Mobile Phones And Health Inquiry Memorandum

Mobile Phones And Health Inquiry Memorandum
By: Dr. Gerald J. Hyland
Department of Physics
University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
International Institute of Biophysics
Neuss-Holzheim, Germany
June 18, 1999


Since 1985, I have been involved with the interaction of non-ionising radiation – specifically MICROWAVES – with living organisms, actively developing the novel ideas of H. Fröhlich, FRS, who, 30 years ago, first predicted that adequately metabolising living systems themselves support a coherent microwave activity.

During the last 18 months, I have been applying my findings to the question of potential health hazards posed by mobile telephones and their associated base stations.

I am recognized as an international expert in this field, and have published numerous articles and papers – dealing not only with the microwave sensitivity of living systems, but also with the emission from them of coherent, ultra-weak light (biophotons). I am regularly invited to speak at international conferences, at meetings of Professional Bodies (such as the Institution of Electrical Engineers), and on radio and television, both national and international. My work is frequently reported on in the Press, and has recently been the subject of articles and features in numerous international magazines, including the New Scientist.

Given my vantagepoint from theoretical biophysics, I believe that I am uniquely qualified to assess the problem in its entirety, thereby being able to offer invaluable insights that might not otherwise be available.


Attention is drawn to the inadequacy of existing safety guide-lines governing the exposure of the public to radiation of the kind used in mobile telephony, and to the fact that the philosophy underlying the formulation of these guide-lines is fundamentally flawed.

This is because only established, reproducible effects are currently considered to constitute an acceptable basis for the formulation of safety guidelines; this restricts the effects against which some degree of protection is afforded to intensity-based heating. For, being independent of whether the irradiated object is dead or alive, they can be predicted with certainty.

Thereby excluded, however, are possible adverse health effects provoked by the ability of living organisms – and only living ones – to respond in an non-thermal way to aspects of this radiation other than its intensity – specifically its frequency – both the microwave carrier and the lower frequency amplitude modulations that characterise the digital signals employed by the GSM system. The dependence of these effects on the aliveness of the organism necessarily means that they cannot enjoy the same degree of reproducibility, as do those that are not so dependent. This does not mean, however, that they do not exist, or that they should be excluded from the formulation of safety guidelines; indeed, the very real possibility that they might trigger adverse health effects must be seriously considered. The empirical fact that such radiation is known to have deleterious effects on both the neurological and immunological functioning of living organisms including humans is consistent with this possibility.

Systematic experimentation is urgently needed, not only in order to be able to identify more precisely the parameters governing non-thermal influences of ultra-low intensity microwave (and low frequency modulated) irradiation of living organisms, but equally important, to ascertain the nature and severity of any adverse effects on human health thereby provoked. Some interim measures are identified to ameliorate the unnecessarily hazardous situation currently prevailing in the vicinity of the base stations that service the mobile phone network.

1. Existing safety guidelines governing exposure of the public to the radiation employed in mobile telephony are totally inadequate, and the philosophy underlying their formulation is fundamentally flawed.

2. Existing guidelines regulate only the intensity of the radiation in an attempt to protect the human body from adverse health effects which are known to be linked to intensity namely, a) the absorption of energy by biological tissue which, in the case of microwave
irradiation, causes heating, or b) the induction in the body of circulating electric currents, in the case of exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields. Both these effects have been well understood for almost a hundred years, and always occur –
irrespective of whether the irradiated system is a living organism or a piece of inanimate matter. Existing safety limits are set [1] by restricting the intensity to ensure that the temperature rise, or induced electric currents are kept well below the thresholds of the onset of established bio-negative effects.

Although the existing safety guidelines are clearly necessary, they are quite inadequate. For they completely fail to consider the possibility of adverse health effects linked to the fact that living organisms and only living ones have the ability [2] to respond to aspects of technologically produced radiation other than its intensity, and, accordingly, can respond at intensities well below the limits imposed by the safety guidelines. A well-known example of this is the ability of a stroboscope – even at quite low intensities – to induce epileptic seizures.

3. The crucial discriminating feature of technologically produced radiation (whatever its intensity) – which is necessary if it is to carry information – is its coherence, the degree of which is significantly higher than that characterising radiation of natural origin, such as sunlight, to which Mankind has evolved a certain immunity. This immunity does not, however, extend to the much more coherent radiation of technological origin, to which we have only relatively recently been exposed. Coherence is a concept that is, of course, familiar in the context of lasers, whose light, due to its coherence, is in-step (in phase) with itself, and thus particularly pure in frequency (colour), and hence far more potent than that from an ordinary lamp. This potency still obtains in the case of the much less intense radiation emitted by other devices, in particular, those employed in mobile telephony whose coherency greatly facilitates its discernment by the living organism against the level of the ever-present (incoherent) thermal background emission appropriate to its own physiological temperature i.e. the coherence of the radiation significantly increases its potency to affect living organisms.

4. The ability of living organisms to respond to external coherent radiation arises because they are electromagnetic instruments of great and exquisite sensitivity, that themselves support a variety of highly organised, coherent electrical activities, each characterised by a specific frequency, which play important roles in maintaining the organisation and control of the living organism [3]. This natural (endogenous) coherent electrical activity preconditions the living organism to be highly sensitive to external, coherent electromagnetic radiation in a non-thermal way that is not primarily dependent on its intensity (brightness), but rather, on its frequency (colour) which, as already noted, is sharply defined.

5. The reality of adverse bioeffects not primarily dependent on intensity is well illustrated by the ability (already mentioned) of a light flashing at a certain frequency (between 15 and 20 times per second) to induce epileptic seizures in certain susceptible people. It is the digitisation into regular pulses that effectively makes the light (which is naturally incoherent) coherent the regularity of the pulses evidently being close to that of an important brainwave activity, interference with which provokes the seizure. It is not so much a question of the amount of energy absorbed from the irradiating field (which is determined by its intensity, or brightness) but rather the information transmitted by the (coherent) regularity of its flashing – at a frequency that the brain recognises, because it matches, or is close to one utilised by the brain itself.

6. Somewhat less well known is the fact that the microwave signals used in the digital GSM system of mobile telephony similarly flash 217 times per second, and that this flashing is punctuated at the much slower rate of 8.34 per second – a frequency that happens to lie in the range of the important alpha brainwaves! Given that both light and microwaves belong to the same electromagnetic spectrum, differing only in their frequency and degree of coherence, there is no reason to suppose that the deleterious effect of a flashing visible light does not extend to microwave radiation flashing at an equally low frequency, since this can easily penetrate the skull. (The effect of this punctuated flashing can easily be detected as a crackling sound when a turned-on mobile phone handset is held near a switched-on radio receiver). That it is surely unreasonable to suppose that our brains should somehow be immune to this electromagnetic aggression is pointedly emphasised by the prohibition on the use of mobile phones in aircraft, on the grounds that their signals might interfere with the planes control systems. Given the infinitely greater electromagnetic sensitivity of the alive human organism, it would be paradoxical if the same radiation did not similarly interfere with our own neural processes, whether we are in the (far) field of a base station mast, or the (near) field of a phone antenna.*

*In this connection, it should be pointed out that when a handset equipped with discontinuous transmission (DTX) is in listening mode, there is an even lower frequency pulsation at 2Hz. This is of particular concern since it falls in the range of the so-called delta brain-waves which, if present in the EEG of awake adults, are symptomatic of neural pathology, and therefore should not be promoted by exposure to radiation of this frequency. On the other hand, brain activity at this frequency also characterises deep sleep, so that reports of tiredness experienced during the day are perhaps not surprising. In children, by contrast, delta waves are normal, and thus, again, should not be disturbed by external interference. Current safety guidelines thus fail to take into account the most discriminating feature of all namely the aliveness of the organism being irradiated!

7. Even less well known is the fact that adequately metabolising living organisms can themselves support another kind of organised (coherent) electrical activity, the frequency of which happens to fall in the microwave band [2], to which the carrier frequencies used in mobile telephony belong. Again, just as a relatively slowly flashing (visible) light can affect certain (electro-chemical) neurological processes characterised by the same frequency, so living systems have a preconditioned sensitivity also to ultra-weak microwave radiation; thus, in addition to a sensitivity to the low frequency (8Hz) punctuation of the microwave flashes used in mobile telephony, the human organism could well be sensitive also to the colour of these flashes (i.e. to the microwave carrier frequency). Accordingly, there is the possibility [4] of either a resonant amplification (perhaps to a dangerously high level) of an internal biological electrical activity, or interference with it, resulting in its degradation. It is also possible for external radiation to augment the naturally prevailing level of metabolism, and, after a sufficient time, to thereby effectively switch on an internal microwave activity that Nature did not intend to be on; this requires a certain minimum threshold intensity that is, however, well below thermal levels.

8. It is thus apparent that existing safety guidelines (which address only thermal effects dependent on the intensity of the field) do not, and cannot protect against any adverse health effects that might be allied specifically to the wave nature of the radiation, such as its frequency (colour), coherence (purity of colour), amplitude modulations, etc. Clearly there is another side of the coin to be taken into account just as, in addition to photography (an intensity dependent process), there is also holography (a process intimately related to the wave nature of light, specifically its phase). It must be stressed, however, that these other possibilities depend on the organism being alive; for it is through its vitality that it is sensitised just as a radio has to be switched on before it can respond to a signal. Effects due solely to intensity, by contrast, do not require the organism to be alive i.e. are not specific to living systems; for example, a microwave oven will cook a piece of (dead) meat, just as it will a (living) animal.

9. In turn, whilst the aliveness opens the system to certain features to which it would not otherwise be sensitive, it also means, however, that any particular non-thermal effect cannot be predicted to occur with the same absolute certainty as that with which thermal effects dependent solely on intensity can – against which existing safety guidelines attempt to protect. In the case of these non-thermal effects of microwave radiation, even the occurrence of the primary, initiating interaction cannot be predicted with certainty, since unlike the intensity-based heating effect, it depends on the aliveness (e.g. metabolic rate) of the irradiated subject, which, in general, varies from person to person. The situation can be likened to the difference between putting ones hand in a fire (which can be definitively predicted to cause burning), and having contact with a flu virus, the consequence of which cannot be uniquely predicted – whether one catches the flu depending, amongst other things, on the robustness of ones immune system, which, of course, varies from person to person; similarly, in the case of an epidemic, not everyone succumbs.

This, of course, has serious implications on the acceptibility of the philosophy underlying the current formulation of safety guidelines by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and other regulatory bodies – namely, that they can be based only on established, reproducible effects. The intensity-based heating effect of microwave radiation, of course, conforms to this criterion, since being independent of whether the irradiated organism is alive or dead, it can be predicted to occur with certainty. Necessarily excluded, however, are effects contingent on the aliveness of the human organism – in particular, the non-thermal effects discussed above, that, in principle, cannot enjoy the same degree of reproducibility; this does not mean, however, that they do not exist! Accordingly, the prevailing philosophy must be considered to be fundamentally flawed!

The same is true of statements to the effect that there are no established health hazards of radiation of sub-thermal intensity, since, unlike thermal effects, only the possibility of any initiating non-thermal influence can be meaningfully spoken of. The traditional understanding of cause and effect is thus no longer appropriate here, and must be replaced [5] by the more modern idea of signals and responses – a concept familiar in sociological contexts, where the response of different people to the same signal can vary enormously, particularly if in one person it strikes a raw nerve, that is absent in another.

It is thus clear that effects not allied to intensity inevitably slip through the net of existing safety guidelines, which, of course, raises the question as to how a more comprehensive level of safety might be ensured. Before considering this, it is necessary to assess the status of evidence – both theoretical and experimental – consistent with the potentiality of living organisms to be adversely affected by ultra-low intensity radiation.

10. Firstly, it is to be noted that the preconditioned hypersensitivity of adequately metabolising living organisms to ultra-weak microwave radiation of a particular frequency is a quite general prediction of modern biophysics [2], reflecting the self-organising ability of open, dissipative systems in the non-linear regime far from thermodynamic equilibrium, whereby once the rate of metabolic energy supply exceeds the rate at which the system can turn it into heat, a certain fraction of this energy is (non-thermally) channelled into a highly organised (coherent) collective vibration of the whole system, wherein it is stored and effectively protected against dissipation – the frequency of this vibration being in the microwave band.

Secondly, much experimental evidence has accumulated over the past 25 years that is consistent not only with the existence [6] of this endogenous microwave activity, and with associated non-thermal, highly frequency-dependent influences [4] – such as, for example, alterations in the growth rate of E.coli [7] and yeast [8], synchronisation of cell division [9], the switch-on of certain genetic processes [10], alteration in the activity of important enzymes [11], etc. – but also with the fact that other organised electrical activities in quite different frequency ranges, such as brainwaves [12], can likewise be influenced in a non-thermal way by external fields, (amplitude) modulated to a similar frequency; in addition, there are numerous reports of other non-thermal influences of the radiation of the kind used in mobile telephony, such as effects on human blood pressure [13], depression of the immune efficiency of human leukocytes (white blood cells) [14], increases in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier [15], increases in calcium efflux from brain tissue [16], and most dramatically, a significant increase in the mortality of chick embryos [17].

Finally, there are the numerous reports (that display a remarkable consistency (world-wide) of adverse health effects experienced both by users of mobile phones and by people resident in the vicinity of the associated base stations, the most common complaints being those of a neurological nature, such as effects on short-term memory, concentration, learning, sleeping disorders and anxiety states [18], as well as increases in the incidence of leukemia [19].

It is clear that the laboratory findings* referred to above are, in general, consistent with the reported adverse health problems. Given this degree of circumstantial evidence, research effort must now be directed towards understanding the extent to which the reported adverse health effects can be considered to be actually initiated by some primary non-thermal influence of an ultra-low intensity external electromagnetic field on the human organism, and, further, to consider whether adverse health effects other than those already reported might also be provoked.

The present situation is summarised in the attached Figure.

11. Taken individually, the evidence from each of the four sectors might well be considered less than compelling, but when considered together, a rather interconsistent picture emerges from which it is clear that the issue of non-thermal effects can no longer be responsibly dismissed as an epiphenomenom, but is indeed a reality which cannot be reasonably denied a reality which mandates firstly its recognition by regulatory bodies, and secondly, that serious and urgent attention be given to how the public might be better protected against any associated adverse health effects, so that the benefits of modern telecommunication technology can be enjoyed with a higher degree of safety than is currently the case. Before this can be done, however, much more research into these subtle effects is required specifically:

A. Further studies at the level of the primary interaction of ultra-low intensity microwaves (including pulsed ones) with living organisms – along the lines already persued in the laboratory, using lower forms of life for experimentation [7-11] – aimed at obtaining a much better understanding of the ability of such radiation (of sub-thermal intensity) to influence, non-thermally, biological processes both at a cellular and sub-cellular level, addressing, for example, the magnitude of the (sub-thermal) threshold intensity and duration of irradiation necessary to achieve the switch-on of various processes, and the dependence of these processes on the frequency of the radiation.

B. Much needed physiological studies, to establish the nature and extent of any adverse effects on human health provoked by the primary non-thermal influence of ultra-low intensity radiation on the living organism [12-17].

*It should be stressed that experimental difficulties encountered in independent attempts to reproduce these findings are not unexpected, but indeed reflect the non-uniqueness in the response of living organisms mentioned above. It must be appreciated that not only are these experiments extremely difficult in themselves, but also that the relatively large numbers of variables involved in the full characterisation of the living organism (not to mention deterministic chaos [20]) militates against the realisation of the identical conditions necessary to ensure reproducibility. In many cases, positive results were only obtained, with considerable patience and effort, after many initial failures. Since the odds are so stacked against a positive result, the realisation of one must be considered to be rather significant.

12. Meanwhile, several courses of action can be identified that would go some way to ameliorating the (unnecessarily) hazardous situation currently obtaining in the case of base stations:

(i) Ensure that the field strengths to which the public is so indiscriminately and involuntarily exposed are kept well below the threshold values referred to above, which are 1000 times lower than thermal levels, being of the order of microwatts/cm2 ( = (W/cm2)

This will, of course, also lower the energy in each pulse, and can be achieved either by locating the antennae on much higher masts, or by introducing an exclusion zone, such as the one of 500 metres recommended (but not legally enforceable) by the Association of Local Governments of New South Wales (NSW), Australia; clearly, mast height can be traded against the extent of any exclusion zone.

It may be noted, in connection with NSW, that the safety limits there recommended (but again not legally enforceable) are the most stringent in the world – being 1000 times lower than 1(W/cm2. By comparison, the NRPB value of 3300(W/cm2 is one million times higher! Furthermore, the NRPB value is more than 7 times higher than that (450(W/cm2) of the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP [1]) who advise the World Health Organisation, whilst the EU has recently recommended a value of 10 (W/cm2).

(ii) Prevent localised areas of unnecessarily high fields by prohibiting the future erection of clusters of masts in the same vicinity, and requiring that existing clusters be replaced by a single tall mast serving the various companies. In considering Planning Applications, attention should be given to the proposed site of a mast in relation to the local topography, so as to ensure that in hilly terrain, for example, there are no homes, schools, hospitals or any other public buildings that are occupied for any appreciable period of time on a level with the emitting antennae. Furthermore, the antennae distribution on the mast should be such that the highest possible emission in any direction (taking into account the maximum call traffic) is, in publicly accessible areas, well below the 1 microwatt/cm2 threshold value.

(iii) Remove from the digital signal any low frequency (amplitude) modulations that fall in the range of the human brainwaves.

18 June 1999

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9. M.B. Golant et al., Radiophys. Quantum Electron. 37, 82-84 (1994); I.Ya. Be lyaev et al., Electro-and Magnetobiology, 13(1), 53-65 (1994)

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11. L. Miguel Penafiel et al., Bioelectromagnetics 18, 132-141 (1997)

12. L von Klitzing, Phys. Medica XI(2), 77-80 (1995); K. Mann & J. Roschke, Neuropsychobiology, 33, 41-47 (1996)

13. S. Braune et al., The Lancet 351, Saturday 20 June 1998

14. R. Coghill, accepted for publication in Bioelectrochemistry and Bioenergetics, 1999

15. L.G. Salford et al., Microsc. Res. Tech., 27, 535-542 (1994)

16. S.K. Dutta et al., Bioelectromagnetics, 5, 71-78 (1984)

17. M. Bastide et al., submitted to Bioelectromagnetics, 1999; see also B.J. Youbicier-Simo et al., ibid., 18(7), 514-523 (1997)

18. A.A. Kolodynski & V.V. Kolodynski, The Science of the Total Environment, 180, 87-93 (1996)

19. B. Hocking et al., Medical J. Australia, 165, 601-605 (1996); H. Dolk et al., American J. of Epidemiology, 145(1), 1-9 (1997); ibid., 10-17 (1997)

20. F. Kaiser, in Energy Transfer Dynamics, (Eds. T.W. Barrett & H.A. Pohl), Springer-Verlag, Berlin,1987, Ch.21, pp.224-236 SEITE