A Perspective On Ionizing Radiation Exposure After the Japanese Wake-Up Call – Part III – What About Non-Ionizing Radiation?

As I finished writing part II of this series, it was my intent to review in detail the risk of I-131 exposure from nuclear power plant accidents and optimal use of potassium iodide supplementation to mitigate its effects while keeping risks of side effects from potassium iodide supplementation at a minimum.  However, as I continued to follow reports on radiation concerns, it became very obvious to me that I had completely neglected to mention another radiation issue that has been of great concern to many people in the US both before and after the tsunami-related disaster Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on March 11 of this year.  This concern relates to non-ionizing radiation, which has become ever more ubiquitous in our environment for several years now.  If you are wondering why you have not heard more about this issue, I can assure you that you have heard much about this issue in the past and will hear much more about this issue in the future under the guise of another moniker, cell phone-induced radiation.

Of course, it seems like we read almost daily studies on the relationship between cell phone use and brain cancer, which constantly volley between yes it does cause brain cancer and no it doesn’t.  Do I have a definitive, ultimate, yes or no answer to this controversy that I will present in this installment?  I can assure you that the answer is no.  However, what I will present are some interesting papers that go into detail, from a metabolic standpoint, on exactly how cell phone radiation and other forms of non-ionizing radiation impact the body.  Furthermore, I will present some research that suggests that, as with ionizing radiation, there may be some steps that we can take to minimize the risk of any negative impact even though we are not quite sure, at least for now if, definitively, there is a negative impact in terms of hardwired disease causation.

NON-IONIZING RADIATION BASICS

To obtain some basic information on the nature of non-ionizing radiation I went to the website, www.cancer.org.  On this site the following was stated about non-ionizing radiation:

“Non-ionizing radiation is low-frequency radiation that does not have enough energy to remove electrons or directly damage DNA.  Low-energy UV rays, visible light, infrared rays, microwaves, and radio waves are all forms of non-ionizing radiation.”

Furthermore:

“It is important to understand the difference between these types of radiation.  For example, the non-ionizing radiation given off by a cell phone or a television screen is not the same as the ionizing radiation you might get from x-rays taken in the hospital.”

The website then provides specific examples of non-ionizing radiation:

“Common types of non-ionizing radiation include some ultraviolet (UV) rays, visible light, infrared rays, microwaves, and radiofrequency rays (radio waves), and electromagnetic fields.  Electrical devices, heaters, and cell phones all emit non-ionizing radiation.”

Can non-ionizing radiation cause tissue damage?  The classic thinking was that since, non-ionizing radiation does not damage DNA, concerns about adverse reactions to non-ionizing radiation can be completely dismissed.  www.cancer.org states:

“Non-ionizing radiation is low-frequency radiation that does not have enough energy to directly damage DNA.”

Nevertheless, the website points out:

“Concerns have been raised about a possible link between some types of non-ionizing radiation and cancer.  The way in which it might do this isn’t clear.  Non-ionizing radiation doesn’t damage DNA directly, but it may be able to affect cells in other ways.”

NON-IONIZING RADIATION AND CANCER: WHAT DOES THE LARGE AMOUNT OF RESEARCH ON THE SUBJECT TELL US RIGHT NOW ABOUT CANCER RISK?

At the end of May of this year the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, issued a fairly well publicized overview statement based on their review of all published studies on the health impact of non-ionizing radiation.  In press release #208 entitled “IARC classifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans” which can be found on the IARC website, the following was stated:

“The evidence was reviewed critically, and overall evaluated as being limited among users of wireless telephones for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and inadequate to draw conclusions for other types of cancers.”

In the conclusion of the press release, the following is stated:

“Dr Jonathan Samet (University of Southern California, USA), overall Chairman of the Working Group, indicated that ‘the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification.  The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.'”

To put this report into perspective, Tara Parker-Hope wrote a fascinating commentary entitled “Piercing the fog around cellphones and cancer” that was published in the June 6, 2011 edition of The New York Times.  In this commentary, Parker-Hope first provides more detail on the nature of the IARC:

“The panel, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, acts as an advisor to the World Health Organization, focusing on environmental and lifestyle factors that may contribute to cancer.

Since 1971 the agency’s ‘monographs’ program has evaluated more than 900 such factors, assigning each of them to one of five classification groups.  It has found that 107 are carcinogenic to humans, including asbestos, estrogen and tobacco, and 59 are ‘probably carcinogenic,’ including human papillomavirus and night-shift work.

In addition, 266 agents – including certain industrial chemicals, coffee and now cellphones – are ‘possibly’ carcinogenic.  The panel has been unable to reach a conclusion on 508 agents, calling them ‘not classifiable’; these include chlorinated drinking water, fluorescent lighting and tea.

Only one of more than 900 factors studied – a nylon manufacturing chemical found in drinking-water supplies – has been declared ‘probably not carcinogenic.”

Next, Parker-Hope comments on the human studies that formed some of the basis for the conclusions made by the IARC:

“The human studies all are observational, showing only an association between cellphone use and cancer, not a causal relationship.  Some of the research suggests links to three types of tumors: cancer of the parotid, a salivary gland near the ear; acoustic neuroma, a tumor that essentially occurs where the ear meets the brain; and glioma, the aggressive brain tumor whose victims have included Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

All of these tumors are rare, so even if cellphone use does increase risk, the risk to any individual is still very low.”

As you can see, we are far from a definitive answer as to any relationship between cell phones, other sources of non-ionizing radiation and cancer.  However, even if non-ionizing radiation cannot be proven to cause cancer, can we conclude that it has absolutely no adverse impact on tissue biochemistry and physiology?  As you will see, the research I am about to present suggests that the answer to this question is, very definitely, “No!”.

RESEARCH ON THE IMPACT OF NON-IONIZING RADIATION ON BIOCHEMISTRY AND PHYSIOLOGY

As you will see, several papers have been published on the impact of non-ionizing radiation on cellular physiology and biochemistry.  However, the one that has probably received the most attention is the study that appeared this year in JAMA entitled “Effects of cell phone radiofrequency signal exposure on brain glucose metabolism” by Volkow et al (1).  In the introduction, the authors site previous research that has considered the impact of cell phones on brain function independent of any considerations of cancer occurrence:

“Radiofrequency-modulated electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) emitted by cell phones are absorbed by the brain within a range that could influence neuronal activity.  Although the intensity of RF-EMFs is very low, the oscillatory frequencies correspond to some of the oscillation frequencies recorded in neuronal tissue and could interfere with neuronal activity.  Thermal effects from RF-EMFs have also invoked a mechanism that could affect neuronal activity, although temperature changes produced by current cell phone technology are likely minimal.”

It should be noted that the information reported in the above quote was derived primarily from animal studies.  What have human studies demonstrated?  Volkow et al (1) point out:

“Studies performed in humans to investigate the effects of RF-EMF exposures from cell phones have yielded variable results.  For example, imaging studies that used positron emission tomography (PET) to measure changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF) with RF-EMF exposures from cell phones have reported increases, decreases and increases, or no changes in CBF.”

Why the differences in findings?  The authors note:

“The discrepancies among these imaging studies likely reflect their relatively small sample sizes (9-14 participants), and the potential confounding of CBF measures reflecting vascular rather than neuronal signals.”

Because of the confusion in previous studies concerning CBF, Volkow et al (1) decided to measure another analyte that might be good representative of neuronal activity, brain glucose metabolic activity:

“…we evaluated the effects in healthy participants (N=47) of acute cell phone exposures on brain glucose metabolism, measured using PET with injection of (18F)fluorodeoxyglucose (18FDG).  Brain glucose metabolic activity is a more proximal marker of neuronal activity than measures of CBF, which reflects vascular as well as neuronal components.”

The specific study protocol was as follows:

“Cell phones were placed on the left and right ears and positron emission tomography with (18F)fluorodeoxyglucose injection was used to measure brain glucose metabolism twice, once with the right cell phone activated (sound muted) for 50 minutes (‘on’ condition) and once with both cell phones deactivated (‘off’ condition).”

What were the results of the study?  Volkow et al (1) point out:

“Whole-brain metabolism did not differ between on and off conditions.  In contrast, metabolism in the region closest to the antenna (orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole) was significantly higher for on than off conditions…”

These findings led the authors to conclude:

“In summary, this study provides evidence that in humans RF-EMF exposure from cell phone use affects brain function, as shown by the regional increases in metabolic activity.  It also documents that the observed effects were greatest in brain regions that had the highest amplitude of RF-EMF emissions (for the specific cell phones used in this study and their position relative to the head when in use), which suggests that the metabolic increases are secondary to the absorption of RF-EMF energy emitted by the cell phone.”

Of course, while this finding appears to be quite compelling, the big question that we want answered is whether it has any real clinical significance.  Unfortunately, concerning this important question the authors state:

“This finding is of unknown clinical significance.”

Accompanying this paper was an editorial by Lai and Hardell (2) that went into more detail as to whether the issue of temperature may have been responsible for the finding noted by Volkow et al (1):

“Temperature of the skin on the head in contact with the cell phone can increase by more than 2oC after less than 10 minutes of cell phone use.  That increase in temperature is mainly attributable to the heat generated by the operating phone and only to a lesser extent by the radiofrequency energy emitted.  Diffusion of this heat energy into the brain is not expected to be high.  In the study by Volkow et al, brain areas that showed an increase in glucose metabolism were quite distant from the contact area.  Thus, it is not likely that the effects observed were caused by heating.”

The next paper I would like to review, “Biological responses of mobile phone frequency exposure” by Behari (3) goes into great detail on specific radiofrequencies generated by cell phones and the impact on living tissue.  First, consider this quote that discusses operational specifications of cell phones:

“Cellular phones (CPs) operate at 800-900 MHz.  These may be classified as analog (advanced mobile phone system, AMPS).  On the other hand, digital cellular phones operate under various standards such as GSM (global system for mobile communication) and digital AMPS (DAMPS).  All the systems developed for cellular phones transmit encoded, digitized information using some form of phase or frequency modulation.  Two low frequency waves of GSM, at 8.3 and at 217 Hz, act on the composite pulsed GSM signal, in which these frequencies are present.  This signal carries no power when the user is not talking or receiving but when the user communicates the power of this electromagnetic field reaches a maximum of 250 milliwatts3.”

The next quote I would like to present provides specific details on digital cell phone technology, which is the technology used by virtually all cell phones currently in use:

“Radio waves transmitted by the mobile phones of the GSM type present a characteristic pattern that results from the particular time structure of such a signal (time division multiple access, TDMA).  It is an electromagnetic field (ELF) modulated by pulsed microwave carrier.  This is not the case for analog radio or television.  One may say that digital cellular phones using the DSM system transmit information in bursts of microwaves.  The presence of ELF components in the signal and the bursting activity of these waves have raised a new controversial question: can this signal structure exert a negative influence on human head tissues and more specifically on the brain by inducing nonthermal effects?  This stems from the fact that modulated or pulsed radio frequency radiations are more effective in producing biological effects.  They may produce a different effect when compared with continuous wave radiation of the same or different frequency.”

The next quote addresses the ability of microwaves operating at the frequencies found with digital cell phones to penetrate the brain:

“Microwaves in the frequency range (800-1000 MHz) can penetrate the cranium and nearly 40% of these can reach the deep brain.”

Of course, as mentioned above, despite this penetration, cellular phone radiation is non-ionizing and therefore has no ability to damage DNA.  Nevertheless, as Behari (3) points out, tissue changes do occur:

“Partial or whole body exposure of human and animals to radiofrequency radiation as due to mobile phone use may lead to a variety of changes in tissues.  Communication between brain cells is mediated by a spectrum of chemical substances that both excite and inhibit transaction and transmission of information between them.  These substances act by binding to their specific receptors on cell surfaces.  Changes in the different tissues may occur depending on the exposure conditions, species, and histological parameters.  Penafiel et al. have shown that the radiation from TDMA digital cellular phones can cause significant changes in ornithine decarboxylase activity (ODC), which is essential for DNA synthesis.  Kolomytkin et al. studied specific receptor binding of three neurotransmitters: gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter and acetyl choline and glutamate, both excitatory to rat brain synaptosomes.  Microwave exposures used 880 or 915 MHz fields at power densities from 10 to 1500µW/cm2.  With incident field intensities of 1.5mW/cm2, binding to GABA receptors decreased 30% at 16 pps, but differences were not significant at 3, 5, 7, or 30 pps.  Conversely, 16 pps modulation induced a significant increase in glutamate receptor binding.  For acetyl choline receptors, binding decreased 25% at 16 pps, with similar trends at higher and lower frequencies.

While I realize that much of the information in the above quote is difficult to understand for those who are not completely familiar with cell phone technology, which includes me, hopefully it is readily apparent that the microwave radiation from cell phones does have a significant impact on enzymatic and neurotransmitter activity in the brain.

The next set of quotes I would like to highlight from the Behari (3) paper come from the section where the author goes into greater detail on biological implications.  As an introduction to this section, Behari (3) states the following:

“The biological implications with the use of cell phones involve dose dependent difficulty in concentration, fatigue and headache and increase in reaction time.  The emitted microwaves from communication devises are shown to alter cognitive functions, decrease in cholinergic activity, gene expression alteration in cerebellum, cortex and hippocampus.  It can be logically concluded that cells with higher metabolic rate will be more susceptible to EMF.  This is because more hydrogen peroxide is generated by mitochondria to excite the reaction.  The proximity of EMF to interact with iron provides a clue for more vulnerability of cells that have a higher content of intracellular free ions.”

Next, the author discusses the impact of cell phone radiation on the blood brain barrier:

“Blood brain barrier (BBB) has been a favorable subject of investigation due to electromagnetic field exposure, for even a slight variation in its permeability can lead to tissue damage.  Non thermal effects are identified by the leakage of albumin through the BBB.  Two hours of exposure to the radiation from a global system for mobile communications (GSM) phone at 915 MHz, at non thermal SAR values of 12 mW/kg and 120 mW/kg, gives rise to focal albumin extravasation and albumin uptake into neurons after 14 days exposure.  Significant neuronal damage is present in 28 days and 50 days after exposure, and not after 14 days.  Some other investigators have supported these findings.”

Shivers et al. observed that the EMF exposure of the type emitted during a MRI procedure resulted in a temporarily increased BBB permeability in the brain of rats.”

Thus, as I hope you can see, while we cannot say definitively that microwave radiation from cell phones is or is not causing cancer or any other specific disease state, we can conclude with reasonable assurance that it is having some type of impact that is resulting in less than optimal function.  However, with the above being stated, can it also be noted that there are certain major aspects of brain function that are not affected?  Consider this quote by Behari (3) on the impact of cell phone radiation on some key hormonal and immunologic factors:

“Radon et al. showed that pulsed RF electromagnetic fields (900 MHz carrier frequency pulsed with 217 Hz) similar to those emitted from mobile radio telephones had no short term or medium term effects on salivary melatonin, cortisol, neopterin, and sIgA concentrations.  These authors also confirmed the observation that nocturnal melatonin levels are not affected by exposure to RF electromagnetic fields.  The findings are in confirmation with the data showing that daytime melatonin levels are unaffected by exposure to RF electromagnetic fields of 900 and 1800 MHz.  Also no effect was noted on melatonin synthesis and excretion in humans exposed to 50 Hz magnetic fields…Vollrath et al. have also reported that day as well as night melatonin levels were unaffected.”

The final two quotes I would like to present from the paper by Behari (3) relate to the difference in microwave radiation from hand sets versus base stations:

“Exposure to human populations is from two sources: hand set and base station.  There are important differences between the two.  The typically very low exposure to microwaves from base stations, rarely exceeding 1mW/cm2, is unlikely to produce any adverse effect.”

However:

“The most important difference between mobile phone use and exposure from base station signals is one of duration of exposure.  While mobile phones are used intermittently with normal exposure during around 1-2 h per day, exposure to base stations is continuous (up to 24 h a day).  It may be mentioned that the exposure of mobile phone users is in the near field and localized at the head (or waist) region, while base station exposure to the whole body is essentially in the far field.  Strictly speaking, exposure from mobile phones and their base stations have almost nothing in common except for the almost equal carrier frequency that is likely of lesser importance for determining biological effects.  However, exposure from both is non thermal in nature.”

Does Behari (3) present a concise summation or commentary that provides some definitive answers as to the clinical, disease-causing impact of all that has been described above?  Unfortunately, no.  However, I feel the paper does have great value in that it provides a fairly clear description of the metabolic and biochemical impact of cell phone use, which appears to be somewhat less than optimal.  

IN A WORLD WHERE WE HAVE DECIDED THAT CELL PHONES ARE ESSENTIAL TO MODERN LIFE, WHAT CAN BE DONE TO REDUCE ADVERSE EFFECTS?

As we all know, much has been stated and published suggesting that, from a health standpoint, we would be better off without cell phones.  In addition, endless commentaries have been issued on proper “cell phone hygiene” that essentially state that the further we can keep cell phones away from our bodies, even when in use, the healthier we will be.  Then, of course, there are the publications that insist that cell phone technology could easily be changed so that its adverse impact on health could be reduced dramatically.  While all of these directives certainly represent great intelligence and good intentions, what is the likelihood that, at least in the near future (The next 5-10 years), we will, to a meaningful extent on a societal basis, stop using cell phones entirely, keep cell phones a significant distance from our bodies, even when in use, or convince cell phone companies to drastically alter their technology purely with health concerns in mind?  It is my guess that we are in agreement that the odds, at least right now, are fairly low.

Given that, for better or worse, we are going to continue to use cell phones in a way that continues to lead to significant exposure to the non-ionizing radiation they emit, it is indeed fortunate that options exist other than those mentioned above which will help minimize risk to health.  In the paper “Melatonin reduces oxidative stress induced by chronic exposure of microwave radiation from mobile phones in rat brain” by Sokolovic et al (4), the authors point out that, physiologically, much of the damage caused by the non-ionizing radiation from cell phones, as with the ionizing radiation from nuclear power plant accidents and various medical diagnostic devices, is mediated by oxidative stress.  In turn, it is realistic to suggest that ingestion of antioxidant compounds could significantly reduce risk of negative health sequelae related to cell phone use.  To introduce their research on this hypothesis, Sokolovic et al (4) state:

“Formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and increased oxidative stress may be involved in the action of microwave radiation on the biological system.”

The authors go on to discuss the impact of oxidative stress as it relates to brain function:

“Oxidative stress has been implicated in many brain disorders.  Antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD) convert O2.- into a reactive oxygen intermediate H2O2, catalase (CAT) detoxifies H2O2 and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) catalyzes the breakdown of H2O2 and lipid hydroperoxides to non-toxic products.  ROS also cause injury by reacting with biomolecules, such as lipids, proteins and nucleic acids, as well as by depleting enzymatic and/or nonenzymatic anti-oxidants in the brain.  Anti-oxidant treatments in animals and humans could be beneficial in preventing or reducing some complications of microwave radiation.”

Next the authors comment on the adverse effects of the enzyme xanthine oxidase (XO), which can be upregulated by microwave radiation from cell phones:

  One of the possible effects is probably increasing xanthine oxidase (XO) activity, which produces uric acid and ROS during the catabolism of purines.”

What else can be stated about XO?

“As XO can reduce molecular oxygen to superoxide and hydrogen peroxide, XO is thought to be one of the key enzymes producing reactive oxygen species.

What is the possible impact of the oxidative physiology mentioned above on nerve tissue?

“Oxidative insults resulting from either an excessive generation of ROS or the deterioration of antioxidant defense capacity has been closely linked to the pathogenesis of neuronal dysfunction or death.  The nervous system is particularly vulnerable to ROS due to its high metabolic rate, its deficient oxidant defense mechanisms and its diminished cellular turnover.”

Next, Sokolovic et al (4) provide an overview of how melatonin effectively combats excessive oxidative stress:

“Melatonin (a) protects nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, membrane lipids, and cytosolic proteins from oxidative damage; (b) it blocks oxidative mediators that initiate the neuroinflammatory response after traumatic brain injury, e.g. by reducing NF-ΚB activation; (c) it interacts with central γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmission; (d) it detoxifies ROS and nitrogen species (RNS); (e) it stimulates antioxidative enzymes; (f) it improves oxidative phosphorylation and stabilizes neuronal membranes.  Melatonin’s protective actions against these adverse changes are believed to stem from its direct free radical scavenging and indirect antioxidant activities, possibly from its ability to limit free radical generation at the mitochondrial level and because of yet-undefined functions.”

To evaluate the impact of melatonin on cell phone induced oxidative stress, rats were exposed to microwave radiation using a Nokia 3110 cell phone for 4 hours per day during the light period for 20, 40 and 60 days.  A false cell phone was used with the control group.  Each morning 2 mg per kg body weight of melatonin was applied intraperitoneally at 8 AM.  Intraperitoneal application was used to avoid the neurotransmitter and neuromodulatory actions of melatonin.

What was the impact of cell phone induced radiation in this experiment?  Sokolovic et al (4) point out:

“In this study, increased levels of lipid peroxidation were found in brains of rats exposed to the 900 MHz microwave radiation (MW) during observed periods of 60 days.  This result suggests that the microwave can induce brain damage of exposed rats by increasing oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation.”

What are the specific impacts of lipid peroxidation on neuronal function?  The authors note:

“There are both direct and indirect effects of lipid peroxidation on neuronal damage.  The direct effects include the loss of fluidity, a decrease in electrical resistance, a depression in protein mobility in the membrane and increased phospholipids exchange between the bilayers of the membrane.”

In addition:

“The aldehydes that are produced as a consequence of lipid peroxidation are biologically active.  One of these aldehydes – MDA has been shown to cross-link and aggregate membrane proteins.  It also leads to oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids and thus serves as a reliable marker of oxidative stress mediated lipid peroxidation in rat brains.  In general, the complex reactions of free radicals, aldehydes, and other products of lipid peroxidation lead to the destruction of major membrane proteins.”

What was the impact of melatonin administration on all of the above?  Sokolovic et al (4) first discuss MDA formation:

“In the microwave (MWs) group, 20 days of exposure to mobile phone produced a significant increase in brain tissue MDA content, an index for lipid peroxidation, when compared with the control and Mel groups.  The significant increase in the brain tissue MDA content remained after 40 and 60 days of exposure to mobile phones when compared with the control, Mel, and MWs + Mel group.  Melatonin treatment (MWs + Mel group) significantly prevented the increase in MDA content of brain tissue after 40 days and 60 days of exposure to mobile phones when compared with the MWs group.”

In contrast, melatonin did not prevent microwave induced increases in carbonyl groups, an index for oxidative modification of proteins at any time period.  Also, melatonin did not prevent microwave induced decreases in catalase activity.  However, consider the following concerning increases in xanthine oxidase (XO) activity induced by cell phone exposure:

“…the activity of XO is significantly reduced by melatonin administration (Mel group) after 40 and 60 days when compared to control.  Exposure to mobile phone induced a significant increase in brain XO activity after 40 days and 60 days when compared to the control and Mel groups.  The increase in brain tissue XO activity produced by the mobile phone was significantly prevented by melatonin application after 40 and 60 days when compared to the MWs group.”

Next, in the discussion section, Sokolovic et al (4) provide more detail on the antioxidant activity of melatonin:

“The peroxidation of membrane lipid also seems to be in the realm of melatonin’s antioxidative actions and melatonin is a very potent protector against lipid peroxidation in vivo.  Melatonin, a lipophilic compound is a potent cellular antioxidant.  It can both directly scavenge free radicals and indirectly induce antioxidant enzymes via a specific melatonin receptor.  For example, melatonin directly scavenges singlet oxygen, hydrogen peroxide and the devastatingly toxic hydroxyl radical.

Melatonin molecule is capable of catching .OH and forming cyclic 3-hydroxymelatonin (cyclic 3-OHM) excreted in the urine of rodents and man.  In this sense, melatonin can be categorized as a first line defensive molecule.  Melatonin interacts with peroxynitrite (ONOO) with the resultant formation of 6-hydroxymelatonin.  Indeed, 6-hydroxymelatonin was found to reduce lipid peroxidation in the liver, muscle and brains of rats induced by oxidative stress.”

What can be concluded from this study?  First, cell phone induced microwave radiation can significantly increase oxidative stress in the brain.  Second, while melatonin administration certainly did not have panacea-like effects on the ability of cell phone derived microwave radiation to create oxidant stress in the brain, it certainly had a major positive impact.  The authors conclude:

“This study provides two important findings relating to oxidative stress in the brain of animals exposed to mobile phones.  Firstly, we demonstrated that mobile phones caused oxidative damage biochemically by increasing the levels of MDA, carbonyl groups and XO activity and decreased CAT activity.  Secondly, intraperitoneal treatment with the melatonin as an antioxidant and a potent free radical scavenger agent significantly prevented oxidative damage in the brain tissue.”

Does other research exist that either discusses the ability of cell phone induced radiation to create oxidative stress or the ability of antioxidant compounds to reduce this oxidative stress?  I was able to find two notable papers.  In a study by Yurekli et al (5) it was found that GSM base station radiation exposure in rats led to increases in MDA levels and decreases in glutathione levels.  In another study by Ozgur E (6) it was found in guinea pigs that N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) induced hepatic glutathione peroxidase activity and epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG) reduced hepatic MDA levels after exposure to microwave radiation from cell phones.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

When considering non-ionizing radiation from cell phones, there are two realities we can no longer ignore that fit a bad news/good news paradigm.  The bad news is that, while its ability to create readily observable, concrete pathology such as cancer is a complicated issue that involves many variables that not only include exposure levels and proximity but a whole host of environmental factors such as genetic propensity and healthy versus unhealthy lifestyle practices, there appears to be little doubt that cell phone induced non-ionizing radiation can have an adverse impact on human physiology and metabolism.  In contrast, the good news is there is more that we can do to reduce risk than just hand wringing and issuing grandiose, apocalyptic warnings of doom.  For, no matter how much we try to use fear to gain attention about the potential risks of cell phone use, cell phone use in its current form, for better or worse, is firmly entrenched in our world and will continue to be so for quite some time in the future.  Fortunately, based on the research I have presented plus much more that has been published on this controversy, it does appear that reasonable and practical cell phone “hygiene” practices such as use of hands-free devices plus optimization of antioxidant mechanisms through diet, supplementation, exercise, etc. can reduce risk of the development of catastrophic pathology to very manageable and acceptable levels.

In the next installment of this series I will return to my examination of ionizing radiation, focusing on I-131 and the use of potassium iodide.

Moss Nutrition Report #240 – 08/01/2011 – PDF Version

REFERENCES

  1. Volkow ND et al. Effects of cell phone radiofrequency signal exposure on brain glucose metabolism. JAMA. 2011;305(8):808-814.
  2. Lai H & Hardell L. Cell phone radiofrequency radiation exposure and brain glucose metabolism. JAMA. 2011;305(8):828-829.
  3. Behari J. Biological responses of mobile phone frequency exposure. Ind J Exp Biol. 2010;48:959-981.
  4. Sokolovic D et al. Melatonin reduces oxidative stress induced by chronic exposure of microwave radiation from mobile phones in rat brain. J Radiat Res. 2008;49(6):579-586.
  5. Yurekli Al et al. GSM base station electromagnetic radiation and oxidative stress in rats. Electromagn Biol Med. 2006;25(3):`77-88.
  6. Ozgur E et al. Mobile phone radiation-induced free radical damage in the liver is inhibited by the antioxidants N-acetyl cysteine and epigallocatechin-gallate. Int J Radiat Biol. 2010;86(11):935-45.