RF Brain Damage Link Found In
RCR Wireless News
Journalist: Jeffrey Silva
February 03, 2003
A Swedish-funded study published in an U.S. government health journal says
mobile-phone exposure caused brain damage in lab rats.
The study, published last Wednesday in the online edition of the journal
Environmental Heath Perspectives, is said to represent the first time
researchers have found damage to neurons in rat brains exposed to radiation
from mobile phones. Researchers said radiation from GSM mobile phones, which
are prevalent around the world, was associated with leakage in the
blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier serves as a filter of sorts
that shields the brain from harmful chemicals.
"If it's replicated as a study it may indicate an insufficiency in our
current standard," said Robert Curtis,
a scientist at the Occupational Safety and Health Agency and a member of a
panel of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers that is
crafting updated radiation exposure guidelines for mobile phones and
The mobile phone industry insists mobile phones do not pose a health risk.
Government health officials here and overseas say research to date has not
linked wireless handsets to adverse biological effects in humans, but they
say they cannot guarantee phones are safe and that more research is needed.
There are 140 million mobile phone subscribers in the United States and more
than 1 billion worldwide.
Industry downplayed the new study.
"The scientific community, public health authorities and others presumably
will treat this as they would any researcher claiming a novel finding," said
Norm Sandler, director of global strategic issues for Motorola Inc. "They
will ask questions about the design, the exposures and the statistics
underlying the reported results to assess its significance in a proper
Last September, a federal judge in Baltimore dismissed an $800-million brain
cancer suit against Motorola. But U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake-who
ruled plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient scientific evidence to warrant
a jury trial-still has a slew of similar cases pending before her. The
Motorola cancer suit is being challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. Attorneys at the law firm of Peter
Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles and a trial lawyer who has won huge
judgments in tobacco and asbestos litigation, filed the opening brief on
behalf of 43-year-old Christopher Newman on Jan. 21. Motorola and possibly
other wireless firms are expected to file responses later this month.
Environmental Health Perspectives is the journal of National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences, of Research Triangle Park, N.C., a unit of
the National Institutes of Health and a branch of the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services. Brandon Adams, a spokesman for the journal, said
the mobile phone study was peer reviewed and that 96 percent of scientific
papers submitted to the publication are rejected.
The journal's press release said researchers, led by Leif Salford of the
Department of Neurosurgery at Lund University in Sweden, studied 12- to
26-week-old rats because their developmental age is comparable to that of
human teenagers-heavy users of mobile phones The research was funded by a
grant from the Swedish Council for Work Life Research.
"The situation of the growing brain might deserve special attention since
biological and maturational processes are particularly vulnerable," the
researchers stated. "We cannot exclude that after some decades of often
daily use, a whole generation of users may suffer negative effects as early
as middle age."
The researchers, who acknowledged their study sample was small, nevertheless
said the combined results are highly significant and exhibit a clear,
dose-response relation. Establishing causation is a key element in health
"Scientists have been looking for some time at the possible effects of
exposure to the energy coming out of cellular phones," said Jim Burkhart,
science editor of Environmental Health Perspectives. "These scientists
decided to look in a new place, studying potential nerve damage, rather than
cancer growth. Their results suggest a strong need for further study, as we
all rely on cell phones more and more."
Jo-Anne Basile, vice president of external and industry relations at the
Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, urged caution. "You
cannot make a judgment based on a single study. You want to look at the way
research is trending and at the preponderance of scientific evidence."
Basile said studies continue to show no adverse health effects from mobile
phones, adding that handset emission is subject to strict federal