Samara Khan ‘19
According to a recent study by the PEW Research Center, 78 percent of Americans aged 12 to 17 have cell phones. The majority of these individuals spend about 4 to 6 hours on their phones each day. This increased time on cell phones means more exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, or RT-EMF. Although there have been several studies that have aimed to identify potential health effects of increased RT-EMF exposure, the results have remained inconclusive.
Scientists at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute reexamined this issue by exploring the effect of increased RT-EMF on adolescent brain development and memory performance. The researcher observed the brain development of over 700 Swiss adolescents over the course of one year. They found that with increased RT-EMF exposure, figural memory, or the ability to describe an object after seeing an image of it, decreased in adolescents who held their cell phones on the right sides of their heads during phone calls. In adolescents who held their cell phones on the left sides of their heads, and who used their cell phones predominantly for texting and Internet browsing, there was no decrease in figural memory. This is because phone calls are the primary method for RT-EMT exposure.
The results of this study can be used in public health announcements and promotion materials to warn adolescents and their parents about the potential dangers of increased cell phone use.
- M. Foerster, et. al., A prospective cohort study of adolescents’ memory performance and individual brain dose of microwave radiation from wireless communication. Environmental Health Perspective 85, 343 (2018). doi: https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP2427
- Image retrieved from: http://worldartsme.com/business-cell-phone-clipart.html#gal_post_11461_business-cell-phone-clipart-1.jpg