Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Mobile phones, EMR, brains, suicide, sleep, sterility

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-05-21

I’m no fan of the view that "low-level" electromagnetic radiation, such as that from mobile phones, is harmless because the heat from absorbed energy in the brain is so low.

In my view, it’s not the heat that can be the problem, but the activity of enzymes that may have slightly altered conformations, with different frequencies having different effects.

Electromagnetic pollution is something the latte-sippers seem to prefer to ignore, because of the convenience of wireless LANs and mobile phones.  It’s not much different to car drivers worried about climate change, but wanting lower petrol prices.

There is increasing information that should force us to debate electromagnetic pollution – and not just relating to incidence of cancer – but such dramatic and short term effects on behaviour such as suicide.

Suicide peaks a fortnight after severe magnetic storms and even with seasonal changes to the earth’s magnetic field.  A Victorian analysis (doi:10.1002/bem.20190) of 34 years of Australian data (1968-2002) finishes its abstract with the following:

The study furthermore raises issues regarding other sources of stray electromagnetic fields and their effect on mental health.

It’s not just brain activity, but Nature reported 2008-05-01 in doi:10.1038/news.2008.790 that "incubators used to nurture premature babies give off electromagnetic fields that change the babies’ heart rhythms" and asks "Could the electromagnetic fields of incubator motors affect babies’ health?"

Another recent Bioelectromagnetics paper (doi:10.1002/bem.20390) noticed effects on sperm motility that could not be ascribed to thermal effects because the incubators used coolers to control temperature.

It’s not just brain, babies and balls that may be affected: another mechanism is suggested by a study doi:10.1002/bem.20389 showing how the opiate receptors in the noses of mice are affected by EMR and that "therapeutic" doses of certain frequencies altered the response to pain.

My long held suspicions about protein conformation being the mechanism for harmful effects of EMR are strengthened by doi:10.1002/bem.20382 which shows that "microwaves cause a significantly higher degree of unfolding than conventional thermal stress for protein solutions heated to the same maximum temperature", and that these microwaves have the frequency of modern CPUs in laptops (about 2.5GHz).

I’m not saying that all EMR is bad, will give your baby heart attacks, sterilize you, cause you to commit suicide, etc, but I am saying that we need to investigate the current addiction to EMR everywhere on a system-by-system and frequency-by-frequency basis.

Indeed, some frequencies, to specific parts of specific organs may be beneficial for some people, as evidenced by the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation as a treatment for depression.

As clinical products using low-dose EMR hit the market, it becomes harder to deny the possibility of harmful effects of stray electromagnetic radiation that is increasing dramatically in the modern unwired world.

There’ll be a conflict between the profit motives of therapeutic equipment manufacturers and telecommunications/IT companies.  Expect lots of conflicting papers that aim to confuse the public debate.

Personally, I see the potential for irreversible harm (particularly for developing brains) to be worth significant investment in research, and advocate the precautionary principle when it comes to shielding electronic devices.  Unfortunately, WiFi and mobile phones only work when unshielded.

So, will the latte-sippers suppress their normal outrage because of the convenience of modern technology?  Probably, and they won’t admit their hypocrisy.

Notes/See Also


5 Responses to “Mobile phones, EMR, brains, suicide, sleep, sterility”

  1. Dave Bath said

    I just had a vision of the product for paranoid parents with mobile phone and WiFi addiction: a metallic mesh for playpens and cots, doubling as mosquito net and Faraday cage, because foil hats are so unfashionable for babies.

  2. Ann E said

    Interesting and very worrying!

  3. Ann E said

    I had an inkling about some of the adverse documented effects of EMR, but your scholarly lit list will be a change from the conspiracy literature that covers this topic

  4. zombinol said

    Back in the 70’s, as a child I was exposed to and read the research papers of my uncle (for those that know me this may answer some of your questions!), who was a materials research scientist on the germanium diode invention back in the 50’s at the Phillips materials research Laboratory in Adelaide, South Australia (Australia’s main defence industry state). I learnt lots about energy and transmission and at the micro device and particle level.

    Ever since reading all that physics and chemistry stuff, I have had a subtle sense of our unseen environment – the transmission environment and I have often thought about and explored its qualities of reception and interception. I theorised about and later I found confirmation in Van Eck (TEMPEST) what constituted a very different perimeter to what all the so called non-Nut Jobs are dealing with in the security space.

    I see the perimeter as an abstract but defined boundary where all the same rules apply – ie. Air Con filters are there to filter out agents that are not wanted inside or to pass the perimeter ie. viruses, pollutants or suspended particulants, Malicious code filters are there to filter out software or informational agents not wanted inside or to pass the perimeter, a Faraday cage is there to filter out agents that are not wanted inside or to pass the perimeter, a level 3 bio-hazard containment perimeter is there to filter out what ever they are working on inside their perimeter from escaping etc.. ad infinitum.

    So I more than strongly suspect that the more EMF/EMR that exists in the environment the more it can interfere with the Wetware arena, if cells can be interfered with by heat from being burnt from an energy transmission with the resistance effect by the biology or as you put it Dave the protein and enzyme level, then I see ‘bit rot’ occurring at a DNA or Wetware informational level by the EMF/EMR up to gamma radiation – surly the organ cancers back in the late 80’s – early 90’s, caused by HF radios in UK police officers, in Australian and other places with Radar Guns lazily placed at the groin waiting for a speeding car and the may others dangers from the various high frequency/energy devices are a hint, perhaps where there is smoke there is fire. Is a mobile a fryer?

    Sorry now for a little rant…

    Remember that lead is good to line your aqueducts with and only the best people should drink and eat from lead cups and plates, but then the Roman empire did fail, they said that we need to put lead in petrol and that’s why we now have unleaded petrol, cigarettes didn’t cause cancer, but somehow now they do, lying in the sun and getting crisped was an Australian national sport, but now it causes cancer and of course WiFi & Mobile phones don’t cause cancer…. do they, if their not lying how do they know they aren’t?

    Forget the aluminium foil or mesh, I want Versace ‘copper mesh’ impregnated -suit, Shirt, socks, shoes, moisturiser, hair gel and contact lenses, Just so I can use my new 4G phone/fryer! Not to look too fashionable, just so I don’t evolve too quickly!

    Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence.

  5. Dave Bath said

    As I see it, direct DNA damage and heat-based protein “cooking” is unlikely to be a problem at the power levels of stray background radiation.

    My hypothesis, that EMF can alter protein conformation (not permanently) and thus activity, would lead to altered biochemistry. It is likely that different proteins would be susceptible to different wavelengths, and the different proteins would have different importance in the whole organism.

    This presents a MASSIVE research task: but at least the demonstration of short-term functional effects makes the task simpler than waiting years for cancers to develop.

    The problem is funding reasonable research that can keep pace with the increasing use of “stray” EMF, and the fact that subtle brain chemistry cannot be tested in lower organisms the way we can test carcinogens in bacteria (the Ames test) or drosophila.

    Another model of dose/functional change that might be better to think about rather than straight toxicological analogies is the effect of watching too much TV when very young. The short-term effects are very subtle, yet we are seeing long-term functional impact… and there are certainly commercial pressures to downplay any research results.

    I’m specifically NOT saying that all EMF is bad. I’m just saying that there is a lot of evidence out there that makes it important to have more subtle research and vigorous public debate.

    The best evidence of the likelyhood that some EMF is harmful and needs control is that EMF is now accepted as having practical clinical application – at certain frequencies, and for specific body sites. If a drug is clinically useful for some conditions, it is almost certainly harmful in others. The same logic applies to any therapeutic agent, whether drug, acupuncture needle, or EMF.

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