Background: Despite the increase of mobile phone use in the last decade and the growing concern whether mobile telecommunication networks adversely affect health and well-being, only few studies have been published that focussed on children and adolescents. Especially children and adolescents are important in the discussion of adverse health effects because of their possibly higher vulnerability to radio frequency electromagnetic fields.
Methods: We investigated a possible association between exposure to mobile telecommunication networks and well-being in children and adolescents using personal dosimetry. A population-based sample of 1.498 children and 1.524 adolescents was assembled for the study (response 52%). Participants were randomly selected from the population registries of four Bavarian (South of Germany) cities and towns with different population sizes. During a Computer Assisted Personal Interview data on participants' well-being, socio-demographic characteristics and potential confounder were collected. Acute symptoms were assessed three times during the study day (morning, noon, evening).Using a dosimeter (ESM-140 Maschek Electronics), we obtained an exposure profile over 24 hours for three mobile phone frequency ranges (measurement interval 1 second, limit of determination 0.05 V/m) for each of the participants. Exposure levels over waking hours were summed up and expressed as mean percentage of the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) reference level.
Results: In comparison to non-participants, parents and adolescents with a higher level of education who possessed a mobile phone and were interested in the topic of possible adverse health effects caused by mobile telecommunication network frequencies were more willing to participate in the study. The median exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields of children and adolescents was 0.18% and 0.19% of the ICNIRP reference level respectively.
Conclusion: In comparison to previous studies this is one of the first to assess the individual level of exposure to mobile telecommunication networks using personal dosimetry, enabling objective assessment of exposure from all sources and longer measurement periods. In total, personal dosimetry was proofed to be a well accepted tool to study exposure to mobile phone frequencies in epidemiologic studies including health effects on children and adolescents.