As wireless technologies are ubiquitous in modern living, the biological and health effects of wireless radiation have become a research topic of increasing importance. A review study published in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine in July 2015 by scientists from Ukraine concluded that low-intensity radio-frequency (RF) radiation such as cell phone radiation is an oxidative agent for living cells. Oxidative damage to cellular DNA can lead to mutations and may play an important role in the initiation and progression of various cancers.
The present work reviewed 100 experimental studies that investigated oxidative effects from low-intensity RF exposure. The 100 studies include 73 animal studies, 18 cell culture studies, 3 plant studies and 6 human studies. 93 out of the 100 reviewed studies demonstrated that low-intensity RF radiation induced oxidative effects in biological systems, while 7 studies demonstrated no effect.
Oxidative damage happens when a biological system is exposed to excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are chemically reactive molecules and can interact with other molecules in the body and damage various cell components such as DNA, protein and lipids. ROS are formed as a natural byproduct of the normal metabolism of oxygen and have important roles in cell signaling and biological system functioning. However, during times of environmental stress, ROS levels can increase dramatically and may result in significant damage to cell structures. This is known as oxidative stress.
To date, molecular mechanisms of non-thermal effects of RF radiation are still a bottle neck in the research on the biological and health effects of low-intensity RF radiation. The present work found that exposure to low-intensity RF radiation in living cells leads to generation of significant levels of ROS and results in a significant oxidative stress. Oxidative damage to cellular DNA can lead to mutations and may play an important role in the initiation and progression of various cancers. The study concluded that a broad biological potential of ROS and other free radicals makes low-intensity RF radiation a potentially hazardous factor for human health. The authors suggest minimizing the intensity and time of RF exposure, and taking a precautionary approach towards wireless technologies in everyday human life.
The safety limits of human exposure to RF radiation are regulated by governments and expert organizations around the world. The International Commissions on Non-Ionization Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) recommends safety limit for human exposure to be a SAR level of 2W/kg. The current safety limits are based on animal behavioral studies in the 1970s to avoid thermal distress effect. In the present work, “low-intensity” refers to intensity below the current ICNIRP safety limit.
In 2011, cell phone radiation was classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The classification was based on limited evidence of carcinogenesis from human studies, limited evidence from animal studies and weak evidence on mechanisms – at the time the IARC concluded that “there was weak evidence that exposure to RF radiation affects oxidative stress and alters the levels of reactive oxygen species”. The IARC acknowledged that there were not enough studies to make a reasonable assessment of the consistency of these findings.
The present work included more than 50 new studies in addition to those available at the time of classification. It concluded that “the analysis of modern data on biological effects of low-intensity RF radiation leads to a firm conclusion that this physical agent is a powerful oxidative stressor for living cells”. It raises the need for the IARC to reassess the updated body of scientific evidence on biological mechanisms of low-intensity RF radiation.
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