NIH National Toxicology Program Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Study

$25 Million US Government Study Finds Increased Cancer in Rats From Cell Phone Radiation

Microwave News first broke the story that the long awaited National Toxicology Program’s radiofrequency radiation research study results showed increased brain and heart tumors in rats after two years exposure to wireless radiation.

Summary of the Radiofrequency Carcinogenicity Research Study
U.S. National Toxicology Program of the U.S. National Institutes of Health

The U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), released a partial report on parts of the world’s largest, most thorough and well-designed study of its type – at a cost of $25 million – on the potential carcinogenicity of cell phone radiofrequency radiation in rats and mice.

What did the study find?

The study found adverse effects after long term exposure to cell phone radiation:

  • Increased incidences of glioma (a rare, aggressive and highly malignant brain cancer) as well as schwannoma (a rare tumor of the nerve sheath) of the heart were found in both sexes of rats, but reached statistical significance only in males.
  • Increased incidences of rare, proliferative changes in glial cells of the brain and in Schwann cells (nerve sheath) in the heart of both sexes of rats, while not a single unexposed control animal developed these precancerous changes.
  • DNA damage was induced with both modulations of radiofrequency radiation (RFR) in both rats and mice (mixed results in tissues and brain regions).
  • Results from this study clearly show that biological impacts occur at non-thermal exposures like those that take place from cell phones today.

Data analyses in mice are ongoing. The complete results from these rodent studies will be available in NTP Technical Reports by the end of 2017.

“The occurrences of two tumor types in male Harlan Sprague Dawley rats exposed to RFR, malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas of the heart, were considered of particular interest, and are the subject of this report.”
The National Toxicology Program has posted an online draft of these research results.

ntp-reportClick here for PDF “Report of Partial findings from the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley® SD rats (Whole Body Exposure)

1999 Nomination by the FDA’s Center from Device and Radiological Health for a study on Radio Frequency Radiation Emissions of Wireless Communication Devices (CDRH)



microphone listen ear audioListen to an audio recording: Media Telebriefing: NTP Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Study: Partial Release of Findings – NIH, 27th May 2016 from May 27, 2016

Click Here to Read the full transcript of the National Toxicology Program Press Conference

Chris Portier former Head of the National Toxicology Program stated, “ this is the best designed animal study every conducted on this topic.” Ron Melnick, who led the NTP study design team, confirmed these leaked results to Microwave News stating, “The experiment has been done and, after extensive reviews, the consensus is that there was a carcinogenic effect.”

Click Here to Read the Dozens of News Pieces Put Out After the Results Were Released.
Wall Street Journal Interview with journalist Ryan Knutson

WTOP interview with Ronald L Melnick, PhD
This study represents a “sea change” in science in that it is a well designed study providing hard evidence that that non-ionizing, radiofrequency radiation could cause cancer.

This study indicates that exposures to “weak” levels of radio-frequency radiation can have a significant impact. If wireless frequencies were “safe” and had “no impact on the body”, one would not see such results.

For decades the scientific understanding has been that the only way this radiation can harm us is by a heating mechanism via exposures at very high power levels. This research shows serious adverse effects without heating tissue. The study was carefully designed to ensure that the body temperature of the exposed rats increased less than 1ºC . Therefore, it substantiates the scientific understanding that heating is NOT the only mechanism by which this radiation could harm health.

“This study should put an end to those who doubt the capacity of non-thermal levels of wireless radiation to cause biological effects including cancer. The study results clearly show that cell phone radiation can cause adverse health effects. The counter argument has no validity.” -Ronald Melnick, PhD, former lead scientist on NTP study of RFR; Retired Senior Scientist with NTP/NIEHS

The NTP Study found increases in brain and heart tumors after chronic exposure to radiofrequency radiation (RFR).

Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Study

In male Harlan Sprague Dawley rats exposed to chronic RFR, malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas of the heart were increased.  “Cardiac schwannomas were observed in male rats in all exposed groups of both GSM- and 18 CDMA-modulated RFR, while none were observed in controls (Table 3). There also was a significant dose response relationship, meaning that as the radiation increased, the effect increased. In female rats, there was no statistically significant or apparent exposure-related effects.

As the American Cancer Society states in their statement about the NTP results, “It’s important to note that these sorts of gender differences often appear in carcinogenic studies, so the fact they show up here should not detract from the importance of the findings.” Read more about these gender differences in the published “Gender differences in chemical carcinogenesis in National Toxicology Program 2-year bioassays” which details how gender-specific tumors were common in rat research on carcinogens.

NTP findings also included reduced birth weight of exposed pups, increased survival in exposed rats, and sight Increased malignant glioma plus glial cell hyperplasia (precancerous cells of the brain). It is notable that in the Ramazzini study of rats that looked at extremely low frequency (50 Hz) ELF-EMFs, the exposed rats  also developed a significant increase in malignant schwannoma of the heart.

The increased types of tumors found in NTP”s research rats parallel the types of increased tumors found in human long term users of cell phones.

Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation StudyIn the May 27, 2016 press conference the NTP stated one of the reasons that they were releasing these findings was because the NTP research results showed effects similar to human epidemiological research. Research on humans repeatedly shows increased malignant glioma (a type of brain cancer) in people who used cell phones for over ten years and over 1625 hours of lifetime use. The male rats in the NTP study had significantly increased rates of brain gliomas.

In addition, cardiac schwannomas (a type of tumor) were observed in male rats in all exposed groups in the NTP study. The NTP study found the highest rate of this rare tumor of the nerve ever recorded so far in its more than 30 years of study. Schwannomas interfere with myelin, the fatty protective sheath that surrounds all neurons. Although the NTP study found heart schwannomas in rats, the most common type of benign schwannoma in humans is the acoustic neuroma. Epidemiological research on human cell phone users has found increased acoustic neuroma in long term users.

This similarity between the findings of epidemiological studies and the NTP animal studies adds a strength to the conclusions of the NTP study.

Scientists state this research should result in official recommendations to the public by federal agencies to reduce exposure.

Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Study“Based on this new information, regulatory agencies should make strong recommendations for consumers to take precautionary measures and avoid close contact with their cell phones, and especially avoid use of cell phones by children. Also, cell phone companies need to provide newer devices with much reduced emissions.”  -Ronald Melnick, PhD, former lead scientist on NTP study of RFR; Retired Senior Scientist with NTP/NIEHS

The newly created National Toxicology Webpage on Cell Phones states “The FDA’s website provides a couple of steps people can take to minimize radiation exposure when using cell phones, including reducing the amount of time spent using a cell phone and using speaker mode or a headset to place more distance between one’s head and the cell phone.”

Watch the Reuters video below

The NIH Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Study research is the world’s largest rodent study on radiofrequency radiation exposure to date.
Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Study

National Institutes of Health Description of the Rodent Research Study on Radio-Frequency Radiation

This 25 million dollar study is the most complex study completed by the NTP. Exposures to rats began in-utero (meaning while the mother rats are pregnant). The exposures to mice start during adolescence and continued through young adulthood (subchronic) or for 2 years (chronic). 

The radiation exposures are at very low levels similar to what people are exposed to by cellular technology.

Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation StudyThe studies are designed to mimic human exposure to cell phones. The exposures are at nonthermal levels meaning radiation levels that do not cause heating. These exposures are well below what our current government regulations allow. 

The frequencies being studied are already outdated.

Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation StudyRats and mice are being exposed to radiofrequency radiation from the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications technologies, at frequencies of 900 and 1900 megahertz at three different levels: 1.5, 3 and 6 watts per kilogram.At the time the research was initiated, these frequencies and modulations were the most common in the United States. That has changed. Now higher frequencies like 4G and 5G are becoming widespread (Notice how many communities are getting cell towers in order to deploy LTE.) Wi-Fi is at 2.45 GHz. Some scientists think these higher frequencies may be more biologically active even at very low levels. However, if adverse effects are found in one specific radio frequency (RF) radiation frequency, it is scientifically understood that adverse effects will also be found in frequencies within the full range of RF.

The studies consider cancer risk and other health effects.
“Little is known about potential health effects of long-term exposure to radiofrequency radiation.” —NIH Fact Sheet 2013
The research is looking at carcinogenicity, body weight, organ development, blood-brain barrier permeability, reproductive development, and DNA strand breaks. 
Special underground chambers were built for this research.

Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation StudyTwenty-one separate “reverberation chambers” were built. The chambers are essentially shielded rooms with a transmitting antenna emitting radiofrequency fields and rotating stirrers. This setup up helps to generate a statistically uniform field. 

The rodents were “chronically exposed,” meaning exposed for many hours per day.

Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation StudyThe reverberation chamber design exposed rodents to RF for 10-minute on, 10-minute off increments, totaling just over 9 hours a day from before birth through 2 years of age. Unfortunately, this may not adequately simulate real life exposure in the 21st century. Today we are exposed to these frequencies 24 hours per day. From the baby monitor near the crib to the cell phone in our bedrooms to the Wi-Fi at school and work, there is no time when we are without exposures. In addition real life exposures means exposures to several frequencies at once, not simply one frequency at a time. 

The study was released years behind schedule.

Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation StudyThe Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Study was initiated in 1999 with a contract signed in 2005. It is EHT’s understanding that the research has been completed but the data and results have not been published. The results were due to be published in 2014. In April 2016 Dr. Davis wrote a letter to NIEHS asking for the results of the study to be released. The draft report was released in May 2016.

Please click here to read Dr. Davis’s letter. 
2009 Slideshow Presentation of the Research

Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Study

The slideshow here was prepared for the Cell Phone Radiation and Health Congressional Hearing  in 2009. The slideshow shows the special underground chambers (housing) created for the rats and mice and details the planned research study.

Click Here to Download the NIH NTP Powerpoint Presentation 
2013 Slideshow by the National Toxicology Program at the GLORE Conference

Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation StudyNIEHS’ Michael Wyde presented an update on the study in a slideshow at a by-invitation-only meeting in the 2013 annual meeting of the Global Coordination of Research and Health on RF Electromagnetic Fields at the Washington DC FCC offices. The public and the press were barred from the meeting, while representatives from Motorola and Orange (formerly France Telecom) were allowed to attend (see program here).

It is notable that in this slideshow Wyde shares that rats in the subchronic studies did respond to both GSM and CDMA cell phone radiation. Those exposed before and after birth gained weight more slowly and the response was dose-dependent. This result challenges the widely-held belief that wireless radiation is harmless.

Please watch the videos below of NIH lead investigator Michael Wyde Ph.D., D.A.B.T. describing the National Toxicology Program Radiofrequency Research Study in a 2009 lecture presentation. According to NIH, the slides he refers to in this 2009 talk are the same set as uploaded onto this page as the 2009 NTP Presentation.

Please learn more about this project by reading an update from Microwave News. Institute of Environmental Health Secrets: NIEHS Mum on $25 Million RF Animal Project Skirts Freedom of Information Act


Consumer Reports: Cell Phone Radiation Causes Cancer in Rats,

Mother Jones: Game-Changing” Study Links Cellphone Radiation to Cancer

Wall Street Journal: Cellphone-Cancer Link  in Government Study

Fortune Magazine: U.S. Government Study Links Cellphone Radiation With Cancer

$25 million study from the National Institutes of Health looked at brain tumors in animals

Scientific American: Major Cell Phone Radiation Study Reignites Cancer Questions: Exposure to radiofrequency radiation linked to tumor formation in rats

PBS How Might Cell Phone Signals Cause Cancer May 30, 2016

Science Magazine: Questions abound after study links tumors to cellphone radiation

Consumer Reports: Does Cell Phone Use Cause Brain Cancer? What the New Study Means For You

Click Here to Read the Dozens of News Pieces Put Out After the Results Were Released.

The National Toxicology Website on Cell Phones with Research Results

The May 2016 Released Draft Report of the NTP Study

Read the description of the study NIH put out in 2013.

Slideshow of the 2013 National Toxicology Program Presentation

Slideshow of the 2009 NIH NTP Powerpoint Presentation

Read a description of the study put out in 2009

NTP Statement to Congress in 2009 on Cell Phone Studies: Statement for the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations United States Senate September 14, 2009 Hearing on The Health Effects of Cell Phone Use Statement of John R. Bucher, Ph.D. Associate Director of the National Toxicology Program National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Institutes of Health U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Watch the full testimony by the National Toxicology Program to Congress in 2009 in the video below starting at minute 8:43.

Watch These News Reports on the NTP Study Showing the Various Ways the Study Is Being Understood By The Media


Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and science from Environmental Health Trust. We email our subscribers with a newsletter just once a month and never share your email with anyone.

Thank you for signing up for our newsletter!