The BabySafe Project: Know Your Exposure
By Patti Wood – The BabySafe Project is a joint initiative of Grassroots Environmental Education and Environmental Health Trust
More than 100 doctors from around the world are urging pregnant women to limit their exposure to wireless radiation.
The beautiful and awe-inspiring process by which a few cells develop into a new life is truly miraculous. As if following some invisible instructions, the intricate and complex steps for the creation of a new life unfold, forming delicate organs and vital systems and making billions of important connections and patterns in just the brain alone…
The BabySafe Project is a campaign to educate pregnant women about wireless radiation (also known as RFR or radio frequency radiation) and its potential harm to developing babies.
Today we live in a virtual “sea” of this type of radiation, from cell phones, routers, computers and tablets to a myriad of wireless devices created to make our communication faster and our lives more convenient. In fact, wireless communication is the fastest growing industry in the world. Unfortunately, RF radiation limits set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are outdated and not based on current exposure levels or emerging science, and in 2011 the World Health Organization confirmed that radiation from cell phones is a possible carcinogen.
We now know that wireless radiation can cause non-thermal biological effects as well, including damage to cells and DNA, even at low levels. Numerous animal studies have shown neurological effects, including behavioral disorders that may lead to long-term health consequences. All of this suggests that taking certain precautions around wireless radiation is appropriate for our most vulnerable populations, including pregnant women.
The BabySafe Project’s message is that, in addition to avoiding alcohol, tobacco and fish with high mercury levels, pregnant women should take some simple precautions when using wireless devices.
Dr. Hugh Taylor, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine concurs. He says, “We have demonstrated clear cause and effect relationships in mice, and we already have studies showing that women who use cell phones have children with more behavioral problems. I think together that’s very powerful evidence…There’s essentially no downside to being cautious and protecting your baby.”
More About Wireless Radiation
Radio frequency waves have been used for more than a hundred years to carry signals from transmitting towers to distant receivers. This technology has informed and entertained millions of people around the world. However, the technology offered today by the wireless industry puts powerful transmitters as well as receivers much closer to users of all ages than ever before. This two-way communication, and the increased radiation needed to support it, is reason for concern. Indeed, manufacturers of wireless devices warn consumers to keep their phones, tablets, baby monitors or other devices away from their bodies.
Consumer demand for connectivity everywhere has resulted in the installation of many more powerful local wireless transmitters and receivers, and now hundreds of thousands of rooftop, pole-mounted and tower transmitters (antennas) are placed in close proximity to private homes, apartments, schools, office buildings, retail and recreation areas. “Free WiFi” is commonly advertised to attract customers at bars, restaurants, hotels and coffee shops. Wireless routers in public spaces are very powerful because they are intended to power many laptops or tablets simultaneously.
This ubiquitous and ever-growing wireless world that we live in means that wireless radiation is all around us. But you can still make some personal choices that can reduce your exposure. As mentioned previously, keeping a safe distance from transmitters or antennas and keeping your personal wireless devices away from your body is relatively easy to do. The amount of time you spend using wireless devices is also important. Remember that exposure adds up over time.
More About The Science
A recent study (Aldad, et al 2012) conducted at Yale University found that pregnant laboratory mice exposed to ordinary cell phone radiation produced offspring that were more hyperactive and had poorer memories compared to a control group that was not exposed.
Dr. Hugh Taylor, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine and his team of researchers concluded that cell phone radiation had damaged neurons in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The work of the Yale researchers followed a steady progression of scientific studies that demonstrated health and behavioral effects from wireless radiation.
Twenty years ago, a review of the scientific literature on radiofrequency/microwave radiation conducted by the U. S. Air Force Materiel Command (Bolen 1994) concluded that “behavior may be the most sensitive biological component to RF/Microwave radiation.”
Scientists at the University of Washington demonstrated DNA breaks in brain cells of rats resulting from exposure to microwave radiation (Lai, et al 1995). Over the next decade, numerous studies were conducted regarding the safety of RF radiation with varying results, and controversy remained about the relevance of animal studies to humans.
Of particular importance was the work of researchers at the University of Kentucky where they were able to show how exposure to wireless radiation can damage or even destroy brain cells (Zhao, et al 2007).
Researchers in Samsun, Turkey published findings that rats prenatally exposed to cell phone radiation developed impaired learning and also showed damage to those parts of the brain involved in memory and learning (Inkinci, et al 2013). In yet another study, rats prenatally exposed to wireless radiation also had damaged spinal cords (Odaci, et al 2013).
Regarding human impacts of wireless radiation, UCLA researchers (Divan, et al 2008) studied 13,000 mothers and children and found that prenatal exposure to cell phones was associated with a higher risk for behavioral problems and hyperactivity in children. Scientists continue to conduct research on the human impact of wireless radiation exposure. While we wait for the scientific process to provide us with a deeper understanding of this issue, and for government agencies to adopt appropriate exposure thresholds, a precautionary approach to exposures, especially during pregnancy, seems warranted.
The BabySafe Project has recommendations for pregnant women on how to reduce their exposure to wireless radiation at home, at work and in transit.
Ways to Reduce Your Wireless Exposure:
- Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body (e.g. in a pocket or bra).
- Avoid placing your cell phone, wireless laptop or tablet on your abdomen.
- Use your cell phone on speaker setting or with an “air tube” headset.
- Avoid using your wireless device in cars, trains or elevators.
- Avoid cordless phones, especially where you sleep.
- Whenever possible, connect to the internet with wired cables.
- When using Wi-Fi, connect only to download, then disconnect. Streaming videos and playing games result in higher levels of RFR exposure.
- Avoid prolonged or direct exposure to Wi-Fi routers at home, school, or work. If your job requires you to use a computer, position yourself so that you are not sitting close to the router and not between the router and your computer.
- Unplug your home Wi-Fi router when not in use (e.g. at bedtime).
- Sleep as far away from wireless utility meters (i.e. “smart” meters) as possible.
More than one hundred physicians, scientists and public health professionals from around the world have joined together to express their concern about the risk that wireless radiation poses to pregnancy and to urge pregnant women to limit their exposures.
Joint Statement on Pregnancy and Wireless Radiation:
We join together as physicians, scientists and educators to express our concern about the risk that wireless radiation poses to pregnancy and to urge pregnant women to limit their exposures.
We recognize that the exquisitely delicate systems that direct the development of human life are vulnerable to environmental insults, and that even minute exposures during critical windows of development may have serious and life-long consequences.
We know that the scientific process demands a thorough and exhaustive examination of the possible impact of wireless radiation on health; however, we believe substantial evidence of risk, rather than absolute proof of harm, must be the trigger for action to protect public health.
We call on the research community to conduct more studies to identify the mechanisms by which a fetus could be affected by wireless radiation exposures. We call on our elected leaders to support such research and to advance policies and regulations that limit exposures for pregnant women. We call on industry to implement and explore technologies and designs that will reduce radiation exposures until such research is carried out.
We affirm our role as health and science professionals to inform the public about the potential dangers associated with early-life exposures to wireless radiation, and invite all professionals engaged in obstetric, pediatric, and environmental health advocacy to join us in our quest to ensure the safety and health of future generations.
To view a list of signatories on the joint statement, go to www.BabySafeProject.org
** This article first appeared in Holistic Parenting Magazine, Issue No.16, May/June 2016 http://HolisticParentingMagazine.com **
Selected Resources and studies:
- Oxidative mechanisms of biological activity of low-intensity radiofrequency radiation. Yakymenko, et al. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine 34(3):1-16 (2015).
- The effect of exposure of rats during prenatal period to radiation spreading from mobile phones on renal development. Bedir, et al. Renal Failure 37(2):305-9 (2015).
- Effects of prenatal 900 MHz electromagnetic field exposures on the histology of rat kidney. Ulubay, et al. International Journal of Radiation Biology 91(1):35-41 (2015).
- Autism-relevant social abnormalities in mice exposed perinatally to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields. Alsaeed, et al. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience 37:58-6 (2014).
- Influence of pregnancy stage and fetus position on the whole-body and local exposure of the fetus to RF-EMF. Varsier, et al. Physics in Medicine and Biology 59(17):4913-26 (2014).
- Dosimetric study of fetal exposure to uniform magnetic fields at 50 Hz. Liorni et al. Bioelectromagnetics 35(8):580-97 (2014).
- State of the reproductive system in male rats of 1st generation obtained from irradiated parents and exposed to electromagnetic radiation (897 MHz) during embryogenesis and postnatal development. Radiats Biol Radioecol 54(2):186-92 (2014).
Patti Wood is Executive Director of Grassroots Environmental Education, a New York based not-for-profit environmental health organization. The organization uses science-driven arguments for clean air, clean water and a safe food supply and advocates for stricter regulation of non-ionizing radiation and chemical toxins. Grassroots believes that the cultivation of broad-based public support through education is the key to bringing about positive and change. Programs are based on science, and the network of environmental experts includes leaders in the fields of environmental toxicology and medicine from Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Tufts and New York Universities, U.C. Berkeley, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and similar institutions.
She is the co-producer of the documentary film “Our Children at Risk,” which explores the latest scientific research linking environmental toxins to children’s health problems. She is also the author of “The ChildSafe School,” a program which promotes and provides a framework for a comprehensive approach to reducing environmental toxins in schools.