Use of mobile and cordless phones and cognition in Australian primary school children: A prospective cohort study
Background: Use of mobile (MP) and cordless phones (CP) is common among young children, but whether the resulting radiofrequency exposure affects development of cognitive skills is not known. Small changes have been found in older children. This study focused on children's exposures to MP and CP and cognitive development. The hypothesis was that children who used these phones would display differences in cognitive function compared to those who did not. Methods: We recruited 619 fourth-grade students (8-11 years) from 37 schools around Melbourne and Wollongong, Australia. Participants completed a short questionnaire, a computerised cognitive test battery, and the Stroop colour-word test. Parents completed exposure questionnaires on their child's behalf. Analysis used multiple linear regression. The principal exposure-metrics were the total number of reported MP and CP calls weekly categorised into no use ('None'); use less than or equal to the median amount ('Some'); and use more than the median ('More'). The median number of calls/week was 2.5 for MP and 2.0 for CP. Results: MP and CP use for calls was low; and only 5 of 78 comparisons of phone use with cognitive measures were statistically significant. The reaction time to the response-inhibition task was slower in those who used an MP 'More' compared to the 'Some' use group and non-users. For CP use, the response time to the Stroop interference task was slower in the 'More' group versus the 'Some' group, and accuracy was worse in visual recognition and episodic memory tasks and the identification task. In an additional exploratory analysis, there was some evidence of a gender effect on mean reaction times. The highest users for both phone types were girls. Conclusions: Overall, there was little evidence cognitive function was associated with CP and MP use in this age group. Although there was some evidence that effects of MP and CP use on cognition may differ by gender, this needs further exploration. CP results may be more reliable as parents estimated children's phone use and the CPs were at home; results for CP use were broadly consistent with our earlier study of older children.
Redmayne, M., Smith, C. L., Benke, G. P., Croft, R. J., Dalecki, A., Dimitriadis, C., Kaufman, J., Macleod, S., Sim, M., Wolfe, R. & Abramson, M. J. (2016). Use of mobile and cordless phones and cognition in Australian primary school children: A prospective cohort study. Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source, 15 (1), 26-1-26-10.