Biological Impact of Cell Phone Radiation

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In 1960, neuroscientist Allan Frey, then with Cornell University’s General Electric Advanced Electronics Center, became curious about the biological impact on the nervous system of electromagnetic fields moving at the speed of light. Long before cell phones were commercialized, his findings would eventually prove that radio frequency radiation has a measurable effect on the brain—and attempts were made by the powers-that-be to suppress his work in ways that uncannily echo the ways such results are being marginalized today.

Among other key results, Frey determined that the carrier wave of 1,900 megahertz—precisely the same wavelength used by many cell phones today—had significant biological effects.

Inject a mouse with a fluorescent dye into its blood and the entire body and all of the organs fluoresce—except for the brain, which remains pink-gray. Research in the 1920s had shown why: The brain is protected from taking in poisons or contaminants that get into the bloodstream due to a barrier appropriately known as the “blood-brain barrier.”

But Frey found something interesting. He showed that weak radio frequency signals—just like those from today’s cell phones—opened up this normally closed barrier. Frey first injected the dye into the bloodstream of rats and then exposed them to very weak pulsed microwave signals. Within a few minutes, the injected rats’ brains began to fluoresce, signaling that the blood-brain barrier had been breached. Frey’s studies were reported in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1975.

Soon after two other labs, using other blood-brain-barrier study techniques, showed similar effects of radio frequency radiation.

But there were some in the military and industry who didn’t want to accept that such radiation could have any biological impact. For example, several “critiques” of the effect that Frey had discovered completely ignored relevant information. Frey himself recalls the falsity of some critiques. One group claimed to have repeated his team’s rat studies and said they found nothing. However, instead of injecting the dye into the femoral vein so it would go directly to the heart and into the brain in seconds, as Frey had, they injected it into the abdomen. They sprayed it onto the intestines. Within five minutes they killed the animals and looked at the brain. They reported that they found no evidence that the dye had gone into the brain. Of course not! There have been many studies confirming and extending Frey’s work since then.

In later years, Frey has noted the intensity of pressure during the Cold War to stay away from studies that suggested that low-intensity radio frequency radiation had biological impacts of any kind. More than three decades later, recalling attempts to discredit his work, Frey has said, “What happened then was a naked use of power to try to discredit what had been basic scientific work because it did not comport with what some people in the military and industry wanted to hear.” Today’s researchers are still fighting the battle Frey waged in the 1970s.

Neural Function and Behavior:  Defining the Relationship 

Opinion: Cell Phone Health Risk: Security concerns during the Cold War may have led to the generation of misinformation on the physiological effects of microwave radiation from mobile phones. Published in The Scientist, By Allan H. Frey | September 25, 2012

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Clinical and experimental studies of DNA damage analyzed DNA from hair roots exposed to cell phone radiation.  Study found significant DNA damage to hair roots exposed to 900 MHz mobile phone radiation.

DNA breaks were observed  in hair root cells of human subjects exposed to 15 minutes and 30 minutes of radio-frequency radiation.

Length of unraveled DNA reveals biological impact.  The longer the tail , the greater the impact.

Çam, S. T., & Seyhan, N. (2012). Single-strand DNA breaks in human hair root cells exposed to mobile phone radiation. International Journal of Radiation Biology, 88(5), 420–424. http://doi.org/10.3109/09553002.2012.666005

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