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Jeff Sutherland

Twice the Energy with Half the Stress

Cell Phones: Electromagnetic Fields Can Cause Genetic Damage

Exposure of human peripheral blood lymphocytes to electromagnetic fields associated with cellular phones leads to chromosomal instability

Maya Mashevich 1 3, Dan Folkman 2, Amit Kesar 2, Alexander Barbul 3, Rafi Korenstein 3 *, Eli Jerby 2, Lydia Avivi 1


continuous RF fields • nonthermal effects • aneuploidy • centromeric DNA replication • carcinogenesis


Whether exposure to radiation emitted from cellular phones poses a health hazard is at the focus of current debate. We have examined whether in vitro exposure of human peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) to continuous 830 MHz electromagnetic fields causes losses and gains of chromosomes (aneuploidy), a major somatic mutation leading to genomic instability and thereby to cancer. PBL were irradiated at different average absorption rates (SAR) in the range of 1.6-8.8 W/kg for 72 hr in an exposure system based on a parallel plate resonator at temperatures ranging from 34.5-37.5 °C. The averaged SAR and its distribution in the exposed tissue culture flask were determined by combining measurements and numerical analysis based on a finite element simulation code. A linear increase in chromosome 17 aneuploidy was observed as a function of the SAR value, demonstrating that this radiation has a genotoxic effect. The SAR dependent aneuploidy was accompanied by an abnormal mode of replication of the chromosome 17 region engaged in segregation (repetitive DNA arrays associated with the centromere), suggesting that epigenetic alterations are involved in the SAR dependent genetic toxicity. Control experiments (i.e., without any RF radiation) carried out in the temperature range of 34.5-38.5 °C showed that elevated temperature is not associated with either the genetic or epigenetic alterations observed following RF radiation – the increased levels of aneuploidy and the modification in replication of the centromeric DNA arrays. These findings indicate that the genotoxic effect of the electromagnetic radiation is elicited via a non-thermal pathway. Moreover, the fact that aneuploidy is a phenomenon known to increase the risk for cancer, should be taken into consideration in future evaluation of exposure guidelines. Bioelectromagnetics 24:82-90, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.