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The Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) has issued a stern warning: giving children cellphones and other wireless technology devices carries enormous risks.
“Their skulls and brains are still developing and the radiation from cellphones practically ‘cooks’ their brains,” said Professor Michael Herbst, head of health at Cansa.
A child’s brain is cased in a thinner skull and absorbs more radiation than that of an adult.
Dr Devra Davis, president of Environmental Health Trust, a group of global epidemiologists, said: “Retailers are going all out to make devices affordable, and parents are clamouring to buy them. But the standards are based on old models and old assumptions about how we use them.”
Studies in Europe found the bone marrow of a child’s head absorbs 10 times more radiation than that of an adult, while the brain tissue absorbs twice as much.
“These warnings from [the health trust] are supported by Cansa,” says Herbst, “The South African public is totally involved with technology but do not seem to be aware of the inherent dangers.”
iPads, for example, contain radiating antennae that should not be held directly on the body, but children’s arms are not long enough to create the distance. Babies play with cellphones, and mothers speak on the devices while breastfeeding.
Because of the lag between exposure and disease, said Herbst and Davis, the risks are not taken seriously enough.
“We may definitely see an increase in the incidence of brain disease in the future,” said Herbst.