Mobile Phone Radiation Harms DNA, New Study Finds
Dec 20, 2004
MUNICH/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Radio waves from mobile phones harm body cells
and damage DNA in laboratory conditions, according to a new study
majority-funded by the European Union, researchers said on Monday.
The so-called Reflex study, conducted by 12 research groups in seven
European countries, did not prove that mobile phones are a risk to health
but concluded that more research is needed to see if effects can also be
found outside a lab.
The $100 billion a year mobile phone industry asserts that there is no
conclusive evidence of harmful effects as a result of electromagnetic
About 650 million mobile phones are expected to be sold to consumers this
year, and over 1.5 billion people around the world use one.
The research project, which took four years and which was coordinated by the
German research group Verum, studied the effect of radiation on human and
animal cells in a laboratory.
After being exposed to electromagnetic fields that are typical for mobile
phones, the cells showed a significant increase in single and double-strand
DNA breaks. The damage could not always be repaired by the cell. DNA carries
the genetic material of an organism and its different cells.
"There was remaining damage for future generation of cells," said project
leader Franz Adlkofer.
This means the change had procreated. Mutated cells are seen as a possible
cause of cancer.
The radiation used in the study was at levels between a Specific Absorption
Rate (SAR) of between 0.3 and 2 watts per kilogram. Most phones emit radio
signals at SAR levels of between 0.5 and 1 W/kg.
SAR is a measure of the rate of radio energy absorption in body tissue, and
the SAR limit recommended by the International Commission of Non-Ionizing
Radiation Protection is 2 W/kg.
The study also measured other harmful effects on cells.
Because of the lab set-up, the researchers said the study did not prove any
health risks. But they added that "the genotoxic and phenotypic effects
clearly require further studies ... on animals and human volunteers."
Adlkofer advised against the use of a mobile phone when an alternative fixed
line phone was available, and recommended the use of a headset connected to
a cellphone whenever possible.
"We don't want to create a panic, but it is good to take precautions," he
said, adding that additional research could take another four or five years.
Previous independent studies into the health effects of mobile phone
radiation have found it may have some effect on the human body, such as
heating up body tissue and causing headaches and nausea, but no study that
could be independently repeated has proved that radiation had permanent
None of the world's top six mobile phone vendors could immediately respond
to the results of the study.
In a separate announcement in Hong Kong, where consumers tend to spend more
time talking on a mobile phone than in Europe, a German company called
G-Hanz introduced a new type of mobile phone which it claimed had no harmful
radiation, as a result of shorter bursts of the radio signal.