04/11/2009 - October 2009 - Science Update
The following is a quick summary of another twenty papers that have come out over the last few months related to effects of electromagnetic radiation. Some of the papers are notable papers that have been published very recently, others are papers that were published a few months ago that have not yet made it to one of the Science Updates
Eltiti S et al
, (May 2009) Short-term exposure to mobile phone base station signals does not affect cognitive functioning or physiological measures in individuals who report sensitivity to electromagnetic fields and controls
, Bioelectromagnetics. 2009 May 27. [Epub ahead of print] [View Author's abstract conclusions
Stacey Eltiti, Elaine Fox, and the rest of the team on the famously misreported Essex Study, have recently published a paper finding that the cognitive functioning and physiolgical symptoms of subjectively sensitive participants were not effected by either GSM or UMTS base station short-term exposure. At first glance, the statistical failings that undermined the author's conclusions in the previous study appear not to be present in this study, and there is genuinely little difference between the different exposures in either the control or the sensitive group. However, as before, the largest criticism voiced by sensitive participants that was previously unanswered remains unanswered - that of the exposure sessions being only 20 minutes long followed immediately by the study tests. It would have been useful to have had a larger gap between exposure and test, especially as many ES individuals claim to have no immediate reaction to exposure. Also of interest was that, regardless of exposure situation, the sensitive group had highly significant (P < 0.01) increased skin conductivity, that may highlight a genuine difference that could give rise to genuine sensitivity differences to external exposures - this is especially interesting based on Johansson's work through the 90's and early this decade finding genuine physiological differences in the skin cells of self-assessed ES individuals.
Berg-Beckhoff G et al
, (February 2009) Mobile phone base stations and adverse health effects: phase 2 of a cross-sectional study with measured radio frequency electromagnetic fields
, Occup Environ Med. 2009 Feb;66(2):124-30 [View Author's abstract conclusions
Another recent study on subjective symptoms from mobile phone base station has recently been published in the British Medical Journal by Gabriele Berg-Beckhoff and her colleages at the University of Bielefield and the University of Mainz, both in Germany. The findings were quite strongly that there were no objective physiological changes in those exposed to "elevated" radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from base stations in their sleeping environment. The elevated field levels were those exposed to a mean electric field strength above the 90th percentile of exposure (with the dataset, this was > 0.1 V/m). The two main criticisms we would have is that we feel that this elevated field level is too low for a practical comparison. As very few people are sensitive enough to significantly react at this low level, it is very unlikely that enough information could be collected to identify any increase in symptoms. The study would have been more useful with a cut-off at a previously highlighted level where sensitivity was considered more common (such as the BioInitiative basic recommendation of 0.6 V/m) that could be compared against those with an exposure below a much more sensitive level (such as the ideal BioInitiative recommendation of 0.06 V/m or lower), creating a stronger comparison between appropriate datasets. There is also the issue of sensitivity in the general population. If only 3% of people are actually sensitive enough to react to RF EMFs, then even with the improved separation of exposure levels mentioned above, only 3 out of every 100 of those exposed over the threshold would actually exhibit symptoms related to the exposure, a total of 4 participants (from the 133 participants exposed above this level). So even assuming that the threshold of 0.1 V/m is exactly appropriate, with all sensitive subjects responding consistently above that point and no sensitive subjects responding consistently below (this is a huge stretch of assumption. In reality, any effects are likely to be diluted by any deviation from this being the case), only 4 of the 1326 participants would demonstrate differences that would be picked up on the data analysis. As we have explained before, this makes a mockery of the purpose of such a study - without any filter to find those genuinely sensitive in enough numbers to find statistically significant results, there is no way that research of this kind can demonstrate an association with health effects from RF exposure. To conclude that "In this large population-based study, measured RF-EMFs emitted from mobile phone base stations were not associated with adverse health effects" gives a misleading impression that the study offers reassurance, when by its design it was incapable of finding anything else.
Brescia F et al
, (October 2009) Reactive oxygen species formation is not enhanced by exposure to UMTS 1950 MHz radiation and co-exposure to ferrous ions in Jurkat cells
, Bioelectromagnetics. 2009 Oct;30(7):525-35 [View Author's abstract conclusions
Researchers from Italy have investigated the association between UMTS simulated phone exposure and the creation of Reactive Oxygen Species. They exposed human lymphoblastoid cells to 0.5 W/kg and 2.0 W/kg of UMTS 1950 MHz electromagnetic fields, at both short exposures (5 - 60 minutes) and long exposures (24 hours). Their findings were that non-thermal RF exposures do not increase spontaneous ROS formation in any of the experimental conditions investigated. Consistent with the lack of ROS production, no change in cell viability was observed in Jurkat cells exposed to RF radiation for 24 h. Similar results were obtained when co-exposures were considered: combined exposures to RF radiation and FeSO(4) did not increase ROS formation induced by the chemical treatment alone. Commenting further that the positive control affected ROS production as expected, they conclude that the methodology was sufficiently sensitive enough to detect a substantial effect if present, they conclude that effects were not found for the specific cells and exposure used in their expoeriment.
Del Vecchio G et al
, (October 2009) Effect of radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure on in vitro models of neurodegenerative disease
, Bioelectromagnetics. 2009 Oct;30(7):564-72 [View Author's abstract conclusions
Following up on earlier work finding in vitro effects from exposure to 900 MHz GSM electromagnetic fields, Giovanna Del Vecchio and colleagues have published another paper demonstrating neurological damage, this time exacerbating the effects of known neurotoxic agent hydrogen peroxide in a specific cellular system. Noting that it did not have this affect with other known neurotoxic agents, they concluded that only under particular circumstances exposure to GSM modulated, 900 MHz signal act as a co-stressor for oxidative damage of neural cells.
Breckenkamp J et al
, (May 2009) Feasibility of a cohort study on health risks caused by occupational exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields
, Environ Health. 2009 May 29;8:23 [View Author's abstract conclusions
Another study from the same authors from Bielefield and Mainz Universities has assessed the feasibility of a cohort study to assess health risks from occupational exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. In our opinion, this paper further demonstrates the lack of awareness of the discussions around what the issues relating to EMF / health effects may be. The majority of the focus of the paper is on those who have a profession that gives rise to a high exposure to RF, but there is no qualitative differentiation in the assessment between continuous and digital amplitude modulated signals, and again the impression is left that the only metric being assessed is total absorbed energy and whether it constitutes a health effect based on ICNIRP or ICNIRP-equivalent guidance levels.
It has been repeatedly speculated that the exclusion of DECT digital cordless phones from the Interphone protocol may represent a serious confounder in the accuracy of the data produced, and the statistical ability for the findings of the individual Interphone studies to actually demonstrate an effect even if one exists. This paper highlights just how potentially serious the confounder might actually be: Using RF dosimetry meters the typical exposures to RF EMFs were measured in 166 study participants, and found that typical mean exposures were 0.13 mW/m2 (0.22 V/m) over the period measured. The range of mean exposures varied from 0.014 mW/m2 (0.07 V/m) to 0.881 mW/m2 (0.58 V/m), with the highest values being related to public transport systems such as trains, airports or buses.
However, the abstract also separated out the exposure into 3 main sources, which they highlighted as mobile phone base stations (32.0%), mobile phone handsets (29.1%), and DECT phones (22.7%). This means that of the total exposure to RF, at least 54.7% (with a further possible 16.2% from other exposures) has not been catered for, either in "exposed usage" or in controlled confounders within any of the Interphone papers. As the Interphone protocol assessed only mobile phone usage as a (hopefully appropriate) proxy for RF EMF exposure, it means that the exposure assessment they have used is massively inaccurate, having assessed potentially less than a third of the participants actual exposure.
This paper was covered in greater detail in an earlier news story of ours.
A study carried out by a team from the US Air Force Research Laboratory has attempted, but failed, to replicate the blood brain barrier effects found by Leif Salford and his team from Lund University [Salford 1994, Salford 2003, Eberhardt 2008]. Their findings were as follows: "Unanesthetized rats were exposed for 30 min to either continuous-wave or modulated (16 or 217 Hz) 915 MHz energy at power levels resulting in whole-body specific absorption rates (SARs) of 0.0018-20 W/kg. Albumin immunohistochemistry was performed on perfused brain tissue sections to determine the integrity of the BBB. Chi-square analysis revealed no significant increase in albumin extravasation in any of the exposed animals compared to the sham-exposed or home cage control animals.".
Sannino A et al
, (June 2009) Human fibroblasts and 900 MHz radiofrequency radiation: evaluation of DNA damage after exposure and co-exposure to 3-chloro-4-(dichloromethyl)-5-hydroxy-2(5h)-furanone (MX)
, Radiat Res. 2009 Jun;171(6):743-51 [View Author's abstract conclusions
A study carried out by a team in Italy has attempted to compare the effects of GSM simulated RF exposure (24 hours at 1 W/kg) to a known carcinogen in human dermal fibroblast cells. Their findings were that there were "no genotoxic and cytotoxic effects from RF radiation alone in either cell line. As expected, MX treatment induced an increase in DNA migration in the comet assay, but no enhancement of the MX-induced DNA damage was observed in the cells exposed to RF radiation".
The same team published a second piece of work in the same issue of the same journal, looking instead at the effects of GSM-simulated RF exposure at the higher dose of 10 W/kg on human blood lymphocytes. The purpose of the experiment was to introduce a known genotoxic agent (mitomycin C) and compare the affects on lymphocytes pre-exposed to the RF compared to those not pre-exposed. In the prelimary results they found that in some cases the pre-exposed cells were less affected by the genotoxic agents than those not pre-exposed, although this effect was not consistent, concluding that there was heterogeneity in the effect of RF on cellular adaptive response in the lymphocytes. In laymans terms, this experiment effectively found support that cells (even cells that for all intents and purposes should behave the same way each time) do not consistently react to RF exposure. It is further evidence that if there is an underlying effect from RF on human cells, the complexity of how or why the interactions occur is still outside current scientific understanding.
Gonet B et al
, (July 2009) Effects of extremely low-frequency magnetic fields on the oviposition of Drosophila melanogaster over three generations
, Bioelectromagnetics. 2009 Jul 23. [Epub ahead of print] [View Author's abstract conclusions
This paper, published in Bioelectromagnetics by a Polish research team, investigated the effects of ELF magnetic field exposure on drosophila melanogaster (common fruit fly). Their findings were that the early exposure to the magnetic fields caused effects on oviposition that lasted multiple generations.
Peyman A et al
, (June 2009) Evaluation Of Exposure Of School Children To Electromagnetic Fields From Wireless Computer Networks (Wi-Fi): Phase 1 Laboratory Measurements
, [View Author's abstract conclusions
When the study was announced, we explained why it would be a complete waste of time, and a large amount of public money, revisiting ground already done by formal testing laboratories elsewhere in Europe. As expected, they agreed not only with the figures done by the Swiss ITIS lab who did formal tests, but also with the measurements we took on the Panorama programme we got so badly criticised for.
In fact, the HPA found readings slightly higher at 1 metre away from the laptops than we did, but they are still very close to our Panorama findings. The HPA readings from 14 sample laptops commonly used by schools and colleges varied from 0.72 (+/- 0.014) volts per metre to 1.31 (+/- 0.003) volts per metre.
This paper was covered in greater detail in an earlier news story of ours.
Goodman R et al
, (July 2009) Extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields activate the ERK cascade, increase hsp70 protein levels and promote regeneration in Planaria
, Int J Radiat Biol. 2009 Jul 9:1-9. [Epub ahead of print] [View Author's abstract conclusions
A team from Hunter College (CUNY) and Columbia University, both from New York, has published a paper summarising their findings on heat shock protein effects in flatworms (Planaria Dugesia dorotocethala) from exposure to 8 µT extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields. The pedigree of the researchers is very high, with the lead author being the reknowned Reba Goodman (who has been publishing on these effects for over 25 years!), and ex-president of the BioElectromagnetics Society Martin Blank was one of the listed co-authors. Their findings were that "Exposures to a modulated sinusoidal ELF-EMF were delivered by a Helmholtz configuration at a frequency of 60 Hz and 80 mG twice a day for one hour. This is accompanied by an increase in hsp70 protein levels, activation of specific kinases and upregulation of transcription factors that are generally associated with repair processes", demonstrating further cellular effects in laboratory in vivo studies from electromagnetic fields.
Researchers from Monash University in Australia have recently published research in the journal Bioelectromagnetics finding that for adolescent children who report a higher phone usage, a noticeable decrease in reaction time but poorer accuracy in cognitive test was observed. As the correlation was the same for those with a higher number of texts, the authors noted that "these cognitive changes were unlikely due to radiofrequency (RF) exposure", but nevertheless recognised the strength of the correlation with mobile phone use. Initial observations would be that those who are likely to text more are also likely to use their phone generally and keep their phone on them more often, so without dosimetric data to suggest otherwise it would seem logical that the high texters are also likely to be more highly generally exposed. It would also be interesting to suggest other behavioural proxies the mobile phone usage might correlate with that could explain the findings in another way. It seems that without that, it is reasonable to suggest RF as a plausible culprit... this is a very interesting finding warranting replication attempts.
Leeka Kheifets has published another paper with members of the "power industry" reviewing the evidence on extremely frequency electric fields and cancer. Their findings were very strongly worded: not only did they state that "The existing epidemiology on residential electric-field exposures and appliance use does not support the conclusion of adverse health effects from electric-field exposure", but went so far as to claim that "there seems little basis for continued research into electric fields". Normally, it would be expected that this sort of claim would be supported by a large amount of literature. There are certainly prominent EMF scientists who still feel that this approach is at best premature, and it has been speculated that early EMF findings with leukamia that used wire codes (such as the pioneering Wertheimer and Leeper paper in 1979) may be more likely to represent an association with electric fields than magnetic fields.
Japanese researchers have failed to find an association between exposure to 0.2 - 2 W/kg levels of a 1950 MHz CDMA simulated mobile phone signal and the CNS immune system an in in vitro experiment on human microglial cells. Interestingly, the lead author Hideki Hirose is developing a history of finding no effect from mobile phone / base station signals on cellular systems [Komatsubara 2005, Sakuma 2006, Hirose 2006, Hirose 2007].
Girgert R et al
, (April 2009) Exposure of mcf-7 breast cancer cells to electromagnetic fields up-regulates the plasminogen activator system
, Int J Gynecol Cancer. 2009 Apr;19(3):334-8 [View Author's abstract conclusions
A paper published by scientists from the German University of Göttingen has found gene expression effects from exposure to 1.2 µT extremely low frequency (50 Hz) magnetic fields. The cell line tested were mcf-7 breast cancer cells, and they found evidence that the EMFs "may be able to increase the metastatic potential of breast tumors" (i.e. an increase in the potential for the tumour to spread to other areas of the body).
, (August 2009) Disturbance of the immune system by electromagnetic fields-A potentially underlying cause for cellular damage and tissue repair reduction which could lead to disease and impairment
, Pathophysiology. 2009 Aug;16(2-3):157-77. Epub 2009 Apr 23 [View Author's abstract conclusions
Following his involvement in the BioInitiative report, this is another paper from one of the two Pathophysiology issues earlier this year focusing on EMFs and adverse health effects by Olle Johansson. In this article he discusses the effects of various sources of man made electromagnetic fields on the human immune system and number of possible implications this has on human health. He conludes that "it must be concluded that the existing public safety limits are inadequate to protect public health, and that new public safety limits, as well as limits on further deployment of untested technologies, are warranted."
Fazzo L et al
, (April 2009) Morbidity experience in populations residentially exposed to 50 hz magnetic fields: methodology and preliminary findings of a cohort study
, Int J Occup Environ Health. 2009 Apr-Jun;15(2):133-42 [View Author's abstract conclusions
This very significant paper from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (the Italian equivalent of what was the NRPB in the UK until it merged with the Health Protection Agency) assessed morbidity of the population if a district of Rome built in part under a 60 kV overhead distribution line. Their findings were that "primary cancers were significantly increased among subjects with > 30 years' residence and latency" and "A significant increase for all, primary, and secondary cancers, and a two-fold increase for ischaemic diseases, was observed in subjects in the sub-area with the highest exposure". This is yet more epidemiological support that powerlines may well be responsible for a number of cancers in human populations. The fact that magnetic field levels were actually measured in this study (and finding an even stronger association with high fields than the lines themselves) weakens the possibility that the distribution lines were acting as a proxy for some other form of exposure.
Sam Milham, known for his work on the possibility that one of the primary causes of cancer in the 20th century is the electrification of residential homes, has published this paper hypothesising the cause of an increased rate of cancer in firefighters. Stating that whereas "respiratory system cancers and diseases are usually not increased in firefighters ... the list of cancers with increased risk in firefighters strongly overlaps the list of cancers at increased risk in workers exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and radiofrequency radiation (RFR)", he draws the association between the regularly high exposure of firefighters to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from two-way communication systems and these cancers. This is obviously just a hypothesis at this stage, but the lack of correlation between the respiratory diseases compared to typically "EMF-related" cancers does seem worthy of further investigation. At the very least, ELF and RF dosimetry work would be useful to see what typical electromagnetic field exposures the firefighters are occupationally exposed to.
Following up on the work over the last decade, Lennart Hardell and Michael Carlberg have published another paper in the International Journal of Oncology with the latest data on mobile / cordless phone use and its association with brain tumours. Their findings are the most dramatic that they have reported so far: "Regarding astrocytoma we found highest risk for ipsilateral mobile phone use in the >10 year latency group, OR=3.3, 95% CI=2.0-5.4 and for cordless phone use OR=5.0, 95% CI=2.3-11. In total, the risk was highest for cases with first use <20 years age, for mobile phone OR=5.2, 95% CI=2.2-12 and for cordless phone OR=4.4, 95% CI=1.9-10. For acoustic neuroma, the highest OR was found for ipsilateral use and >10 year latency, for mobile phone OR=3.0, 95% CI=1.4-6.2 and cordless phone OR=2.3, 95% CI=0.6-8.8. Overall highest OR for mobile phone use was found in subjects with first use at age <20 years, OR=5.0, 95% CI 1.5-16 whereas no association was found for cordless phone in that group, but based on only one exposed case. The annual age-adjusted incidence of astrocytoma for the age group >19 years increased significantly by +2.16%, 95% CI +0.25 to +4.10 during 2000-2007 in Sweden in spite of seemingly underreporting of cases to the Swedish Cancer Registry".