Research


                Peer Reviews

                Replication

                Radio Frequency Non-Thermal Biological Research

             Extra Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer



Research Tools

There are two important tools used in scientific research, these are the Peer Review and Replication procedures.  The importance of these processes cannot be overstated.  They are carried out by the scientific community to determine the quality of scientific research.  Only other scientific specialists can judge the quality of the research and the plausibility of the claims made.

These procedures are the quality control checks that are expected by those at the top of the scientific professions.  If leading scientists expect them to be used, then we should expect them also.  We are in more need of the quality assurance checks to ensure we are not being misled.



Peer Reviews

When scientists discover something important, they have to decide where to publish their findings.  They deserve the recognition for their discovery and publication in a journal that is dedicated to their field of science ensures their status.  They are then recognised by their fellow scientists for the good work they have carried out. 

The most important journals apply strict rules before they will accept papers for publication.  They organise the work to be assessed by leading figures that specialise in the type of research that has been carried out.  This check can mean the papers have to be altered by the authors and then, resubmitted and rechecked.  This is the peer review process.  This may take many months and create difficulties for the authors, but the final paper will have a much higher status amongst the scientific community.  It will be regarded as being more likely to be correct than any other research that does not go through this validation process.

In fact, this process is held in such regard that jobs and promotions within the scientific communities often require evidence of the applicants peer reviewed publications.  How well a scientist is thought of by others, can be a major factor when trying to attract funding for a project. 

With the peer review process being so important to the individual scientists it is hard to imagine why they would direct their efforts to publish reports and papers by any other means.

There have been some notable scientific failures because this process was ignored.  For example, the world media informed everyone of  'Cold Fusion' and made celebrities of two research scientists.  The scientific community had not had a chance to see what this work was about and many were sceptical of the claims that were made.  Eventually, the sceptics were proven to be right.  'Cold Fusion' did not happen.  The media thought they were announcing a breakthrough that would benefit mankind.  However their stories only served to whip the scientific world into a frenzy and create a situation where large sums of money and time were spent proving what the leading scientists already knew.

If health related claims are made, do we not deserve to have the science checked by the leading scientific bodies first?  Before we all become very concerned or even frightened about something in our lives, something that may eventually prove to be harmless.

So why do some scientists miss out the peer review process and go straight to the media?



Replication

This important process is used to verify research.  It involves copying the methods that were used in the original research.  Its purpose is to check the claimed result was not due to a faulty piece of equipment or how some procedure was carried out.  It is best done at different laboratories so that any local effect is not repeated.  Then if other laboratories report the same effect, the result was more likely to be correct.

The difficulty with replication is that there is not a great deal of interest in doing it.  Some researchers feel they could be better employed discovering something new for themselves.  Others believe they can see ways of improving the original research and change some of the procedures and produce a new answer that in turn needs to be replicated! 

Sometimes the replication is designed to be slightly different so that if two different tests reveal the same result, then the result is more acceptable.

Understandably it is only the most important research that goes through this rigorous process.



Non-Thermal Biological Research

Some people may give you the impression that only the thermal effects of Radio Frequency non-ionising electromagnetic radiation have been researched.  This is a long way from the truth.

Thermal effects can be defined as those effects that occur at an energy level that causes our body temperature to increase.  Both the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) recognise that if energy is absorbed by our body at a rate of 4W/kg, (Watts per kilogram), then we will experience a rise in our body temperature of approximately 1oC.  This is a value that is within the range of our normal temperature fluctuations caused by physical effort.  Therefore, anything that occurs below this level can be defined as a non-thermal effect.

The table below summarises the information to be found in the report "A Review of the Potential Health Risks of Radiofrequency Fields for Wireless Telecommunication Devices" published in 1999 by the Royal Society of Canada.  Only research that can readily identified in terms of energy absorption (W/kg) has been included in this table.  A great deal of other research has been carried out but not included in this table, as that research does not quantify the energy absorption rates that are of interest here.

It can be clearly seen that non-thermal biological research has been carried out for at least 30 years.  The report by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP) published in 2000 contains more references to non-thermal level research.  The IEGMP report also contains detailed explanations of what this research means and how it can be used to assess the safety of mobile phones and base stations.

The energy absorbed by a person in the normal public access areas around a base station can be expected to be less than 0.004W/kg.


W/kg Author Type of Research Finding
4 Brown &
Marshall, 1982
800MHz Mouse bone marrow
Sister Chromatid Exchange in vivo
No Effect
4 Brown &
Marshall, 1982
400MHz Mouse bone marrow
Sister Chromatid Exchange in vivo
No Effect
4 Saunders et al,
1988
2450MHz CW Male C3H mice
chromosome, reciprocal translocations
No Effect
4 Saunders et al,
1988
2450MHz CW C3H mice, mammalian
chromosomal test in vivo
No Effect
4 Saunders et al,
1988
2450MHz CW C3H mice
Sister Chromatid Exchange in vivo
No Effect
3 Blackman et al,
1976
1700MHz E. coli mutation in vitro No Effect
3 Merritt et al,
1982
2450MHz Rat brain tissue loaded
with 45CA+2
No effect
2.9 Merritt et al,
1982
1000MHz Rat brain tissue loaded
with 45CA+2
No effect
2.7 Metz et al,
1987, 1990
1200MHz CW & PW Human MRC-5
fibroblasts DNA damage/repair
No effect on
DNA Damage
2.5 Litovitz et al,
1993
915MHz AM at 50, 60, 65Hz
Mouse fibroblast
ODC increase
2.5 Penafil et al,
1997
835MHz AM at 16, 55,60, 65 Hz
Mouse fibroblast
ODC increase
2.5 Penafil et al,
1997
835MHz AM at 6, 600Hz
Mouse fibroblast
No Effect
2.5 Penafil et al,
1997
835MHz FM at 60Hz Mouse fibroblast No Effect
2.4 Merritt et al,
1982
2060MHz Rat brain tissue loaded
with 45CA+2
No effect
2 Neubauer et al,
1990
2450MHz Rat Blood Brain Barrier
permeability test
Increased
permeability
2 Liddle et al,
1994
2450MHz CD1 mice Lifespan test Increased
lifespan
1.9 Malayapa et al,
1997
2450MHz Human glioblastoma cells
& fibroblasts DNA damage/repair
No effect on
DNA breaks
1.5 Fritze et al,
1997
GSM Phone signal Wistar rats brain
Adaptive & reactive brain response
No lasting
effect
1.5 Fritze et al,
1997
900MHz @21Hz Rats Increase in
extravasation of serum proteins
No significant
increase
1.2 Lai & Singh,
1995
2459MHz CW & pulsed Mammalian
DNA damage/repair
DNA damage
1.18 Miller et al,
1987
2450MHz Bacteria mutation in vitro No Effect
1 Dutta et al,
1984
915MHz Cultured nerve cells Ca2 efflux
change
1 Oscar and
Hawkins, 1977
1300MHz pulsed Rats, mannitol
Blood Brain Barrier test
Blood Brain
Barrier change
1 Vijayalaxmi-Frei
et al, 1997
2450MHz C3H/HeJ Mice peripheral blood
micronucleus formation
No Effect
1 Bawin et al,
1978
450MHz at 16Hz neonatal chick brain
45CA+2 efflux change
45CA+2 efflux
change
0.9 Zook, 1998 859MHz Sprague Dawley rats
Promotion studies
No effect
0.7 Malayapa et al,
1997
2450MHz Human glioblastoma cells
& fibroblasts DNA damage/repair
No effect on
DNA breaks
0.648 Malayapa et al,
1998
2500MHz Sprague-Dawley rats ceebral
cortex DNA damage/repair
No effect on
DNA breaks
0.6 Lai & Singh,
1995
2459MHz CW & pulsed Mammalian
DNA damage/repair
DNA damage
0.6 Malayapa et al,
1997
835.62MHz Human glioblastoma cells
& fibroblasts DNA damage/repair
No damage
observed
0.6 Malayapa et al,
1997
847.74MHz Human glioblastoma cells
& fibroblasts DNA damage/repair
No damage
observed
0.6 Vollrath et al,
1997
900MHz Rats and Hamsters
Pineal function tests
No effect
0.6 Lia et al,
1992, 1994
2450MHz pulsed Rats, radial arm maze Performance
changes
0.4 Lai & Carino et al,
1992
2450MHz pulsed Rats, radial arm maze Biobehavioural
change
0.39 Metz et al,
1987, 1990
350MHz CW & PW Human MRC-5
fibroblasts DNA damage/repair
No effect on
DNA Damage
0.32 Toler et al,
1997
435MHz C3H/HeA tumour prone mice
Cancer initiation studies
No significant
difference
0.3 Frei et al,
1998
2450MHz C3H/HeJ tumour prone mice
Cancer initiation studies
No effect
0.3 Fritze et al,
1997
GSM Phone signal Wistar rats brain
Adaptive & reactive brain response
No lasting
effect
0.3 Maes et al,
1997
935.2MHz Whole blood cells
Sister Chromatid Exchange
No Effect
0.3 Maes et al,
1997
935.2MHz + mitomycin C Whole blood
cells Sister Chromatid Exchange
Slight Effect
0.3 Oscar and
Hawkins, 1977
1300MHz pulsed Rats, mannitol
Blood Brain Barrier test
Blood Brain
Barrier change
0.3 Fritze et al,
1997
900MHz @21Hz Rats Increase in
extravasation of serum proteins
No significant
increase
0.29 Merritt et al, 1982 1000MHz Rat brain tissue loaded
with 45CA+2
No effect
0.2 Mann et al,
1998
900MHz Human exposure Serum
Melatonin level test
No effect
0.16 Salford et al,
1992, 1994
915MHz CW & Pulsed, Rats albumin
Blood Brain Barrier changes
Increased
permeability
0.15
to 0.4
Chou et al,
1992
2450MHz Sprague Dawley rats
Cancer initiation studies
Significant
increase
0.13
to 1.4
Repacholi et al,
1997
900MHz Em-pin1 leukemia prone mice
Cancer initiation studies
Increased
rate
0.12 Merritt et al,
1982
2060MHz Rat brain tissue
loaded with 45Ca+2
No effect
0.08 Byus and
Hawel, 1997
450MHz Hamster Ovary
ODC increase
ODC increase
0.08 Lai & Carino
et al, 1992
450MHz Rats, radial arm maze Biobehavioural
change
0.06 Vollrath et al,
1997
900MHz Rats and Hamsters
Pineal function tests
No effect
0.059 Stagg et al,
1997
836MHz TDMA C6 glioma cells Nucleic
acid uptake in DNA synthesis
No effect
0.05 Dutta et al,
1984
915MHz Cultured nerve cells
Ca2 efflux change
Ca2 efflux
change
0.05 Manikowska-
Czerka et al, 1985
2450MHz CW CBA/CEY mice sperm cells
chromosomal test in vivo
Chrosomal
aberrations
0.05 Manikowska-
Czerka et al, 1985
245MHz CBA/CEY mice sperm cells
Sister Chromatid Exchange in vivo
SCE increase
0.05 Manikowska-
Czerka et al, 1985
2450MHz CW Mammalian, Sperm
cells of CBY/CEY mice
Sperm
abnormalities
0.05 Bawin et al,
1978
450MHz at 16Hz neonatal chick
brain with 45Ca+2 efflux change
No effect
0.05 Dutta et al,
1984
915MHz Cultured nerve cells
Ca2 efflux change
Ca2 efflux
change
0.043 Spalding et al,
1971
800MHz Female mice Longevity tests Slightly
longer lifespan
0.028 Dardalhon et al,
1981
9100MHz S. cerevisiae mutation in vitro No Effect
0.028 Dardalhon et al,
1981
17000MHz S. cerevisiae mutation in vitro No Effect
0.028 Dardalhon et al,
1981
70000 - 75000MHz S. cerevisiae mutation
in vitro
No Effect
0.028 Dardalhon et al,
1981
9100MHz E. coli mutation in vitro No Effect
0.028 Dardalhon et al,
1981
17000MHz E.coli mutation in vitro No Effect
0.028 Dardalhon et al,
1981
70000 - 75000MHz E. coli mutation in vitro No Effect
0.026 Phillips et al,
1998
836.55MHz TDMA signal Molt-4 cells
DNA damage progression test
Inhibit effect
0.024 Phillips et al,
1998
813.56MHz IDEN signal DNA damage
progression test
Significant
increase
0.015 Cain et al, 1997 836.55MHz TDMA C3H/10T1/2 mouse
Cell Transformation assay
No effect
0.008 Repacholi et al,
1997
900MHz Em-pin1 leukemia prone mice
Cancer initiation studies
Increased
rate
0.0059 Stagg et al,
1997
836MHz TDMA C6 glioma cells
Nucleic acid uptake in DNA synthesis
Increased
uptake
0.005 Neubauer et al,
1990
2450MHz Rat Blood Brain Barrier
permeability test
Increased
permeability
0.0024 Phillips et al,
1998
813.56MHz IDEN signal DNA
damage progression test
Inhibit
damage
0.0021 Kwee and
Raskmark, 1998
920MHz GSM Human epithelial
amnion cells
Cell
proliferation
0.002 Phillips et al,
1998
836.55MHz TDMA signal Molt-4 cells
DNA damage progression test
Inhibit effect
0.0015 Cain et al,
1997
836.55MHz TDMA C3H/10T1/2 mouse
Cell Transformation assay
No effect
0.00059 Stagg et al,
1997
836MHz TDMA C6 glioma cells
Nucleic acid uptake in DNA synthesis
No effect
0.00021 Kwee and
Raskmark, 1998
920MHz GSM Human epithelial
amnion cells
Cell
proliferation
0.00015 Cain et al,
1997
836.55MHz TDMA C3H/10T1/2 mouse
Cell Transformation assay
No effect
0.000021 Kwee and
Raskmark, 1998
920MHz GSM Human epithelial amnion
cells Cell proliferation
Cell
proliferation


Please Note.  We do not intend to attribute any particular significance to the research included in, or excluded from, the above table.  Where the term 'significant' is used in this table it only indicates the size of any change that has been noted, it does not necessarily imply that it is either good or bad.  It is only the 'Peer Review and Replication' process that establishes the significance of any research.  Also, in constructing this table it has been necessary to extract some information from larger studies and therefore the information used in this table may not reflect or represent the full findings of that research.  This information is provided only to indicate the amount of non-thermal research that has been carried out.

For good reviews of the research associated with mobile phones, see the reports issued by the Royal Society of Canada and the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones.  Both reports can be accessed via our 'Related Links' page.






Extra Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer


6 March 2001

A report has been published by the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation led by Sir Richard Doll for the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB). Sir Richard Doll is a world expert in Epidemiology and found the links between smoking and lung cancer in the 1960's.


What the Advisory Group has done:

  • Concentrated its review to extra low frequency electromagnetic fields. That is, the 'power frequency' electric and magnetic fields associated with a public electricity supply and all equipment connected to it.

  • Reviewed the experimental and epidemiological research that has been conducted worldwide since its first review carried out in 1992.

  • Its only concern is to examine and report exposure to these fields and cancer. Diseases such as Alzheimer's are being considered separately.

  • The group has taken advantage of the more recent studies where actual measurements of the electromagnetic fields have improved the methodology and increased the confidence in the study findings. Other research relied heavily upon estimates of field intensity.


Review of Cellular Studies established:

  • No clear evidence that exposure to the public electricity supply type of electromagnetic fields at levels that are normally encountered can affect biological processes.

  • Studies are often contradictory. Different laboratories using the same experimental conditions produce different answers.

  • There is no convincing evidence that exposure to such electromagnetic fields is directly genotoxic or likely to initiate carcinogenesis (Cancer).

  • The most suggestive research of an effect of exposure to the magnetic element of these fields comes from:

      a. The possible enhancement of genetic change caused by known genotoxic agents,
      b. The possible effects on intracellular signalling, especially calcium flux,
      c. The possible effects on specific gene expression.

  • These tend to show only small changes for which any possible biological consequence is not clear.

  • Many of the reported effects involve exposure to time-averaged fields magnetic fields greater than 100 microtesla.

  • The induced currents from these magnetic fields in cell cultures may not represent what happens in a living being.


Comment

Most homes will be less than 0.2 microtesla. Magnetic fields near to some appliances will be higher but the time spent near these items will be short. Homes directly under power lines will rarely, if ever, reach 100 microtesla in the UK.


Review of Animal and Volunteer Studies established:

  • Overall, no convincing evidence from animal studies that exposure to these fields increase the risk of cancer.

  • There is no natural animal model of the most common form of childhood leukaemia, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

  • Most studies report a lack of effect of power frequency magnetic fields on leukaemia or lymphoma in rodents, mostly mice.

  • Transgenic mice used in two of the above studies developed a disease that had some similarities to childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

  • Other studies found no effect on the progression of transplanted leukaemia cells in mice or rats.

  • Three recent large-scale studies found that lifetime magnetic field exposure had no effect on the incidence of spontaneous mammary tumours in rats.

  • Two early studies on chemically induced mammary tumours in rats suggested that exposure to power frequency magnetic fields increased the incidence or growth of the tumours. However, two more recent studies did not find this effect.

  • The possibility that the hormone melatonin acts as a natural tumour suppressor is controversial. Most evidence from human volunteer studies suggests that melatonin rhythms are not delayed or suppressed by exposure to power frequency magnetic fields.

  • One recent study provided preliminary data indicating that exposure prior to the nighttime rise in serum melatonin may have had an effect in a sensitive subgroup of the study population used above.

  • Evidence for an effect on melatonin levels and on melatonin-dependent reproductive status in seasonally breeding animals is largely negative.

  • Evidence concerning the suppression of rat pineal and/or serum melatonin levels the physiological relevance of any possible effect remains unclear.

  • There is no consistent evidence of any suppression of the immune system relevant to fighting tumours.


A Review of Residential Exposure established:

  • Recent large and well-conducted studies suggest that average exposures of 0.4 microtesla or more are associated with a doubling of the risk of leukaemia in children under 15 years of age.

  • This evidence is not conclusive. Some doubts remain about the numbers of children involved and how exposure estimates were made when measurements were not carried out. Where small numbers of children are used the findings could have been due to chance.

  • In the UK, very few children (perhaps 4 in 1000) are exposed to 0.4 microtesla. A UK study with a large number of direct measurements found no evidence of risk at levels below this.

  • There is still the possibility that high and prolonged time-weighted average exposure to power frequency magnetic fields can increase the risk of leukaemia in children.

  • Data on brain tumours do not provide evidence of an association with power frequency magnetic fields.

  • There is no reason to believe that residential exposure to electromagnetic fields is involved in the development of leukaemia or brain tumours in adults.


A Review of Occupational Exposure Established:

  • Recent studies of occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields do not establish a causal relationship between the electromagnetic fields and an increase in tumour incidence.

  • Any tumour excesses are generally modest and are largely restricted to leukaemia and cancer of the brain. Conflicting evidence exists for the particular cell types of leukaemia associated with the greatest risk but acute myeloid leukaemia is the most cited.

  • The evidence of any risk for brain cancer is conflicting.


The Groups General Conclusion

    'Laboratory experiments have provided no good evidence that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields are capable of producing cancer, nor do human epidemiological studies suggest that they cause cancer in general. There is, however, some epidemiological evidence that prolonged exposure to higher levels of power frequency magnetic fields is associated with a small risk of leukaemia in children. In practice, such levels of exposure are seldom encountered by the general public in the UK. In the absence of clear evidence of a carcinogenic effect in adults, or of a plausible explanation from experiments on animals or isolated cells, the epidemiological evidence is currently not strong enough to justify a firm conclusion that such fields cause leukaemia in children. Unless, however, further research indicates that the finding is due to chance or some currently unrecognised artefact, the possibility remains that intense and prolonged exposures to magnetic fields can increase the risk of leukaemia in children.'

In response to this report the NRPB have concluded there is insufficient evidence of an effect and therefore their Guidelines will not change.


Comment

The Press and TV reporting of this publication knitted Prof David Henshaw's theory on Ions into their stories. This may be a genuine mistake on their part, but as you see from the above discussion the report was about magnetic fields. The Ion theory is about electric fields and therefore it is not supported by the issue of this report. In fact there is very little support for the Ion theory.





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