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EMF or Magnetic Field Radiation and ADHD in Kids

Should pregnant women worry about exposure to EMF? A study suggests that there could be a connection between magnetic field nonionizing radiation and ADHD.
EMF or Magnetic Field Radiation and ADHD in Kids
An isolated shot of a pregnant woman

There has been a raging controversy about electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation for decades. Are there worrisome health effects from this kind of exposure? Many experts say do not worry. Others are not so sure. A new study in JAMA Network Open (March 24, 2020) found an association between magnetic field radiation and ADHD. This is disconcerting.

What is Magnetic Field Radiation or EMF?

We’re not talking about x-rays! We are talking about what some call magnetic field (MF) radiation. Microwave ovens generate EMF radiation, but they are shielded so that there is very little leakage or risk. Cell phones, electronic tablets and cordless telephones emit EMF radiation, though the cordless phones have less signal strength than cell phones. Cell towers, wireless networks and devices are part of this process.

Household appliances often emit significant magnetic field radiation. We have tested toasters and clock radios and were surprised at the levels we could detect. The farther you get from the appliance, though, the lower the magnetic field. Your computer screen emits some EMF if you get a meter close enough. When you get about 20 inches away, however, the magnetic fields drop dramatically.

Magnetic Field Radiation and ADHD:

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente asked the following question:

“Could human exposure to magnetic field nonionizing radiation be associated with increased risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children?”

In their introduction these scientists noted that 11% of children between 4 and 17 are diagnosed with ADHD. That’s a truly scary statistic. Have that many kids always suffered from this condition or has something changed in our environment? ADHD has been going up at an alarming rate over the last few decades.

The health organization called Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) has a very large patient population. The researchers recruited pregnant women 18 years or older to participate in this study. Those who agreed had to wear a meter that “captured the level of MF nonionizing radiation exposure during a 24-hour monitoring period.” There were 1,454 mother/child pairs that completed the study. The authors reported that they:

“…followed up the offspring of participating women for physician-diagnosed ADHD and immune-related comorbidities (asthma and AD) up to 20 years of age. We observed that in utero exposure to higher levels of MF nonionizing radiation was associated with more than 2 times the risk of ADHD.”

Their Conclusion in JAMA Network Open:

“The findings provide new evidence that in utero exposure to a high level of MF nonionizing radiation is associated with an increased risk of ADHD in offspring. The association is primarily between MF nonionizing radiation exposure and ADHD with immune-related comorbidities and persistent cases of ADHD. The findings reveal a possible new risk factor that is ubiquitous in our modern day lives and should spur more research to examine this potential association.”

Magnetic Field Radiation and ADHD: What Should We Do?

In the introduction to their research the authors note that:

“If research evidence shows that in utero MF nonionizing radiation exposure is a risk factor for ADHD, then this exposure would be a modifiable risk factor. Although almost everyone today is exposed to MF nonionizing radiation to some degree, prevention measures can be implemented to reduce the level of maternal MF nonionizing radiation exposure during pregnancy.”

We think this might be good advice. It is unlikely that we will see such a long-term research study repeated any time in the future. This was a labor of love.

Based on the results, we think that pregnant women might want to reduce their exposure to magnetic field nonionizing radiation. That means not resting a cell phone on the belly or getting too close to electric appliances. 

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Citations
  • Li, D-K, et al, "Association Between Maternal Exposure to Magnetic Field Nonionizing Radiation During Pregnancy and Risk of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Offspring in a Longitudinal Birth Cohort," JAMA Network Open, March 24, 2020, doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.1417
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