- Salford, LG, AE Brun, JL Eberhardt, L Malmgren and BRR
Persson. 2003. Nerve cell damage in mammalian brain after exposure to microwaves
from GSM mobile phones. Environmental Health Perspectives 111:881-883.
- Salford et al. document serious neuronal damage in rat
brains following exposure to microwave radiation from a cell phone, at
levels comparable to what people would experience during normal use. Damage
to nerve cells was observed in several places within the brain, including
the cortex, hippocampus and basal ganglia. It was associated with evidence
of leakage of proteins through the blood-brain barrier. The authors express
concern that "after some decades of (often) daily use, a whole generation
of [cell phone] users may suffer negative effects, perhaps as early as
- In a companion news story in the issue of Environmental
Health Perspectives in which the research is published, the journal comments:
"It might be time to get serious about using your headset when talking
on your mobile phone and encouraging your family members to do the same."
- What did they do? Salford et al. exposed rats to microwave
radiation from a GSM cell phone, varying the intensity of radiation across
a range that would be experienced by mobile phone users. The rats were
contained within plastic trays inside a specially constructed wooden box
that allowed free movement, other than to prevent direct contact with the
source of radiation. One set of animals was placed in the box without turning
on the transmitter; they served as a control group. The others were exposed
to peak power densities of 0.24, 2.4 and 24 Watts/square meter (which translates
to 2 milliWatts per kg, 20 mW/kg and 200 mW/kg, respectively). Each group
contained 8 animals.
- After a 50-day waiting period, during which the rats
were monitored for behavioral abnormalities, Salford et al. killed the
animals, carefully removed their brains, and studied them by applying stains
and albumin antibodies that allowed detection of abnormalities.
- What did they find? As expected, both control and experimental
animals had albumin within the hypothalamus. This is normal.
- Exposed animals, however, were much more likely to have
albumin leaking from blood vessels in inappropriate locations.
- A closer look at the cells within the brain revealed
that exposed animals had "scattered and grouped dark neurons... often
shrunken.. with loss of internal cell structures." These altered neurons
were seen in all locations, but "especially the cortex, hippocampus
and basal ganglia."
- What does it mean? Most of the public debate about possible
health effects of microwave radiation from cell phones has focused on cancer.
While debate about this continues, most studies, including by Salford's
research team, have had negative results.
- This work focuses on a different mechanism which had
been identified by earlier authors (e.g., Oscar and Hawkins 1977) but not
pursued vigorously: increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier.
These results cleary establish an adverse impact at levels within the range
experienced by people using cell phones.
- According to these scientists, "intense use of mobile
phones by youngsters is a serious consideration. A neuronal damage of the
kind described here may not have immediate, demonstrable consequences,
even if repeated. In the long run, however, it may result in reduced brain
reserve capacity that might be unveiled by other later neuronal disease
or even the wear and tear of aging.
- We cannot exclude that after some decades of (often)
daily use, a whole generation of users may suffer negative effects, perhaps
as early as in middle age."
- That is a cautious way of saying that Salford and his
team of scientists are very concerned about the possible human impacts
of cell phone use. Indeed, as noted above, the journal in which these results
were published, Environmental Health Perspectives (the journal of the National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences), went so far as to recommend
- From William
- I don't know if a GSM phone is much different from a
normal cell phone, but those readings of .24, 2.4, and 24 Watts/square
meter are unrealistically high.
- For example, a Nokia, HA -9 Cell Phone has a RF Power
Density of : 3.0 mw/sq cm next to the antenna
- 1.2 mw/sq cm @ 5 cm from the antenna
and 0.6 mw/sq cm @ 6 cm from the antenna.
- Those readings are milliwatts, NOT watts.
- There ain't no way your going to get 24 watts/ sq meter
from a normal cell phone.