Effects of Weak Magnetic Fields on Biological Systems: RF fields can change cancer cell growth rates
Over the past seven years I have discussed this issue with numerous physicists. Typically, they argue that it is impossible for low-intensity, non-ionizing EMF to cause health effects as this form of radiation has insufficient energy to cause chemical reactions; thus there cannot be biologic effects. One physicist went so far as to argue that if biologic effects were possible, Einstein would have to return his Nobel Prize awarded in 1921 for his discovery of the photoelectric effect. Physical scientists typically dismiss the vast peer-reviewed literature that demonstrates bio-effects as well as the epidemiologic studies that find adverse health consequences. They usually argue that all studies which report effects must have methodologic flaws.
Hopefully, this article will encourage some physicists and engineers who deny the possibility that non-thermal exposures to wireless radiation can cause harmful health effects to rethink their position.
Some Effects of Weak Magnetic Fields on Biological Systems: RF fields can change radical concentrations and cancer cell growth rates
F. Barnes, B. Greenenbaum. Some Effects of Weak Magnetic Fields on Biological Systems: RF fields can change radical concentrations and cancer cell growth rates. IEEE Power Electronics Magazine. 3(1):60-68. March 2016. DOI: 10.1109/MPEL.2015.2508699
Concerns have been raised about the possible biological effects of nonionizing radiation since at least the late 1950s with respect to radar, other radio, and microwave sources. More recent concerns have arisen about the potential effects of low-intensity fields, including low frequency fields from the electric power generating, transmission, and distribution system and the devices it energizes, as well as intermediate, radio-frequency (RF), and higher-frequency radiation from devices such as cell phones, broadcast antennas, Wi-Fi, security monitors, and so forth. These are concerns about the direct effects of radiation on humans or other organisms. They are distinct from the electromagnetic compatibility issues that concern interference by the fields from one device with the function of another, though human health can be indirectly affected by electromagnetic interference with the function of medical devices, including hospital equipment or pacemakers.
Because of the difficulties in establishing the direct biological effects of long-term low-level exposures, the lack of an understood mechanism, and difficulties in obtaining reproducible results, the guidelines for exposure limits have been set based on relatively short-term exposures (minutes) that show clear-cut damage with the addition of a substantial safety factor. The current guidelines from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for limiting exposures in free space to the general public for the frequency range 100 kHz–100 GHz are given in Table 1 ... For cell phones, the specific absorption rate (SAR) is limited to 1.6 W/kg averaged over 1 g of tissue. These limits have been set based on providing a significant safety factor over exposure levels known to cause damage, where the primary damaging mechanism is heating and an increase in temperature. At low frequencies, the limits are based on induced current densities that would excite nerve firing, and the permissible exposures recommended by IEEE C95.6 are shown in Table 2. The International Commission on Nonionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) sets electric field exposure limits ....
The most favored proposed mechanism for effects from low-level, long term exposures involves radicals, such as super oxide O2, NOx, and H2O2,which is readily converted into the radical OH-, molecules with unpaired electron spins that are highly reactive. These molecules are both signaling molecules and molecules that can cause damage to important biological molecules, such as lipids and DNA. Damages, such as aging, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, are associated with radical concentrations that are elevated for extended periods of time . In this article, we present the possible theoretical mechanisms and experimental data that show long-term exposures to relatively weak static, low-frequency, and RF magnetic fields can change radical concentrations. As a consequence, a long-term exposure to 2fields below the guideline levels may affect biological systems and modify cell growth rates, while an organism’s built-in mechanisms may compensate for these changes.
The proposed hypothesis ... is that weak magnetic fields change the rate of recombination for radical pairs that are generated by the metabolic activity in cells, which, in turn, change the concentration of radicals such as superoxide and molecules such as H2O2. Most of the time, the signaling properties of these molecules generate antioxidants and other radical scavengers so that damaging health effects are not seen, and, in some cases, positive effects, such as the activation of the immune system, may be observed. However, long-term exposure to elevated magnetic fields can lead to elevated radical concentrations and an association with aging, cancers, and Alzheimer’s. This hypothesis is supported by some theoretical and experimental results. However, because biological systems contain a lot of feedback, feedforward, and repair processes, changes in radical concentrations will often have no observable effects. There is much work that needs to be done to illuminate the conditions in which magnetic fields can lead to either positive health effects or negative health effects, and observable effects may only occur when the exposures are combined with other biological stresses.
We have shown that both a theoretical base and the experimental results exist, demonstrating that weak static, low-frequency, and/or high-frequency magnetic fields can affect the concentration of radicals. There are also results that indicate that weak magnetic fields can change the growth rate of cells. However, there are many experiments where no changes are seen. This, we believe, is due to the many feedback and repair processes in the body. Droge  has shown in Figure 7 how extended elevations of ROS and nitrogen oxide species
lead undesired biological effects, such as aging, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
Experiments in vitro that show changes in the growth rates of cells are more relevant to potential health effects.
We think that there are now both the theoretical bases and sufficient experimental results for further consideration of the possibility that long-term exposures to magnetic fields can lead to both useful applications in treating diseases and to undesired health effects. It is expected that these effects are frequency, amplitude, and time dependent. They will also be dependent on other biological conditions that can lead to changes in radical concentrations. In short, we have only begun to scratch the surface, and there is a lot of exciting research to be done before we can understand the ways in which low levels of magnetic fields can be used to control biological systems.
How does wireless radiation produce harmful health effects?
Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director
Center for Family and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley
Electromagnetic Radiation Safety
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