Harmful Biological Effects of Low-level Electromagnetic Fields


The Possible Harmful Biological Effects of Low-level Electromagnetic Fields of Frequencies up to 300 GHz
Portable Radio Systems
Broadcast Antennas
Satellite Systems
Radar Systems



It is the belief of some international governments and regulatory bodies and of the wireless telecommunications industry that no consistent increases in health risk exist from exposure to RF/MW radiation unless the intensity of the radiation is sufficient to heat body tissue. However, it is important to note that these positions are based on non-continuous exposures to the general public to low intensity RF/MW radiation emitted from wireless telecommunications base stations. Furthermore, most studies that are the basis of this position are at least five years old and generally look at the safety of the phone itself. IAFF members are concerned about the effects of living directly under these antenna base stations for a considerable stationary period of time and on a daily basis. There are established biological effects from exposure to low-level RF/MW radiation. Such biological effects are recognized as markers of adverse health effects when they arise from exposure to toxic chemicals for example. The IAFF’s efforts will attempt to establish whether there is a correlation between such biological effects and a health risk to fire fighters and emergency medical personnel due to the siting of cell phone antennas and base stations at fire stations and facilities where they work.

The electromagnetic RF/MW radiation transmitted from base station antennas travel toward the horizon in relatively narrow paths. The individual pattern for a single array of sector antennas is wedge-shaped, like a piece of pie. Cellular and PCS base stations in the United States are required to comply with limits for exposure recommended by expert organizations and endorsed by government agencies responsible for health and safety. When cellular and PCS antennas are mounted on rooftops, RF/MW radiation levels on that roof or on others near by would be greater than those typically encountered on the ground.


The telecommunications industry claims cellular antennas are safe because the RF/MW radiation they produce is too weak to cause heating, i.e., a "thermal effect." They point to "safety standards" from groups such as ANSI/IEEE or ICNIRP to support their claims. But these groups have explicitly stated that their claims of “safe RF/MW radiation exposure is harmless” rest on the fact that it is too weak to produce a rise in body temperature, a "thermal effect."

There is a large body of internationally accepted scientific evidence which points to the existence of non-thermal effects of RF/MW radiation. The issue at the present time is not whether such evidence exists, but rather what weight to give it.

Dr. A. W. Guy reported an extensive investigation on rats chronically exposed from 2 up to 27 months of age to low-level pulsed microwaves at SARs up to 0.4 W/Kg. The exposed group was found to have a significantly higher incidence of primary cancers.

A. W. Guy, C. K. Chou, L. Kunz, L, Crowley, and J. Krupp, "Effects of Long-Term Low-Level Radiofrequency Radiation Exposure on Rats." Volume 9. Summary. Brooks Air Force Base, Texas, USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, USF-SAM-TR-85-11; 1985


Internationally acknowledged experts in the field of RF/MW radiation research have shown that RF/MW transmissions of the type used in digital cellular antennas and phones can have critical effects on cell cultures, animals, and people in laboratories and have also found epidemiological evidence (studies of communities, not in the laboratory) of serious health effects at "non-thermal levels," where the intensity of the RF/MW radiation was too low to cause heating. They have found:

Increased cell growth of brain cancer cells
A doubling of the rate of lymphoma in mice
Changes in tumor growth in rats
An increased number of tumors in rats
Increased single- and double-strand breaks in DNA, our genetic material
2 to 4 times as many cancers in Polish soldiers exposed to RF
More childhood leukemia in children exposed to RF
Changes in sleep patterns and REM type sleep
Headaches caused by RF/MW radiation exposure
Neurologic changes including:
Changes in the blood-brain-barrier
Changes in cellular morphology (including cell death)
Changes in neural electrophysiology (EEG)
Changes in neurotransmitters (which affect motivation and pain perception)
Metabolic changes (of calcium ions, for instance)
Cytogenetic effects (which can affect cancer, Alzheimer's, neurodegenerative diseases)
Decreased memory, attention, and slower reaction time in school children
Retarded learning in rats indicating a deficit in spatial "working memory"
Increased blood pressure in healthy men
Damage to eye cells when combined with commonly used glaucoma medications

Drs. Henry Lai and N. P. Singh of the University of Washington in Seattle have reported both single- and double-strand DNA breaks in the brains of rats exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation at an SAR of 1.2 W/Kg. DNA is the carrier of the genetic information in all living cells. Cumulated DNA strand breaks in brain cells can lead to cancer or neurodegenerative diseases.

Many national and international organizations have recognized the need to define the true risk of low intensity, non-thermal RF/MW radiation exposure, calling for intensive scientific investigation to answer the open questions. These include:

The World Health Organization, noting reports of "cancer, reduced fertility, memory loss, and adverse changes in the behavior and development of children."
The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
The Swedish Work Environmental Fund
The National Cancer Institute (NCI)
The European Commission (EC)
New Zealand's Ministry of Health
National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia
Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization of Australia (CSIRO)
The Royal Society of Canada expert group report prepared for Health Canada
European Union's REFLEX Project (Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards from Low Frequency Electromagnetic Field Exposure Using Sensitive in vitro Methods)
The Independent Group on Electromagnetic Fields of the Swedish Radiation Protection Board (SSI)
The United Kingdom’s National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB)
The EMF-Team Finland's Helsinki Appeal 2005

Dr. Stanislaw Szmigielski has studied many thousands of Polish soldiers. He has found that those exposed to radiofrequency and microwave radiation in the workplace had more than double the cancer rate of the unexposed servicemen analyzing data from 1971-1985. He has presented further data suggesting a dose-response relationship with soldiers exposed to 100-200 W/cm2 suffering 1.69 times as many cancers as the unexposed, and those exposed to 600-1000 W/cm2 suffering 4.63 times as many cancers. The level considered safe for the public according to FCC regulations is 1000 W/cm2. Occupational exposure up to 5000 W/cm2 is allowed.

Non-thermal effects are recognized by experts on RF/MW radiation and health to be potential health hazards. Safe levels of RF/MW exposure for these low intensity, non-thermal effects have not yet been established.

The FDA has explicitly rejected claims that cellular phones are "safe."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated repeatedly that the current (ANSI/IEEE) RF/MW safety standards protect only against thermal effects.

Many scientists and physicians question the safety of exposure to RF/MW radiation. The CSIRO study, for example, notes that there are no clear cutoff levels at which low intensity RF/MW exposure has no effect, and that the results of ongoing studies will take years to analyze.

Internationally, researchers and physicians have issued statements that biological effects from low-intensity RF/MW radiation exposure are scientifically established

On the basis of our daily experiences, we hold the current mobile communications technology (introduced in 1992 and since then globally extensive) and cordless digital telephones (DECT standard) to be among the fundamental triggers for this fatal development. One can no longer evade these pulsed microwaves. They heighten the risk of already-present chemical/physical influences, stress the body–immune system, and can bring the body–still-functioning regulatory mechanisms to a halt. Pregnant women, children, adolescents, elderly and sick people are especially at risk.

Statement of the physicians and researchers of Interdisziplinäre Gesellschaft für Umweltmedizin e. V. (Interdisciplinary Association for Environmental Medicine) IGUMED, Sackingen, Germany, September 19, 2002. The Freiburger Appeal can be found at:


The following references reporting biological effects of radiofrequency radiation (RFR) at low intensities through January 2005 were compiled on 12/27/04 by Henry C. Lai PhD, Research Professor of Bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Balode Sci Total Environ 180(1):81-85, 1996 - blood cells from cows from a farm close and in front of a radar installation showed significantly higher level of severe genetic damage.

Boscol et al. Sci Total Environ 273(1-3):1-10, 2001 - RFR from radio transmission stations (0.005 mW/cm2) affects immune system in women.

Chiang et al. J. Bioelectricity 8:127-131, 1989 - people who lived and worked near radio antennae and radar installations showed deficits in psychological and short-term memory tests.

de Pomerai et al. Nature 405:417-418, 2000. Enzyme Microbial Tech 30:73-79, 2002 - reported an increase in a molecular stress response in cells after exposure to a RFR at a SAR of 0.001 W/kg. This stress response is a basic biological process that is present in almost all animals - including humans.

de Pomerai et al. (FEBS Lett 22;543(1-3):93-97, 2003 - RFR damages proteins at 0.015-0.020 W/kg.

D'Inzeo et al. Bioelectromagnetics 9(4):363-372, 1988 - very low intensity RFR (0.002 – 0.004 mW/cm2) affects the operation of acetylcholine-related ion-channels in cells. These channels play important roles in physiological and behavioral functions.

Dolk et al. Am J Epidemiol 145(1):1-91997- a significant increase in adult leukemias was found in residents who lived near the Sutton Coldfield television (TV) and frequency modulation (FM) radio transmitter in England.

Dutta et al.Bioelectromagnetics 10(2):197-202 1989 - reported an increase in calcium efflux in cells after exposure to RFR at 0.005 W/kg. Calcium is an important component of normal cellular functions.

Fesenko et al. Bioelectrochem Bioenerg 49(1):29-35, 1999 - reported a change in immunological functions in mice after exposure to RFR at a power density of 0.001 mW/cm2.

Hallberg O, Johansson O, ( 2004) concluded that continuous disturbance of cell repair mechanisms by body-resonant FM electromagnetic fields seems to amplify the carcinogenic effects resulting from cell damage caused e.g. by UV-radiation.

Hjollund et al. Reprod Toxicol 11(6):897, 1997 - sperm counts of Danish military personnel, who operated mobile ground-to-air missile units that use several RFR emitting radar systems (maximal mean exposure 0.01 mW/cm2), were significantly lower compared to references.

Hocking et al. Med J Aust 165(11-12):601-605, 1996 - an association was found between increased childhood leukemia incidence and mortality and proximity to TV towers.

Ivaschuk et al. Bioelectromagnetics 18(3):223-229, 1999 - short-term exposure to cellular phone RFR of very low SAR (26 mW/kg) affected a gene related to cancer.

Kolodynski and Kolodynska, Sci Total Environ 180(1):87-93, 1996 - school children who lived in front of a radio station had less developed memory and attention, their reaction time was slower, and their neuromuscular apparatus endurance was decreased.

Kwee et al. Electro- and Magnetobiology 20: 141-152, 2001 - 20 minutes of cell phone RFR exposure at 0.0021 W/kg increased stress protein in human cells.

Lebedeva et al. Crit Rev Biomed Eng 28(1-2):323-337, 2000 - brain wave activation was observed in human subjects exposed to cellular phone RFR at 0.06 mW/cm2.

Magras and Xenos Bioelectromagnetics 18(6):455-461, 1999 - reported a decrease in reproductive function in mice exposed to RFR at power densities of 0.000168 - 0.001053 mW/cm2. Irreversible sterility was found in the fifth generation of offspring.

Mann et al. Neuroendocrinology 67(2):139-144, 1998 - a transient increase in blood cortisol was observed in human subjects exposed to cellular phone RFR at 0.02 mW/cm2. Cortisol is a hormone involved in stress reaction.

Marinelli et al. J Cell Physiol. 198(2):324-332, 2004 - exposure to 900-MHz RFR at 0.0035 W/kg affected cell’s self-defense responses.

Michelozzi et al. Epidemiology 9 (Suppl) 354p, 1998 - leukemia mortality within 3.5 km (5,863 inhabitants) near a high power radio-transmitter in a peripheral area of Rome was higher than expected.

Michelozzi et al. Am J Epidemiol 155(12):1096-1103, 2002 - childhood leukemia higher at a distance up to 6 km from a radio station.

Navakatikian and Tomashevskaya “Biological Effects of Electric and Magnetic Fields, Volume 1," D.O. Carpenter (ed) Academic Press, San Diego, CA, pp.333-342. 1994 - RFR at low intensities (0.01 - 0.1 mW/cm2; 0.0027- 0.027 W/kg) induced behavioral and endocrine changes in rats. Decreases in blood concentrations of testosterone and insulin were reported.

Novoselova et al. Bioelectrochem Bioenerg 49(1):37-41, 1999 -low intensity RFR (0.001 mW/cm2) affects functions of the immune system.

Park et al. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 77(6):387-394, 2004 - higher mortality rates for all cancers and leukemia in some age groups in the area near the AM radio broadcasting towers.

Persson et al. Wireless Network 3:455-461, 1997 - reported an increase in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier in mice exposed to RFR at 0.0004 - 0.008 W/kg. The blood-brain barrier envelops the brain and protects it from toxic substances.

Phillips et al. Bioelectrochem. Bioenerg. 45:103-110, 1998 - reported DNA damage in cells exposed to RFR at SAR of 0.0024 - 0.024 W/kg.

Polonga-Moraru et al. Bioelectrochemistry 56(1-2):223-225, 2002 - change in membrane of cells in the retina (eye) after exposure to RFR at 15 µW/cm2.

Pyrpasopoulou et al. Bioelectromagnetics 25(3):216-227, 2004 - exposure to cell phone radiation during early gestation at SAR of 0.0005 W/kg (5 µW/cm2) affected kidney development in rats.

Salford et al. Environ Health Persp Online January 29, 2003 - Nerve cell damage in mammalian brain after exposure to microwaves from GSM mobile phones signal at 0.02 W/kg.

Santini et al. Pathol Biol (Paris) 50(6):369-373, 2002 - increase in complaint frequencies for tiredness, headache, sleep disturbance, discomfort, irritability, depression, loss of memory, dizziness, libido decrease, in people who lived within 300 m of mobile phone base stations.

Sarimov et al. IEEE Trans Plasma Sci 32:1600-1608, 2004 - GSM microwaves affect human lymphocyte chromatin similar to stress response at 0.0054 W/kg.

Schwartz et al. Bioelectromagnetics 11(4):349-358, 1990 - calcium movement in the heart affected by RFR at SAR of 0.00015 W/kg. Calcium is important in muscle contraction. Changes in calcium can affect heart functions.

Somosy et al. Scanning Microsc 5(4):1145-1155, 1991 - RFR at 0.024 W/kg caused molecular and structural changes in cells of mouse embryos.

Stagg et al. Bioelectromagnetics 18(3):230-236, 1997- glioma cells exposed to cellular phone RFR at 0.0059 W/kg showed significant increases in thymidine incorporation, which may be an indication of an increase in cell division.

Stark et al. J Pineal Res 22(4):171-176, 1997 - a two- to seven-fold increase of salivary melatonin concentration was observed in dairy cattle exposed to RFR from a radio transmitter antenna.

Tattersall et al. Brain Res 904(1):43-53, 2001 - low-intensity RFR (0.0016 - 0.0044 W/kg) can modulate the function of a part of the brain called the hippocampus, in the absence of gross thermal effects. The changes in excitability may be consistent with reported behavioral effects of RFR, since the hippocampus is involved in learning and memory.

Vangelova et al. Cent Eur J Public Health 10(1-2):24-28, 2002 - operators of satellite station exposed to low dose (0.1127 J/kg) of RFR over a 24-hr shift showed an increased excretion of stress hormones.

Velizarov et al. Bioelectrochem Bioenerg 48(1):177-180, 1999 - showed a decrease in cell proliferation (division) after exposure to RFR of 0.000021 - 0.0021 W/kg.

Veyret et al. Bioelectromagnetics 12(1):47-56, 1991 - low intensity RFR at SAR of 0.015 W/kg affects functions of the immune system.

Wolke et al. Bioelectromagnetics 17(2):144-153, 1996 - RFR at 0.001W/kg affects calcium concentration in heart muscle cells of guinea pigs.