Safety. Peace of Mind.

Baby monitors are one of the first items parents purchase for a nursery.  When baby is taking a nap, having a monitor in a nursery may provide a parent or nanny with a sense of security that they’ll be alerted to any problem.

During the night, parents feel a monitor will wake them if the baby needs something or is in danger of not breathing. For parents of preemies who are told to be more vigilant because their babies may be more susceptible to SIDS, a monitor may seem like an absolute necessity.

Parents have a myriad of options when it comes to baby monitors. In addition to the basic sound monitor, there are video monitors, movement monitors and wearable baby monitors that track sleep movements, heart rate, breathing patterns and even skin temperature!  It couldn’t be more convenient to keep track of your sleeping baby and make some time for yourself, work or tackle household chores.  And it seems there couldn’t be a more obvious choice – to use a baby monitor – to prevent every parent’s worst nightmare, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

But the most important information, the impact a baby monitor has on your child’s health, isn’t effectively covered. This is a big miss.

baby monitors orangeFalse Sense of Security

Did you know that because baby monitors are sold as consumer, and not medical, devices, they do not have to undergo testing to prove they actually keep babies safe? David King, clinical lecturer in pediatrics in the Academic Unit of Child Health at the University of Sheffield notes that although monitors can’t be marketed as preventing a medical condition, the language used to market the monitors plays on SIDS fears. The reality, says King, is that “they just don’t work” for this purpose.

 

Reviews Miss the Point

Reviews of baby monitors focus on sound quality, image quality, ease-of-use and effectiveness of features. The underlying assumption is that the better the features, the better able you are to protect your child from harm.

But the most important information, the impact a baby monitor has on your child’s health, isn’t effectively covered. This is a big miss.

The Truth About Baby Monitors

Most baby monitors today are wireless and transmit information either over an analog or digital frequency.  Analog can transmit over an FM radio band at 40 Mhz while digital uses one of several technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth and Digital Enhanced Cordless Communication (DECT) to transmit at different strength frequencies.  While analog is considered safer than digital, the concern is that it’s wireless.

All wireless baby monitors emit non-ionizing radiation (NIR). NIR has two kinds of effects on our bodies: (1) a thermal effect and (2) a non-thermal effect.

 

radiation spectrum

 

Thermal Effect

The thermal effect refers to the ability of NIR to heat things up. In fact, it is NIR that is responsible for heating food in a microwave. The same thing happens to the tissues of our body when we are in close contact with a cell phone, cordless phone or baby monitor – the non-ionizing radiation it emits heats tissues up (e.g. brain tissue). 

There is an attempt to determine the point at which exposure to the thermal effect is not safe. Referred to as the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), this value is a measure of the amount of radiation absorbed by the body when a device is at its maximum power. The FCC approves a device as “safe” if it does not exceed the maximum allowable limit of 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg), as averaged over one gram of tissue. But this limit offers a false sense of security.

First, the level was determined in 1993 when exposure to NIR was far less. It also does not consider exposure to multiple devices at the same time, which is the case today. Second, the level was determined using a plastic, liquid filled, computer model based on a 220-pound mannequin, not a child, an infant or a fetus.

These are just two of many reasons why the SAR value is a very ineffective tool for gauging the danger a device poses to infants and children.

baby sleeping on stomach

In fact, an important study in 1996 confirmed that children are exposed to higher levels of radiation from devices than adults. Children’s skulls are thinner and their ears are smaller so radiation has a shorter distance to travel before it penetrates their brain.

What is the impact to newborns and infants whose brains are even less developed?radiation on brains

Non-Thermal Effect

The second effect NIR has that is rarely, if at all addressed when evaluating baby monitors (or any other NIR-emitting device), is the non-thermal effect. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine points out that this effect has been linked to “genetic damage, reproductive defects, cancer, neurological degeneration and nervous system dysfunction, immune system dysfunction, cognitive effects, protein and peptide damage, kidney damage, and developmental effects … [all of which have] been reported in the peer-reviewed literature.”

For example, Dr. Hugh S. Taylor, professor and chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale University, studied the effects of non-ionizing radiation on the fetuses of pregnant mice. He and his team found that those adult mice that had been exposed to cell phone radiation had behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and reduced memory capacity. Dr. Taylor states that this was the “first experimental evidence that fetal exposure to radiofrequency radiation from cellular telephones does in fact affect adult behavior.”

When it comes to the non-thermal effects of NIR, there is no equivalent SAR value to inform at which point biological damage starts to occur. This means there is no way to gauge how much exposure is too much exposure. This is the case despite the fact that:

In the last few decades it has been established beyond any reasonable doubt that
bioeffects and some adverse health effects occur at far lower levels of RF …
exposure where no heating … occurs at all; some effects are shown to occur at
several hundred thousand times below the existing public safety limits where
heating is an impossibility.”

Bottom Line

We are aware that the information we offer here is contradicted by industry and even reputable organizations that the public views as authoritative on this subject. Take for example, the World Health Organization.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” With respect to the thermal effect, the WHO’s position is “at the frequencies used by mobile phones, most of the energy is absorbed by the skin and other superficial tissues, resulting in negligible temperature rise in the brain or any other organs of the body.” And regarding the non-thermal effect, they hold that “to date, research does not suggest any consistent evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to radiofrequency fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating.”

But highly decorated independent scientists have a markedly different take. Dr. Devra Davis PhD., MPH, founder of Environmental Health Trust (EHT) and an award-winning, internationally renowned scientist who also was the founding director of the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology of the U.S. National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, states: No studies show that microwave radiation exposure in children is safe or that continuous exposure from cell phones, cell towers, cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers, baby monitors, etc. is safe.” 

baby monitor with cameraScientists at EHT further note that, “If you set aside the industry-funded studies, the overwhelming weight of the evidence shows there is a significant problem … [with exposure to wireless]. In addition to experimental research on cancer, there are over 1000 peer reviewed, published papers showing other harmful biological effects from microwave radiation exposure such as damage to sperm, pregnancy and nervous systems.” Dr. Davis has written a book, “Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What The Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family describing why she considers cell phone radiation a national emergency.

Despite such disparate views, the WHO placed Wi-Fi and all radiofrequency radiation on the Class 2B List of Possible Human Carcinogens back in 2011. This was “based on research showing increased brain cancer in heavy users (30 minutes per day) with over 10 years of use.“  Today, thirty minutes of cell phone use per day would be considered very light use.  And, many wireless baby monitors are emitting radiation continuously, 24 hours a day.

SafBaby’s position is that no wireless baby monitor is safe.

We take a precautionary approach when a child’s development is at stake.

What To Do

  • Do not use a monitor and stay within hearing distance.
  • If you must use a baby monitor, use a webcam that is hard-wired to a computer with Category 5 or a Category 6 Ethernet cable.
  • Co-sleep with your baby. Dr. Abraham B. Bergman, who was at the forefront of SIDS education in the 1970s and who served as the first president of the National SIDS Foundation, recently urged the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to recommend safe co-sleeping. In the JAMA published editorial, Dr. Bergman observes that the AAP discourages bed sharing even though “evidence linking bed sharing per se to the increased risk of infant death is lacking.”

In the next installment of the series, we will cover security issues and recalls from batteries overheating and creating a burn hazard.

Related Posts

Baby Monitors: See the Risk

Wake Up Call: Cell Phones, Children and Brain Tumors

EMF Protection: Renegade Health and Mary Cordaro

Nesting: How to Prepare a Health Space for Your Baby

The New Cellphone Study Does Not Include Health Effects on Children