Prenatal and Postnatal Cell Phone Exposures and Headaches in Children

Madhuri Sudan1, *, Leeka Kheifets1, Onyebuchi Arah1, 2, Jorn Olsen1, 3, Lonnie Zeltzer4
1 Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
2 Department of Public Health, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
3 Institute of Public Health, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark
4 David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA

© 2012 Sudan et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the 650 Charles E. Young Drive South, 71-254 CHS, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA; Fax: (310) 206-6039; E-mails:



Children today are exposed to cell phones early in life, and may be at the greatest risk if exposure is harmful to health. We investigated associations between cell phone exposures and headaches in children.

Study Design:

The Danish National Birth Cohort enrolled pregnant women between 1996 and 2002. When their children reached age seven years, mothers completed a questionnaire regarding the child's health, behaviors, and exposures. We used multivariable adjusted models to relate prenatal only, postnatal only, or both prenatal and postnatal cell phone exposure to whether the child had migraines and headache-related symptoms.


Our analyses included data from 52,680 children. Children with cell phone exposure had higher odds of migraines and headache-related symptoms than children with no exposure. The odds ratio for migraines was 1.30 (95% confidence interval: 1.01-1.68) and for headache-related symptoms was 1.32 (95% confidence interval: 1.23-1.40) for children with both prenatal and postnatal exposure.


In this study, cell phone exposures were associated with headaches in children, but the associations may not be causal given the potential for uncontrolled confounding and misclassification in observational studies such as this. However, given the widespread use of cell phones, if a causal effect exists it would have great public health impact.

Keywords: Cellular phone, child, electromagnetic frequency, environmental exposure, migraine, mobile phone, pain, radiofrequency.