written by Nancy Hepp, MS Research and Communications Specialist
This post was updated to correct and clarify misleading statements on July 16th.
Electronics, Electrical Fields, and Radiation
Televisions are still dominant, but computers, mobile phones, tablets and other electronic devices are capturing more and more of children’s attention and waking hours. In Screen addiction is taking a toll on children, the New York Times investigates the consequences of so much screen time, including neglect of schoolwork, stunted social development, overweight, impairment in focus, sleep deprivation and aches from poor posture and overuse of some muscles. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents limit the amount of total entertainment screen time to somewhere between less than one and two hours per day for children age two and older, with no use for children under two years old.
Another group of doctors expressed concern about exposing fetuses to wireless radiation emitted by products including cellphones and Wi-Fi routers. Docs: wireless devices can harm pregnancies describes a joint statement from The BabySafe Project—a joint initiative of Environmental Health Trust and Grassroots Environmental Education—signed by more than 100 physicians, scientists and educators urging pregnant women to reduce their exposure to wireless radiation. The statement does not claim to have proof that wireless radiation is harmful, although it states that evidence to date provides reason for caution. The statement calls for precaution in the absence of certainty, research to determine mechanisms by which wireless radiation may cause adverse effects, and technologies that reduce exposure while research is being conducted.
A combined review of 11 studies published this week in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found no evidence that occupational exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MFs) increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Exposure to ELF-MFs comes from a variety of sources, including the electrical power system, wiring currents in buildings and appliance use.
As described in a story from Environmental Health News, a report commissioned by the Environmental Working Group Action Fund “found that four brands of children’s crayons out of 28 boxes tested and two of 21 children’s fingerprint kits contained asbestos.” Asbestos particles can become trapped in lungs, causing irritation and respiratory problems including mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. Asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Any exposure to asbestos should be avoided. The brands of crayons and fingerprint kits with asbestos are listed on the report website.
Asbestos occurs naturally in some rocks and soil, and a brief video this week from the IAQ Video Network summarizes the risks from exposure to naturally occurring asbestos and how we might be exposed. If you live, work or vacation in an area with asbestos is the soil, you can be exposed while working in a garden; digging soil; or while driving, riding a bike, running or hiking on unpaved surfaces. Construction areas that disturb soil are also high-risk areas. The video does not provide advice about reducing exposures, but a fact sheet from the US Environmental Protection Agency offers suggestions for both businesses and families.
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