- Yale expert says it would be ‘sensible’ for pregnant women to limit their baby’s exposure to mobile phones
- But British experts say it’s ‘irresponsible’ to speculate about human radiation risk from a study on mice
By Claire Bates
PUBLISHED: 09:02 EST, 15 March 2012 | UPDATED: 10:52 EST, 15 March 2012
Pregnant women who use mobile phones may be putting their babies at risk of developing behavioural problems, scientists have warned.
Researchers from Yale University found exposure to radiation from mobiles during pregnancy affects the brain development of offspring, potentially leading to greater activity, anxiety and poor memory.
They concluded mobiles could have a negative effect on babies in the womb after studying pregnant mice.
However, a group of British scientists have poured scorn on the study labeling it ‘alarmist and unjustified.’
They pointed out that the unborn mice would have received a dose of radiation that was proportionally far higher than an unborn baby would get. They added that while the whole bodies of the mice were exposed a pregnant woman would tend to hold their phone a metre away from their uterus.
The experts, from the University College of London, among others, added that a comparison is impossible between rodents and humans because mice are born after just 19 days with a brain that’s at a far earlier stage of development compared to human babies.
The introduction of the Yale study, published in the latest issue of the journal Scientific Reports, focuses on the rising number of ADHD cases in children, implying it could be linked to their research in mice.
The researchers measured the brain electrical activity of adult mice that were exposed to radiation as foetuses and conducted a series of psychological and behavioural tests.
They found that the mice that were exposed to radiation tended to be more hyperactive and had increased anxiety and reduced memory capacity.
Senior author Professor Hugh Taylor said: ‘We have shown that behavioural problems in mice that resemble ADHD are caused by mobile phone exposure in the womb.
‘The rise in behavioural disorders in human children may be in part due to foetal cellular telephone irradiation exposure.’
Professor Hugh Taylor (left) from Yale said behavioural disorders could be due in part to phone radiation exposure in the womb but Professor Katya Rubia (right) from UCL said the claim was ‘alarmist and unjustified’
In the study the authors concluded human tests would be needed before ‘extrapolating these behavioural findings to humans.’
But Prof Taylor, who is a member of EHHI – an organisation ‘dedicated to protecting human health from environmental harms through research’ – added that limiting a foetus’ exposure to mobile phone radiation seemed warranted.
However, Professor Jim Stevenson from the University of Southampton denounced the study as ‘irresponsible.’
He told the UK charitable trust, Sense about Science: ‘There is to date only little evidence of an association,’ adding that no evidence from the latest mouse study supported the conjecture.
Professor Katya Rubia, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, added that the link made between mice and humans was ‘alarmist and unjustified.’
Non-comparable: Mice are only pregnant for 19 days
She said the fact the exposed mice in the study were more active could not be translated to complex disorders such as ADHD. She pointed out that anxiety levels decreased in exposed mice whereas it is typically higher in children with ADHD.
Professor Eric Taylor from King’s College London said the rate of ADHD problems has actually been steady for more than 20 years and any increase is most probably due to greater recognition of the disorder.
A spokesman from the Health Protection Agency, told Mail Online: ‘There is no hard scientific evidence that radio signals from mobile phones pose a risk to public health providing they are within ICNIRP (international body) guidelines.
‘Very many studies into the effects of radio waves on health have been published over the past several decades. The authors of this study acknowledge themselves that their work had certain limitations.
‘The Health Protection Agency constantly monitors and reviews this scientific research and will consider this study, along with other peer reviewed research, as part of that process.’
The latest controversial study comes just two years after scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, found children exposed to mobile phones in the womb had a 30 per cent rise in behavioural difficulties at the age of seven.
The study looked at 29,000 youngsters, but some British scientists said the findings could be due to lifestyle factors rather than mobiles. They pointed out that mothers glued to their mobiles may very well be less likely to interact as much with their children.