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Studies of health effects of mobile phone masts

The studies below indicate increased risks of cancer amongsts residents living near mobile phone masts and a range of symptoms associated with living near a phone mast (Click on the study for more details):

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Studies on cancer in vicinity of a mobile phone base station

Eger H, Hagen K U, Lucas B, Vogel P, Voit H (2004), Einfluss der räumlichen Nähe von Mobilfunksendeanlagen auf die Krebsinzidenz, Umwelt-Medizin-Gesellschaft, 17. Jahrgang, Ausgabe 4/2004, S. 273-356

In the years 1999 until 2004, after five and more years of use of the phone mast, the risk of cancer for the people in the vicinity of the phone mast was three time the risk for the people living far away.

Wolf R M.D., Wolf D M.D. (2004), Increase incidence of cancer near a cellphone transmitter station, International Journal of Cancer Prevention, vol. 1, nr. 2, April 2004.

This epidemiological study examined people living within 350m of a long-established mast in the town of Netanya. They found a four fold increase in cancer compared with the general population of Israel and a ten fold increase in cancer in women compared with those outside the 350m zone in Netanya.   

Authors' comments:

  • "The measured level of RF radiation (power density) in the area was low; far below the current guidelines based on the thermal effects of RF exposure. We suggest, therefore, that the current guidelines be re-evaluated.

  • "The enormous short latency period; less than 2 years, indicates that if there is a real causal association between RF radiation emitted from the cell-phone base station and the cancer cases (which we strongly believe there is), then the RF radiation should have a very strong promoting effect on cancer at very low radiation!

  • "Although the possibility remains that this clustering of cancer cases in one year was a chance event, the unusual sex pattern of these cases, the 6 different cancer kinds, and the fact that only one patient smoked make this possibility very improbable and remote. It should be noted that 7 out of 8 cancer cases were women, like in the work of Maskarinec  who found 6 out of 7 leukemia cases in proximity to radio towers to occur in girls. Such unusual appearances of cancer cases due to one accused factor on two completely different occasions is alarming.

  • "We are aware of at least 2 areas in which a drastic increase in the incidence of cancer cases occurred near a cell-phone antenna, however, the setup was not suitable for a well design study of those cases. In one of them (which also got publication in the daily newspapers) there were 6 out of 7 cancer cases in women working in a store in close proximity to a cell-phone antenna.

  • "In conclusion, the results of this study showed that there was a significantly greater incidence of cancers of all kinds within the vicinity of a cell-phone transmitter station."

Laboratory studies

Nittby H, Brun A, Eberhardt J, Malmgren L, Persson BR, Salford LG. 2009 Pathophysiology. 2009 Aug;16(2-3):103-12. Epub 2009 Apr 2: Increased blood-brain barrier permeability in mammalian brain 7 days after exposure to the radiation from a GSM-900 mobile phone. Department of Neurosurgery, Lund University, The Rausing Laboratory and Lund University Hospital, S-22185, Lund, Sweden.

Findings in agreement with earlier studies seeing increased BBB permeability immediately and 14 days after exposure. PMID: [PubMed - in process]

Leif G. Salford  et al. (2003): Nerve Cell Damage in Mammalian Brain after Exposure to Microwaves from GSM Mobile Phones.

Found highly significant (p < 0.002) evidence for neuronal damage in the cortex, hippocampus, and basal ganglia in the brains of exposed rats.

Researchers chose 12-26-week-old rats because they are comparable in relative age with human teenagers and have growing brains.

Eberhardt JL, Persson BR, Brun AE, Salford LG, Malmgren LO. Department of Medical Radiation Physics, Lund University Hospital, Lund, Sweden. Blood-brain barrier permeability and nerve cell damage in rat brain 14 and 28 days after exposure to microwaves from GSM mobile phones. 

Investigated the effects of global system for mobile communication (GSM) microwave exposure on the permeability of the blood-brain barrier and signs of neuronal damage in rats using a real GSM programmable mobile phone in the 900 MHz band. Ninety-six non-anaesthetized rats were either exposed to microwaves or sham exposed in TEM-cells for 2 h at specific absorption rates of average whole-body Specific Absorption Rates (SAR) of 0.12, 1.2, 12, or 120 mW/kg. The rats were sacrificed after a recovery time of either 14 or 28 d, following exposure and the extravazation of albumin, its uptake into neurons, and occurrence of damaged neurons was assessed.

Albumin extravazation and also its uptake into neurons was seen to be enhanced after 14 d (Kruskal Wallis test: p = 0.02 and 0.002, respectively), but not after a 28 d recovery period. The occurrence of dark neurons in the rat brains, on the other hand, was enhanced later, after 28 d (p = 0.02). Furthermore, in the 28-d brain samples, neuronal albumin uptake was significantly correlated to occurrence of damaged neurons (Spearman r = 0.41; p < 0.01).


Studies on symptoms in vicinity of a mobile phone base station

Santini R, Seigne M, Bonhomme-Faivre L (2002), Investigations on the health of people living near mobile telephone relay stations: Incidence according to distance and sex, Pathol Biol (Paris), 2002 Jul; 50(6):369-73

In France 530 people took part. They listed up to 18 symptoms which decreased with distance from base station.
This study, published in the French journal PATHOLOGIE BIOLOGIE was the first published study looking at the non-specific health symptoms of people living near cellular phone base stations.  The report describes a number of effects including tiredness, headache, nausea, sleep disruption, depression, loss of memory, loss of appetite and libido decrease, and concludes that it is advisable that mobile phone base stations are not sited closer than 300m to populations.  Comparisons of complaints frequencies in relation with distance from base station and sex, show significant (p 300 m or not exposed to base station, till 300 m for tiredness, 200 m for headache, sleep disturbance, discomfort, etc. 100 m for irritability, depression, loss of memory, dizziness, libido decrease, etc. Women significantly more often than men (p<0.05) complained of headache, nausea, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, depression, discomfort and visual perturbations.

Santini Report Part II, 2003.R. Santini, P. Santini, J. M. Danze, P. Le Ruz, M. Seigne, Symptoms experienced by people in vicinity of base stations: II / Incidences of age, duration of exposure, location of subjects in relation to the antennas and other electromagnetic factors PATHOLOGIE BIOLOGIE (2003, 51: 412-415)

This is the second part of the above study. 
Results show significant increase (p 5 years. Other electromagnetic factors (electrical transformers, radio-television, transmitters,...) have effects on the frequency of some symptoms reported by the subjects.

It indicates that the age of the exposed subjects is a factor which increases the sensitivity to some of the non specific health symptoms studied, and that being positioned facing the antennas is most harmful for some of the studied symptoms, particularly up to 100m away.  The study concludes by reiterating that that it would be advisable not to establish mobile telephony stations within 300m of populations.

Navarro E A, Segura J, Portoles M, Comez-Perretta C (2003), The Microwave Syndrom: A Preliminary Study in Spain, Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, Vol. 22, Issue 2, 2003

Study took place in Spain, Murcia. 101 subjects. Listed 18 symptoms which fell off with distance from the base station.
The present results demonstrate a significant correlation between several symptoms of what is called microwave sickness and the microwave power density associated with the Base Station located on a hill at the edge of the town. Symptoms and signs include headache, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, sleepiness, difficulties in concentration or memory, depression, and emotional instability

Oberfeld G, Navarro A E, Portoles M, Maestu C, Gomez Perretta C (2004), The microwave syndrome - further aspects of a Spanish study, presented at an International Conference in Kos (Greece), 2004

This study found significant ill-health effects in those living in the vicinity of two GSM mobile phone base stations. The strongest five associations found are depressive tendency, fatigue, sleeping disorder, difficulty in concentration and cardiovascular problems. Based on the data of this study the advice would be to strive for levels not higher than 0.02 V/m for the sum total, which is equal to a power density of 0.0001 µW/cm2 or 1 µW/m2, which is the indoor exposure value for GSM base stations proposed on empirical evidence by the Public Health Office of the Government of Salzburg in 2002.

Hutter HP, Moshammer H, Wallner P, Kundi M. Subjective symptoms, sleeping problems, and cognitive performance in subjects living near mobile phone base stations. Occup Environ Med. 2006 May;63(5):307-13. Occup Environ Med. 2006 May;63(5):298-9.

In a cross-sectional study of randomly selected inhabitants living in urban and rural areas for more than one year near to 10 selected base stations, 365 subjects were investigated. Several cognitive tests were performed, and wellbeing and sleep quality were assessed. Field strength of high-frequency electromagnetic fields (HF-EMF) was measured in the bedrooms of 336 households. RESULTS: Total HF-EMF and exposure related to mobile telecommunication were far below recommended levels (max. 4.1 mW/m2). Distance from antennae was 24-600 m in the rural area and 20-250 m in the urban area. Average power density was slightly higher in the rural area (0.05 mW/m2) than in the urban area (0.02 mW/m2). Despite the influence of confounding variables, including fear of adverse effects from exposure to HF-EMF from the base station, there was a significant relation of some symptoms to measured power density; this was highest for headaches. Perceptual speed increased, while accuracy decreased insignificantly with increasing exposure levels. There was no significant effect on sleep quality. CONCLUSION: Despite very low exposure to HF-EMF, effects on wellbeing and performance cannot be ruled out, as shown by recently obtained experimental results; however, mechanisms of action at these low levels are unknown.

Abdel-Rassoul G, El-Fateh OA, Salem MA, Michael A, Farahat F, El-Batanouny M, Salem E. Neurobehavioral effects among inhabitants around mobile phone base stations. Neurotoxicology. 2007 Mar;28(2):434-40. Epub 2006 Aug 1.

A cross-sectional study was conducted on (85) inhabitants living nearby the first mobile phone station antenna in Menoufiya governorate, Egypt, 37 are living in a building under the station antenna while 48 opposite the station. A control group (80) participants were matched with the exposed for age, sex, occupation and educational level. All participants completed a structured questionnaire containing: personal, educational and medical histories; general and neurological examinations; neurobehavioral test battery (NBTB) in addition to Eysenck personality questionnaire (EPQ). RESULTS: The prevalence of neuropsychiatric complaints as headache (23.5%), memory changes (28.2%), dizziness (18.8%), tremors (9.4%), depressive symptoms (21.7%), and sleep disturbance (23.5%) were significantly higher among exposed inhabitants than controls: (10%), (5%), (5%), (0%), (8.8%) and (10%), respectively (P<0.05). The NBTB indicated that the exposed inhabitants exhibited a significantly lower performance than controls in one of the tests of attention and short-term auditory memory [Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT)]. Also, the inhabitants opposite the station exhibited a lower performance in the problem solving test (block design) than those under the station. All inhabitants exhibited a better performance in the two tests of visuomotor speed (Digit symbol and Trailmaking B) and one test of attention (Trailmaking A) than controls. The last available measures of RFR emitted from the first mobile phone base station antennas in Menoufiya governorate were less than the allowable standard level. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: Inhabitants living nearby mobile phone base stations are at risk for developing neuropsychiatric problems and some changes in the performance of neurobehavioral functions either by facilitation or inhibition. So, revision of standard guidelines for public exposure to RER from mobile phone base station antennas and using of NBTB for regular assessment and early detection of biological effects among inhabitants around the stations are recommended.

Thomas S, Kuhnlein A, Heinrich S, Praml G, Nowak D, von Kries R, Radon K Epidemiological Study (cross-sectional study) Personal exposure to mobile phone frequencies and well-being in adults: a cross-sectional study based on dosimetry. epidemiol. Bioelectromagnetics 2008; 29 (6): 463 - 470

Results/conclusion: Exposure levels were far below the ICNIRP reference level in a range from 0.13 % to 0.56 % of the ICNIRP reference level during waking hours. The mostly reported chronic symptoms were sleeping disorders (58 %) and fatigue (21 %), the mostly reported acute symptom was fatigue in the evening (43 %). No statistically significant association between personal exposure to mobile phone frequencies and chronic or acute symptoms was found.
Limitations (according to author): The sample size was relatively small. The bedtime exposure levels has to be excluded from analyses because the valid measurements of the dosimeter can only be obtained if the dosimeter is moved.
Exposure very low. Daily average 0.24 W/m2

Blettner et al. Mobile phone base stations and adverse health effects: Phase 1: A population-based cross-sectional study in Germany Occup Environ Med.2008

Participants who are concerned about or attribute adverse health effects to mobile phone base stations and those living in the vicinity of a mobile phone base station (500 m) reported slightly more health complaints than others. Conclusions: A substantial proportion of the German population is concerned about adverse health effects caused by exposure from mobile phone base stations. The observed slightly higher prevalence of health complaints near base stations can however not be fully explained by attributions or concerns.

Note: In phase 1 a significant effect of distance from base station (<500m) on well being was found

Bortkiewicz A, Zmyslony M, Szyjkowska A, Gadzicka E (2004), Subjective symptoms reported by people living in the vicinity of cellular phone base stations, Med Pr. 2004; 55 (4):345-51

People living in the vicinity of base stations report various complaints mostly of the circulatory system, but also of sleep disturbances, irritability, depression, blurred vision, concentration difficulties, nausea, lack of appetite, headache and vertigo. The performed studies showed the relationship between the incidence of individual symptoms, the level of exposure, and the distance between a residential area and a base station. This association was observed in both groups of persons, those who linked their complaints with the presence of the base station and those who did not notice such a relation.

See also Studies relating to children's exposure to chronic low level electro-magnetic radiation


H. Chiang a;  G. D. Yao a;  Q. S. Fang b;  K. Q. Wang c;  D. Z. Lu d; Y. K. Zhou d. Health Effects of Environmental Electromagnetic Fields. Journal Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, Volume 8, Issue 1 1989, pages 127 - 131

Subjects included nursery school children, 3rd year secondary school children, college students and military personel exposed to pulsed microwave radiation and AM radio waves. Investigated the effects of exposure to environmental electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in 1170 subjects. Neutrophil phagocytosis was enhanced in the low-intensity exposure groups, but reduced significantly at relatively high intensities. Visual reaction time was prolonged and the scores of short-term memory tests were lower in some high-intensity exposure groups. The data indicate that chronic exposure to EMFs are associated with significant changes in some physiological parameters including the central nervous and immune systems in man. Changes in white blood cells function, prolonged reaction time, lower short-term memory scores were identified at power densities of 0-4 m W/cm2 in school students (Chiang et al 1989).

Röösli M, Moser M, Baldinini Y, Meier M, Braun-Fahrländer: Symptoms of ill health ascribed to electromagnetic field exposure--a questionnaire survey. Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland. C.Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2004 Feb;207(2):141-50.Links

From June 2001, health questionnaires were distributed to people who complained about symptoms of ill health which they ascribed to exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). The objective of the survey was to gain a better knowledge of the anxieties of complainants, to obtain hints of possible problems and of actions that should be taken to solve the problems. The survey was not designed to establish a causal association between exposure to EMF and symptoms of ill health. Within one year, 429 questionnaires were returned of which 394 persons reported symptoms.

Waldmann-Selsam C., Jul 2005, Documented Health Damage under the Influence of High Frequency Electromagnetic Fields

Evaluation of 356 subjects in Oberfranken all subject to long-term exposure to radiation found a range of reported symptoms

Germann, P (2004), Einfluss der Mobilfunkbelastung auf die Retikulocytenreifung, vorläufige Bewertung anhand von 1000 Analysen. Juli 2004. Significant effects of G S M phone mast on blood structure, Germany 2004.

Blood was drawn from 1018 persons before a GSM mobile phone base station was installed and again 6 to 12 months after it was turned on. Significant changes in the blood have been observed. The results of the reticulocyte studies show that significant effects appear in humans as a direct cause of pulsed E M F, that can also be found in scientific literature in vitro and in vivo (in fact biological effects to lymphocytes, granulocytes to bone growth and the bone marrow).

Radiofrequency (RF) sickness in the Lilienfeld Study: an effect of modulated microwaves? Johnson Liakouris AG. Twin Streams Educational Center, Inc., Carrboro, North Carolina, USA. Arch Environ Health. 1998 May-Jun;53(3):236-8.

The author reviewed U.S. literature, which revealed that research results are sufficiently consistent to warrant further inquiry. A review of statistically significant health effects noted in the Lilienfeld Study provided evidence that the disregarded health conditions match the cluster attributed to the radiofrequency sickness syndrome, thus establishing a possible correlation between health effects and chronic exposure to low-intensity, modulated microwave radiation. The author discusses these health effects relative to (a) exposure parameters recorded at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and (b) the Soviet 10-microwatt safety standard for the public. Given the evidence, new research-with current knowledge and technology-is proposed.

Zwamborn A P M, Vossen S H J A, Van Leersum B J A M, Ouwens M A, Makel W N. (2003), Effects of Global Communication System radiofrequency fields on Well-Being and Cognitive Functions of human subjects with and without subjective complaints. Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) FEL-03-C148 (2003).

In two groups (hypersensitive and non-hypersensitive subjects) exposure to UMTS had a negative influence on well-being in both groups. Cognitive function was consistently affected in both groups exposed to GSM and UMTS.

Regel SJ, Negovetic S, Röösli M, Berdiñas V, Schuderer J, Huss A, Lott U, Kuster N, Achermann P. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Aug;114(8):1270-5

UMTS base station-like exposure, well-being, and cognitive performance. The reported effects on brain functioning were marginal and may have occurred by chance. Peak spatial absorption in brain tissue was considerably smaller than during use of a mobile phone. No conclusions can be drawn regarding short-term effects of cell phone exposure or the effects of long-term base station-like exposure on human health.

Eltiti S, Wallace D, Ridgewell A, Zougkou K, Russo R, Sepulveda F, Mirshekar-Syahkal D, Rasor P, Deeble R, Fox E. Does short-term exposure to mobile phone base station signals increase symptoms in individuals who report sensitivity to electromagnetic fields? A double-blind randomized provocation study.  Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Nov;115(11):1603-8.

Short-term exposure to a typical GSM base station-like signal did not affect well-being or physiological functions in sensitive or control individuals. Sensitive individuals reported elevated levels of arousal when exposed to a UMTS signal. Further analysis, however, indicated that this difference was likely to be due to the effect of order of exposure rather than the exposure itself.  

This study has been widely criticised.


GSM base stations: short-term effects on well-being.  Augner C, Florian M, Pauser G, Oberfeld G, Hacker GW. IGGMB, Research Institute for Frontier Questions of Medicine and Biotechnology, Landeskrankenhaus Salzburg, University Clinics of the Paracelsus Medical Private University, Salzburg, Austria.Bioelectromagnetics. 2009 Jan;30(1):73-80

PMID: [PubMed - in process]

The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of short-term GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) cellular phone base station RF-EMF (radiofrequency electromagnetic fields) exposure on psychological symptoms (good mood, alertness, calmness) as measured by a standardized well-being questionnaire.

Concluded that short-term exposure to GSM base station signals may have an impact on well-being by reducing psychological arousal.