Radio frequency electromagnetic fields can be detrimental to the development of mental performances in certain regions of the brain when using mobile phones. This was the result of a study of almost 700 adolescents, reported Inside-IT.ch.
The most important source of high frequency electromagnetic field (HF-EMF) exposure to the brain is the use of a mobile phone near the head. So far, studies that analysed the health effects of such fields have so far failed to produce clear results, according to a statement from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH).
A research team led by Martin Roosli from Swiss TPH has now investigated the relationship between HF-EMF exposure from mobile phones and the memory performance of adolescents. The scientists built on a study that was already published in 2015 in the journal Environment International. The new investigation included double sample size and new information on the absorption of electromagnetic radiation in the brain of adolescents.
More than 700 students between the ages of 12 and 17 were recruited and watched for one year. They came from rural and urban areas of German Switzerland. The work of Roosli’s research group, which in addition to a survey on mobile phone use also collected objective user data from mobile operators, is the world’s first epidemiological study to estimate the cumulative brain HF-EMF dose among adolescents, as Swiss TPH writes.
The results from 2015 were confirmed: the cumulative exposure to HF-EMF of the adolescent’s brain over one year may have a negative impact on the development of their figurative memory performance. This was tested with a computerised test in which the young people had to remember abstract forms.
The figurative memory is mainly located in the right brain hemisphere. The influence of radiation was indeed more pronounced in those adolescents who also used their mobile phone on the right side of the head, according to researchers’ report in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Sending text messages, playing games or surfing the internet, however, cause only a low level of radiation exposure and had no effect on the memory. There were no significant correlations in the verbal memory tests that the adolescents were also subjected to.
It is still unclear how relevant the findings are in the long term. According to the researchers, further research is needed, especially to exclude other factors that could play a role. ‘For example, the study outcomes may have been influenced by puberty, which affects both mobile phone use and the participants’ behaviour and cognitive abilities,’ Roosli said.
In the meantime, the researcher recommends to minimise the risk for the brain by using headsets or speakers when talking on the phone. This is especially advisable with low network quality and maximum performance of the mobile phone.
The study, supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), was conducted by the Swiss TPH in collaboration with the EU project Geronimo, which explores the relationship between HF-EMF and health.
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