The study found children exposed to mobile phones before and after birth were 50% more likely to have behavioural problems, after adjusting for lifestyle and other factors. But experts have dismissed the link as not being causal.
The researchers analysed data from 28,000 seven year olds and their mothers. Mums gave information on lifestyle, dietary and environmental factors during and after pregnancy.
When their children reached the age of seven, the mums were quizzed again about their and their children’s health, including behaviour. They were also asked to provide details of their mobile phone use during pregnancy and their children’s mobile phone use.
By age seven, more than a third (35%) were using a mobile phone. More than one in six were jointly exposed to mobile phones before and after birth.
About 3% of children were considered to have borderline behavioural problems. A similar number were categorised as exhibiting abnormal behaviour.
The researchers concluded: ‘Although it is premature to interpret these results as causal, we are concerned that early exposure to cell phones could carry a risk, which, if real, would be of public health concern given the widespread use of this technology.’
Experts cast doubts on the results. Professor David Coggon of the University of Southampton, said: ‘This study appears to have been well conducted, but the pattern of results suggests that the observed increase in behavioural problems may have been caused by factors other than mobile phone use."
And Professor David Spiegelhalter of the University of Cambridge, said: ‘The authors say that 'early exposure to cell phones could carry a risk which, if real, would be of public health concern'.
Referring to Paul the Psychic Octopus, Professor Spiegelhalter commented: ‘Well, I might just as well say 'Paul's psychic abilities, if real, would revolutionise our thinking about molluscs.’