Exposure of children to radiofrequencies: a call for moderate and supervised use of wireless technologies
Possible effects on cognitive functions and well-beingThe expert appraisal work carried out by the Agency on the basis of current data from the international scientific literature was unable to conclude as to whether or not radiofrequencies have effects on children’s behaviour, auditory functions, development, male and female reproductive systems, immune system and systemic toxicity, or carcinogenic or teratogenic effects.
On the other hand, the Agency did find a possible effect of exposure to radiofrequencies on the well-being of children and on their cognitive functions (memory, executive functions and attention). The effects observed on well-being may however be more related to the use of mobile telephones rather than to the radiofrequencies they emit.
Children exposed ever earlier to radiofrequency electromagnetic fieldsThe data available on exposure show strong expansion of the use of new wireless technologies, especially among very young children. The multiplicity and diversity of the places frequented by children generate multiple exposure situations, while the uses of radio devices (tablet computers, connected toys, etc.) are also evolving rapidly. In addition, children have their own mobile telephones at an ever earlier age.
Moreover, unlike previous generations, children today are, for the most part, exposed to multiple sources of radiofrequencies from a very early age and even potentially from the in utero development phase. The expert appraisal work also showed that children can be more exposed than adults, because of their small size, their morphological and anatomical features, and the characteristics of some of their tissues.
The Agency’s recommendationsOn the basis of the results of the expert appraisal, the Agency is recommending that the regulations be changed in order that:
- all radio devices, and in particular those intended for children (tablet computers, baby monitors, connected toys, etc.), are subject to the same regulatory obligations, in terms of control of exposure levels and information to the public, as those governing mobile telephones;
- the regulatory exposure limit values are enforced, regardless of the mobile transmitter devices used, according to reasonably foreseeable conditions of use (for example positioning in contact with the body).
- reconsider the reference levels aiming to limit environmental exposure to electromagnetic radiofrequency fields, in order to ensure that the safety margins are large enough to protect the health and safety of the general population, and particularly of children;
- reassess the relevance of the specific absorption rate (SAR)used to establish exposure limit values for individuals, for the purposes of protection against the known and proven health effects (thermal effects) of radiofrequencies, and develop a representative indicator of the actual exposure of mobile telephone users, regardless of the conditions of use: signal used, good or bad reception, method of use (voice calls, loading data, etc.).
Lastly, the expert appraisal identified several studies highlighting an association between intensive and inadequate use of mobile telephones by young people and mental health problems (risk behaviour, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc.). However, it was not possible to use these studies to explore the causality of the observed associations.
ANSES recommends that additional studies assess the health and psychosocial impact (school learning, social and family relationships,etc.) in children associated with the use of mobile communication technologies, especially because of addictive phenomena, circadian rhythm disorders, etc. Pending these results, the Agency recommends that parents encourage their children to adopt reasonable use of mobile telephones, avoiding night-time communications and limiting the frequency and duration of calls.