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Could Your Cell Phone Increase Your Risk of Miscarriage? [New Study]

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports links a higher risk of miscarriage to exposure to a type of low-level radiation called “non-ionizing radiation.”

The researchers from Kaiser Permanente found that a woman’s risk of miscarriage rose from 10% to 24% as she was exposed to higher levels of radiation.

That sounds very scary, but let’s be clear, this research is still in its early stage. The study didn’t show that the non-ionizing radiation caused the miscarriages. It merely suggests that there is a possible link.

But where does the radiation come from?

Ordinary things in a person’s everyday life give off low levels of radiation: cell phones, smart meters, wireless networks, and microwaves.

It’s an area of research to keep an eye on, but it doesn’t mean that a cell phone is directly harming fetuses.

There’s no reason to panic and throw out your cell phone and microwave just yet. There is still a lot more to learn about low-level radiation and miscarriages. Preliminary studies like this often bring up more questions than answers, and it will probably be years because there is a definitive conclusion.

So what exactly is non-ionizing radiation?

Good question.

According to the National Institutes of Health, radiation is “invisible areas of energy that are associated with the use of electrical power and various forms of natural and man-made lighting.”

We rely on those energy fields to power our everyday devices.

The energy fields are typically categorized as non-ionizing and ionizing:

  • Non-ionizing radiation
    • Emitted from household devices like cell phones, microwaves, and wireless networks
    • Generally considered to be safe
  • Ionizing radiation
    • Comes from ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays
    • Known to cause direct cellular and DNA damage that can lead to cancer – for example, if you spend too much time in the sun too often, it can lead to skin cancer.

The most significant difference is that ionizing radiation is known to cause cellular damage that can lead to cancer and non-ionizing is considered to be safe.

Photo from NIEHS.gov

But increasingly, scientists are discovering that even non-ionizing radiation could affect our bodies in harmful ways. And that’s where the new study from Scientific Reports comes in.

[H2] Tell me more about this study.

The researchers at Kaiser Permanente decided to look into miscarriage specifically because it doesn’t take years to develop like cancer. And they thought it would be easier to draw correlations between the radiation exposure and the health outcome.

The study was based in Oakland, California and they recruited 913 women from the Bay Area at the start of their pregnancies. They tracked the women for up to 20 weeks – the period during which miscarriages occur.

Genetic factors cause most miscarriages, but environmental factors are believed to play a more significant role. The researchers wanted to see if there was a link between miscarriages and the non-ionizing radiation in our environment.

The researchers needed to know the amount of radiation the women come into contact with during a typical day, so the women wore a radiation-measuring meter for 24 hours.

Afterwards, they grouped the women into four categories based on exposure levels. The lowest levels were less than 2.5 milligauss (the measure for magnetic field non-ionizing radiation) in the 24-hour period.

Women with higher levels of exposure were at a nearly three times greater risk of miscarriage compared to the women with lowest levels of exposure.

The finding held even after the researchers controlled for factors that might explain the differences between the groups, including smoking status, miscarriage history, age, and race.

This sounds complicated.

But what you need to know right now is that this was an observational study and not an experimental study, so the researchers could not establish causation between the low-level radiation and miscarriages.

That means that they cannot definitively say that non-ionizing radiation directly causes miscarriages. It only suggests that there could be a connection between the two. Not all women with higher radiation exposure levels miscarried, and women with the lowest levels also had miscarriages.

The Takeaway

Right now, the general assumption among scientists is that non-ionizing radiation does not have a biological effect. The study published in Scientific Reports is just the beginning of research into the topic.

If you are concerned about your exposure to these emissions, you can avoid them by keeping a distance from sources of non-ionizing radiation as much as possible.

At MCRM, we’re dedicated to offering compassionate and high-quality fertility care. Part of that is staying informed when studies in our field are published. You can always contact us at MCRM if you have any questions or concerns.

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