17 September 2016
ATHEM-2 Project on the Investigation of Nonthermal Effects of Electromagnetic Fields in the Cell Phone Frequency Range
Below is an English translation of the abstract by Katharina Gustavs (www.katharinaconsulting.com)
Research Report ATHEM-2
Investigation of Nonthermal Effects of Electromagnetic Fields in the Cell Phone Frequency Range
A Joint Project of the Austrian Workers' Compensation Board (AUVA – Allgemeine Unfallversicherungsanstalt) and the Medical University of Vienna (MUW – Medizinische Universität Wien)
2016 – AUVA Report No. 70
Abstract translated by Katharina Gustavs (25 August 2016)
The ATHEM-2 Project on the Investigation of Nonthermal Effects of Electromagnetic Fields in the Cell Phone Frequency Range is a follow-up study of the ATHEM-1 Project (2002-2008).
Cell phones transmit and receive radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF). Anybody who uses cell phones is exposed to these fields. The ATHEM-2 Project studied not only cognitive effects, but also if and how RF EMF exposures change cells of the human body. One main area of the study focused on laboratory tests of cellular mechanisms of possible genotoxic effects. To ensure quality assurance, the planned tests were reviewed by external experts prior to the start of the project. All tests were carried out as “double blind” experiments. During exposure and during the processing of test samples, neither the volunteer subjects nor the scientists carrying out the experiments knew the actual exposure conditions.
During the human experiments, the buccal mucosa of the volunteer subjects was exposed for two-hour periods on five consecutive days. The nonexposed opposite buccal mucosa served as a control. During the exposure, effects on cognitive performance were examined. The exposure shortened the reaction time, while the error rate increased. For more complex processes such as memory tests, both reaction time and error rate increased during exposure. Two and three weeks, respectively, after the HF EMF exposure, buccal mucosa cells were sampled and analyzed. Minor genotoxic and cytotoxic effects were found, pointing to an accumulation of exposure effects.
The in vitro laboratory tests regarding genotoxicity confirmed that there are cells that are more sensitive to RF electromagnetic fields and others that are less sensitive. The existence of a latency period (time from the start of exposure until the onset of effects) was also confirmed. As a cellular mechanism, it was observed that RF EMF exposure oxidizes the DNA and thus can make DNA more fragile. In cells exposed to additional stress, the RF EMF exposure increased the DNA breakage rate. We observed cells that activate specific cellular repair mechanisms during RF EMF exposure. This finding on the one hand confirms that DNA damage has occurred and on the other hand supports the assumption that the damage can be repaired. DNA changes that were triggered in this manner disappear after ca. two hours.
None of the effects that were observed allow any conclusions to be made about direct harmful health effects. However, they constitute a potential risk for exposed persons. Simple precautionary measures taken by the user can reduce the exposure and can therefore minimize this risk. Specific precautionary measures include, among other things, not carrying a cell phone on the body but in a purse or handbag and—during a call—using the speakerphone or a headset.
ATHEM-2 research report 2016 (original report in German): https://www.sozialversicherung.at/portal27/auvaportal/content/contentWindow?viewmode=content&action=2&contentid=10007.769605
ATHEM-1 research report 2009–2011 (original report in German):
diagnose:funk summaries of the ATHEM project (in German):