Mobile Phones

Ever worry that that gadget you spend hours holding next to your head might be damaging your brain?

Well, the evidence is starting to pour in, and it's not pretty. So why isn't anyone in America doing anything about it?

Earlier this winter, I met an investment banker who was diagnosed with a brain tumor five years ago. He's a managing director at a top Wall Street firm, and I was put in touch with him through a colleague who knew I was writing a story about the potential dangers of cell-phone radiation. He agreed to talk with me only if his name wasn't used, so I'll call him Jim. He explained that the tumor was located just behind his right ear and was not immediately fatal—the five-year survival rate is about 70 percent. He was 35 years old at the time of his diagnosis and immediately suspected it was the result of his intense cell-phone usage. "Not for nothing," he said, "but in investment banking we've been using cell phones since 1992, back when they were the Gordon-Gekko-on-the-beach kind of phone." When Jim asked his neurosurgeon, who was on the staff of a major medical center in Manhattan, about the possibility of a cell-phone-induced tumor, the doctor responded that in fact he was seeing more and more of such cases—young, relatively healthy businessmen who had long used their phones obsessively. He said he believed the industry had discredited studies showing there is a risk from cell phones. "I got a sense that he was pissed off," Jim told me. A handful of Jim's colleagues had already died from brain cancer; the more reports he encountered of young finance guys developing tumors, the more certain he felt that it wasn't a coincidence. "I knew four or five people just at my firm who got tumors," Jim says. "Each time, people ask the question. I hear it in the hallways."


Read the rest here:

Comments by Andrew Goldsworthy on a widely publicised paper by Arendash and co-workers that suggests that mobile phone radiation may cure Alzheimer’s disease.

I have looked at the original Arendash et al. paper and things are not quite as reported in the press.

The radiation was not modulated
The first point I should make is that they used radiation at 918MHz (similar to a GSM mobile phone in this respect) but it was neither pulsed nor modulated, so it cannot be regarded in any way as being equivalent to real mobile phone or Wifi radiation.

Unmodulated radiation is less biologically active
The non-thermal effects of unmodulated radio frequency radiation are normally much weaker than modulated radiation and could even produce the opposite effect (this is called radiation hormesis, which has been studied mostly in relation to ionizing radiation, but it probably also applies to non-ionizing radiation).

Radiation hormesis

It is argued that living cells and organisms perceive the damaging effects of the radiation and put themselves into “repair mode”. This includes boosting enzymes needed for cellular growth and regeneration and also triggering inflammation to increase the blood supply to the affected region. Provided these measures are successful, there may be no observable adverse effects. However, some of these mechanisms are generic and may also affect other illnesses, so that very weak radiation may have net beneficial effects, even on systems that are not directly affected by it. This may be what we are seeing here; mild inflammation of the brain would increase its blood supply and could stave off the degeneration normally associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Amplitude modulated waves can weaken cell membranes and cause illnesses
Amplitude modulated radio waves (such as those used by mobile phones), where the strength of the carrier wave rises and falls in time with the modulating waveform, give greater biological effects. This is perhaps because they are more effective in jerking structurally-important calcium ions free from cell membranes, which makes them more inclined to leak. The effects of this can be harmful in many cases (see for a proposed mechanism and some of the consequences).

Amplitude modulation can also affect cryptochrome to increase the risk of cancer

When a carrier wave is modulated in this way, it generates a range of other frequencies on either side of the carrier (called sidebands), which contain the information. Digital transmissions have particularly wide sidebands that encompass many other biologically active frequencies, including those that interfere with the activity of cryptochrome, which some animals use to sense magnetic fields for navigation (Ritz et al. Nature, Vol. 429, 13 May 2004). Cryptochrome also occurs in most animal and plant cells, where it is an essential part of the “body clock” that controls their natural circadian rhythms. It is effects on cryptochrome that probably account for the sleep disturbances experienced by people living near base stations. It may also explain their apparent increased risk of getting cancer since the immune system, which normally disposes of aberrant cells before they become cancerous, is controlled by the body clock. This is to make the most efficient use of limited bodily resources, which are switched from physical activity during the day to the immune system at night. If our natural body rhythms are disrupted or reduced in amplitude by the radiation, it means that at no time can the immune system function at maximum strength and we are therefore more likely to develop cancer.

The take-home story
To sum up, it is perfectly possible that unmodulated microwaves could mitigate the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, but modulated microwaves are likely to do more harm than good. So now may not be the time to buy granny a mobile phone, but we should nevertheless look more carefully at the effects of unmodulated radiation. It may really help, but we still need to proceed with great caution.

Andrew Goldsworthy BSc PhD

Lecturer in Biology (retired)

Imperial College London

Health Effects of Cell Phone Use


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Senate Committee

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Washington, DC, United States


U.S. Congressional hearing will be broadcast live on CSAPN-3 this afternoon:

Check that tongue! Mobile phones buzz out honeybees
Don Sebastian / DNA
Friday, August 21, 2009 2:54 IST

Thiruvananthapuram: Sweet nothings murmured into a mobile phone spell doom for honeybees, says a study. The booming communication industry is not helping one sector - apiculture - at least. Honey and bee wax are not the only things at stake, though. One-third of our crops need bees to pollinate.

"There is a 60% plunge in Kerala's commercial bee population. Bees are susceptible to diseases and attacks by ants, wasps and wax moths, but
vigilant keepers can check these," Sainudeen Pattazhy, reader in zoology, SN College, Punalur, said. His study warns that bees would be wiped out in a decade if mobile phone towers continue to proliferate at the current rate.

Pattazhy's experiments show that workers, who constitute around 90% of bees in a hive, abandon it when a mobile device is placed near it. "I placed a mobile device 10 metres off a hive for 5-10 days, after which worker bees never returned. The massive radiation from mobile phones and towers is frying navigational skills of bees," he said.
Thriving hives were suddenly left with only the queen, drones and larvae. The environmentalist believes atmospheric electromagnetic radiation is
responsible for this colony collapse disorder, characterised by mass disappearance of workers who buzz about collecting honey and pollinating

In the US west coast, this apian disorder is such an ecological disaster that colonies of bees are hired to pollinate almond plantations. Apiarists'
blame theories vary from viruses and bacteria to pesticides and radiation.

"Bees and other insects have evolved complex immunity systems over millions of years. Now, why would they suddenly die out due to diseases and
parasites? Of course, we are introducing a new factor to their environment, which is disrupting their immune system," Pattazhy said.

"Insects and small animals would naturally be the first to be affected by an increase in ambient radiation. Behavioural patterns of bees alter when they are in close proximity to mobile phone towers. The vanished bees were never found, thought to have died," he said.

A radiation of 900 MHz is highly bioactive, causing significant alternation in living organisms. There are close to 1.25 apiarists in Kerala. A single
hive can yield up to 5 kg of honey. Pattazhy advises beekeepers to shield their hives with aluminium, which blocks radiation to an extent.