The California Department of Public Health has recently issued guidance for reducing exposure to radiation emitted from cell phones. An emphasis within the document includes children’s heightened vulnerabilities to cumulative hazards of long term exposure. The document was originally drafted in 2009 by the Department of Public Health’s Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control and underwent numerous revisions, yet remained hidden from public view until now (for more on the lawsuit that led the Sacramento Superior Court to order the release of the draft documents, see here). The recommendations outlined by the California Department of Public Health are similar to those issued by the Connecticut Department of Public Health in May, 2015. Below is the official press release issued on December 13th, 2017:

“SACRAMENTO – As smartphone use continues to increase in the U.S., especially among children, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today issued guidance for individuals and families who want to decrease their exposure to the radio frequency energy emitted from cell phones. Although the scientific community has not reached a consensus on the risks of cell phone use, research suggests long-term, high use may impact human health.

“Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell phones,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “We know that simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults.”

Cell phones emit radio frequency energy when they send and receive signals to and from cell towers, and some scientists and public health officials believe this energy may impact human health.

Meanwhile, cell phone use in the U.S. has increased dramatically in recent years. About 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone, and 12 percent rely on their smartphones for everyday Internet access. In addition, the average age when children get their first phone is now just 10 years old, and a majority of young people keep their phones on or near them most of the day and while they sleep.

“Children’s brains develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cell phone use,” said Dr. Smith. “Parents should consider reducing the time their children use cell phones and encourage them to turn the devices off at night.”

The new CDPH guidance includes practical steps both adults and children could take to reduce exposure to radio frequency energy from cell phones. That includes:

  • Keeping the phone away from the body
  • Reducing cell phone use when the signal is weak
  • Reducing the use of cell phones to stream audio or video, or to download or upload large files
  • Keeping the phone away from the bed at night
  • Removing headsets when not on a call
  • Avoiding products that claim to block radio frequency energy. These products may actually increase your exposure.”

The full document includes additional details about each of the recommendations and highlights a section describing greater risks of harm for children:

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To download the official guidance, click here.
For the press release translated in Spanish, see here.

As the agency responsible for regulating cell phones, the Federal Communications Commission relies on decades old industry-generated standards that according to scientists are insufficient to protect public health (yes, the FCC is the same agency that recently voted to repeal NetNeutrality). For more, see the International Appeal published in 2015 in the European Journal of Oncology where over 200 scientists from 40 countries called for greater protective measures for children and pregnant women and documented the need for precautionary health warnings, stronger regulation of electromagnetic fields, creation of EMF free zones, and media disclosures of experts’ financial relationships with industry when citing their opinions regarding the safety of EMF-emitting technologies.  For analysis of financial and systemic factors contributing to the gaps in public awareness and action on these issues, see this linked report published by the Center for Ethics at Harvard University.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics has also called on the FCC to “Protect children’s health and wellbeing,” stating that “Children are not little adults and are disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation. Current FCC standards do not account for the unique vulnerability and use patterns specific to pregnant women and children.”

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