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28/01/2009 - January 2009 - Science Update

Many apologies for the late release of the "January 2009" science update, there will be a February update at the end of the month as well. The following is a quick summary of another fourteen papers that have come out over the last few months related to effects of electromagnetic radiation.

1. - Luukkonen J et al, (December 2008) Enhancement of chemically induced reactive oxygen species production and DNA damage in human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells by 872MHz radiofrequency radiation, Mutat Res. 2008 Dec 24. [Epub ahead of print] [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

This is an interesting paper published in December 2008 from Finland, that demonstrated strongly significant ROS creation and DNA damage from continuous wave radiofrequency radiation but not from GSM exposure (both at a SAR of 5 W/kg). The test were performed in vitro on Human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells, and found that after 60 minutes of exposure both ROS creation and DNA breakage were statistically signficantly increased (P < 0.01). This paper yet again demonstrates non-thermal effects of RF exposure, though it is interesting that they did not find the effects for GSM signals that were found in earlier work[Oktem 2005, Nikolova 2005, Oral 2006, Panagopoulos 2007, Yao 2008], and found that continuous wave radiation was more bioactive than pulsed signals.

2. N Abdus-salam A et al, (June 2008) Mobile phone radiation and the risk of cancer; a review, Afr J Med Med Sci. 2008 Jun;37(2):107-18 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

A Nigerian team have reviewed the literature on mobile phone use and the associated risk of brain cancer. Their conclusions were that "The preponderance of published research works over several decades including some with over ten years of follow up have not demonstrated any significant increase in cancer among mobile phone users. However, the need for caution is emphasized as it may take up to four decades for carcinogenesis to become fully apparent." We feel that the literature does not support their view that the majority of papers in published literature "have not demonstrated any significant increase in cancer among mobile phone users", especially for those who have used their phones for more than 10 years, but their final caveat is very important. The latency period of brain tumours must be taken into consideration when analysing brain tumour risk - if the typical period is around 25 years (approximate estimate for ionising radiation) then to see anything for data between 10 and 15 years should be considered highly concerning.

3. - Nieto-Hernandez R et al, (November 2008) Can evidence change belief? Reported mobile phone sensitivity following individual feedback of an inability to discriminate active from sham signals, J Psychosom Res. 2008 Nov;65(5):453-60 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

The King's College psychology team of Rubin, Wessely and colleagues have teamed up to assess whether providing the participants of a double-blinded study on the accuracy of their results would affect subsequent symptom severity and attribution to mobile phone signals. It was find that this was not the case, although some were quite willing to consider the possibility that their symptoms may be caused by something other than electromagnetic fields.

4. P Yokus B et al, (October 2008) Extremely low frequency magnetic fields cause oxidative DNA damage in rats, Int J Radiat Biol. 2008 Oct;84(10):789-95 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

This Turkish paper analysed rat exposure to high levels of ELF magnetic fields (50 Hz, 100 and 500 µT), and found that the exposure generates oxidatively induced DNA base modifications which are mutagenic in mammalian cells in vivo. They conclude that the paper is evidence that may explain the apparent genotoxicity of ELF magnetic fields.

5. P Juutilainen J, (2008) Do electromagnetic fields enhance the effects of environmental carcinogens?, Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2008;132(2):228-31 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Jukka Juutilainen has produced a number of papers assessing the affect of ELF MF exposure acting as a catalyst for other known carcinogens, and this paper was intended as a summary of the effects, with a separation between high fields (>= 100 µT) and low fields (< 100 µT). His findings were as follows: "The majority of in vitro studies have reported positive findings, which supports the conclusion that MFs of 100 microT or higher interact with other chemical and physical agents. Further studies should address biophysical mechanisms and dose-response relationship below 100 microT. Animal studies designed according to the classical initiation-promotion concept may not be sufficient for studying the cocarcinogenic effects of MFs, and further studies using novel study designs would be useful. Epidemiological data on the interaction between MFs and other environmental agents are scant and inconclusive, and any further studies may be difficult because of the scarcity of subjects with suitable combined exposures."

6. P Blettner M et al, (November 2008) Mobile phone base stations and adverse health effects: Phase 1: A population-based cross-sectional study in Germany, Occup Environ Med. 2008 Nov 18. [Epub ahead of print] [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Researchers from Germany conducted a population-based, multi-phase, cross-sectional study within the context of a large panel survey (involving 51,444 people, of whom 30,047 responded) regularly carried out by a private research institute. The aim was to identify whether proximity of residence to mobile phone base stations as well as risk perception is associated with health complaints. The findings were interesting: 18.7% of participants were concerned about adverse health effects of mobile phone base stations, while an additional 10.3% attributed their personal adverse health effects to the exposure from them. From the conclusions made by the authors themselves, this is interesting non-laboratory support for the possible existence of ES in the German population: "A substantial proportion of the German population is concerned about adverse health effects caused by exposure from mobile phone base stations. The observed slightly higher prevalence of health complaints near base stations can not however be fully explained by attributions or concerns."

7. P Tkalec M et al, (November 2008) Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on seed germination and root meristematic cells of Allium cepa L, Mutat Res. 2008 Nov 5. [Epub ahead of print] [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

This study found cellular effects in germinating onions when they were exposed to 400 and 900 MHz electric fields strengths of 41 and 120 V/m. These findings are entirely non-thermal, and whilst the upper value is above ICNIRP the lower value is not, and a quite feasible electric field level to be received by the head when talking on a mobile phone. This is further support that cellular effects in living organisms can be found at exposure levels typical for those using a mobile phone.

8. N Burdak-Rothkamm S et al, (November 2008) DNA and chromosomal damage in response to intermittent extremely low-frequency magnetic fields, Mutat Res. 2008 Nov 13. [Epub ahead of print] [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Scientists from Gray Cancer Institute in the UK have failed to find DNA or chromosomal damage from exposure to 50 - 1,000 µT ELF magnetic fields. The field levels being used are a large distance above typical environmental levels (< 1 µT;) so these findings have little impact on assessments of health effects of these levels, but is relevant as an attempt to investigate findings from the EU REFLEX report.

9. P Yang Y et al, (December 2008) Case-only study of interactions between DNA repair genes (hMLH1, APEX1, MGMT, XRCC1 and XPD) and low-frequency electromagnetic fields in childhood acute leukemia, Leuk Lymphoma. 2008 Dec;49(12):2344-50 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Researchers from the Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Shanghai, China, have found genetic markers that demonstrate a 4-fold increase in risk of childhood leukaemia if they also live within 100 metres of powerlines or transformers compared to their neighbours with a fully functioning version of this gene.

This doesn't give a biological mechanism (for which there are a number of theories requiring further research [Henshaw 2002, Henshaw & Reiter 2005, Binhi 2008, Blank 2008]), but what it does give is a marker for biological susceptibility. This has been suspected with most causes of cancer (that the issue is multi-causal and multi-factorial - i.e. for each of the many causes there are many factors) but previously there has been no evidence of this for ELF electromagnetic fields. This research strongly supports the association between living proximity to powerlines and childhood leukaemia[Ahlbom 2000, Greenland 2000], but more importantly it also provides the beginnings of a possibility that people may be able to screen themselves for susceptibility. This is potentially groundbreaking as it allows some level of preventative action for those looking at purchasing a house near existing overhead powerlines, and could also provide peace of mind for those already living near powerlines if they are tested and found not to have the marker.

We have covered this paper in much greater detail in an earlier news story already.

10. P Matronchik AY, Belyaev IY et al, (2008) Mechanism for combined action of microwaves and static magnetic field: slow non uniform rotation of charged nucleoid, Electromagn Biol Med. 2008;27(4):340-54 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Russian physicists (including Igor Belyaev, who has published numerous papers on cellular effects of RF radiation, e.g. Belyaev 2005, Belyaev 2006) have suggested a "combined action" mechanism that may trigger non-thermal effects from radiofrequency radiation.

11. P Verschaeve L, (November 2008) Genetic damage in subjects exposed to radiofrequency radiation, Mutat Res. 2008 Nov 27. [Epub ahead of print] [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Belgian researcher Luc Verschaeve has compiled a review of the findings of the past several review papers published on laboratory investigations devoted to in vitro and in vivo animal (cyto)genetic studies on RF EMF exposure. His conclusions are that there are consistent findings of cellular and genetic damage, but the studies are not robust enough to draw firm conclusions, and that it is important to fund large multi-disciplinary investigations to analyse these findings in greater detail.

12. N Sommer AM et al, (January 2009) Effects of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields (UMTS) on Reproduction and Development of Mice: A Multi-generation Study, Radiat Res. 2009 Jan;171(1):89-95 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

German researchers have failed to find effects on the fertility of rats exposed to UMTS EMF exposure. The exposure was 24 hour per day lifelong exposure, and the mean whole-body SARs were 0 (sham), 0.08, 0.4 and 1.3 W/kg, measured at time of mating. Four generations of these rats and their offspring were monitored, with no statistical effects on fertility or development found.

13. N Prisco MG et al, (December 2008) Effects of GSM-modulated radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on mouse bone marrow cells, Radiat Res. 2008 Dec;170(6):803-10 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Scientists from the Italian Agency for New Technologies have performed an in vivo study to determine whether GSM-modulated RF fields affected the behaviour of bone marrow precursor cells which would then have an impact on carcinogenesis. No effect was found on cell number or proliferation.

14. - Funk RH et al, (2009) Electromagnetic effects - From cell biology to medicine, Prog Histochem Cytochem. 2009;43(4):177-264. Epub 2008 Sep 18 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

This paper looks at the many different aspects of electromagnetic fields, from the different effects associated with their electrical and magnetic components to the many mechanisms which have generated the beginnings of published scientific support. Focusing largely on cellular interaction, the paper assesses ion transport in cells and tissues, gene expression and the effects on healing. The authors conclude that it is appropriate to look at cross-disciplinary information to further progress relevant biological science, stating that "As an outlook for future research topics, this review tries to link areas of EF, MF and EMF research to thermodynamics and quantum physics, approaches that will produce novel insights into cell biology".

Further References

1. P Oktem F et al, (July 2005) Oxidative damage in the kidney induced by 900-MHz-emitted mobile phone: protection by melatonin, Arch Med Res. 2005 Jul-Aug;36(4):350-5 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
2. P Nikolova T et al, (October 2005) Electromagnetic fields affect transcript levels of apoptosis-related genes in embryonic stem cell-derived neural progenitor cells, FASEB J. 2005 Oct;19(12):1686-8 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
3. P Oral B et al, (November 2006) Endometrial apoptosis induced by a 900-MHz mobile phone: preventive effects of vitamins E and C, Adv Ther. 2006 Nov-Dec;23(6):957-73 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
4. P Panagopoulos D et al, (January 2007) Cell death induced by GSM 900-MHz and DCS 1800-MHz mobile telephony radiation, Mutat Res. 2007 Jan 10;626(1-2):69-78 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
5. P Yao K et al, (May 2008) Effect of superposed electromagnetic noise on DNA damage of lens epithelial cells induced by microwave radiation, Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2008 May;49(5):2009-15 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
6. P Henshaw DL, (July 2002) Does our electricity distribution system pose a serious risk to public health?, Med Hypotheses. 2002 Jul;59(1):39-51 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
7. P Henshaw DL, Reiter RJ, (2005) Do magnetic fields cause increased risk of childhood leukemia via melatonin disruption?, Bioelectromagnetics. 2005;Suppl 7:S86-97 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
8. P Binhi V, (July 2008) Do naturally occurring magnetic nanoparticles in the human body mediate increased risk of childhood leukaemia with EMF exposure?, Int J Radiat Biol. 2008 Jul;84(7):569-79 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
9. P Blank M, (2008) Protein and DNA reactions stimulated by electromagnetic fields, Electromagn Biol Med. 2008;27(1):3-23 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
10. P Ahlbom A et al, (September 2000) A pooled analysis of magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia, Br J Cancer. 2000 Sep;83(5):692-8 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
11. - Greenland S et al, (November 2000) A pooled analysis of magnetic fields, wire codes, and childhood leukemia. Childhood Leukemia-EMF Study Group, Epidemiology. 2000 Nov;11(6):624-34 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
12. P Belyaev IY et al, (April 2005) 915 MHz microwaves and 50 Hz magnetic field affect chromatin conformation and 53BP1 foci in human lymphocytes from hypersensitive and healthy persons, Bioelectromagnetics. 2005 Apr;26(3):173-84 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
13. P Belyaev IY et al, (May 2006) Exposure of rat brain to 915 MHz GSM microwaves induces changes in gene expression but not double stranded DNA breaks or effects on chromatin conformation, Bioelectromagnetics. 2006 May;27(4):295-306 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]