Cellphones Are
Frying Your Brain
Professor Henry Lai and N.P. Singh in 1995 published a paper that documented DNA damage in the brain cells of rats exposed to radiation similar to that emitted by cell phones. In press interviews and scientific conferences, Lai has always said there are no solid answers regarding his research, but there is cause for concern and more work needs to be done.
But the cell phone industry said Lai's research techniques were not commonly accepted and that ipeople have over-interpreted their data. The industry maintains that the results have never been duplicated (Lai and Singh disagree), and that the overwhelming scientific evidence to date shows there is no health risk.
But the European Union is funding independent research into possible heath risks of electromagnetic radiation, including cell phone signals. In December, preliminary results of work by 12 groups in seven countries found that radiation at some cell phone levels damages DNA in a laboratory setting.
The effort - called REFLEX - studied radiation effects on animal and human cells. The scientists reported a significant increase in DNA damage. This damage could not always be repaired by the injured cell.
The REFLEX study has not been reported in U.S. media
Special Report
By Alasdair Philips Director, UK Powerwatch EMC Engineer and EMF-bioeffects researcher
When I was a child, back in the early 1950s, I was bought a new pair of shoes. The manufacturer had just introduced a wonderful new pedascope machine to check how well your shoes fitted your feet. Even today, I clearly remember the wonder at being able to wiggle mytoes and see them move inside my shoes. The machine used X-rays at quite a high level to give real-time images on a simple screen. It was ten years before Dr Alice Stewart produced research which showed that there was no safe level of X-rays, and even then few listened. In fact she was almost outcast from the medical establishment, and it was about another twenty years before the real danger from medical X-rays was acknowledged. Now, in the late 1990s the U.K. National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) is trying to persuade hospitals to minimise patient X-ray exposure, and leading Medical Research Council researchers admit that there is no icompletely safei level of ionising radiation. The 1998 Royal College of Radiologists guidelines sets out the current rationale for restricting X-ray doses.
Asbestos has been strictly controlled since 1970, and the use of most dangerous types banned. Despite this, deaths from mesothelioma (an asbestos induced cancer of the pleura/lungs) are rising consistently and the U.K. death rate is not expected to peak until about 2020. The time between the first exposure and death is now accepted as often being between 20 and 50 years. Most environmental cancers in adults ake longer than ten years from initiation to detection. The eating of BSE infected meat possibly causing CJD many years later is another example.
Mobile phones
Mobile phones emit microwaves. If microwave or pulsed low frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) do turn out to be carcinogenic, even if we backdate it five years, we should not be expecting to see much in the way of induced cancers for another ten years. In the meantime we discover that almost all the major phone manufacturers are quietly and prudently patenting EMF reducing cases and aerials. Despite the impression that mobile-phone companies give in their literature, little work has been done on long term human health implications of mobile-phone use. Current mobile-phone users are acting as involuntary, and often unsuspecting, test subjects. Past research into microwave radiation effects on health, including recent cell-phone studies, certainly give cause for concern. Even Dr John Stather, the Assistant Director of the NRPB stated: "Until recently we believed any harmful effects from microwaves were due to their heating effects, which would be negligible at the low powers used by mobile phones. Now there might be another effect at work and we are much less certain." (Sunday Times 21 September 1997)
Public awareness
Public awareness of possible dangers was probably triggered originally by the Reynard brain tumour case in 1992. About eight lawsuits alleging that cellular phones caused brain tumours have been filed in the USA. Although no cases has so far succeeded they have set the stage and raised safety questions in many people's minds. It has raised old spectres such as the thalidomide tragedy - the result of a product being used widely before adequate long term research had been carried out. The first part of a major new study of 11,000 mobile phone users was released on 14th May 1998 [1] and although ignored by main BBC News programmes, it was given front page banner headlines by the Daily Express on Friday 15th May. This showed little difference for heating, fatigue and headache effects between NMT analogue and GSM digital phones, but did highlight a three to six-fold increase in fatigue and headaches for heavy mobile handset users and up to a 48-fold increase in the sensation of heat on the user's ear, face or head. The first of the study's more detailed findings were shown at the Biolelectromagnetics Society (BEMS) Annual Meeting in Florida in June 1998 and showed significantly more concentration and memory loss symptoms in regular users of the GSM digital phone handsets. Only a week earlier news had been reported that on Tuesday 5th May the Cumbran Magistrates Court issued a Summons under section 10 of the UK Consumer Protection Act, 1987 for Roger Coghill to bring a private criminal action against a retail distributor of Orange and Motorola mobile phones. The Magistrate ruled that there was enough scientific evidence (before the new "Mild" evidence mentioned above) to issue a Summons and allow the case to go forward. His action claims that the distributors failed to affix required labels to their handsets warning of possible health risks to users from prolonged conversations as is required by the 1987 CP Act as there is now reasonable evidence of handset use causing possible adverse health effects. He has now filed an updated claim and the pre-trial review is scheduled to be heard on 2nd September 1998. [2] A research letter published in the Lancet [3] by a German team showed a statistically significant increase on blood pressure in people who used a GSM phone for 30 minutes. Although the rise was only about 5% it showed an important biological effect and received national media attention.
Exposure levels
Despite what some mobile phone companies are saying, mobile phones do radiate microwaves similar to those used in a microwave oven to cook food. Between 20% and 80% of the energy is absorbed by the user's head. The percentage absorbed depends on the design of the phone, type of aerial or antenna (the stubby ones which you can not extend are worse for pushing energy into the user's head), and how far it is to the nearest base-station mast.
Thermal exposure results in a measurable and significant rise in body tissue temperature and is the basis for cooking food in microwave ovens. When maximum levels were set in the 1950s, they were based on field levels the human body could withstand without causing a 1infC rise in body temperature. The possibility of non-thermal effects was discounted. Most national and international bodies (including the UK National Radiological Protection Board) set a rise of 1infC (6 minutes average for local exposure, 15 mins. for whole body) as the maximum permissible long-term temperature rise, although some chose to set the figure lower than this, between 0.2infC and 1infC.
Non-thermal exposure means that no energy is transferred which could cause a measurable temperature rise. Athermal means that although some heating energy is transferred, the blood etc. will transfer the heat away from the tissue such that the overall temperature rise is limited to below that classified for thermal exposure. Despite considerable evidence in published scientific literature for biological effects of electro-magnetic radiation in the RF/MW range of the spectrum at specific absorption rates (SARs) far too low to produce a heating response, this still continues to be the case. However, the conclusions section of the NRPB "Doll Report", on non-ionising radiation effects, states: "Animal studies conducted at frequencies above about 100kHz have provided some evidence for effects on tumour incidence...". [4]
Cancer implications
Although brain tumour cases have been rising fairly steadily over the last fifteen years, these are not the most likely outcome of high levels of mobile communications handset use. In 1998 a study reported that brain tumour incidence was rising in Western Australia and questioned whether mobile phone use might be responsible [5]. However, if there are long term large-scale cancer implications, then it is more likely that they will be adult myeloid leukaemias and multiple melanomas. Back in the early 1980s Sam Milham reported excess leukaemias among amateur radio operators, with deaths from acute and chronic myeloid leukaemias nearly three times higher than expected.
We do know of a number of digital (GSM) phone users who have developed Hodgkin's Disease in the lymph glands in their neck on the side where they normally used their phones for a couple of hours each day [6]. In 1980, Dr John Holt had a letter published [7]. This showed that between 1951-59, 50% of patients with CML in Queensland survived for 55 months following diagnosis. In 1960 and 1961 three large TV broadcast stations were commissioned in the area. In the period 1963-67, 50% of patients with CML only survived for 21 months. This dramatic change could not be explained by any medical personnel, protocol or therapy changes. In the mid-1980s Stanislaw Szmigielski reported that Polish military personnel exposed to RF energy showed elevated leukaemia levels. He has just published a 1996 update [8]. This is a study of all Polish military personnel for 15 years (1971-85), approximately 128,000 people each year. Of these about 3700 (3%) were considered to be occupationally exposed to radio-frequency and / or microwave radiation. The largest increases were found for chronic myelocytic leukaemia (CML), with an astounding increase (Odds Ratio) of 13.9 (95% CI 6.72-22.12, p<0.001), acute myeloblastic leukaemia (AML) with an OR of 8.62 (95% CI 3.54-13.67, p<0.001), and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas with an OR of 5.82 (95% CI 3.54-13.67, p<0.001).
In 1996 Lai & Singh showed single and double DNA strand breaks in brain cells of rats exposed to 2.45GHz SARs of 1.2 W/Kg (comparable with levels in the heads of mobile phone users), giving rise to real concerns. [9] If someone is completely healthy, and has a strong immune system, then mobile-phone use may well not give them long-term health problems. Some people can smoke twenty cigarettes per day for fifty years and not develop lung cancer, and yet the dangers of smoking are now generally accepted, even by the manufacturers. It has been repeatedly shown that a few minutes exposure to cell phone type radiation can transform a 5% active cancer into a 95% active cancer for the duration of the exposure and for a short time afterwards. [10]
A team of scientists funded by the Australian communications giant, Telstra, to investigate claimed links between cellular phones and cancer has turned up probably the most significant finding of adverse health effects yet. The study looked at 200 mice, half exposed and half not, to pulsed digital phone radiation. The work was conducted at the Royal Adelaide Hospital by Dr Michael Repacholi, Professor Tony Basten, Dr Alan Harris and statistician Val Gebski, and it revealed a highly-significant doubling of cancer rates in the exposed group. [11] The mice were subject to GSM-type pulsed microwaves at a power-density roughly equal to a cell-phone transmitting for two thirty minute periods each day; this was a pulsed transmission as from a digital cell-phone handset.
Using NRPB figures most GSM digital cell-phones will be putting between 10 and 30 times more radiation into the user's head than the Repacholi mice were subject to! [12] If there are cancer connections with the use of mobile phones, they are most likely to be expressed in adult leukaemias which typically take between 10 and 30 years to appear and be diagnosed. It is therefore unlikely that the trend will start to be seen for at least another five years, although the harm is being done now. Short term exposure of rats is no answer. Cancer is being increasingly recognised as an organisational systems problem, and no short term speeded up animal experiments are likely to give the same results as extended period chronic exposure to the human bio-system.
Initial (shorter term) problems with very important health and work efficiency implications We now receive frequent calls from regular mobile-phone users reporting headaches, loss of concentration, skin tingling or burning or twitching, eye iticsi, very poor short-term memory, buzzing in their head at night, and other less common effects. Headaches often come first and/or skin effects. Then concentration and short-term memory tends to deteriorate. At first it can be missing the turning off a motorway that you intended to take. Then it is forgetting appointments. It usually firstly affects learning or remembering NEW facts, similar to early signs of dementia. Things you learnt long ago are still usually there, but new things just donit seem to go in to your memory any more. Users also report excessive tiredness.
Many reports are from engineers who used their phone extensively and were very sceptical of EMF adverse health effects until they started to experience them. The symptoms bear a close resemblance to those in a study of a Latvian pulsed radio location station which emits 24 short VHF pulses of 154 - 162MHz each second. In a study of 966 children aged 9-18 years old, motor function, memory and attention were significantly worse in the exposed group. Children living in front of the station had less developed memory and attention, their reaction time was slower and their neuromuscular endurance was decreased. The RMS field levels at their houses were low, typically only 1V/m, and a maximum level of 6V/m or 10mW/cm2. [13] In a study near the Latvian radio station, differences in micronucleii levels in peripheral erythrocytes were found to be statistically significant in the exposed and control groups. This is possible evidence of genetic changes caused by non-thermal levels of pulsed radio-frequency radiation.[14] Reports linking RF energy with asthenias had been reported by Charlotte Silverman back in 1973, and again in 1980, as what she called iradio wave sicknessi. [15]
Maximum exposure levels
At cellular telephone frequency bands of 900MHz and 1.8GHz, the current U.K. NRPB investigation levels raised the U.K. permitted levels to 10 Watts per Kg in the head. The 1991 USA ANSI/IEEE C95.1 guidelines set the SAR at 1.6 W/Kg, and the CENELEC pre-standard states 2 W/Kg for the public. GSM Cellular-phones can deliver well over 2 W/Kg into head tissue during their output pulses, but they are said to comply because the average power is only about one-eighth of the pulse power (GSM & PCN digital phones), as up to eight calls share one channel using Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) with each handset pulsing in one of eight time slots. Unlike the earlier analogue phones, the digital GSM ones emit a series of short pulses at a basic repetition rate of 217Hz. Pulsed microwaves have been shown to be more biologically active than continuous radiation of the same frequency and power level.
Take an operating digital GSM mobile-phone near an ordinary medium wave radio and you will hear a buzzing noise.These pulses are also picked up and detected by the cells inside the useris and other nearby people's heads. In fact, up to 80% of the transmitted power can be absorbed by the user's head, which means that their brain cells are being "hit" by these radiation pulses two hundred and seventeen times every second. In addition, GSM digital phones and the new DECT cordless phones also both put high levels (several microtesla) of low frequency magnetic fields into the user's head. These may be more responsible for the dementia (memory) effects than the pulsed microwaves. The newer American Code Domain Multiple Access (CDMA) system works differently and doesn't emit the sharp-edged low frequency magnetic pulses. The digital RF signal more resembles a noisy analogue signal and is also likely to be less bio-active.There is increasing pressure for Europe to replace the TDMA GSM system with a "third generation" CDMA system within the next ten years.
The NRPB, and others, average the power from a digital phone over 1 second, and so divide the pulse power by eight. They correctly argue that the tissue has time to cool down between pulses, and then go on to deduce that no damage will therefore take place. This is similar to saying that placing a hammer on a icelli (an egg, for example) exerting a small steady force, will produce the same effect as hitting the egg, using eight times the force briefly once a second. As most practical engineers know, when trying to loosen a stuck nut and bolt, the effect of constant pressure on the spanner is FAR LESS than when tapping the spanner with a hammer.
In 1993, as the NRPB raised its permitted microwave levels, two military research bases in the USA reduced their permitted levels of radio frequency exposure (30 MHz to 100 GHz) from 100 W/m2 (10 mW//cm2) down to 1 W/m2 (0.1 mW/cm2 or 100 microW/cm2 ). This is because they acknowledged that there is now an overwhelming body of published evidence for the existence of non-thermal biological effects of high-frequency radiation. [16]
Some non-thermal effects
Important non-thermal biological effects have been demonstrated which could account for the development of cancer, asthma and the lowering of male fertility. Cell membranes carry charge and surface receptors (usually proteins) are highly charged. Signals are transduced into the cell interior where growth, development and cell division are regulated by processes which involve ions. These features have been shown to alter their behaviour in the presence of imposed external electromagnetic fields. Documented changes include alteration of the permeability of the cell membrane, alteration of the signal transduction processes which regulate cell behaviour and involve calcium ions, ornithine decarboxylase, protein kinase C and cAMP. One study has indicated that microwaves can alter DNA synthesis, enzyme activity, ion transport, cell proliferation and the cell cycle [17].
Low frequencies (generated by the pulsed nature of GSM cell-phone signals - 217, 32 & 2 Hz) have been previously shown to lower lymphocytes ability to imarki cancer cells and to depress the ability of other lymphocytes to destroy the 'marked' aberrant cells. Low level microwaves have also been shown to alter both the immune response [18] and EEG activity [19] in rabbits. Microwaves at only 1 mW/cm2 (one-tenth of the NRPB Guidance level) have been shown to affect cAMP-independent kinase activity [20], and calcium ion (Ca2+) efflux from chick cerebral hemispheres [21]. Continuous digital GSM phone operation near fertilised chicken eggs kill most of the embryos [22]. Cancerous tissue has increased conductivity compared with normal tissue.
In 1974, Dr. John Holt, the first Medical Director of the Institute of Radiotherapy and Oncology of Western Australia, and Dr. Nelson were able to show that the specific effect of RF energy on cancer was to radio-sensitise a malignancy. Some cancers could have their radio-sensitivity increased by a factor exceeding 100 times. As non-electrical heating of cancer cells to 41.8infC increased radio-sensitivity by a factor of 2 to 3 and 434 MHz increased sensitivity by 100 to 150 times at less than 38infC, this is a non thermal effect. Every cancer demonstrated an increase in sensitivity; those normally treated with radiotherapy showed a maximum; those not usually treatable by X-ray therapy were minimal. [23]
Dr Peter French of the Centre for Immunology, St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, Australia, has been carrying out experiments on a range of human and animal cell lines using 835 MHz exposure at 4.9 mW/cm2, 3 times per day for 7 days. He has shown effects on cell growth, shape, secretion of histamine and gene transcription. Dr French is the immediate past President of the Australia and New Zealand Society for Cell Biology. [24]
Microshield Industries launched a new EMF shielding mobile phone case range in 1996. Even "Industry" tests show that it does typically reduce the power absorbed by the user's head by around 20 dBm (i.e. by a factor of around 99%). Many purchasers of these Microshield cases are now expressing delight at having found a way of using their phones without apparently experiencing short and medium term adverse side effects. There are now other firms (eg Nett Ltd) manufacturing shielding devices and even some manufacturers (eg Hagenuk) producing "low leakage" phones. Telephone numbers: Microshield: 0181 363 3333,
Almost all the major manufacturers have now patented and produced "low radiation into the user's head" models!
Base station masts
There is currently growing public concern about the number of base station masts that are being erected, and the effect these may have on both health and on property values. The field strengths from masts is low and is unlikely to be more of a problem than any other form of RF data communications., however increasing worries are surfacing about all levels of RF energy, especially when digital signal bursts are transmitted. When one looks at what few epidemiological studies that have been done to date on RF/MW(radio frequency electromagnetic energy) human exposure, there is ample evidence of adverse health effects to warrant concern.
The UK NRPB regularly uses the words "substantiated", "firm", and "proven" evidence regarding the results of epidemiological (i.e. of populations of people) studies. Epidemiological studies on human populations do not, and generally can not, look for "proof" or "substantiation" but increases in incidence of a disease, or relative risk ratios.
Epidemiological studies on tobacco and asbestos did not "prove" that these carcinogens cause cancer; they do show, however, a significantly increased risk of developing cancer from exposure. This is not "substantiation", but that did not prevent the health authorities from taking corrective action. It is unfortunate that with electromagnetic radiation, however, industry and its supporters insist an absolute cause - effect relationship must be proven before corrective action be taken. The following recent studies do not isubstantiatei anything in relation to exposure to RF/MW; they are dealing with the increase in incidence of adverse health effects such as cancer. They are, however, relevant and should be taken into account when formulating policy:
a) A preliminary study by Dr Bruce Hocking compared cancer rates in three municipalities within a 4 km radius of Sydney TV towers with rates in adjacent areas further away. The study found children living within the 4 km radius had a relative risk of 1.6 for leukaemia, compared with the control group. The RR for mortality was higher at 2.3, and highest at 2.8 for lymphoblastic leukaemia. [25] The calculated power levels were around 0.02 to 8 mW/cm2.
b) In 1987, a similar study identified higher rates of cancer among those living near the TV and radio broadcast towers in Hawaii. Drs. Anderson and Henderson of the Hawaii Department of Health found in residential areas with 12 communication towers, a relative risk for cancer, including leukaemia, of 1.375 (37.5% increase). [26]
c) A study of cancers around the BBC Sutton Coldfield transmitter mast (Dolk, et al, 1997) found a statistically significant doubling of adult leukaemia within 2 km, and a significant decline in risk with distance up to 10 km from the mast was also found for skin cancer. The decline with distance was also observed at 20 other high power masts, but no significant increase in overall incidence was found. [27]
d) An earlier study in 1982, conducted by Dr Morton of the University of Oregonis Health Science Centre found parallel trends in his study of cancer and broadcast radiation in Portland. [28]
e) Dr. Stanislaw Szmigielski, a leading epidemiologist with the Centre for Radiobiology and Radiation Safety at the Military Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Warsaw, Poland has been the team leader for an on-going study of the health effects of RF/MW exposure of military personnel in Poland for the whole military population. His research found that young military personnel exposed to RF/MW radiation had more than eight times the expected rate of leukaemia and lymphoma. Careful surveys of exposure revealed that 80 - 85% of the personnel were exposed to an average of less than 42 microwatts/sq. cm., with a median point near 7 microwatts/sq. cm. [8]
f) Quellet-Hellstrom and Stewart (1993) found a statistically significant 3.3 fold increase of miscarriage amongst U.S. physiotherapists using microwave diathermy compared to a non-exposed control group. The incidence increased with the number of monthly treatments, which could suggest a cumulative effect. With about 10 treatments per month, the exposure was about 0.04 to 0.56 microwatts/sq. cm. [29]
g) Shandala et. al. (1979) found that calcium ion efflux varies in living animal cells at 10 micro watts/ and this level also produces brain activity changes. [30]
h) Prof. von Klitzing (1995) found changes to human brain EEG with a signal of 217 Hz modulation on a 150 megahertz (MHz) carrier with an external exposure of about 2.5 microwatts/ [31]
i) Professor John Goldsmith, at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, has collected evidence of several exposures to microwaves which produced elevated risks of a wide range of cancers, including childhood leukaemia in children of staff, and cancers in the staff and partners at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and other eastern European U.S. embassies. These cancers were associated with a reported maximum exposure of between 5 and 15 microwatts/ and mean exposures between 1 and 2.4 mW/cm2, recorded near the outside walls of the embassy. Personnel exposures inside the building were estimated between 0.2 and 0.5 mW/cm2. [32]
j) To quote from Dr. Neil Cherry's (New Zealand) recent book: [33] "With these and dozens of other epidemiological studies of large populations and large numbers of workers occupationally exposed to RF/MW radiation, showing statistically significant increases of a wide spectrum of cancers, there can be little or no doubt that chronic low level exposure to RF/MW radiation produces increased cancer risk."
k) The Latvian pulsed radar station study mentioned earlier in this talk. [13]
Who can the public turn to for advice?
Part of my remit was to answer the question whether the public should be suspicious of soothing statements from people responsible for advice on these matters.
Dr. Alastair McKinlay, of the UK NRPB, is the vice-Chair of the "Expert Group" set up by the European Commission. He is quoted as stating: What is now required is a lot more research in the microwave frequency part of the electromagnetic spectrum, where mobile phones operate. This is not because there is concern about health effects, but that such research makes sense to quell any public concern. [34] The E.C. Committee has recommended a 24 million ECU (about Pound20m) funding programme for research into mobile phone safety.
Dr. John Stather, Asst. Director of the NRPB was recently quoted in several press articles [35] as admitting: "Until recently, we believed any harmful effects from microwaves were due to their heating effects, which would be negligible at the low powers used by mobile phones. Now their might be another effect at work and we are much less certain."
Powerwatch believes that, although much more research needs doing, regular mobile-phone use is likely to have adverse health consequences in many people who use them. The newer, digital, ones are likely to have more biological effects than the older, analogue, ones. Although existing evidence does not yet conclusively prove that there are any long-term adverse health implications, we feel that we need to advise people to use them as little as possible.
Alasdair Philips ( Director, UK Powerwatch, EMC Engineer and EMF-bioeffects researcher



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