December 13, 2018

Study suggests potential adverse effect on brain during mobile phone use

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A Prospective Cohort Study of Adolescents’ Memory Performance and Individual Brain Dose of Microwave Radiation from Wireless Communication

By Milena Foerster, Arno Thielens, Wout Joseph, Marloes Eeftens, and Martin Röösli

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The potential impact of microwave radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) emitted by wireless communication devices on neurocognitive functions of adolescents is controversial. In a previous analysis, we found changes in figural memory scores associated with a higher cumulative RF-EMF brain dose in adolescents.

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We aimed to follow-up our previous results using a new study population, dose estimation, and approach to controlling for confounding from media usage itself.

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RF-EMF brain dose for each participant was modeled. Multivariable linear regression models were fitted on verbal and figural memory score changes over 1 y and on estimated cumulative brain dose and RF-EMF related and unrelated media usage (n=669–676). Because of the hemispheric lateralization of memory, we conducted a laterality analysis for phone call ear preference. To control for the confounding of media use behaviors, a stratified analysis for different media usage groups was also conducted.

RESULTS:

We found decreased figural memory scores in association with an interquartile range (IQR) increase in estimated cumulative RF-EMF brain dose scores: −0.22 (95% CI:−0.47, 0.03; IQR: 953 mJ/kg per day) in the whole sample,−0.39 (95% CI: −0.67, −0.10; IQR: 953 mJ/kg per day) in right-side users (n=532), and −0.26 (95% CI: −0.42,−0.10; IQR: 341 mJ/kg per day) when recorded network operator data were used for RF-EMF dose estimation (n=274). Media usage unrelated to RF-EMF did not show significant associations or consistent patterns, with the exception of consistent (nonsignificant) positive associations between data traffic duration and verbal memory.

Conclusion

We found preliminary evidence suggesting that RF-EMF may affect brain functions such as figural memory in regions that are most exposed during mobile phone use. Our findings do not provide conclusive evidence of causal effects and should be interpreted with caution until confirmed in other populations. Associations with media use parameters with low RF-EMF exposures did not provide clear or consistent support of effects of media use unrelated to RF-EMF (with the possible exception of consistent positive associations between verbal memory and data traffic duration). It is not yet clear which brain processes could be potentially affected and what biophysical mechanism may play a role. Potential long-term risk can be minimized by avoiding high brain-exposure situations as occurs when using a mobile phone with maximum power close to the ear because of, for example, bad network quality.

https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP2427

: eph Environmental Health Perspectives

To download the whole report go to: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/EHP2427/

IMAGE: Care2

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