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08/09/2010 - August 2010 - Science Update

The following is a quick summary of another fifteen 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.

1. N Sekijima M et al, (March 2010) 2-GHz band CW and W-CDMA modulated radiofrequency fields have no significant effect on cell proliferation and gene expression profile in human cells, J Radiat Res (Tokyo). 2010;51(3):277-84. Epub 2010 Mar 9 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

We investigated the mechanisms by which radiofrequency (RF) fields exert their activity, and the changes in both cell proliferation and the gene expression profile in the human cell lines, A172 (glioblastoma), H4 (neuroglioma), and IMR-90 (fibroblasts from normal fetal lung) following exposure to 2.1425 GHz continuous wave (CW) and Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA) RF fields at three field levels. During the incubation phase, cells were exposed at the specific absorption rates (SARs) of 80, 250, or 800 mW/kg with both CW and W-CDMA RF fields for up to 96 h. Heat shock treatment was used as the positive control. No significant differences in cell growth or viability were observed between any test group exposed to W-CDMA or CW radiation and the sham-exposed negative controls. Using the Affymetrix Human Genome Array, only a very small (< 1%) number of available genes (ca. 16,000 to 19,000) exhibited altered expression in each experiment. The results confirm that low-level exposure to 2.1425 GHz CW and W-CDMA RF fields for up to 96 h did not act as an acute cytotoxicant in either cell proliferation or the gene expression profile. These results suggest that RF exposure up to the limit of whole-body average SAR levels as specified in the ICNIRP guidelines is unlikely to elicit a general stress response in the tested cell lines under these conditions. This team from Japan has used both CW and simulated phone exposure at levels that would be typical of a phone user, to test whether or not they affect either cell proliferation or gene expression (both effects found in other research) in human cell lines (cancerous and healthy). The evidence presented suggests that they were unable to find any positive or negative effects from the exposure compared to the negative control (sham).

2. P Akdag MZ et al, (June 2010) The effect of long-term extremely low-frequency magnetic field on geometric and biomechanical properties of rats' bone, Electromagn Biol Med. 2010 Jun;29(1-2):9-18 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Bone is composed of a mineral matrix reinforced by a network of collagen that governs the biomechanical functions of the skeletal system in the body. The purpose of the study was to investigate the possible effect of extremely low-frequency magnetic field (ELF-MF) on geometric and biomechanical properties of rats' bone. In this study, 30 male Sprague-Dawley rats were used. The rats were divided into three groups: two experimental and one control sham. The first and second experimental group (n = 10) were exposed to 100 microT and 500 microT-MF during 10 months, 2 h a day, respectively, and the third (sham) (n = 10) group was treated like experimental group except ELF-MF exposure in methacrylate boxes. After ELF-MF and sham exposure, geometric and the biomechanical properties of rats' bone, such as cross-sectional area of the femoral shaft, length of the femur, cortical thickness of the femur, ultimate tensile strength (maximum load), displacement, stiffness, energy absorption capacity, elastic modulus, and toughness of bone were determined. The geometric and biomechanical analyses showed that a significant decrease in rats exposed to 100 microT-MF in comparison to sham and 500 microT-MF exposed rats about the values of cross-sectional area of the femoral shaft (P < 0.05). Maximum load increased in 100 muT-MF and 500 microT-MF exposed rats when compared to that of the sham rats (P < 0.05). The cortical thickness of the femurs of MF-exposed rats (100 microT and 500 microT) were significantly decreased in comparison to that of sham groups' rats (P < 0.05 and P < 0.001). However, no significant differences were found in the other biomechanical endpoints between each other groups, such as: length of the femur, displacement, stiffness, energy absorption capacity, elastic modulus, and toughness of bone (P > 0.05). These experiments demonstrated that 100 microT-MF and 500 microT-MF can affect biomechanical and geometrical properties of rats' bone.

3. P Falzone N et al, (March 2010) The effect of pulsed 900-MHz GSM mobile phone radiation on the acrosome reaction, head morphometry and zona binding of human spermatozoa, Int J Androl. 2010 Mar 7. [Epub ahead of print] [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Summary Several recent studies have indicated that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) have an adverse effect on human sperm quality, which could translate into an effect on fertilization potential. This study evaluated the effect of RF-EMF on sperm-specific characteristics to assess the fertilizing competence of sperm. Highly motile human spermatozoa were exposed for 1 h to 900-MHz mobile phone radiation at a specific absorption rate of 2.0 W/kg and examined at various times after exposure. The acrosome reaction was evaluated using flow cytometry. The radiation did not affect sperm propensity for the acrosome reaction. Morphometric parameters were assessed using computer-assisted sperm analysis. Significant reduction in sperm head area (9.2 +/- 0.7 mum(2) vs. 18.8 +/- 1.4 mum(2)) and acrosome percentage of the head area (21.5 +/- 4% vs. 35.5 +/- 11.4%) was reported among exposed sperm compared with unexposed controls. Sperm-zona binding was assessed directly after exposure using the hemizona assay. The mean number of zona-bound sperm of the test hemizona and controls was 22.8 +/- 12.4 and 31.8 +/- 12.8 (p < 0.05), respectively. This study concludes that although RF-EMF exposure did not adversely affect the acrosome reaction, it had a significant effect on sperm morphometry. In addition, a significant decrease in sperm binding to the hemizona was observed. These results could indicate a significant effect of RF-EMF on sperm fertilization potential. This is yet another paper on RF EMFs and human sperm, also in vitro, and also finding a statistically significant negative effect, this time on fertilising competence. The evidence base for RF EMFs damaging sperm is continuing to grow, and we haven't yet been made aware of a single paper that has not found an effect!

4. - McIntosh RL, Anderson V, (September 2010) SAR versus S(inc): What is the appropriate RF exposure metric in the range 1-10 GHz? Part II: Using complex human body models, Bioelectromagnetics. 2010 Sep;31(6):467-78 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

This is the second of the two articles that present modeling data and reasoned arguments for specifying the appropriate crossover frequency at which incident power flux density (S(inc)) replaces the peak 10 g averaged value of the specific energy absorption rate (SAR) as the designated basic restriction for protecting against radiofrequency electromagnetic heating effects in the 1-10 GHz range. In our first study, we compared the degree of correlation between these basic restrictions and the peak-induced tissue temperature rise (DeltaT) for a representative range of population/exposure scenarios using simple multi-planar models exposed to plane wave conditions. In this complementary study, complex heterogeneous head models for an adult and 12-year-old child were analyzed at 1, 3, 6, 8, and 10 GHz for a variety of exposure conditions. The complex models indicate that peak DeltaT is better correlated with peak 10 g SAR than S(inc) at 1 and 3 GHz and with S(inc) at 6-10 GHz, in contrast to the results from Part I. Considering the planar and complex body modeling results together, and given the equivocal indications of the two metrics in the 6-10 GHz range, we recommend that the breakpoint be set at 6 GHz. This choice is also based on other considerations such as ease of assessment. We also recommend that the limit level of S(inc) should be adjusted to provide a better match with 10 g SAR in the induced tissue temperature rise.

5. - Redmayne M et al, (April 2010) Cordless telephone use: implications for mobile phone research, J Environ Monit. 2010 Apr 9;12(4):809-12. Epub 2010 Feb 2 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Cordless and mobile (cellular) telephone use has increased substantially in recent years causing concerns about possible health effects. This has led to much epidemiological research, but the usual focus is on mobile telephone radiofrequency (RF) exposure only despite cordless RF being very similar. Access to and use of cordless phones were included in the Mobile Radiofrequency Phone Exposed Users Study (MoRPhEUS) of 317 Year 7 students recruited from Melbourne, Australia. Participants completed an exposure questionnaire - 87% had a cordless phone at home and 77% owned a mobile phone. There was a statistically significant positive relationship (r = 0.38, p < 0.01) between cordless and mobile phone use. Taken together, this increases total RF exposure and its ratio in high-to-low mobile users. Therefore, the design and analysis of future epidemiological telecommunication studies need to assess cordless phone exposure to accurately evaluate total RF telephone exposure effects. This paper highlights the importance of any mobile phone epidemiology paper in properly addressing DECT phone use as a strong and likely confounder. This is of particular relevance to the INTERPHONE papers which famously failed to do this (although some did report separately on DECT usage statistics). In contrast, Lennart Hardell's work is known for having handled this issue and provided exposure-response data for both mobile and cordless phone usage.

6. P Guler G et al, (March 2010) The effect of radiofrequency radiation on DNA and lipid damage in non-pregnant and pregnant rabbits and their newborns, Gen Physiol Biophys. 2010 Mar;29(1):59-66 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

The concerns of people on possible adverse health effects of radiofrequency radiation (RFR) generated from mobile phones as well as their supporting transmitters (base stations) have increased markedly. RFR effect on oversensitive people, such as pregnant women and their developing fetuses, and older people is another source of concern that should be considered. In this study, oxidative DNA damage and lipid peroxidation levels in the brain tissue of pregnant and non-pregnant New Zealand White rabbits and their newborns exposed to RFR were investigated. Thirteen-month-old rabbits were studied in four groups as non-pregnant-control, non-pregnant-RFR exposed, pregnant-control and pregnant-RFR exposed. They were exposed to RFR (1800 MHz GSM; 14 V/m as reference level) for 15 min/day during 7 days. Malondialdehyde (MDA) and 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) levels were analyzed. MDA and 8-OHdG levels of non-pregnant and pregnant-RFR exposed animals significantly increased with respect to controls (p < 0.001, Mann-Whitney test). No difference was found in the newborns (p > 0.05, Mann-Whitney). There exist very few experimental studies on the effects of RFR during pregnancy. It would be beneficial to increase the number of these studies in order to establish international standards for the protection of pregnant women from RFR.

7. P Vorobyov V et al, (May 2010) Repeated exposure to low-level extremely low frequency-modulated microwaves affects cortex-hypothalamus interplay in freely moving rats: EEG study, Int J Radiat Biol. 2010 May;86(5):376-83 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

PURPOSE: To compare the effects of repeated exposure to extremely low frequency-modulated microwaves (ELF-MW) on cortical and hypothalamic electroencephalograms (EEG).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: In 10 freely moving rats with carbon electrodes implanted into the cortex and dorsomedial hypothalamus, averaged frequency spectra (0.5-30 Hz) of the EEG were studied for five consecutive days either under sham exposures (five rats) or under mixed sham/MW-exposures (five rats). The rats were exposed to ELF-MW (915 MHz, 20-ms pulse duration, approximately 0.3 mW/cm(2), 4 Hz) intermittently (1-min 'On', 1-min 'Off') for 10 min (specific absorption rate, SAR, approximately 0.7 mW/g on average) several times per day, with 10-min pre- and post-exposure periods.

RESULTS: In baseline EEG, the activities of 3.2-6.0 Hz and 17.8-30.5 Hz dominated in the cortex and of 6.0-17.8 Hz in the hypothalamus. This cortical-hypothalamic imbalance was relatively stable at sham-exposures and insensitive to ELF-MW in all frequency ranges but one. ELF-MW increased the beta(2) (17.8-30.5 Hz) level in the hypothalamus to a greater extent than in the cortex, causing significant diminishing of the initial EEG bias between them. Moreover, a cumulative phenomenon under repeated exposures to ELF-MW was revealed.

CONCLUSIONS: These results are in line with evidence that repeated low-level exposure to ELF-MW affects brain functioning and provide an additional approach when analysing underlying mechanisms.

8. P Panagopoulos DJ, Margaritis LH, (May 2010) The identification of an intensity 'window' on the bioeffects of mobile telephony radiation, Int J Radiat Biol. 2010 May;86(5):358-66 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

PURPOSE: The increased bioactivity 'windows' of GSM 900 and 1800 MHz radiations, (Global System for Mobile telecommunications) revealed recently by us and published in this issue, manifesting themselves as a maximum decrease in the reproductive capacity of the insect Drosophila melanogaster, were examined to discover whether they depend on the intensity of radiation-fields.

METHODS: In each experiment, one group of insects were exposed to the GSM 900 or 1800 radiation at 30 or 20 cm distances, respectively, from the antenna of a mobile phone, where the bioactivity 'window' appears for each type of radiation and another group was exposed at 8 or 5 cm, respectively, behind a metal grid, shielding both microwave radiation and the extremely low frequency (ELF) electric and magnetic fields for both types of radiation in a way that radiation and field intensities were roughly equal between the two groups. Then the effect on reproductive capacity was compared between groups for each type of radiation.

RESULTS: The decrease in the reproductive capacity did not differ significantly between the two groups.

CONCLUSIONS: The bioactivity window seems to be due to the intensity of radiation-field (10 microW/cm(2), 0.6-0.7 V/m) at 30 or 20 cm from the GSM 900 or 1800 mobile phone antenna, respectively.

9. - van Kleef E et al, (June 2010) Risk and benefit perceptions of mobile phone and base station technology in Bangladesh, Risk Anal. 2010 Jun;30(6):1002-15. Epub 2010 Apr 8 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Research in developed countries showed that many citizens perceive that radio signals transmitted by mobile phones and base stations represent potential health risks. Less research has been conducted in developing countries focused on citizen perceptions of risks and benefits, despite the recent and rapid introduction of mobile communication technologies. This study aims to identify factors that are influential in determining the tradeoffs that Bangladeshi citizens make between risks and benefits in terms of mobile phone technology acceptance and health concerns associated with the technology. Bangladesh was selected as representative of many developing countries inasmuch as terrestrial telephone infrastructure is insubstantial, and mobile phone use has expanded rapidly over the last decade, even among the poor. Issues of importance were identified in a small-scale qualitative study among Bangladeshi citizens (n = 13), followed by a survey within a sample of Bangladeshi citizens (n = 500). The results demonstrate that, in general, the perceived benefits of mobile phone technology outweigh the risks. The perceived benefits are primarily related to the social and personal advantages of mobile phone use, including the ability to receive emergency news about floods, cyclones, and other natural disasters. Base stations were seen as a symbol of societal advance. The results furthermore suggest that overall risk perceptions are relatively low, in particular health risks, and are primarily driven by perceptions that related to crime and social inconvenience. Perceived health risks are relatively small. These findings show that risk communication and management may be particularly effective when contextual factors of the society where the system is implemented are taken into consideration. One thing we find interesting here is the implication that "risk management and communication" is considered effective when the perceived benefits can be seen to outweight the perceived downsides. For example, this paper could just as easily highlight the lack of effective communication to the public that the health risks may be more significant than currently understood - not just from the point of view of potential widespread impact of increased brain tumour incidence, but also the recent indications of damage to male fertility. That isn't to say there are not very real benefits to mobile phone technology, especially in areas where the wired phone infrastructure is poor and the possibility of emergency situations higher than in the United Kingdom, but that it is important that such risk communication prioritises an even handed and thorough communication of the benefits and risks, both in context of each other.

10. - Christ A et al, (April 2010) Age-dependent tissue-specific exposure of cell phone users, Phys Med Biol. 2010 Apr 7;55(7):1767-83. Epub 2010 Mar 5 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

The peak spatial specific absorption rate (SAR) assessed with the standardized specific anthropometric mannequin head phantom has been shown to yield a conservative exposure estimate for both adults and children using mobile phones. There are, however, questions remaining concerning the impact of age-dependent dielectric tissue properties and age-dependent proportions of the skull, face and ear on the global and local absorption, in particular in the brain tissues. In this study, we compare the absorption in various parts of the cortex for different magnetic resonance imaging-based head phantoms of adults and children exposed to different models of mobile phones. The results show that the locally induced fields in children can be significantly higher (> 3 dB) in subregions of the brain (cortex, hippocampus and hypothalamus) and the eye due to the closer proximity of the phone to these tissues. The increase is even larger for bone marrow (> 10 dB) as a result of its significantly high conductivity. Tissues such as the pineal gland show no increase since their distances to the phone are not a function of age. This study, however, confirms previous findings saying that there are no age-dependent changes of the peak spatial SAR when averaged over the entire head.

11. P Carpenter DO et al, (January 2010) Electromagnetic fields and cancer: the cost of doing nothing, Rev Environ Health. 2010 Jan-Mar;25(1):75-80 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Everyone is exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from electricity (extremely low frequency, ELF), communication frequencies, and wireless devices (radiofrequency, RF). Concern of health hazards from EMFs has increased as the use of cell phones and other wireless devices has grown in all segments of society, especially among children. While there has been strong evidence for an association between leukemia and residential or occupational exposure to ELF EMFs for many years, the standards in existence are not sufficiently stringent to protect from an increased risk of cancer. For RF EMFs, standards are set at levels designed to avoid tissue heating, in spite of convincing evidence of adverse biological effects at intensities too low to cause significant heating. Recent studies demonstrate elevations in rates of brain cancer and acoustic neuroma only on the side of the head where individuals used their cell phone. Individuals who begin exposure at younger ages are more vulnerable. These data indicate that the existing standards for radiofrequency exposure are not adequate. While there are many unanswered questions, the cost of doing nothing will result in an increasing number of people, many of them young, developing cancer. This is another paper in Pathophysiology by David Carpenter, and it again highlights the decision making importance between acting unnecessarily and not acting when action was later found to be necessary. With EMFs, the pervasiveness of relevant technologies mean that the possible negative consequences may now be very far reaching, particularly if the diseases in question have long latency times.

12. P Fragopoulou AF et al, (June 2010) Whole body exposure with GSM 900MHz affects spatial memory in mice, Pathophysiology. 2010 Jun;17(3):179-187. Epub 2009 Dec 1 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Extended work has been performed worldwide on the effects of mobile phone radiation upon rats' cognitive functions, however there is great controversy to the existence or not of deficits. The present work has been designed in order to test the effects of mobile phone radiation on spatial learning and memory in mice Mus musculus Balb/c using the Morris water maze (a hippocampal-dependent spatial memory task), since there is just one other study on mice with very low SAR level (0.05 W/kg) showing no effects. We have applied a 2h daily dose of pulsed GSM 900MHz radiation from commercially available mobile phone for 4 days at SAR values ranging from 0.41 to 0.98 W/kg. Statistical analysis revealed that during learning, exposed animals showed a deficit in transferring the acquired spatial information across training days (increased escape latency and distance swam, compared to the sham-exposed animals, on the first trial of training days 2-4). Moreover, during the memory probe-trial sham-exposed animals showed the expected preference for the target quadrant, while the exposed animals showed no preference, indicating that the exposed mice had deficits in consolidation and/or retrieval of the learned spatial information. Our results provide a basis for more thorough investigations considering reports on non-thermal effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

13. N Rubin GJ et al, (January 2010) Idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (formerly 'electromagnetic hypersensitivity'): An updated systematic review of provocation studies, Bioelectromagnetics. 2010 Jan;31(1):1-11 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF; formerly 'electromagetic hypersensitivity') is a medically unexplained illness in which subjective symptoms are reported following exposure to electrical devices. In an earlier systematic review, we reported data from 31 blind provocation studies which had exposed IEI-EMF volunteers to active or sham electromagnetic fields and assessed whether volunteers could detect these fields or whether they reported worse symptoms when exposed to them. In this article, we report an update to that review. An extensive literature search identified 15 new experiments. Including studies reported in our earlier review, 46 blind or double-blind provocation studies in all, involving 1175 IEI-EMF volunteers, have tested whether exposure to electromagnetic fields is responsible for triggering symptoms in IEI-EMF. No robust evidence could be found to support this theory. However, the studies included in the review did support the role of the nocebo effect in triggering acute symptoms in IEI-EMF sufferers. Despite the conviction of IEI-EMF sufferers that their symptoms are triggered by exposure to electromagnetic fields, repeated experiments have been unable to replicate this phenomenon under controlled conditions. A narrow focus by clinicians or policy makers on bioelectromagnetic mechanisms is therefore, unlikely to help IEI-EMF patients in the long-term.

14. P Focke F et al, (January 2010) DNA fragmentation in human fibroblasts under extremely low frequency electromagnetic field exposure, Mutat Res. 2010 Jan 5;683(1-2):74-83 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

Extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMFs) were reported to affect DNA integrity in human cells with evidence based on the Comet assay. These findings were heavily debated for two main reasons; the lack of reproducibility, and the absence of a plausible scientific rationale for how EMFs could damage DNA. Starting out from a replication of the relevant experiments, we performed this study to clarify the existence and explore origin and nature of ELF-EMF induced DNA effects. Our data confirm that intermittent (but not continuous) exposure of human primary fibroblasts to a 50 Hz EMF at a flux density of 1 mT induces a slight but significant increase of DNA fragmentation in the Comet assay, and we provide first evidence for this to be caused by the magnetic rather than the electric field. Moreover, we show that EMF-induced responses in the Comet assay are dependent on cell proliferation, suggesting that processes of DNA replication rather than the DNA itself may be affected. Consistently, the Comet effects correlated with a reduction of actively replicating cells and a concomitant increase of apoptotic cells in exposed cultures, whereas a combined Fpg-Comet test failed to produce evidence for a notable contribution of oxidative DNA base damage. Hence, ELF-EMF induced effects in the Comet assay are reproducible under specific conditions and can be explained by minor disturbances in S-phase processes and occasional triggering of apoptosis rather than by the generation of DNA damage.

15. P Contalbrigo L et al, (August 2009) Effects of different electromagnetic fields on circadian rhythms of some haematochemical parameters in rats, Biomed Environ Sci. 2009 Aug;22(4):348-53 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of different electromagnetic fields on some haematochemical parameters of circadian rhythms in Sprague-Dawley rats.

METHODS: The study was carried out in 18 male and 18 female rats in good health conditions exposed to 50 Hz magnetic sinusoid fields at the intensity of 1000 microT, 100 microT, and 0 microT (control group) respectively, and in 18 male and 18 female rats in good health conditions exposed to 1.8 GHz electromagnetic fields at the intensity of 50 V/m, 25 V/m and 0 V/m (control group), respectively. Following haematochemical parameters for glucose, triglycerides, and total cholesterol were measured.

RESULTS: Different effects of electromagnetic fields on circadian rhythms of both male and female rats were observed. Different changes occurred in some haematochemical parameters for glucose, triglycerides, and total cholesterol (P < 0.05).

CONCLUSION: Exposure to different electromagnetic fields is responsible for the variations of some haematochemical parameters in rats.