Pregnant? Lose the cellphone


Researchers studying the health effects of cellphones say they have found evidence that when pregnant women use them regularly, their children is more likely to have behavioural problems.

The study, sure to renew controversy over the safety of mobile telephones, does not demonstrate that cellphone use causes the behavioural problems and does not suggest a possible way that they could.

But the researchers say their findings are worth checking out.

"It is hard to understand how such low exposures could be influential," Dr. Leeka Kheifets, an epidemiologist at the University of California Los Angeles who led the study.
"It is just something that needs to be pursued."

Kheifets and her team looked at data from 28,000 7-year-olds and their mothers who took part in a large study that has been tracking 100,000 women who were pregnant between 1996 and 2002.

The mothers of about 3% of the children said they had borderline behavioural problems, and 3% showed abnormal behaviour, such as obedience or emotional issues.

The children whose mothers used cellphones while pregnant and who also used the phones themselves were 50% more likely to have behavioural problems.

Children whose mothers used the phones but who did not themselves use mobile phones were 40% more likely to have behavioural problems. They found the children were no more likely to have epilepsy or delays in development.

About 5 billion mobile phones are in use worldwide. The World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health have found no evidence that cellphone use can damage health.

Inconclusive studies

Kheifets tried to account for other possible causes, such as whether women who used cellphones were different from women who did not, especially during the time of their pregnancies when cellphone use was less common than it is now.

"We looked at social status, we looked at the sex of the child, we looked at the mother's history of behavioural problems, we looked at the mother's age and stress during pregnancy and whether the child was breastfed or not," she said.

However some think that it is not cellphone use but mothers' inattention that led to behaviour problems.

Will you give up your cellphone for the sake of your child’s behaviour?

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