Debate over the health impacts of weak electromagnetic fields continues
unabated as more and more biological effects are documented. This mini-series
began in Science in Society 17, where we described how a new physics of
the organism that can account for those effects has been systematically ignored
and excluded from mainstream discourse. The situation has hardly changed since
and requires radical steps to be taken in scientific research funding and in
Mobile phones "the largest human biologic experiment"
Researchers found "highly significant" evidence for damages to brain
cells in rats exposed for 2 hrs to microwaves from mobile phones; and these
damages were still seen 50 days after the exposure.
One quarter of the worlds population is now exposing themselves to
microwaves from hand-held mobile phones. The research team in Lundt University,
Sweden, led by Leif Salford, referred to this as "the largest human biologic
experiment ever". They point out that soon, microwaves will be emitted by an
abundance of other appliances in the cordless office and in the
Most researchers have concentrated on the question of whether
radiofrequency electromagnetic fields can induce or promote cancer, but the
evidence appears conflicting.
Sir William Stewart hit out at mobile phones lobby but exposure
limits still highly inadequate
In his keynote address to a Children with Leukemia conference in
Sir William Stewart, who chaired an enquiry that resulted in the
Stewart Report on Mobile Phones and Health in 2000, hit out at the mobile
phones lobby for reporting that, "Stewart report says there are no adverse
health effect for mobile phones". He said there are biological effects below
the current exposure guidelines, and people can vary in their susceptibility.
He had warned that children may be more susceptible, and should limit their use
of mobile phones.
In his speech, he also said, "Dont ignore non-peer reviewed
findings." These have to be carefully independently confirmed, and have to be
put to the public "simply and clearly". Not only the results reporting impacts
of mobile phones on health need to be independently confirmed, but also
negative findings of no impacts. At the moment, there is a bias towards
accepting negative findings without question.
A recent health survey carried out in La Ňora, Mucia, Spain,
nearly two 900/1800Mhz mobile phone base stations showed statistically
association between the measured electric field and a number of symptoms,
especially depressive tendency, fatigue, sleeping disorder, difficulty in
concentration and cardiovascular problems, and also loss of memory, visual
disorder and dizziness. It confirms the findings of several earlier published
studies. On the basis of this work, D. Oberfeld Gerd of the Public Health
Department of Salzburg, Austria, is advising a reduction of exposure levels to
no more than 1 microWatt/m2. The
current exposure limit set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing
Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) Guidelines is 10 W/m2, or 10 million times that
Sir William now chairs the National Radiological Protection Board
(NRPB), which is being merged into the Health Agency. The NRPB is due to
publish advice to the government that the ICNIRP standards - already shown to
be highly inadequate - should be adopted for the UK. As the NRPBs own
report admits, the standards are "intended to prevent adverse effects due to
excessive whole- and partial-body heating", totally ignoring non-thermal
effects, which are increasingly documented in many laboratories all over the
Mobile phones undermine the blood-brain barrier
Lundt and colleagues have been studying the effects of 915MHz radio
frequency (RF) electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in rats since 1988. "In a series
of more than 1,600 animals, we have proven that subthermal power densities from
both pulse-modulated and continuous RF EMFs including those from
...mobile phones have the potency to significantly open the blood-brain
barrier such that the animals own albumin passes out of the bloodstream
into the brain tissue and accumulates in the neurons and glial cells
surrounding the capillaries."
These results have been duplicated in at least two other laboratories.
One group showed that the animals own albumin injected into the brain of
rats led to damage of the neurons at the site of injection when the
concentration of albumin in the injected solution is at least 25% of that in
Brain damage persists 50 days after exposure
In a study published in June 2003, Salford and colleagues exposed rats
to RF EMF in special transverse electromagnetic transmission line chambers
(TEM-cells) designed by scaling down previously constructed cells at the
National Bureau of Standards. These cells generate uniform EMF s for standard
measurements. A mobile phone with a programmable power output was connected via
a coaxial cable to the TEM-cell; and no voice modulation was applied. The
TEM-cell is enclosed in a wooden box (15x15x15 cm) that supports the outer
conduction and central plate. The outer conductor is made of brass net and is
attached to the inner walls of the box. The centre plate, or septum, is made of
aluminium. The TEM cells were placed in a temperature-controlled room, where
room air is circulated through holes in the wooden box.
The rats were placed in plastic trays (12x12x7cm) to avoid contact with
the central plate and outer conductor. Thirty-two male and female Fisher 344
rats 12-26 weeks old and weighing 282 + 91 gm were divided into four groups of
eight rats each. Three experimental groups of rats were exposed to peak power
densities of 0.24, 2.4 and 24 W/m2, resulting in average whole-body SARs
(specific absorption rates) of 2mW/kg, 20 mW/kg and 200 mW/kg respectively. The
fourth (control) group of rats was simultaneously kept for 2 hr in
non-activated TEM-cells. The animals in each exposure group were allowed to
survive for about 50 days after exposure and carefully observed daily for
neurologic and behavioural abnormalities.
At the end of the period, the brains were removed and sectioned and
The exposed rat brain showed multiple spots of albumin leaking out from
the blood vessels. On high power, dark, dead neurons can be seen interspersed
with the living ones. There is an apparent dose-response relationship between
the level of exposure and the number of dead neurons found.
Previous studies by the same group showed that albumin leakage into the
brain occurs within hours after exposure in about 40% of the animals. But in
the present study, there is still albumin leakage after 50 days. This suggests
that there might have been a "vicious circle" started by the initial leakage,
leading to long lasting effects.
Teenagers most affected
The researchers pointed out that 12-26 week old rats are comparable in
age to human teenagers, the most frequent users of mobile phones. This level of
damage to the nerve cells is worrying, as "it may result in reduced brain
reserve capacity". In other words, the teenagers brains may age
prematurely. A study by retail analysts Mintel found that up to 80% of 11 to 14
year-olds have a mobile phone in the United Kingdom.
There is now evidence that a wide range of frequencies in the
electromagnetic spectrum can have biological effects from DNA damage in brain
cells to childhood leukemia (see "Eelectromgnetic fields, leukaemia & DNA
damage", this series).