, when in use a hands-free device should not be kept in the inside pocket.

STUK position paper
STUK position paper (pdf)

For more information:
Research Director Sisko Salomaa, tel: (09) 759 88 495
Research Professor Dariusz Leszczynski, gsm 040 770 2166
Research Professor Kari Jokela, tel: (09) 759 88 456
Information officer Leena Hietanen, tel: (09) 759 88 215

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