Study Talks: Rat Brain Damage from Mobile Phone Use. (Science Selections)

Article excerpt

The idea that frequent exposure to the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by mobile phones could cause adverse health effects has taken on the status of urban myth in many people's minds due to the lack of definitive scientific evidence. But startling new findings by a team of researchers from Lund University in Sweden make the issue once again a cause for genuine concern--and suggest 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 [EHP 111:881-883].

Previous research in the field has concentrated on the potential association between exposure to radio-frequency (RF) EMFs and cancer. Studies with that end point have shown either no effects or even a decreased risk. The Swedish team, led by Leif G. Salford, has taken a different approach, focusing on the possibility that such exposures could cause damage to the brain itself. Prior experiments by the group with a rat model had shown that RF EMF exposure significantly breached the animals' blood--brain barrier. This allowed the plasma protein albumin to pass out of the bloodstream and into the brain, accumulating in the neurons and glial cells surrounding the capillaries. In their new study, the investigators address the question of whether this leakage of albumin could damage brain tissue.

The investigators exposed 32 rats to controlled doses of RF EMF generated by a Global System for Mobile Communications mobile phone (a type commonly used in Europe). The rats were divided into 4 groups and exposed for 2 hours each to power outputs of 0 (control), 10, 100, or 1,000 milliwatts, exposure levels that are roughly comparable to what a human mobile phone user might receive over the same time period. …