If your phone is in your pocket or next to your head right now, you should think about moving it — because it’s emitting microwave radiation.
That’s the message Environmental Health Trust wants to advocate through its annual Practice Safer Tech contest for high school students. Teton County middle and high school students, public and private, can submit creative writing, art or other media projects showing how to practice safer technology use in everyday life.
EHT is a science-based nonprofit that’s operated in Jackson for more than 10 years. According to graduate research fellow and coordinator of school campaigns Sarina Scott, it “carries out research and works to mitigate the risks of preventable environmental hazards.” Education and advocacy are also major components as EHT seeks to take scientific research and make it understandable.
If you’re looking to reduce your exposure to wireless radiation — something Scott thinks people know exists without being certain if it’s harmful — you can start making the following changes to “err on the side of prevention rather than erring on the side of treatment.”
“Keeping distance from your devices is huge,” Scott said. “The amount of exposure decreases exponentially when distance increases.”
That means not sleeping with your phone under your pillow. Scott said teenagers should turn off their phones before they go to sleep if their phone is on a bedside table.
“It’s also important to develop good habits of not having your phone in your pocket and putting it on a table instead,” Scott said.
Other recommendations include using headphones when making a phone call if you aren’t using a landline, not carrying your cellphone in your bra, keeping wireless devices away from reproductive organs and pregnant women’s abdomens, and using cords to connect WiFi routers. Following these recommendations can cut side effects like damaged sperm, reduced sperm count, erectile dysfunction, breast cancer and more.
The recommendations parallel those of the American Academy of Pediatrics, where pediatrician Jennifer Lowry said that “cellphones are not toys” and that “the more we can keep it off the body and use [the phone] in other ways, it will be safer.”
Scott said kidsand adolescents are “much more vulnerable to wireless radiation” due to the thickness of their skulls and the volume of their brains compared to adults. Neurons inside young brains are not fully myelinated, or covered with a protein sheath that protects them, until people are in their early 20s.
Safety standards for cellphones, Scott said, were created in the ’90s and were based on tests using large adult males — the average military recruit at the time — who had heads up to three times bigger than children.
First place winners will compete for $500 in money for themselves and $500 for their school program of choice. Contest entries must be submitted online or delivered in person. For details go to EHTrust.org/2017-safe-tech-contest/.
Previous winners were often videos, but Scott said music and art projects are also favorites.
The contest will run until May 6. Winners will be announced May 13 at the Eco-Fair.