A new report indicates that cell phone use by pregnant mothers will create demon spawn children.
Ok, that’s not exactly the up-shot of this Reuters story, but you couldn’t tell from looking at the headline or the first paragraph of the write-up. For the record, they are:
“Prenatal cell phone exposure tied to behavior.”
Children whose mothers used cell phones frequently during pregnancy and who are themselves cell phone users are more likely to have behavior problems, new research shows.
That sound you hear is pregnant mothers throwing down their cell phones and calling Macy’s to see if they stock maternity clothes made of lead.
But wait, as Reuters goes on to note, that’s not exactly what the study found:
The finding "certainly shouldn’t be over interpreted, but nevertheless points in a direction where further research is needed," Dr. Leeka Kheifets of theUCLASchoolof Public Health, who helped conduct the study, told Reuters Health. "It’s a wonderful technology and people are certainly going to be using it more and more," she added. "We need to be looking into what are the potential health effects and what are ways to reduce risks should there be any."
Er, OK. So we’re not creating a legion of brats just by gabbing?
Kheifets and her colleagues note that a fetus’s exposure to radiofrequency fields by a mother’s cell phone use is likely very small. However, they add, research has shown that children using cell phones are exposed to more radiofrequency energy than adults, because their ears and brains are smaller.
Because cell phone use was so infrequent among children in the study - 30 percent of kids were using a cell phone, but just 1 percent used a cell phone for more than an hour a week - radiofrequency exposure seems unlikely to have caused any behavior problems, they say.
"Another possible explanation for the observed association might be the lack of attention given to a child by mothers who are frequent users of cell phones," the researchers suggest. They note that mothers who used cell phones frequently were of lower socio-occupational status, more likely to have mental health and psychiatric problems, and more likely to have smoked while they were pregnant.
Well. That’s quite a distance away from the bald assertion of the headline and opening paragraph now isn’t it?
Obviously, I’m not a scientist. I’m not capable of judging clinical trials. But I know how to read (more or less). And this is not the first case of tech-related journalistic alarmism.