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23/01/2008 - Mobile phone radiation wrecks your sleep

Another study has been published showing clear evidence that mobile phones can negatively affect human sleep. This study also clearly demonstrates non-thermal responses that cannot be due to a nocebo reaction. Not only that, but it was funded as an independent study by the mobile manufacturers forum, which removes the industry's ability to claim that there is no evidence of adverse health effects from mobile phone radiation.

The study found that, despite not being able to recognise whether or not they had been exposed to true RF or a sham signal, components of sleep were significantly affected in those exposed to a real signal. As the participants were unaware of their exposure and were not selected due to their perceived sensitivity, this effect cannot be due to a nocebo response.

The NHS also covered these findings, but with an alarming level of spin: "This experiment has several important limitations and does not provide sufficient evidence to suggest that mobile use at night is a risk to health." This is of course true: this study, despite finding statistically significant results, is not in itself enough to draw any conclusions regarding whether the effect is genuine enough. However, it is confirming most of the very similar work done over the last 10 years that found exactly the same thing: that mobile phone usage can affect both onset and quality of sleep in human subjects[1-5].

Regarding the selection bias of the study, they comment that "The study only had 71 participants and 38 of them reported suffering from problems that they attributed to mobile use before they entered the study. The small group size and high proportion of people who reported sensitivity to mobile use are unlikely to be representative of the population." However, whilst this is very important when considering the proportion of those that may be affected (bearing in mind that there was no large difference between the "sensitive" and non-sensitive group results) it does nothing to suggest that the results were not in fact very real. 71 people is quite a standard population sample size for a study of this kind.

The article continues: "Despite what is reported in the newspapers, there is no suggestion within the research paper they cite that radio waves cause confusion or have any harmful affects upon mood, concentration or personality." Not on its own, but there are at least five similar previous studies with positive findings and there is also now a relatively large pool of literature finding other brain wave and EEG related effects from radiofrequency exposure[6-10].

There are also studies that do report "confusion, mood, concentration and personality" problems experience by people who are exposed to radio wave signals from mobile phone base station antennas[11-18].

The only thing really surprisingly is that this paper has been hailed as one of the first of its kind (to show non-thermal, non-nocebo, physiological responses) when it is very clearly not the case!


Story on the Telegraph website - Story on the Independent on Sunday website
Story on the Daily Mail website - Story on the Daily Mail website
Coverage on the BBC website - Coverage on the BBC website, including an interview with Alasdair Philips (Powerwatch)
NHS Knowledge service - NHS Knowledge Service article


[1] Huber R et al, (February 2005) Exposure to pulse-modulated radio frequency electromagnetic fields affects regional cerebral blood flow, Eur J Neurosci. 2005 Feb;21(4):1000-6 [View on Pubmed]

[2] Huber R et al, (May 2003) Radio frequency electromagnetic field exposure in humans: Estimation of SAR distribution in the brain, effects on sleep and heart rate, Bioelectromagnetics 2003 May;24(4):262-76[View on Pubmed]

[3] Huber R et al, (December 2002) Electromagnetic fields, such as those from mobile phones, alter regional cerebral blood flow and sleep and waking EEG, J Sleep Res 2002 Dec;11(4):289-95 [View on Pubmed]

[4] Huber R et al, (October 2000) Exposure to pulsed high-frequency electromagnetic field during waking affects human sleep EEG, Neuroreport. 2000 Oct 20;11(15):3321-5 [View on Pubmed]

[5] Borbely AA et al, (November 1999) Pulsed high-frequency electromagnetic field affects human sleep and sleep electroencephalogram, Neurosci Lett. 1999 Nov 19;275(3):207-10 [View on Pubmed]

[6] Bachmann M et al, (2006) Integration of differences in EEG Analysis Reveals Changes in Human EEG Caused by Microwave, Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2006;1:1597-600 [View on Pubmed]

[7] Papageorgiou C et al, (April 2006) Acute mobile phone effects on pre-attentive operation, Neurosci Lett. 2006 Apr 10-17;397(1-2):99-103 [View on Pubmed]

[8] D'Costa H et al, (December 2003) Human brain wave activity during exposure to radiofrequency field emissions from mobile phones, Australas Phys Eng Sci Med. 2003 Dec;26(4):162-7 [View on Pubmed]

[9] Kramarenko AV, Tan U, (July 2003) Effects of high-frequency electromagnetic fields on human EEG: a brain mapping study, Int J Neurosci. 2003 Jul;113(7):1007-19 [View on Pubmed]

[10] Landgrebe M et al, (March 2007) Altered cortical excitability in subjectively electrosensitive patients: results of a pilot study, J Psychosom Res. 2007 Mar;62(3):283-8 [View on Pubmed]

[11] Preece AW et al, (June 2007) Health response of two communities to military antennae in Cyprus, Occup Environ Med. 2007 Jun;64(6):402-8 [View on Pubmed]

[12] Abdel-Rassoul G et al, (March 2007) Neurobehavioral effects among inhabitants around mobile phone base stations, Neurotoxicology. 2007 Mar;28(2):434-40 [View on Pubmed]

[13] Hutter HP et al, (May 2006) Subjective symptoms, sleeping problems, and cognitive performance in subjects living near mobile phone base stations, Occup Environ Med. 2006 May;63(5):307-13 [View on Pubmed]

[14] Bortkiewicz A et al, (2004) Subjective symptoms reported by people living in the vicinity of cellular phone base stations: review, Med Pr. 2004;55(4):345-51 [View on Pubmed]

[15] Oberfeld G et al, (October 2004) The Microwave Syndrome - Further Aspects of a Spanish Study, Conference Proceedings [View paper in full]

[16] Navarro EA et al, (December 2003) The Microwave Syndrome: A Preliminary Study in Spain, Electromagn Biol Med 22(2-3): 161-169 [Paper not on Pubmed]

[17] Santini R et al, (September 2003) Symptoms experienced by people in vicinity of base stations: II/ Incidences of age, duration of exposure, location of subjects in relation to the antennas and other electromagnetic factors, Pathol Biol (Paris). 2003 Sep;51(7):412-5 [View on Pubmed]

[18] Santini R et al, (July 2002) Investigation on the health of people living near mobile telephone relay stations: I/Incidence according to distance and sex, Pathol Biol (Paris) 2002 Jul;50(6):369-73 [View on Pubmed]

For a more comprehensive overview of the existing literature on mobile phones and brain or neurological effects, see our studies list

Also in the news

Weak study on UMTS base station exposure finds no effect

A paper published (electronically) last month by IS Riddervold of the University of Aarhus in Denmark found that cognitive ability was no affected by exposure to simulated UMTS base station radiation.

Unfortunately, the study had a number of crucial flaws: Although they controlled for all sorts of environmental EMF and toxics, they only exposed people for 45 minutes to (sham/umts/CW/pulsed CW) at 1 volt per metre and tested them during the exposure time (45 minutes) - so testing effectively after an average of only 22 minutes exposure. Most anecdotal reports regarding the responses of ES people that we are aware of typically take at least one hour to significantly react to a signal as low as 1 volt per metre. On this basis the study would be very unlikely to show a result regardless of whether or not the participants had a real sensitivity to EMFs.

There were 40 teenagers and 40 adults participating in the study, none of which were selected due to any perceived EMF sensitivity. In fact, as they were specifically looking for otherwise healthy participants, it is quite likely that the would be predisposed towards excluding them from the study entirely. Even if we assume that EHS affects 5% of the population (and a figure that high is strongly disputed) and the study had no selection bias, then they would still only have 2 teenagers and 2 adults who would be likely to react (and 38 teenagers and 38 adults would not be likely to react). Statistically this would leave absolutely no chance of finding anything.

It is hard to see how any conclusions can be drawn from this paper, which does not appear to have put sufficient effort into its selection methods to have found any effect, even if one did exist.


[1] Riddervold IS et al, (December 2007) Cognitive function and symptoms in adults and adolescents in relation to RF radiation from UMTS base stations, Bioelectromagnetics 2007 Dec 28 [Epub] [View on Pubmed]

Two more studies find non-thermal effects from RF radiation

Two new papers have added to the steadily growing evidence of athermal effects from radiofrequency radiation.

The radiation used was at 800 and 900 MHz respectively (similar to one of the GSM bands), but was continuous wave and therefore not exactly like mobile phone radiation. However, the power level (SAR = 2 W/kg) was very similar.

Both papers found significant cellular effects from in vitro exposure below ICNIRP guidance levels.


View on Microwave news - Excellent Microwave News coverage from the 9th January 2008


[1] Mazor R et al, (January 2008) Increased levels of numerical chromosome aberrations after in vitro exposure of human peripheral blood lymphocytes to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields for 72 hours, Radiat Res. 2008 Jan;169(1):28-37 [View on Pubmed]

[2] Joubert V et al, (January 2008) Apoptosis is Induced by Radiofrequency Fields through the Caspase-Independent Mitochondrial Pathway in Cortical Neurons, Radiat Res. 2008 Jan;169(1):38-45 [View on Pubmed]

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