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EMF Studies

14 March 2013

Impacts of Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Fields from Cell Phone Towers and Wireless Devices on the Biosystem and Ecosystem

This review by a research team in India was published on 6 January 2013 in Biology and Medicine. It summarizes the effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from mobile phone towers and wireless devices on the biosphere, including plants, amphibians, insects, birds, mammals, and humans. Following are the abstract, introduction, the part on the effects on bees, and the section on electrohypersensitivity.  The review in full may be seen here.

Impacts of radio-frequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) from cell phone towers and wireless devices on biosystem and ecosystem – a review

by S Sivani*, D Sudarsanam
Department of Advanced Zoology and Biotechnology, Loyola College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

*Corresponding Author: sivani.padmakumar@gmail.com

Accepted: 3rd Dec 2012, Published: 6th Jan 2013 in Biology and Medicine


This paper summarizes the effect of radio-frequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) from cell towers and wireless devices on the biosphere. Based on current available literature, it is justified to conclude that RF-EMF radiation exposure can change neurotransmitter functions, blood-brain barrier, morphology, electrophysiology, cellular metabolism, calcium efflux, and gene and protein expression in certain types of cells even at lower intensities. The biological consequences of such changes remain unclear. Short-term studies on the impacts of RF-EMF on frogs, honey bees, house sparrows, bats, and even humans are scare and long-term studies are non-existent in India. Identification of the frequency, intensity, and duration of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields causing damage to the biosystem and ecosystem would evolve strategies for mitigation and would enable the proper use of wireless technologies to enjoy its immense benefits, while ensuring one’s health and that of the environment.


There has been an unprecedented growth in the global communication industry in recent years which has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of wireless devices. Mobile services were launched in India in 1995 and it is one of the fastest growing mobile telephony industries in the world. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI, 2012), the composition of telephone subscribers using wireless form of communication in urban area is 63.27% and rural area is 33.20%. By 2013, it is estimated that more than one billion people will be having cell phone connection in India. This has led to the mushrooming of supporting infrastructure in the form of cell towers which provide the link to and from the mobile phone. With no regulation on the placement of cell towers, they are being placed haphazardly closer to schools, creches, public playgrounds, on commercial buildings, hospitals, college campuses, and terraces of densely populated urban residential areas. Hence, the public is being exposed to continuous, low intensity radiations from these towers. Since the electromagnetic radiations, also known as electrosmog cannot be seen, smelt or felt, one would not realize their potential harm over long periods of exposure until they manifest in the form of biological disorders. Various studies have shown the ill-effects of radio-frequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) on bees, fruit flies, frogs, birds, bats, and humans, but the long-term studies of such exposures are inconclusive and scarce, and almost non-existent in India (MOEF, 2010; DoT, 2010). In 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of WHO, designated RF-EMF from cell phones as a “possible human carcinogen” Class 2B (WHO, 2011). Cancer, diabetes, asthma, infectious diseases, infertility, neurodegenerative disorders, and even suicides are on the rise in India. This invisible health hazard pollution (IHHP) is a relatively new environmental threat.

Electromagnetic radiation, in the form of waves of electric and magnetic energy, have been circulating together through space. The electromagnetic spectrum includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared rays, light rays, ultraviolet rays, X-rays, and gamma rays (ARPANSA, 2011;FCC, 1999). The electromagnetic radiations are of two types, one being ionizing radiations such as X-rays and gamma rays, and the other being non-ionizing radiations such as electric and magnetic fields, radio waves, radio-frequency band which includes microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, and visible radiation (Figure 1). The biological effects of RF-EMF at molecular level induce thermal and non-thermal damage, which may be due to dielectric heating leading to protein denaturation, polar molecular agitation, cellular response through molecular cascades and heat shock proteins, and changes in enzyme kinetics in cells (Instituto Edumed, 2010). The three major physical parameters of RF-EMF radiations is frequency, intensity, and exposure duration. Although the non-ionizing radiations are considered less dangerous than ionizing radiation, over-exposure can cause health hazards (FCC, 1999).

Studies on insects - extract: bees

Bees have clusters of magnetite in the abdominal areas. colony collapse disorder (CCD) was observed in beehives exposed to 900MHz for 10 minutes, with sudden disappearance of a hive’s inhabitants, leaving only queen, eggs, and a few immature workers behind. With navigational skills affected, worker bees stopped coming to the hives after 10 days and egg production in queen bees dropped drastically to 100 eggs/day compared to 350 eggs (Sharma and Kumar, 2010). Radiation affects the pollinators, honeybees, whose numbers have recently been declining due to CCD by 60% at US West Coast apiaries and 70% along the East Coast (Cane and Tepedino, 2001). CCD is being documented in Greece, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. Studies performed in Europe documented navigational disorientation, lower honey production, and decreased bee survivorship (Kimmel et al., 2007). EMFs from telecommunication infrastructure interfere with bees’ biological clocks that enable them to compensate properly for the sun’s movements, as a result of which, may fly in the wrong direction when attempting to return to the hive (Rubin et al., 2006). Bee colonies irradiated with digital enhanced cordless communications (DECT) phones and mobile handsets had a dramatic impact on the behavior of the bees, namely by inducing the workerpiping signal. In natural conditions, worker piping either announces the swarming process of the bee colony or is a signal of a disturbed bee colony (Favre, 2011).

Electrohypersensitivity (EHS) and Electromagnetic Field Intolerance (EFI) Syndrome

Electrosensitivity of people is now recognized as a physical impairment by government health authorities in the United Kingdom and Sweden. The UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) recognized that people can suffer nausea, headaches, and muscle pains when exposed to electromagnetic fields from mobile phones, electricity pylons, and computer screens. A case study in Sweden, one of the first countries were mobile technology was introduced approximately 15 years ago, shows that 250,000 Swedes are allergic to mobile phone radiation. Sweden has now recognized EHS as a physical degradation and EHS sufferers are entitled to have metal shielding installed in their homes free of charge from the local government (Kumar, 2010; Johansson, 2010).Belpomme (2011) in his presentation at the 8th National Congress on Electrosmog in Berne in 2011 elaborates on the dangers of wireless technology and the diagnostics and treatment of the electromagnetic field intolerance (EFI) Syndrome. In his study from 2008 to 2011, the patients with EHS were investigated with a pulse equilibrium brain scan, dosage of histamine in the blood, dosage of the heat shock proteins HSP70 and HSP27, and appearance and disappearance of symptoms on exposure to an electromagnetic field source. Diagnosis of fatigue and depression were noted. The physiological changes such as vitamin D deficiency, decrease in heat shock proteins, increase in histamines, increase in biomarker of the opening of blood-brain barrier, protein S100P, decrease in urinary melatonin, and increase in blood anti-myelin proteins were noted in the electrosensitives. Around 50% of the patients in the study had used a mobile phone for more than one hour per day during several years and his findings were similar to the figures published by Hardell’s study (2007) dealing with the cancer occurrences and electromagnetic fields.


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