Study Finds Non-ionizing Radiation During Pregnancy Raises ADHD Risk 

A new study published in the journal AMA Network Open that children of mothers who were exposed to high levels of magnetic field non-ionizing radiation during pregnancy had more than twice the risk of ADHD, compared with children whose mothers were exposed to lower levels during pregnancy. The association was stronger for children with other immune problems such as asthma and atopic dermatitis. The researchers emphasize that stronger association between exposure and ADHD with current immune-related comorbidities strengthens the observed association.

“Pregnant women need to protect themselves by reducing their exposure to wireless and electromagnetic fields as much as possible. This study showing a dramatic increase in ADHD tied with magnetic field radiation exposure confirms what dozens of other studies have previously indicated in animals. Electromagnetic fields exposure during pregnancy can damage the brain. We place every pregnant woman at risk if we fail to pay attention to these animal studies,” stated Devra Davis PhD MPH epidemiologist and President of Environmental Health Trust.The BabySafe Project of more than 250 obstetricians and gynecologists, including Yale Chief of Ob/Gyn Dr. Hugh Taylor, urges all pregnant women to reduce exposures of their abdomens to wireless devices.” 

Pregnant women can be exposed to this type of radiation from various common electronic sources such as wireless devices close to the body (like a laptop on the lap), sleeping against a wall with a bank of electric meters on the opposite side, living very close to high voltage powerlines, and working near electrical appliances such as in fast food in front of the microwave oven.

In the newly published study, Dr. De-Kun Li and his team of researchers at Kaiser Permanente carefully measured the daily levels of electromagnetic radiation women were exposed to during pregnancy and then followed their children after birth. Their investigations have resulted in several previously published studies linking pregnant women’s electromagnetic field exposure to not only ADHD (as documented in the recent publication), but also to increased miscarriage and increased obesity and asthma in prenatally exposed children. 

As quoted in MedPage Today, Dr. De-Kun Li, a senior research scientist at the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute said the “overall finding that high maternal exposure of MF during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of ADHD in offspring, especially more severe ADHD that persisted into adolescence,” is significant. He added that the subanalysis of ADHD with immune-related comorbidities was especially important, as MF exposure is known to impact the immune system. “The most noteworthy finding is that this association is largely present among a subset of ADHD that has an immune-related etiology,” he said.

US News and World Report coverage of the study release quoted Dr. Li as stating that, “Pregnant women who are concerned about MF impact on the health of their fetuses and offspring should reduce MF exposure during pregnancy as much as they can. In this case, remember ‘distance is your friend,’ keeping distance from the MF-generating sources.” 

In 2012, Yale research demonstrated that when pregnant mice were exposed to cell phone signal, their offspring had much greater levels of hyperactivity, impaired memory and impaired brain development in the part of the brain linked to ADHD. Several other experiments indicate that in utero cell phone exposure leads to damaged brain development in both mice and rats. 

A 2013 research study published in Public Library of Science (PLOS One) by Byun et al. found that children exposed to lead who made more voice calls on their cell phone were at significantly greater risk of developing ADHD symptoms. Moreover, a significant dose-response relationship was observed between the number and duration of voice calls made on cell phones and ADHD risk among children exposed to lead in their environment. 

Researchers from the University of California School of Public Health in Los Angeles have published two studies (2008 and 2012) looking at tens of thousands of children. Their investigations concluded that children exposed to cell phones both before and after birth were more likely to have emotional or behavior problems than children who were not exposed to phones. In 2017, the largest study to date to use data on prenatal cell phone use collected from parents in five countries found a link between high prenatal cell phone use and hyperactivity/inattention problems in children.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the California Public Health Foundation.

Li D, Chen H, Ferber JR, Hirst AK, Odouli R. Association Between Maternal Exposure to Magnetic Field Nonionizing Radiation During Pregnancy and Risk of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Offspring in a Longitudinal Birth Cohort. JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(3):e201417. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.1417

Environmental Health Trust shares practical tips on how to reduce your exposure to magnetic field radiation here.

Reducing Exposure to ELF-EMF in Your Home

ELF-EMF fields from electronics and appliances fall off rapidly with distance.  Experts are less concerned about the brief exposures to ELF-EMF we encounter every day but far more concerned about longer-term chronic exposures, such as daily exposures at work or every night. Here are some ways to reduce your daily exposure:

  • Do not rest a laptop or electric on your lap. Keep electronics on a table.
  • Do not sleep near a charging cell phone or a charging laptop or digital device. Always charge devices away from sleeping/living  spaces and preferable during the daytime. Charging generates high EMFs near the cord and batteries can catch fire during charging.
  • Do not use a cell phone while it is charging as the ELF-EMF field is high. Likewise- try to use your laptop on battery , rather than while charging. Always unplug the laptop once it is charged.
  • Corded alarm clocks and radios can have intense EMFs, so replace your alarm clock with a battery powered alarm clock. This will reduce your exposure at night.
  • Do not sleep with your head or body near a wall that has the electric panel, electric meter or appliance on the other side.
  • Unplug appliances and electronics such as TV’s and microwaves ovens when not in use. This reduces ELF and also reduces energy consumption. An easy way to do this for electronics is to get a powerstrip that you can easily switch off.
  • Remove electronics from the bedroom—especially around your bed and the crib.
  • Avoid sleeping with electric blankets and heating pads; if you use an electric blanket to preheat your bed, unplug it before sleeping. If you only turn it off, the EMF will still be present.
  • Do not stand near a microwave oven when it is on. Better yet, use a toaster oven.
  • EMFs from electrical wiring can be reduced if you flip the switch on the breaker for the electrical circuits near the bedroom at night. However circuits are not designed to be flipped every night.  Some people use a “kill switch” so all you have to do is flip one switch at night to turn off breakers all at once.
  • Get a magnetic field meter to take measurements in your home. If your ELF measurements show high levels in your home, it could be faulty wiring which an electrician can fix. Often simple fixes can greatly reduce ELF-EMF exposure.
  • Take measurements in your home if you live near powerlines because levels can be high throughout the house from the EMF emanating from high voltage powerlines.

Study Finds Non-ionizing Radiation During Pregnancy Raises ADHD Risk