Have you heard of the anti-abandonment seats in all cars carrying children under 4 years of age? Besides all the reasonable criticisms on legal, economic, procedural and social issues, however, there is also a purely scientific one that just does not stand.

In practice, it is argued that the electromagnetic waves associated with the wireless communication systems of the seats would cause damage to the health of children, “frying them” and “bombarding them” with harmful radiation.

The theses (pseudoscientific) of those who protest

Arguments of this kind can be read on various Italian sites, from the Facebook page. Let’s all activate ourselves at the self-proclaimed online news portal OrticaWeb, or even in the comments appearing in in-depth articles (in itself impeccable) such as on Hardware Upgrade . “It exposes the child population to further electrofrequencies”, is the initial accusation, followed by the alleged finding that “electromagnetic pollution is a cause of cancer and other chronic-degenerative diseases”. Citing a motion presented by the deputy Sara Cunial, who was already rejected, there is talk of a “radio frequency bombardment”attributable to the anti-abandon alarm signal and to keep the smartphone on while driving.

We also complain about the lack of specific experiments, essentially invoking the precautionary principle, and we say that “children should not use cell phones, smartphones, tablets and cordless phones, […] that should be kept at a distance, or even better off “. Finally, we read how the problem of abandonment is not very significant when compared to the cases of radiation-induced cancer even in the smallest, even hurling itself against a long series of other smart devices. And complaining, through some comments of the users, that in the case of the seat there would be the further aggravating factor of the proximity with the genitals.

First hoax: the law misinterpreted

Even before discussing the (missed) scientific evidence to support the accusations made against those who promoted the legislation, it is sufficient to read the text of the provision with a minimum of attention to deprive the complaints of foundation. As reported by the website of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, and as Bufale has discussed so much per kilo , the specific legislation states that “it is possible that seats and anti-abandon devices are connected to the parent’s smartphone with an app or via Bluetooth for send notifications”.

That premise “it is possible” clarifies that the wireless connection with the car or with mobile phones is not at all mandatory , but only optional . So if (without scientifically sensible reasons) someone wishes to completely remove the electromagnetic waves associated with the seat, it could be done – provided an ad hoc device is found – without violating any legislation. No need to be an innovation guru to realise how absurd and anachronistic it would have been denying this possibility, preventing a simple technological solution (and, as we shall see, safe) from being exploited to simplify the life of parents.

As if that were not enough, it is the legislation itself that imposes guarantees on the healthiness of the anti-abandonment devices. The it reported also Il Sole 24 Ore a few weeks ago: “ [seats]  should be in line with the EMC legislation , because they receive and emit radio waves when they work” . That is to say, the wireless transmission systems of the devices must comply with safety regulations, and follow the approval process also as regards the telecommunications system. Excluding the existence of phantom plots to homologate unsafe seats and harm the health of children, the issue of safety is already solved at the start.

baby car seatSecond hoax: electromagnetic wave damage

The fear of the invisible, the precautionary principle as a brake on any innovation and the generic alarm on radiation  are certainly not a novelty of the anti-abandon seats, but even in this case they are themes once again protagonists of the discussions and protests. We have already spoken of electromagnetic waves and telecommunications here on Wired on many occasions, including the last strand about alarmism on 5G technology, and in summary it can be said that according to the scientific community at the moment no particular elements of concern have emerged.

Moreover, in this case we are talking about communication technologies (Bluetooth and radio transmission systems) that have been used for years, much less efficient in terms of power and range than the avant-garde systems and therefore neither new enough to justify the request to wait for the outcome of the studies , nor with technical features such as to raise particular concerns.

Bonus buffalo: two weights and two sizes

The protests and alarmism on “microwaved children”  have a further grotesque element, linked to what actually happens in all cars. When, for example, one reads the complaints about the need to keep the smartphone on while travelling by car, one might wonder how many people actually turn it off every time they enter the car. Or how many people ask all passengers to deactivate or put  their devices in airplane mode , also closing Bluetooth headsets, navigators and other connected devices. Or how many never approach a child with a smartphone or tablet connected to the internet, those who never bring their child to an area where there is a wifi network or3G / 4G / 5G coverage , or those who never let their children play with a radio-controlled object. In short, it is not clear why the smart seat should make a difference . Reiterated that there is no evidence that this has a negative impact on health, the only recipe proposed by the conspiracy theorists of the seat would seem to be the total shutdown of any form of telecommunications.