Cell Phone Use During Pregnancy May Lead to Child’s ADHD
It’s hard to imagine life in 2012 without a cell phone. A recent US study suggests that 91 percent of us have one. Although at one point, we were scared that radiation emitted from cell phones could cause brain cancer, several recent studies have failed to find a connection. But could the use of mobile technology affect the brain in other ways? Researchers from Yale find that offspring of pregnant mice exposed to cell phone radiation had a higher risk of developing attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Between three to seven percent of school-aged children suffer from ADHD and are at a greater risk for low academic achievement, poor school performance, and delinquent behavior. The diagnosis of ADHD has increased at an average rate of 3% per year since 1997, making it a growing public health concern. Growing evidence suggest that there is more than just genetics involved in the risk of developing the neurological condition.
Hugh S. Taylor MD, chief of Yale University’s Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Services, exposed pregnant mice from a muted and silenced cell phone positioned above the cage and placed on an active phone call for the duration of the trial. A group of controls were kept under the same conditions, but with the phone deactivated.
Dr. Taylor’s team measured the brain electrical activity of adult mice that were exposed to the radiation as fetuses. They also conducted several psychological and behavioral tests. Those mice exposed to cell phone radiation tended to be more hyperactive and had reduced memory capacity.
Children with ADHD have a reduction in prefrontal cortex volume, a reduction in gray and white matter, and asymmetry of the brain. Dr. Taylor theorizes that cell phone use during pregnancy affected development of the prefrontal cortex region which is involved in working memory and attention.
Although further research is needed to better understand the mechanisms behind the findings, and to determine if the same effect occurs in the brains of humans, Dr. Taylor believes that limiting exposure of the fetus to cell phone radiation is warranted. "During critical windows in neurogenesis, the brain is susceptible to numerous environmental insults,” he says. Common medically relevant exposures include ionizing radiation, alcohol, tobacco, drugs and stress.” Even small exposures can have a greater affect on fetuses than in adults.
“It’s probably safer for a pregnant woman not to carry their cell phone clipped to their belt or sleep with the phone near their abdomen unless it’s turned off,” he concludes. Other recommendations include keeping phones away from the body when they are in standby mode and to avoid using them when signal is weak.
Tamir S. Aldad, Geliang Gan, Xiao-Bing Gao and Hugh S. Taylor. Fetal Radiofrequency Radiation Exposure From 800-1900 Mhz-Rated Cellular Telephones Affects Neurodevelopment and Behavior in Mice. Scientific Reports 2 : 312 | DOI: 10.1038/srep00312. Published 15 March 2012