Mobile phone radiation alters brain cells

By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent
(The Daily Telegraph: 20/06/2002)

"Normal levels of mobile phone radiation have for the first time been found to have a biological effect on human brain cells, according to a two-year study by government scientists.

Research by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland found that microwaves from cellphone handsets damaged the blood-brain barrier, which prevents materials from the blood entering the brain. It warned that this might have implications for human health.

However, Prof Darius Leszczynski, who led the team, said that the research had so far been conducted only in laboratory conditions.

He said: "We need further study looking at real people to see if the blood-brain barrier is affected. What is happening in the human brain is an enigma. If it did happen it could lead to disturbances, such as headaches, feeling tired or problems with sleeping."

Prof William Stewart, who chairs the British Government's expert group on mobile phone radiation, said the Finnish research should be taken seriously because it came from "a well-respected team at a well-respected institution".

He said: "Because it found changes to the blood-brain barrier it is an important finding, particularly bearing in mind that it involved a short period of exposure.

"But a biological effect does not necessarily imply a health risk and we need more work on human subjects."

The study, the first to look at the effects of mobile phone radiation on human cells rather than those of laboratory animals, is due to be presented at a conference in Canada this month.

Cells from blood vessel walls in the brain were placed in culture dishes and subjected in the laboratory to mobile phone radiation of two watts per kilogram, the maximum allowed internationally for mobile phones. After an hour's exposure biochemical changes were seen in the cells that could alter the activity of about 400 proteins.

In particular, one enzyme, called HSP 27, which helps to regulate blood-brain barrier permeability, was affected. Prof Leszczynski said HSP 27 affected structures in the cells called stress fibres. The distribution of stress fibres in turn affected leakage of the blood-brain barrier. Prof Leszczynski said: "If the same thing happened in real life, in people, then it could affect blood-brain barrier permeability by increasing it." As a result, molecules that caused damage to neurons might be allowed to invade brain tissue.

"What I believe is that we will find these leaks occur in humans, too. What we do not know is the extent of these leaks and whether they have any effect on our health," said Prof Leszczynski.

He added that a French team also presenting findings at the conference had shown that blood-brain barrier leakage increased in rats exposed to mobile phone radiation.

But he added that it would be wrong to assume at this stage that mobile phones were hazardous to human health. It was possible that the human body might be able to cope with the effects.

Dr Michael Clarke, scientific spokesman at the National Radiological Protection Board, said: "It is important work and part of the jigsaw to see whether mobile phone radiation really has any health effect.

"But we need to remember that all sorts of things - tea, caffeine, red wine, sugar - have biological effects without necessarily damaging health."

More than 40 million people in Britain, many of them children, use mobile phones. The Government inquiry, led by Sir William, concluded two years ago that mobile phones posed no provable health risk but Sir William urged caution over the use of mobile phones by children until more was known about their impact on health.

In January, a new 7.4 million research programme was announced, backed by the Government and the mobile phone industry, to be managed by an international committee of experts led by Sir William.

The programme includes 15 studies that will seek clear conclusions about the health hazards of mobile phones, in particular fears of an association between cellphone radiation and brain cancer.

The Federation of Electronic Industries, which represents mobile phone makers and normally responds to health concerns regarding cellphone radiation, declined to comment."
[ .... as this could adversely affect the market for mobile phones!!! ..........]


Protection for phone radiation 'is useless'

By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent
(The Daily Telegraph: 11/05/2002)

"MANY devices to protect mobile phone users from radiation are useless or impair reception and shorten battery life, said a Government report published yesterday.

The first official study of its kind concluded that earpiece pads were ineffective and that "absorbing buttons" reduced exposure by just 20 per cent.

Although shielding cases and antenna clips could reduce significantly the radiation absorbed by a user's head, the devices could lower the phone's performance, particularly inside buildings.

The report was commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry after an independent panel called for "clear information" about the effectiveness of mobile phone shields two years ago.

Sir William Stewart, the former chief scientist who led the earlier inquiry, said he was disappointed the report did not name individual products. Without that information, consumers were in the dark.

Although there is no scientific evidence that mobile phone radiation is a health hazard, dozens of devices are available that promise to protect users.

The report looked at four categories of device: shielded cases, earpiece pads and shields, antenna clips and caps, and absorbing buttons. Eleven devices were tried out on Nokia and Ericsson phones.

Their specific absorption rate, or rate at which tissue absorbed energy, was worked out using a model head filled with fluid.

"Tests in this study show that many of the shield devices can reduce the maximum absorption from the handset by large amounts.

"Generally, however, this reduction is due to the device limiting the useful, radiated transmit power from the phone by a similar amount, which has the associated disadvantage of reducing the phone's performance in weak signal areas or inside buildings."


Study on mobiles and radiation 'diluted'

By Nic Fleming and David Derbyshire
(The Daily Telegraph: 07/05/2002)

A LONG awaited report into devices to protect against mobile phone radiation has been diluted so that it will be of limited value to consumers when it is published this week, critics said yesterday.

The study into the effectiveness of radiation shields, buttons and pads would not name individual products because of commercial sensitivities, the Department of Trade and Industry said.

Its publication on Friday comes two years after the DTI agreed to produce clear information about the effectiveness of such devices and at least 10 months after the tests.

Simon Best, editor of the Electromagnetic Hazard and Therapy news report, said: "This report is of limited value to the tens of millions of mobile phone users in Britain.

"Publishing results without the names of the individual products does not provide information about the effectiveness of these devices. "The taxpayers who have paid for this work will be none the wiser as to whether the products they are using actually work, or which ones are worth buying."

Two years ago an expert panel set up by the Government to investigate mobile phones concluded that there was no scientific evidence linking mobile phone emissions to brain tumours, cancer or any other health risk.

However, the committee, chaired by Sir William Stewart, the former chief scientific adviser, concluded: "We recommend that the Government sets in place a national system which enables independent testing of shielding devices and hands-free kits to be carried out, and which enables clear information to be given about the effectiveness of such devices."

At the time the Government agreed that shields and hands-free kits should be independently tested and there should be information about their effectiveness.

The tests covered 11 protective devices, classified into four types: shielding devices, earpiece pads and shields, antenna clips and caps, and absorbing buttons.

A DTI spokesman said yesterday that it had never been the intention to name products. "From a legal perspective, the DTI cannot be seen to endorse, or not to endorse, particular products.

"From the start, the intention was to look at generic products and put the information into the public domain."

The report is being given a low profile release as a written answer to a parliamentary question.

A leaked copy of part of the original report sent to the DTI from the testing laboratory disclosed that Microshield, one of the products tested, reduced the rate at which radiation was absorbed by the head by between 90.4 and 98.4 per cent.

However, the report also stated that Microshield reduced the transmission power of the handset by between 78 and 85 per cent.

Les Wilson, of Microshield Industries, said: "These test results now leave no doubt that some shields will offer significant protection. I find it strange that the Government is on the one hand calling for users to reduce exposure, but on the other sitting on test results for products that can achieve this."

During 2000 mobile users were given conflicting advice an hands-free kits. In April and November the Consumers' Association released reports stating they channelled radiation from mobiles to the brain increasing exposure by up to 350 per cent.

However, in August of the same year, the DTI produced a study saying they offer "very substantial reductions in specific absorption rate, or the rate at which a volume of tissue absorbs radiation compared to the normal use of a mobile held against the ear".


Cellphone 'hazard on trains'

By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent
(The Daily Telegraph: 02/05/2002)

USING a mobile phone on a train could be doing more harm to fellow passengers than just raising their hackles. Scientists have discovered that cellphone radiation bounces around railway carriages, often exceeding health guidelines.

The problem is limited to carriages in which several passengers are simultaneously using mobile phones or wireless email devices

. Tsuyoshi Hondou, a physicist from Tohoku University, in Sendai, Japan, undertook the research after noticing that commuter trains were packed with people surfing the Net on their mobiles.

Using plans of a typical train carriage, Hondou calculated how much microwave radiation from mobile phones would be transmitted out of a carriage through the windows and how much would be reflected back inside.

Dr Hondou then worked out how microwaves from mobile phones distributed throughout a train carriage would combine, like light from different lamps increasing overall lighting in a room.

The resulting electromagnetic field in a train carriage could exceed the maximum exposure level recommended by the International Committee for Non-Ionising Radiation, Dr Hondou said. "It's possible even if the train is not crowded," he added.

In a standard train carriage carrying 151 people, Dr Hondou found radiation levels would exceed the committee's exposure limits if 30 people, each with a mobile phone emitting radio waves at a power of 0.4 watts, all used their phones simultaneously. However, up to two watts is permitted, so the limits could be exceeded with fewer mobiles in use.

Dr Hondou said his findings could become an environmental health issue, especially as dozens of new wireless devices were coming on to the market. He suggested that train operators took notice.

The problem could also arise on buses and in some lifts, New Scientist reported. Les Barclay, a radio engineering consultant who was part of the Stewart Inquiry into mobile phones and health risks, was cautious over Dr Hondou's findings.

He said microwaves would bounce around inside carriages and combine to boost radiation levels, but the increase should be minimal as power dropped off a short distance away from each phone.

However, Dr Hondou said this would only be the case if the radio waves were not reflected by the train walls.


Worms raise safety fears over mobile phone rays

By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent
(The Daily Telegraph: 07/02/2002)

THE safety of mobile phones has been questioned once again by a study that found that their emissions can boost the fertility of worms.

In experiments at Nottingham University, female nematode laboratory worms produced more eggs when exposed to the sort of radiation that comes from cell phones.

The finding adds to the evidence that mobile phone radiation may have unexpected and unexplained effects on living cells. Sir William Stewart, who leads the Government's independent group on mobile phones, called the results "potentially far reaching".

Phone microwaves should not have enough energy to sever even the weak chemical bonds inside cells. They should be able to cause damage only if they actually heat tissue. Guidelines on the safety of mobile phones and devices such as microwave ovens and radar systems, are based entirely on this heating effect.

Dr David de Pomerai, of Nottingham University, looked for non-thermal effects by exposing worm larvae to microwaves with the same frequencies and energies as analogue mobile phone signals, New Scientist magazine reports today.

Female larvae exposed to radiation produced far more eggs as adults than normal. The effect was significant because even mild heating makes them infertile, he said.

Previous studies at Nottingham found that prolonged exposure to phone emissions triggered the release of stress proteins in the creatures, even though there was no evidence of heating.

The worms exposed to mobile phone radiation also became 10 per cent larger than those not exposed. "The criticism levelled against our work is that microwaves are heating the worms," he said.

"In this case it looks very unlikely because if there is only a slight rise in temperature, the number of eggs falls to zero. This is an important indicator that there may be non-thermal effects."

Microwaves might cause "hot spots" within cells that could trigger changes without raising the overall temperature of the cell.

Sir William said he would take the findings seriously. "These results are very important and potentially far reaching," he said. "Independent confirmation is crucial and we need this quickly."

Michael Clark, of the National Radiological Protection Board, which sets safety standards for all types of radiation, said: "The guidelines can't be changed on the basis of one experiment."


Mobile telephones in new brain tumour alert

By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent
(The Daily Telegraph: 05/09/2001)

USING a mobile telephone more than doubles the risk of developing brain cancer on the side of the head where the phone is held, the British Association festival of science was told yesterday.

A second warning was issued when Sir William Stewart, who chaired last year's government-sponsored report into mobile phone health risks, called for the cost of handsets to be increased to restrict their use by children.

Sir William, the president of the British Association, said he would not allow his grandchildren to use a mobile phone and also castigated operators for targeting advertisements at youngsters.

The study into a link with brain tumours was carried out by Lennart Hardell, professor of oncology at Orebro University in Sweden, who compared 1,617 patients diagnosed with brain tumours between 1997 and last year with the same number of healthy people.

He found that people who used cellphones were two and a half times more likely to have a temporal brain tumour on the side of the head where they held their phone.

In the case of tumours of the auditory nerve, which connects the ear to the brain, the risk increased to more than three times for mobile phone users.

Because of the need to investigate patients who had used cellphones for 10 years or more, the research concentrated on analogue phones. But Prof Hardell said yesterday that users of digital mobiles, which emit less radiation, could face similar health risks because the phones use pulsed microwaves as opposed to the continuous signals of analogues.

Prof Hardell said: "We will have to wait several more years, probably at least until 2005, before we can see the health effects of digital phones." Meanwhile users should exercise precaution, as the Stewart report has urged.

The mobile phone industry has been plagued by reports suggesting that mobile phones cause cancer. However, there have also been reports of studies showing no health risks to users.

With more than 800 million cellphones in use worldwide, of which 44.7 million are in Britain, even a small cancer risk could have devastating effects.

Sir William said the investigation into the potential dangers of using a mobile phone needed to be broader. "Research into mobile phones has been led by the physical sciences looking at radiation levels. But there are subtle biological effects.

"They could be adverse or beneficial - we simply do not know. There is increasing evidence that the non-thermal effects of mobile phone radiation could affect us. We should be doing more work on biological effects and the Department of Health agrees with that."

Sir William added that it was "irresponsible" for operators to suggest in advertisements that youngsters needed a mobile phone to return to school.

Explaining why he would not allow his grandchildren to use mobiles, he said: "Children's skulls are not fully developed. Their bones are not as thick as adults and they will be using mobile phones for longer over their lifetimes than adults.

"It is worrying as there are effects we will not know about for some time. I would support higher pricing to reduce use of mobiles by children."

A report by the National Radiological Protection Board has called for more research into the police radio system, Tetra, because of suspicions that its similar technology to digital phones - using pulses of around 17 cycles a second - could affect brain tissue.


Brain tissue alert over new 999 police radio link

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
(The Daily Telegraph: 13/07/2001)

THE planned introduction of a 2.5 billion emergency radio service is being reassessed by ministers amid concern that radio waves could cause changes to brain tissue.

The new system, known as Airwave, relies on a frequency that scientists say should be avoided for health reasons.

An official report in May last year said that frequencies close to that used should be avoided. Despite this warning, the Home Office announced in February that it would go ahead with the system. It said experts had examined the system and "no obvious health risks have been identified".

But a series of Whitehall meetings this week involving scientists, police representatives and Government officials have raised the safety issue again and cast fresh doubt over its future.

One expert, who did not want to be named, said the police were concerned that the service was being introduced with safety issues unresolved. The new ministerial team at the Home Office was also said to be anxious to be brought up to date with the issue.

Airwave, a collaboration between BT and the police, is already being tested by Lancashire police and will eventually become a national, digital mobile radio communications service for all emergency services dealing with 999 calls by 2005. It will boost speed of communication, security and data transmission.

The Airwave handsets use the European Tetra (Terrestrial Trunk Radio System) standard, which enables up to four users to access a single radio channel simultaneously. Their transmissions are confined to "bursts" at the rate of 17.65 times per second (Hz).

But a report commissioned by the Department of Health, under the chairmanship of Prof Sir William Stewart, a former Government Chief Scientist, last year found that possible effects of frequencies at or near 16Hz included the release of calcium from brain tissue. Calcium carries out signalling, regulates secretions and other tasks.

Although the Stewart report found no consequences for health, and there was no accepted mechanism by which these frequencies could affect brain tissue, the use of that frequency should be avoided, Sir William reiterated yesterday.

He is concerned that he may have been kept in the dark about Airwave specifications, saying Government observers who sat on the committee knew the Airwave specifications but did not mention them.

As a result of this - and delays in reacting to his report - research on the safety implications were only commissioned earlier this year by the Home Office. Sir William said he was surprised by the slow response.

Sir William added that the National Radiological Protection Board should have been more forthcoming about the modulation used by the communications system. He said: "They never said anything about it."

A Home Office spokesman said that the Stewart committee identified no obvious health risk but added that additional research is necessary because concerns "continue to be expressed".

A BT spokesman stressed that there is no convincing scientific evidence of a health risk to humans, and said Sir William had "gone overboard".

He added that the new phones will comply with guidelines produced by the NRPB as well as those of the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection.


Children ignoring mobile phone dangers

By Robert Uhlig Technology Correspondent
(Daily Telegraph: 29/06/2001)

ONE in 10 children under 16 uses a mobile phone for more than 45 minutes every day, despite believing that it could be a health hazard.

The finding comes just a year after a Government report recommended that the widespread use of mobile phones by children for non-essential calls should be discouraged.

Tony Sherborne, an education researcher at Sheffield Hallam University, surveyed 1,000 school children. He found that nine out of 10 aged 11 to 15 owned a mobile phone, compared with seven out of 10 adults.

Although most children used their cellphone for less than 15 minutes a day, nearly a quarter used it for more, he said. More than one in 20 spent more than an hour a day on a mobile phone.

Mr Sherborne called the findings "worrying" and added that many teenagers appeared to be ignoring the message that mobile phone use could be harmful for them, even though the majority believed the research into mobile phone safety.

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