Mobile phone use, blood lead levels, and attention deficit hyperactivity symptoms in children: a longitudinal study

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59742. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059742. Epub 2013 Mar 21.


Background: Concerns have developed for the possible negative health effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) exposure to children's brains. The purpose of this longitudinal study was to investigate the association between mobile phone use and symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) considering the modifying effect of lead exposure.

Methods: A total of 2,422 children at 27 elementary schools in 10 Korean cities were examined and followed up 2 years later. Parents or guardians were administered a questionnaire including the Korean version of the ADHD rating scale and questions about mobile phone use, as well as socio-demographic factors. The ADHD symptom risk for mobile phone use was estimated at two time points using logistic regression and combined over 2 years using the generalized estimating equation model with repeatedly measured variables of mobile phone use, blood lead, and ADHD symptoms, adjusted for covariates.

Results: The ADHD symptom risk associated with mobile phone use for voice calls but the association was limited to children exposed to relatively high lead.

Conclusions: The results suggest that simultaneous exposure to lead and RF from mobile phone use was associated with increased ADHD symptom risk, although possible reverse causality could not be ruled out.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / blood*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Child
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood*
  • Lead Poisoning / complications*
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects
  • Risk
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Lead

Grant support

This study was financially supported by the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Knowledge and Economy. The funders had no role in study design, data analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript, but supported to collect data by sending the official paper to schools for encouraging them to participate in the survey.