In today's world, technologic developments bring social and economic benefits to large sections of society; however, the health consequences of these developments can be difficult to predict and manage. With rapid advances in electromagnetic field (EMF) technologies and communications, children are increasingly exposed to EMFs at earlier and earlier ages. Consistent epidemiologic evidence of an association between childhood leukemia and exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields has led to their classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “possible human carcinogen.” Concerns about the potential vulnerability of children to radio frequency (RF) fields have been raised because of the potentially greater susceptibility of their developing nervous systems; in addition, their brain tissue is more conductive, RF penetration is greater relative to head size, and they will have a longer lifetime of exposure than adults. To evaluate information relevant to children's sensitivity to both ELF and RF EMFs and to identify research needs, the World Health Organization held an expert workshop in Istanbul, Turkey, in June 2004. This article is based on discussions from the workshop and provides background information on the development of the embryo, fetus, and child, with particular attention to the developing brain; an outline of childhood susceptibility to environmental toxicants and childhood diseases implicated in EMF studies; and a review of childhood exposure to EMFs. It also includes an assessment of the potential susceptibility of children to EMFs and concludes with a recommendation for additional research and the development of precautionary policies in the face of scientific uncertainty.
- Accepted February 2, 2005.
- Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Pediatrics