Miscarriage rates triple for women with top radiation exposures

UNTV News   •   December 21, 2017   •   4205

A child touches her pregnant mother’s stomach at the last stages of her pregnancy in Bordeaux April 28, 2010. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

(Reuters Health) – Pregnant women exposed to high radiation levels from sources like cell phones, wireless devices and cell towers miscarried at nearly three times the rate as those exposed to low levels, according to new research.

“I hope this study makes us rethink the notion that magnetic field non-ionizing radiation exposure is safe or has no health risk,” said lead author Dr. De-Kun Li, a senior research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California. “This is certainly something we can’t just ignore.”

Cell phones, cordless phones and other wireless devices, appliances, power lines, smart-meter networks and cell towers generate non-ionizing radiation from magnetic fields. Writing in Scientific Reports, Li and his team call rapidly proliferating electromagnetic field emissions “a ubiquitous environmental exposure and a serious looming public health challenge.”

For the study, more than 900 pregnant women in the San Francisco area carried meters that measured their exposure to electromagnetic field radiation for 24 hours. After accounting for age, race, education and smoking, expectant mothers with the highest exposure levels during their typical weekday routines were 2.7 times as likely to miscarry as women with the lowest levels.

Researchers could not determine the emission sources of the radiation. But they write that traditional sources, such as power lines and appliances, generate low-frequency magnetic fields, while emerging sources, such as cell phones and smart-meter networks, generate higher frequencies.

The results underscore the need for additional research into possible health harms of a technology to which virtually everyone in the U.S. is now exposed, whether by choice or circumstance, Li said.

“We really want people to start rethinking the assumption that magnetic-field exposure is safe,” he said in a phone interview. “We really, really need more research because everybody is exposed, including the genetically vulnerable and fetuses.”

Olga V. Naidenko, a senior science advisor with the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C. who was not involved with the study, described the findings as “very compelling” and “very alarming.”

Like Li, she called for more research into the biological effects of electromagnetic radiation.

“We need a better understanding about what sources of non-ionizing radiation around the house most contribute to health risk, so that families – and everyone – have the necessary information to protect their health,” she said in an email.

In the meantime, she advises children and adults, especially pregnant women, to decrease exposure to electromagnetic radiation by keeping cell phones and other wireless devices away from their bodies.

“If someone is really concerned, distance is their friend,” Li said. “Keep away from the source. You don’t have to stand right next to the microwave. There’s nothing to watch anyway.”

Li said Kaiser, an integrated healthcare delivery system whose members comprise nearly one-third of the residents in its Northern California catchment area, would not issue a warning to pregnant women about electromagnetic radiation. But the California Department of Public Health did issue guidance last week that long-term use of cell phones could pose health harms.

“Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell phones,” Dr. Karen Smith, California’s public health officer, said in a written statement.

“We know that simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults,” she said.

Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved with the new study, said it builds on previous research, which found that electromagnetic exposure during pregnancy increased the risk of miscarriage.

“Pregnant women and couples trying to conceive children should minimize their exposure to the electromagnetic fields produced by household appliances and wireless devices, including cell phones,” he said by email.

Previous studies have linked radiation from long-term cell phone use to an increased risk of brain cancer and lower sperm counts, Naidenko said.

A federal study last year found an increased risk of cancer associated with magnetic field non-ionizing radiation exposure in rodents. Li called the findings from the National Toxicology Program “stunningly important.”

“They found the exact cell type of tumor observed in humans. To me, it’s very strong evidence it might be the same,” he said.

“We are never going to say we’re going to take away your device,” he said. “Engineers are going to figure out a way to use the device in a safe way. But if we bury our heads in the sand, that’s a travesty.”

High levels of cellphone radiation linked to tumors in male rats: U.S. study

UNTV News   •   February 5, 2018

A woman uses her cell phones in Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) – Male rats exposed to very high levels of the kind of radiation emitted by cellphones developed tumors in the tissues around their hearts, according to a draft report by U.S. government researchers on the potential health risks of the devices.

Female rats and mice exposed in the same way did not develop tumors, according to the preliminary report from the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), a part of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The findings add to years of research meant to help settle the debate over whether cellphone radiation is harmful.

Although intriguing, the findings can not be extrapolated to humans, NTP scientists and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Friday. They noted that the animal studies were meant to test extreme exposures to cell phone radiation, and that current safety limits on cellphone radiation are protective.

However, the two 10-year, $25 million studies – the most comprehensive assessments of health effects and exposure to radiofrequency radiation in rats and mice to date – do raise new questions about exposure to the ubiquitous devices.

In the studies, about 6 percent of male rats whose entire bodies were exposed to the highest level of cell phone radiation developed schwannomas – a rare type of tumor – in nerve tissue near their hearts, while there were no schwannomas in animals that were not exposed to radiation.

“The intriguing part of this is the kind of tumors we saw were similar to tumors noted for quite some time in some epidemiological studies in heavy duty cellphone users,” John Bucher, a senior scientist with NTP, said in a telephone interview.

“Of course, these were in the nerves in the ear and next to the brain, but the tumor types were the same as we saw in the heart.”

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, noted that the studies were negative for common tumors.

“These draft reports are bound to create a lot of concern, but in fact they won’t change what I tell people: the evidence for an association between cellphones and cancer is weak, and so far, we have not seen a higher cancer risk in people,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

Brawley said if cellphone users are concerned about this data in animals they should wear an earpiece.

Unlike ionizing radiation such as that from gamma rays, radon and X-rays, which can break chemical bonds in the body and are known to cause cancer, radiofrequency devices such as cellphones and microwaves emit radiofrequency energy, a form of non-ionizing radiation.

The concern with this type of radiation is that it produces energy in the form of heat, and frequent exposure against the skin could alter brain cell activity, as some studies have suggested.

In the NTP study, rats and mice were exposed to higher levels of radiation for longer periods of time than what people experience with even the highest level of cellphone use, and their entire bodies were exposed all at once, according to the draft report.

Bucher said the effect likely only showed up in the male rats because they were larger, and likely absorbed more radiation than the female rats or mice.

Cellphones typically emit lower levels of radiation than maximum levels allowed, the draft report said.

Cellphone radiation quickly dissipates, so the risk, if any, would be to areas of the body in close proximity to the device emitting the radiation, Bucher said.

He said the findings are intended to help inform the design of future cell phone technologies. The study looked at only 2G and 3G frequencies, which are still commonly used for phone calls. It does not apply to 4G or 5G, which use different frequencies and modulation, he said.

NTP, a part of the National Institutes of Health, will hold an external expert review of its findings on March 26-28.

Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, head of the FDA’s radiological health division, said there is not enough evidence to say cellphone use poses health risks to people.

“Even with frequent daily use by the vast majority of adults, we have not seen an increase in events like brain tumors,” he said in a statement. “We believe the current safety limits for cellphones are acceptable for protecting the public health.”

Asked what the public should take from the study, Bucher said, “I wouldn’t change my behavior based on these studies, and I haven‘t.”

Nevertheless, the findings are potentially a concern for device makers, especially the world’s three biggest smartphone sellers, Apple Inc, Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL].

The CTIA, the trade association representing AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, Apple Inc, Sprint Corp, DISH Network Corp, and others, said on Friday that previous studies have shown cellphone RF energy emissions have no known heath risks.

”We understand that the NTP draft reports for its mice and rat studies will be put out for comment and peer review so that their significance can be assessed,” the group said.

Samsung and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Bill Berkrot and Caroline Humer in New York, David Shepardson in Washington and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Susan Thomas and Diane Craft

Mom’s age at birth linked to daughter’s later childlessness

UNTV News   •   January 11, 2018

Pregnant women attend a yoga class in Madrid March 17, 2009. REUTERS/Susana Vera

(Reuters Health) — Moms who have children later in life are more likely to have daughters who don’t have kids, according to a new study.

Compared with women born to 20- to 24-year-old mothers, daughters born to mothers in their mid-20s or 30s were more likely to be childless, the study authors report in the journal Human Reproduction.

“In many countries, couples are having children later and later, and there haven’t been many studies of future reproduction,” said study author Dr. Olga Basso of McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Basso and colleagues analyzed data from the U.S.-based Sister Study on more than 43,000 women born between 1930 and 1964.

Overall, about 7,600 women – or nearly 18 percent – hadn’t given birth. The researchers found that as maternal age at delivery went up, so did the odds that daughters would be childless.

Compared with study participants born to 20- to 24-year-old mothers, for instance, the odds of childlessness were 21 percent higher for participants born to mothers ages 25-29, 30 percent higher for women born to mothers ages 30 to 34, and 40 percent higher for women born to mothers who were 35 or older.

Basso and colleagues want to know why. They’re interested in future studies about changes in biology, behavior and socioeconomic status and how those could affect birth and childlessness.

“It could be that women who have children at an older age have daughters instilled with different behaviors,” Basso said. “They may have different ambitions and different plans.”

“I was concerned when I saw these findings because I really think women should have children when they’re ready as a matter of choice,” she told Reuters Health by phone. “I don’t want people to believe, as a result of this, that they need to have children when they’re 25.”

Additional studies are looking at the effect of father’s age on childlessness and the historical trends of childbirth.

“We’ve seen an increase in age at first birth, or when women have their first child, but the age hasn’t changed much for last birth,” said Ruben Arslan of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. Arslan, who wasn’t involved with this study, researches delayed childbearing.

“In past decades, women had children for longer and had more children,” Arslan told Reuters Health by phone. “What we’re seeing is not unprecedented, and it’s not a reason to get worried about childbearing now.”

The main limitation of the study is that researchers didn’t know whether women’s childlessness was by choice and intentional.

“It’s important to think about the consequences and social structures that would give women more choices,” said Dr. Sarah Hayford of Ohio State University in Columbus. Hayford, who wasn’t involved with this study, researches childlessness trends in the U.S.

“The question of childlessness is often framed as a negative outcome, without asking about whether it was voluntary or not,” Hayford told Reuters Health by phone. “But studying the voluntary nature is a complicated task, especially over a broad population, when it’s such a personal decision.”

The cultural context is key, too. A stronger family orientation, religiosity, and other cultural values may contribute to earlier childbearing, which may be passed down to children, said Dr. Martin Kolk of Stockholm University in Sweden, who studies intergenerational patterns of childbearing but wasn’t involved with this study.

“Fertility decisions are often shared between daughters (and sons) and mothers (and fathers),” Kolk told Reuters Health by email. “We’re seeing additional evidence that there is a strong familial and cultural factor affecting childbearing.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/2FnQ4dy Human Reproduction, online December 4, 2017.

Pregnant women need routine blood pressure checks

UNTV News   •   April 26, 2017

A child touches her pregnant mother’s stomach at the last stages of her pregnancy in Bordeaux April 28, 2010. REUTERS/REGIS DUVIGNAU

(Reuters Health) – Pregnant women should get their blood pressure checked at each prenatal visit to screen for preeclampsia, a potentially fatal complication that can damage the kidneys, liver, eyes and brain, new U.S. guidelines say.

While many doctors already monitor blood pressure throughout pregnancy, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its guidelines for the first time since 1996 to stress that screening at every visit can help doctors catch and treat preeclampsia before it escalates from a mild problem to a life-threatening one.

“Preeclampsia is one of the most serious health problems affecting pregnant women,” task force member Dr. Maureen Phipps, a women’s health researcher at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, said by email.

“Because this condition is common and critical, the Task Force offers two separate recommendations to help women lower the risk associated with preeclampsia – screening for preeclampsia is recommended for all pregnant women, and women at high risk of developing the condition can take low-dose aspirin to help prevent it,” Phipps added by email.

The screening recommendations, published on Tuesday in JAMA, apply to women without a history of preeclampsia or high blood pressure. Separate guidelines advise low-dose aspirin after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy for women with a history of elevated blood pressure. (bit.ly/2oIwP5B)

Preeclampsia can progress quickly, and typically develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Blood pressure screening earlier in pregnancy can show normal results for women who go on to develop preeclampsia.

In addition to elevated blood pressure, women with preeclampsia may also have excess amounts of protein in their urine, as well as swelling in the feet, legs and hands.

Women may suffer from stroke, seizures, organ failure and in rare cases, death. For babies, complications include slower growth inside the uterus, low birth weight and death.

Risks for preeclampsia include a history of obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, as well as a mother or sister who has experienced the condition.

Because the risks of preeclampsia increase with age, women may be able to lower their chances of developing this complication by having babies sooner, said Dr. Dana Gossett, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and co-author of an accompanying editorial in JAMA.

“Beyond that, it is also important to ensure that all health problems are well managed prior to pregnancy,” Gossett said by email. “High blood pressure should be under good control, other diseases like kidney disease or lupus should be well controlled, and women should try to be close to their ideal body weight prior to conception.”

Checking blood pressure at every prenatal visit can help prevent complications for mothers and babies alike, said Dr. Martha Gulati, chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix and author of a separate editorial in JAMA Cardiology.

“This is something that should be provided to every woman as part of preventive care,” Gulati said by email. “We will save lives and prevent complications and death in pregnant women with this simple, cost-effective” test that doesn’t take much time.

SOURCE: bit.ly/2oGYMKe and bit.ly/2peNbnM JAMA, online April 25, 2017; and bit.ly/2q1qDH4 JAMA Cardiology, online April 25, 2017.

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