Announcing a Special Section of Child Development
from © The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
Contemporary Mobile Technology and Child and Adolescent Development,
edited by Zheng Yan and Lennart Hardell, May 15, 2017
Cindy Sage and Ernesto Burgio
Mobile phones and other wireless devices that produce electromagnetic ﬁelds (EMF) and pulsed radiofrequency radiation (RFR) are widely documented to cause potentially harmful health impacts that can be detrimental to young people. New epigenetic studies are proﬁled in this review to account for some neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral changes due to exposure to wireless technologies. Symptoms of retarded memory, learning, cognition, attention, and behavioral problems have been reported in numerous studies and are similarly manifested in autism and attention deﬁcit hyperactivity disorders, as a result of EMF and RFR exposures where both epigenetic drivers and genetic (DNA) damage are likely contributors. Technology beneﬁts can be realized by adopting wired devices for education to avoid health risk and promote academic achievement.
Citation Sage, C. and Burgio, E. (2017), Electromagnetic Fields, Pulsed Radiofrequency Radiation, and Epigenetics: How Wireless Technologies May Affect Childhood Development. Child Dev. doi:10.1111/cdev.12824
Contact Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Cindy Sage, Sage Associates,
1396 Danielson Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108. Electronic mail may be sent to
The wide array of pathophysiological effects of EMF and RFR exposures from wireless sources do not require “the breaking of molecular bonds” as done by ionizing radiation in order for physiologically damaging effects to occur. Epigenetic mechanisms alone can change fetal development in profound ways, disrupting health by causing changes in gene activation and expression without change in gene sequences. Environmental epigenetic inﬂuences in the fetal and neonatal development (i.e., epigenetic regulation of genes rather than direct genetic effects by gene mutation) have been plausibly established to cause pathophysiological changes that can result in altered neurological development. Symptoms of neurodevelopmental problems in children like retarded memory, impaired learning, cognition, attention, and behavioral aberrations that are similarly expressed in autism and ADHD have been reported in numerous scientiﬁc studies to occur as a result of EMF and RFR exposures. Epigenetic drivers are the most likely causes, and persistent exposures contribute to chronic dysfunction and addiction that can overwhelm adaptive biological responses.
Epigenetics provides an under-recognized mechanism for the cell phone radiation damage seen in epidemiological studies on humans, and in animal toxicity studies. Epigenetics is redefining the traditional interpretations of ‘Mendelian genes and genetic inheritance’, and legitimizing mechanisms that account for health effects that are already epidemiologically visible.
Epigenetic mechanisms rebut the outdated thinking for experts like David Savitz, a leading US epidemiologist to argue that ” (C)ell phones (and to a lesser extent cordless phones) give off non-ionizing radiation, which unlike ionizing radiation such as X-rays, CT scans and radon do not have the potential to damage DNA. “There is no known pathway for any adverse health effects,” http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/28/health/cell-phones- brain-tumor- risk-berkeley/
Global saturation by wireless device emissions is our largest modifiable and preventable childhood contaminant. It may exacerbate health harm from chemical toxins such as environmental tobacco, mercury, lead and pthalate toxicity that already burden the developing child. We should think first of reducing the body-burden of wireless emissions which cause epigenetic changes leading to cognitive and behavioral issues in the young child, as well as the underlying neurodevelopmental problems of the fetus, before widely prescribing chemical and/or behavioral interventions.
Public health experts, educators and psychologists have gained a strong new tool to argue against pulsed radiofrequency radiation saturation by wireless devices and infrastructure. Wireless exposures are modifiable and largely avoidable by choosing wired for technology access. This may hold the largest potential for global preventative health action we have. In comparison to chemical toxicants and other neurotoxins and neurodevelopmental contaminants, we have a clear and immediate choice to avoid wireless technologies in favor of wired connectivity. Prevention of environmental exposures that can lead to disease and developmental disabilities is within reach, now that we are coming to understand how epigenetic mechanisms can modify the expression of the human genome.