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Mixed health messages on technology exposure confusing

Research suggests guidelines on children’s exposure to technology such as mobile phones is confusing for educators and parents.

Dr Mary Redmayne, from Monash University’s department of epidemiology and preventative medicine, conducted a review into the health policies of 34 countries about exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RE-EMF). These fields are emitted from everyday technologies such as wifi, tablets and mobile phones, and some suggest substantial use of these devices leads to an increased risk of brain tumours.

During her study, Redmayne found guidelines on exposure and the health effects of RE-EMFs differ from nation to nation, and are confusing for parents and educators due to conflicting advice. For example, she said, Australia’s guidelines are more focused on preventing shocks, burns and heat damage to children from technology, but do not consider the long-term effects of exposure to RE-EMFs.

This differs greatly from policies in countries such as Germany, India, Israel, Finland and Switzerland, which all suggest giving children’s bodies time to repair from RE-EMF damage by periodically switching off devices or putting them on flight mode. In contrast, Russian and Chinese regulations advise that exposure levels are already low enough to prevent health implications, meaning no action needs to be taken. The policies are based on scientific research in each country.

Redmayne said among researchers, there is continuing concern about the health effects of RE-EMF exposure on children.

“In recent years there has been an amazingly rapid uptake in the use of mobile phones and other wireless devices,” she said. “Increasingly younger children are using these devices, and we know they are more vulnerable to environmental harm than adults. The message on RF-EMFs is really in the same category as health advice around diet and exercise: it’s important to be aware and take steps to minimise exposure to radio frequencies as part of daily life.”

Redmayne’s full review in published in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine.

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