Worm Study Raises More Cellular Radiation Worries

Worm Study Raises More Cellular Radiation Worries
Journalist: Steve Gold
May 16, 2000
A study due to be published on May 25 by Nature, the British science journal, casts doubt on industry claims that cellular radiation from mobile phones does not effect human tissue.

The report, which looked at the effects of microwave radiation, of the type emitted by mobile phones, on microscope worms, throws up some alarming observations.

The study comes in the wake of last week’s British government- sponsored Stewart report, which concluded that all the research completed to date is inclusive. The report cautioned, however, that the unknown effects may be more serious in children.

As a result, the Stewart report said that children should be prevented from making lengthy and/or having excessive use of mobile phones, until such time that the true effects of cellular phone transmissions on human tissue are known.

Joanne Webber, a spokesperson for Nature magazine, told Newsbytes that, while the report was planned to be released on May 25 in the print edition of Nature, it has been released to the magazine’s Web site earlier than planned, as a direct result of the Stewart report.

The Nature report concludes that “current exposure limits for microwave equipment may need to be reconsidered,” and that, while the tests were limited to Caenorhabditis Elegans, a macroscopic earthworm, the effects on human tissue need further investigation.

During the tests, the worms were exposed to continuous RF (radio frequency) transmissions at levels lower than those seen on mobile phones. The frequency was 750 megahertz (MHz) – around 100/150 MHz less than those seen on most mobile phone phones.

The result was that, on an overnight basis, the worms produced detectable levels of a universal set of protective cells, known as heat-shock proteins.

David de Pomerai, the lead author of the study, which was carried out at the University of Nottingham, said that these proteins can disrupt cellular functions.

The most important feature of the research, Newsbytes notes, is that it was the radiation, rather than actual heat, that triggered the production of the heat shock proteins.

The report notes that current exposure limits for mobile phones in the UK – which are based on similar limits seen in the US, Newsbytes notes – were drawn up in the 1980s and assume that the emitted microwave radiation is harmless if it does not cause heating.

De Pomerei’s research, however, found that continuous microwave emissions can induce biological changes in worms similar to those caused by heat, even without any increase in temperature.