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12 November 2016

The National Toxicology Program’s Cell Phone Study and Autism

The National Toxicology Program’s Cell Phone Study and Autism
Clear Light Ventures, 7 October 2016

In May 2016, the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division of the National Institute of Health, pre-released partial findings from a $25 million study on long-term exposure to cell phone radiation on rats. The study did, in fact, find cancer in rats exposed to cell phone radiation.[1] Cancer was found in approximately 5% of the exposed male rats, but no cancer was found in the female rats. Could greater male susceptibility to wireless radiation help to explain the 4:1 ratio of male to female autism cases?

The plausibility of wireless radiation and EMF (electromagnetic fields) as a contributing environmental factor in autism has been explored in several published papers[2,3] and talks[4]. Are there findings from this study that would lend weight and evidence to the hypothesis that wireless radiation is an environmental factor which could contribute to the rising autism epidemic?

It should also be noted that this study used older 2G cellular technology. Higher power and newer technologies like 3G, 4G (LTE) and 5G are likely to be more harmful. The current 5G rollout should be halted until it is tested for health and safety. The American Academy of Pediatricians is recommending that consumers take immediate action to reduce their exposures.[5]

There are several finding in this study[6], which may relate to autism and warrant deeper study and rigorous examination:

DNA Damage

A percentage of autism cases (up to 50%) have de novo mutations (non-inherited DNA mutations).[7] The comet assay for DNA damage in this NTP study found DNA damage. This study adds more weight to the already 21 of 29 studies that show cellular radiation can damage sperm, including DNA damage.[8]

It is important for expectant fathers to know that keeping a smartphone (which is transmitting and updating information frequently even while not in use) in the front pocket will increase the risk of DNA damage to sperm, including de novo mutations that increase the risk of developing autism.

Responders and Non-Responders

The study found there were “responders” and “non-responders” to cell phone radiation. Some of the rats were more impacted by the radiation. This variation in environmental response is also found in autism.[9] It is also important to note that a review of 667 genes currently associated with autism[10], found a cluster of those genes that are also known to increase the risk of developing cancer. Genetics are not the only explanation for the different responses; there are differences in physiology which could explain the differences. For instance, levels of melatonin, known to be disrupted in autism[11], are also known to have anticancer effects[12].

Frontal Cortex

The frontal cortex of the brains of exposed rats showed statistically significant abnormalities compared to the unexposed rats. Lower levels of frontal cortex function have been associated with autism[13].

Schwann Cells

The report found Schwann cell hyperplasia (enlargement) and tumors. One of the functions of Schwann cells is to grow and repair myelin around neurons[14]. The fatty myelin sheath (also called white matter) around neurons provides insulation and also helps to increase conduction speed of neurons and nerves. This allows for the brain and nervous system’s electrical signals to travel faster and farther, with less noise and interference.

Autism researchers have found a higher volume of white matter in local areas of the brain and lower global connections.[15] This may help to explain the savant abilities and splinter skills found in autism. This may also account for the experiences of autistics who say they can think clearly, but find it challenging to speak or move in a coordinated manner.

Glial Cells

The glial cells in brains of the exposed rats were impacted more than the unexposed rats. Glial cells act like sponges to absorb toxins. Recent research indicates that glial cells shrink at night to allow cerebrospinal fluid to wash away toxins and clean the brain while we sleep. Inflammation or enlargement of the glial cells may decrease the effectiveness of the glial lymph system and its ability to keep up toxins and waste products.[16]

In other studies, cell phone radiation has been shown to compromise the blood-brain barrier.[17] A compromised blood brain barrier would allow more toxins and waste products into the brain which could contribute to glial cell overload, having more toxins than the cells and system can clean up.

A growing number of chemical toxins have already been associated with autism.[18] Additionally, higher levels of toxins have been linked with more severe autism symptoms.[19]


Scientists in the field believe this newly released study, along with the weight of other studies, is now sufficient evidence to declare cell phone radiation a class 1 (known carcinogen)[20], the same classification as tobacco. I believe this study also adds weight to the hypothesis that wireless radiation plays a role in the autism epidemic, at the genetic level (contributing to de novo mutations) and as an environmental factor that interferes with brain development and function.

[1] National Toxicology Program Report on Cancer Risk from Cellphone Radiation

[2] Herbert, Martha R., and Cindy Sage. "Autism and EMF? Plausibility of a pathophysiological link–Part I." Pathophysiology 20.3 (2013): 191-209.

[3] Herbert, Martha R., and Cindy Sage. "Autism and EMF? Plausibility of a pathophysiological link Part II." Pathophysiology 20.3 (2013): 211-234.

[4] The autism/ASD epidemic is caused by low intensity EMFs (acting via VGCC activation) and chemical exposures (acting via excessive NMDA activity) which both act via excessive [Ca2+]i to disrupt synapse formation and function in the brain.

[5] AAP responds to study showing link between cell phone radiation, tumors in rats

[6] Report of Partial Findings from the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley® SD rats (Whole Body Exposures)

[7] DNA Analysis Confirms 50% Of Autism Cases Are Caused By Devastating Ultra-Rare “De Novo” Mutations

[8] Cell Phone Radiation Causes Cancer in US National Toxicology Program Study Watch NIEHS Report 2016 (Video & Slides)

[9] Hallmayer, Joachim, et al. "Genetic heritability and shared environmental factors among twin pairs with autism." Archives of general psychiatry 68.11 (2011): 1095-1102.

[10] Wen, Ya, Mohamad J. Alshikho, and Martha R. Herbert. “Pathway Network Analyses for Autism Reveal Multisystem Involvement, Major Overlaps with Other Diseases and Convergence upon MAPK and Calcium Signaling.” Plus one 11.4 (2016): e0153329.

[11] Melke, Jonas, et al. "Abnormal melatonin synthesis in autism spectrum disorders." Molecular psychiatry 13.1 (2008): 90-98.

[12] Blask, David E. "Melatonin, sleep disturbance and cancer risk." Sleep medicine reviews 13.4 (2009): 257-264.

[13] Ozonoff, Sally, et al. "Performance on Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery subtests sensitive to frontal lobe function in people with autistic disorder: evidence from the Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism network." Journal of autism and developmental disorders 34.2 (2004): 139-150.

[14] Schwann cells 'dine in' to clear myelin from injured nerves

[15] Why the frontal cortex in autism might be talking only to itself: local over-connectivity but long-distance disconnection

[16] How Sleep Clears the Brain

[17] Sırav B, Seyhan N. Effects of GSM modulated radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation on permeability of blood-brain barrier in male & female rats. J Chem Neuroanat. 2016 Sep;75(Pt B):123-7 23.

[18] Landrigan, Philip J. "What causes autism? Exploring the environmental contribution." Current opinion in pediatrics 22.2 (2010): 219-225.

[19] Faber, Scott, et al. "A cleanroom sleeping environment’s impact on markers of oxidative stress, immune dysregulation, and behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders." BMC complementary and alternative medicine 15.1 (2015): 1.

[20] International EMF Scientist Appeal


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