Hand held metal detectors (HHMDs), such as those used for security checks in airports, do not cause harmful heating or nerve stimulation in pregnant women, according to research published today (22 July 2003) in the Institute of Physics journal Physics in Medicine and Biology. The role of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), Maryland, is to ensure the safety of radiological products, so electromagnetic wave emitting HHMDs were an obvious choice for them to investigate, especially following the heightened security measures of recent years.
Dr Wolfgang Kainz and his colleagues at CDRH tested nine different HHMDs on a model of a pregnant woman to see if they caused nerve stimulation or a temperature rise in the mother or foetus, and found that none of them did. They also compared their measurements against two international safety standards*, neither of which give specific guidelines on safe exposure levels for pregnant women. All the metal detectors operated at well below the recommended levels, but this raises the question of whether there should be separate guidelines for pregnant women. Future research could tackle this possibility, as well as potential long term effects from the HHMDs, which were not explored in this study.
The team used measurements of the surface shape of a woman in her 34th week of pregnancy to create a computer model of a pregnant woman. They approximated the foetus to be spherical, 20cm wide, and positioned one centimetre below the surface of the mother’s skin.
Michelle Cain | alfa
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