Answer to Question #6609 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Power lines, magnets, computers, airport screening, cell phones, radar

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


I'm one month pregnant and a sales manager. My friends suggest that I stop using my mobile phone and laptop. They say I should not use the headphone when using mobile. I'm so anxious. Does being pregnant mean I have to quit my job? Please help me!


There is no need for you to quit your job or to be overly concerned. The term radiation is a broad term that covers a large number of wave energies to which we may be exposed. The most concerning are the electromagnetic waves (EMF) of very short wavelength that we refer to as ionizing radiation, i.e., x rays, radioactive materials like radium, or radioactive iodine. Very high exposures to ionizing radiation can affect a developing embryo.

Many other forms of electomagnetic radiation do not have this potential, i.e., power lines, computers, microwave ovens, cellular phones, or radio waves (both FM and AM bands). These are nonionizing EMF of much longer wavelength. We even have ultrasound (sonography), physical waveforms that are audible sound or ultrasound. Only the ionizing radiation has the potential to harm your developing embryo if the exposure is high enough. The other forms of radiation to which we are usually exposed do not have this potential and are also regulated to be below certain energies.

The only problem that you have to deal with are the background risks that all pregnant women face. Remember that every woman with a normal personal and genetic family reproductive history has the background reproductive risks which are 3% for birth defects and 15% for miscarriage. We cannot change those risks at this time. Good luck with this pregnancy and if you are still concerned, fire some more questions my way. Friends and the internet can be a source of emotional and unscientific information.

Robert L. Brent MD, PhD, DSc (Hon)

Answer posted on 22 June 2007. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.