Dec 10, 2020

Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields from Mobile Communication: Description of Modeled Dose in Brain Regions and the Body in European Children and Adolescents

Laura Ellen Birks, Luuk Van Wel, Ilaria Liorni, Livia Pierotti, Mònica Guxens, Anke Huss, Milena Foerster, Myles Capstick, Marloes Eeftens, Hanan El Marroun, Marisa Estarlich, Mara Gallastegi, Llúcia González Safont, Wout Joseph, Loreto Santa-Marina, Arno Thielens, Maties Torrent, Tanja Vrijkotte, Joe Wiart, Martin Röösli, Elisabeth Cardis, Roel Vermeulen, and Martine Vrijheid, Environmental Research 2021, Volume 193, February 2021, 110505, online 24 November 2020; doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.110505

Little is known about radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF) from mobile technology and resulting absorbed dose in young people. We describe the modeled integrated RF dose in European children and adolescents combining own mobile device use and surrounding sources. Using an integrated RF model, we estimated (i) the daily RF dose in the brain (whole-brain, cerebellum, frontal lobe, midbrain, occipital lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobes) and the whole-body in 8,358 children (ages 8-12) and adolescents (ages 14-18) from the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland during 2012 - 2016 and (ii) the RF dose from near-field sources (digital enhanced communication technology (DECT) phone, mobile phone, tablet, and laptop) and far-field, surrounding, sources (mobile phone base stations via 3D-radiowave modeling or RF measurements). Results showed that adolescents were more frequent mobile phone users and experienced higher modeled RF doses in the whole brain (median 330.4mJ/kg/day) compared to children (median 81.8 mJ/kg/day). Children spent more time using tablets or laptops compared to adolescents, resulting in higher RF doses in the whole body (median whole-body dose of 81.8 mJ/kg/day) compared to adolescents (41.9 mJ/kg/day). Among brain regions, temporal lobes received the highest RF dose (medians of 274.9 and 1,786.5 mJ/kg/day in children and adolescents, respectively) followed by the frontal lobe. In most children and adolescents, calling on 2G networks was the main contributor to RF dose in the whole-brain (medians of 31.1 and 273.7 mJ/kg/day, respectively). This first large study of RF dose to the brain and body of children and adolescents shows that mobile phone calls on 2G networks are the main determinants of brain dose, especially in temporal and frontal lobes, whereas whole-body doses were mostly determined by tablet and laptop use. The modeling of RF doses provides valuable input to epidemiological research and to potential risk management regarding RF exposure in young people.

The scientific and technical impact of the study can be summarized as:

  • An integrated RF model has been used to estimate daily RF dose in the brain and body in European children and adolescents, and combined exposure to near-field and far-field RF sources
  • Adolescents (age 14-18) spent more time using mobile phones and received a higher modeled RF dose in the brain than children (age 8-12)
  • Children spent more time using tablets or laptops compared to adolescents, resulting in higher RF doses in the whole-body
  • Subjects received the highest RF dose in the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain
  • Calling on 2G networks was the largest contributor to RF dose in the brain