A first ever study to look at the effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) on the brains of adolescents has found that this type of radiation may affect memory in the brains of teenagers.1 RF-EMF exposure has increased tremendously over the last 25 years with an increasing usage of devices that rely on these frequencies to operate. The most common source of exposure to the brain is the use of the mobile phone close to the head. This is the type of exposure this study researched.
Radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) & brains of adolescents
The study was conducted in Switzerland at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), and specifically assessed the association between RF-EMF exposure from wireless devices and memory performance in teens. The study is part of a follow up on a 2015 study on the same topic – these are the world’s first epidemiological studies on this topic.
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) study
About 700 participants were recruited from both rural and urban junior high schools in Switzerland. Ages ranged from 12 to 17 years, and participants were followed for one year.
The study found that cumulative brain exposure to RF-EMF from cell phone use was negatively correlated to memory performance. This confirmed the prior results published in 2015. Specifically, figural memory was seen to be affected most. Figural memory is primarily located on the right side of the brain, and individuals using phones on the right side of the head were noted to be more affected by the RF-EMF. The authors of the study commented that this correlation may support the hypothesis that it is the RF-EMF being absorbed by the brain that is responsible for the noted associations.
Other forms of wireless communication
The study does also comment that other forms of wireless communication, such as sending text messages, and using the internet were not found to have an association with memory performance. The authors also mention that drawing conclusions at this time is not possible due to the changes that are seen in the brain, behavior, cognition, and also mobile phone use during puberty. Further research is certainly needed.
The RF-EMF exposure question is a relatively new field of research, yet it may not be a bad idea to advocate headphone use over direct contact with the ear during wireless device use.
- Schoeni A., Roser K., Röösli M. (2015) Memory performance, wireless communication and exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields: a prospective cohort study in adolescents. Environmental International. Volume 85. Page 343-351. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2015.09.025
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