Can You Hear Me Now, Mama…?!! Cell Phones & Pregnancy

In the conception chapter of Parenting for Peace, I devote a section to the 21st century issue of EMFs (electromagnetic fields) — cell phone radiation, wireless and electronic gadgetry, the whole shebang — and a discussion of how it might perturb the minute processes around conception and early embryonic development. Well, yesterday came news of a new Yale study finding ADHD-like symptoms and other brain abnormalities in mice whose pregnant mothers were exposed to cell phone radiation.

And yes, humans are definitely not mice, and we need to be cautious about extrapolating mice studies to human risk. One expert quoted in the story about the Yale study expressly reassures readers that because the rate of ADHD has held steady (or so he says) over the past twenty years while cell phone use has proliferated, the connection is spurious and cell phone radiation is not likely associated.

Um… what short memories people have! Or maybe it’s just that the 2008 article in the journal Occupational Environmental Medicine didn’t get enough media play to make a dent in our collective cellular blind spot. Swedish researchers found that pregnant women who used mobile phones were 54 percent more likely to report behavioral problems in their children than the pregnant women who didn’t use mobile phones, and that the likelihood increases with the amount of potential exposure to the radiation.

The study also found  that people who had used a mobile phone for a decade or more were twice as likely to develop a malignant tumor on the side of the brain where they hold the device.

A Population of Guinea Pigs

Whenever we hold a cellphone to our ear, use a Bluetooth headset, or simply hang out in a space equipped with wireless, we’re participating in an ongoing experiment about the effects of EMFs on human health and functioning. We as a technoculture have enthusiastically embraced all this gadgetry without really knowing what it might be doing to us. One of the challenges of the EMF issue is its extreme complexity. Not only are there myriad frequency levels and strength of different kinds, but the variety of interactional possibilities is virtually infinite. Testing the effects of a single unchanging frequency, for example, is largely irrelevant outside the lab, where synergistic effects inevitably occur in the latticework of today’s ever-present electromagnetic web. (These kinds of single-frequency tests are most often done by researchers whose goal is to prove there is no cause for alarm.) The EMF danger is a tough sell — to public policy-makers, to many scientists, to the public. It’s hard to wrap slogans around, tricky to grasp.

Nevertheless, the facts are available to those who dig a little and find the work of intrepid researchers who’ve have had the mettle to amass evidence for the human immune, reproductive, and bio-regulatory effects of our growing worldwide carpet and canopy of multi-strength, multi-frequency electromagnetic fields. The late UCLA brain researcher Ross Adey was among the first, and most vocal, to recognize the double-edged aspect of bioelectromagnetics.

Stress Interrupts Intelligence: “Can You Hear Me Now??”

The best working definition of intelligence (including the basic intelligence of a cell) is, “the ability to bring in information and respond to it for your own wellbeing and continuity.” Adey’s many streams of research were all tied together by the theme of communication in the body — and what happens when that communication is interfered with. Stress is one well documented such interference. Current research focuses on the effects of stress on neurotransmitters — hormones and other information substances — and views these at level of molecules (biochemicals). Adey’s work demonstrated, however, that all communication in the body takes place at a molecular and atomic level (some refer to this as “energetic”), where infinitesimally weak electrical signals alter cell membrane permeability to allow the transfer of millions of ions back and forth in milliseconds. Adey’s new paradigm of cell communication allows us to comprehend numerous well-documented observations that cannot be explained by Newtonian physics, or earlier accepted laws of thermodynamics that govern ionic flux.

ELF (extremely low frequency) fields and pulses seem to be of greatest concern, since they can be so similar to the tiny bioinformational frequencies going on within our own bodies, and can therefore more insidiously perturb them. Having studied brain neurons’ response to ELFs, Adey found that some pulse levels can change calcium flow in the nervous system; such a disruption in calcium efflux interferes with concentration on complex tasks, disrupts sleep cycles, and changes brain function in countless other ways. He pointed out that this relates to disruption of delicate molecular processes at the site of the cell membrane, the cell’s “window on the world around it.”

Adey saw evidence of EMFs disrupting the “private language of intrinsic communication by which cells may ‘whisper together’ in activities such as metabolic cooperation and growth regulation.” Such a perturbation of information flow is a corruption of the most basic intelligence in the human body, an assault on the infinitesimal foundations of peace.

What To Do?

When counseling parents and pre-parents, I suggest they try to use (old-fashioned, I know!) corded and wired devices rather than cordless and wireless. To be without a cell phone would of course be like cultural exile, but take precautions — not only for your baby’s health, but for your own. Consider choosing a phone with a lower level of absorbed radiation, and getting a “Blue Tube” (as opposed to blue-tooth) wired headset. Move your bed so that your head is three to six feet away from any electrical outlets or devices. Before going to sleep, turn off everything electrical or wireless (ideally in your entire house, but at least in your sleeping areas), including WiFi, cell and cordless phones.

Because even in the absence of consensus on EMF effects, don’t you think it makes sense to choose “the path of least regret,” especially during the unfolding of a brand new human being?!

Christine Hsu, “Exposing Cell Phones Radiation to Unborn Babies Risks Abnormal Brain Development and ADHD

Neelam Goswami, “Cell Phone Use During Pregnancy May Cause Behavioural Problems in Kids

People on cell phones by Ed Yourdon under its Creative Commons license
Cells by RambergMediaImages under its Creative Commons license

Marcy Axness, PhD, is the author of
Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers.

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