Thursday, 15 October 2009

iBurst blamed for 'nightmare'

by Kanina Foss

The Star, Johannesburg, Tuesday October 6 2009

Tracey-Lee and Dave McGregor spent nine years building their dream home. Tracey-Lee planted lavender bushes to attract bees and butterflies. In August, the bees upped and left. Then the dream turned into a nightmare.

The McGregors are among Craigavon residents in Joburg objecting to the erection of a broadband tower metres from their homes by service provider iBurst.

It went up 50m from the McGregors' bedroom in August. A few days later, the bees left. Last month the symptoms started.

Tracey-Lee has a painful rash all over her body. "It starts as a hot spot, which looks like ringworm. The next thing you're itching and burning. You get so itchy you want to scratch your flesh off your bones," she says.

The worst part is the nausea. Their 10-year-old son Keegan, who also has rashes, has been off school six days in the past month because of retching. Tracey-Lee is constantly nauseous.

They also get heart palpitations and headaches.

"Keegan has never had headaches in his life. Now he's waking up in the middle of the night with headaches. He's had three episodes of heart palpitations."

Tracey-Lee and Keegan are spending alternate nights at her mother's house to get some relief. "When I'm off the property, the symptoms subside," she says.

Dave adds: "I want to phone the CEO of iBurst and say: 'If this were to happen to your wife and child, what would you do?' He's welcome to move in here for a month and see how he feels."

The McGregors are not alone. Residents of nearby complexes have been getting headaches, insomnia, rashes, fatigue, upset stomachs and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) -- all symptoms mentioned in scientific studies on electrohypersensitivity.

Sabine Hark says: "I've noted that ever since the tower has been up, I battle to fall asleep. I doesn't matter how tired I am. I also wake up in-between."

Betty Ngwenya, who sleeps in a room facing the tower, has had headaches, difficulty breathing and a rash all over her body for three weeks. "My body is itchy. I can't stand in one place, it's very sore."

Just after the tower was erected, Melinda Treki's Alsatian went through a stage of throwing up once a day. The vet couldn't find anything wrong with the dog.

iBurst CEO Jannie van Zyl says he's commissioned an independent company to test electromagnetic radiation levels in the area. If they are found to be above World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations, action will be taken.

But in some countries, WHO regulations have been deemed insufficient. Russia insists on a 2km buffer between towers and residential properties, and New Zealand requires a 500m distance.

Van Zyl says it's necessary to stick to scientific fact.

"I'm not saying science has proved that radiation doesn't have an impact on living tissue, but every study I've read says it's a very complex environment and further studies should be done."

iBurst followed the necessary steps to get the erection of the R2 million tower approved, including notifying all residents living in close proximity, he says -- despite claims by the McGregors and others that they were never informed.

Van Zyl questions why the Craigavon tower is the only one of about 15,000 in South Africa to spark an outcry, and says service providers are being put in a difficult position by consumers wanting better access.

Tracey-Lee sent photographs of her rash to Professor Olle Johansson, a Swedish neuroscientist and electrohypersensitivity expert, and Eileen O'Connor, of the UK Radiation Research Trust. Both say the family's symptoms are consistent with those of others living near electromagnetic radiation.

The McGregors have considered selling the house they planned to retire in. "It's like a nightmare and you don't know if you're ever going to wake up," says Dave.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Immune Function Dr. Johansson
Table of Contents
I. Basic concepts and components of the immune system
II. Hypersensitivity reactions
A. Hypersensitivity to environmental substances
B. Hypersensitivity to self antigens
C. Types of hypersensitivity reactions (Types 1,2,3 and 4)
III. The old and new electromagnetic environment
A. Definitions and sources
B. Natural sources of electromagnetic fields
C. Human-made sources of electromagnetic fields
D. What makes the various forms of electromagnetic fields so
E. A few basic facts
F. Electromagnetic fields at low frequencies
G. How do static fields differ from time-varying fields?
IV. The immune system and the impairment electrohypersensitivity
V. Scientific studies of electrohypersensitivity, as well as effects of
electromagnetic fields on humans
VI. Direct effects of EMFs on the immune system
VII. Electromagnetic fields and health
VIII. Conclusions
IX. Acknowledgements
X. References
Appendix 8-A Some legal aspects of the functional impairment
electrohypersensitivity in Sweden
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
I. Basic concepts and components of the immune system
The human immune system is part of a general defense barrier towards our
surrounding environment. We live in a biological system, the world, dominated by
various microorganisms, including microbes and viruses, many of which can cause
harm. The immune system serves as the primary line of defense against invasion by
such microbes. As we are, practically speaking, built as a tube, the outer surface - the
skin - and the innermost surface - the gastrointestinal tract - are the major borders
between us and the rest of the universe. These borders must be guarded and protected
since any damage to them could be fatal.
The skin and the mucous membranes are part of the innate or non-adaptive immune
system. However, if these barriers are broken (e.g. after cutting a finger), then
microbes, including potential pathogens (i.e. harmful microbes) can enter the body
and then begin to multiply rapidly in the warm, moist, nutrient-rich environment. The
cut may not be as physical, brutal and abrupt as a knife cut, it could also very well be
an internal leakage, such as the one found after microwave exposure of the fragile
blood-brain-barrier (cf. Persson et al, 1997). Such a leakage could indeed be fatal,
causing nerve cell damage and consecutive cellular death (cf. Salford et al, 2003).
One of the first cell types to be encountered by a foreign organism after a cut in the
skin is the phagocytic white blood cells which will congregate within minutes and
begin to attack the invading foreign microbes. Following this, the next cell type to be
found in the area of such a local infection will be the so-called neutrophils. They are
also phagocytic and use pattern-regonizing surface receptor molecules to detect
structures commonly found on the surface of bacteria. As a result, these bacteria - as
well as other forms of particulate materia - will be ingested and degraded by the
neutrophils. Various other protein components of serum, including the complement
components may bind to the invader organisms and facilitate their phagocytosis,
thereby further limiting the source of infection/disease. Other small molecules, the
interferons, mediate an early response to viral infection by the innate system.
The innate immune system is often sufficient to destroy invading microbes. If it fails
to clear an infection, it will rapidly activate the adaptive or acquired immune
response, which - as a consequence - takes over.The molecular messenger connection
between the innate and the adaptive systems are molecules known as cytokines
(actually, the interferons are part of this molecular family).
The first cells in this cellular orchestra to be activated are the T and B lymphocytes.
These cells are normally at rest and are only recruited at need, i.e. when encountering
a foreign (=non-self) entity referred to as an antigen. The T and B lymphocytes,
together with a wide spectrum of other cell types, have antigen receptors or antigenrecognizing
molecules on their surface. Among them you find the classical antibodies
(=B cell antigen receptors), T cell antigen receptors as well as the specific protein
products of special genetic regions (=the major histocompatibility complexes). The
genes of humans are referred to as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes and their
protein products as HLA molecules. The antibodies - apart from being B cell surface
receptors - are also found as soluble antigen-recognizing molecules in the blood
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
(immunoglobulins). The adaptive immune response is very highly effective but rather
slow; it can take 7-10 days to mobilize completely. It has a very effective pathogen
(non-self) recognition mechanism, a molecular memory and can improve it's
production of pathogen-recognition molecules during the response.
A particularly interesting set of cells are the various dendritic cells of the skin. In the
outermost portion, the epidermis, you find both dendritic melanocytes, the cells
responsible for the pigment-production, as well as the Langerhans cells with their
antigen-presenting capacity. In the deeper layer, the dermis, you find corresponding
cells, as well as the basophilic mast cells, often showing a distinct dendritic
appearance using proper markers such as chymase, tryptase or histamine. All these
cells are the classical reactors to external radiation, such as radioactivity, X-rays and
UV light. For that reason, our demonstration (Johansson et al, 1994) of a high-to-very
high number of somatostatin-immunoreactive dendritic cells in the skin of persons
with the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity is of the greatest importance.
Also, the alterations found in the mast cell population of normal healthy volunteers
exposed in front of ordinary house-hold TVs and computer screens (Johansson et al,
2001) are intriguing, as are the significantly increased number of serotonin-positive
mast cells in the skin (p<0.05) and neuropeptide tyrosine (NPY)-containing nerve
fibers in the thyroid (p<0.01) of rats exposed to extremely low-frequency
electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) compared to controls, indicating a direct EMF
effect on skin and thyroid vasculature (Rajkovic et al, 2005a,b, 2006; for further
details and refs., see below). In the gastrointestinal tract, you will find corrsponding
types of cells guardening our interior lining towards the universe.
In essence, the immune system is a very complex one, built up of a large number of
cell types (B and T lymphocytes, macrophages, natural killer cells, mast cells,
Langerhans cells, etc.) with certain basic defense strategies. It has evolved during an
enormously long time-span and is constructed to deal with it's known enemies,
including bacteria. Among the known enemies are, of course, not modern
electromagnetic fields, such as power-frequent electric and magnetic fields,
radiowaves, TV signals, mobile phone or Wi-Fi microwaves, radar signals, X-rays or
radioactivity. They have been introduced during the last 100 years, in many cases
during the very last decades. They are an entirely new form of exposure and could
pose to be a biological ”terrorist army” against which there are no working defence
walls. They do penetrate the body from outside and in. Some of them have already
been proven to be of fatal nature, and today no-one would consider having a
radioactive wrist watch with glowing digits (as you could in the 1950s), having your
children’s shoes fitted in a strong X-ray machine (as you could in the 1940s), keeping
radium in open trays on your desk (as scientists could in the 1930s), or X-raying each
other at your garden party (as physicians did in the 1920s). That was, of course, just
plain madness. However, the persons doing so and selling these gadgets were not
misinformed or less intelligent, not at all. The knowledge at the time was just lacking
as was a competent risk analysis behaviour coupled to a parallel analysis of true
public need.
II. Hypersensitivity reactions
The immune system can react in an excessive manner and it can cause damage to the
local tissue as well as generally to the entire body. Such events are called
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
hypersensitivity reactions and they occur in response to three different types of
antigens: a) infectious agents, b) environmental disturbances, and c) self-antigens.
The second one is related to the impact of the new electromagnetic fields of today's
modern world. Hypersensitivity can occur in response to innocuous environmental
antigens - one example of this is allergy. For example, in hay fever, grass pollens
themselves are incapable of causing damage; it is the immune response to the pollen
that causes harm.
II A. Hypersensitivity to environmental substances
For environmental substances to trigger hypersensitivity reactions, they must be fairly
small in order to gain access to the immune system. Dust triggers off a range of
responses because they are able to enter the lower extremities of the respiratory tract,
an area that is rich in adaptive immune-response cells. These dusts can mimic
parasites and may stimulate an antibody response. If the dominant antibody is IgE,
they may subsequently trigger immediate hypersensitivity, which is manifest as
allergies such as asthma or rhinitis, If the dust stimulates IgG antibodies it may trigger
off a different kind of hypersensitivity, e.g. farmer's lung.
Smaller molecules sometimes diffuse into the skin and these may act as haptens,
triggering a delayed hypersensitivity reaction. This is the basis of contact dermatitis
caused by nickel.
Drugs administered orally, by injection or onto the surface of the body can elicit
hypersensitivity reactions mediated by IgE or IgG antibodies or by T cells.
Immunologically mediated hypersensitivity reactions to drugs are very common and
even very tiny doses of drugs can trigger life-threatening reactions. These are well
classified as idiosyncratic adverse drug reactions.
In this respect, of course electromagnetic fields could be said to fulfil the most
important demands: they can penetrate the entire body and if they are small.
II B. Hypersensitivity to self antigens
Some degree of immune response to self antigens is normal and is present in most
people. When these become exaggerated or when tolerance to further antigens breaks
down, hypersensitivity reactions can occur and manifest themselves as an
autoimmune disease, many of which that are truly serious and may even end fatally.
II C. Types of hypersensitivity reactions
The hypersensitivity classification system was first described by Coombs and Gell.
The system classifies the different types of hypersensitivity reaction by the types of
immune responses involved. Each type of hypersensitivity reaction produces
characteristic clinical diseases whether the trigger is an enviromental, infectious or
self-antigen. For example, in type III hypersensitivity the clinical result is similar
whether the antigen is streptococcus, a drug or an autoantigen such as DNA.
Hypersensitivity reactions are reliant on the adaptive immune system. Prior exposure
to antigen is required to prime the adaptive immune response to produce IgE (type I),
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
IgG (type II and III) or T cells (type IV). Because prior exposure is required,
hypersensitivity reactions do not take place when an individual is first exposed to
antigen. In each type of hypersensitivity reaction the damage is caused by different
adaptive and innate systems, each of which with their respective role in clearing
Type I
Type I hypersensitivity is mediated through the degranulation of mast cells
and eosinophils. The effects are felt within minutes of exposure and this type
of hypersensitivity is sometimes referred to as immediate hypersensitivity and
is also known as allergy. Among such reactions are hay fever and the classical
skin prick test that can be used to reveal such reaction patterns. The mast cell
is a common denominator in the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity
(earlier referred to as ”electrical allergy”).
Type II
Type II hypersensitivity is caused by IgG reacting with antigen present on the
surface of cells. The bound immunoglobulin then interacts with complement
or with Fc receptors on macrophages. These innate mechanisms then damage
the target cells using processes that may take several hours, as in the case of
drug-induced hemolysis.
Type III
Immunoglobulin is also responsible for the type III hypersensitivity. In this
case, immune complexes of antigen and antibody form and either cause
damage at the site of production or circulate and cause damage elsewhere.
Immune complexes take some time to form and to initiate tissue damage.
Among the cells types involved are neutrophils. Post-streptococcal
glomerulonephritis is a good example of immune complex disease.
Type IV
The slowest form of hypersensitivity is that mediated by T cells (type IV
hypersensitivity). This can take 2-3 days to develop and is referred to as
delayed hypersensitivity. Macrophages are frequently involved. A well-known
example of such delayed reactions is contact dermatitis.
III. The old and new electromagnetic environment
"Electromagnetic radiation" covers a broad range of frequencies (over 20 orders of
magnitude), from low frequencies in electricity supplies, radiowaves and microwaves,
infrared and visible light, to x-rays and cosmic rays.
III A. Definitions and sources
Electric fields are created by differences in voltage: the higher the voltage, the
stronger will be the resultant field. Magnetic fields are created when electric current
flows: the greater the current, the stronger the magnetic field. An electric field will
exist even when there is no current flowing. If current does flow, the strength of the
magnetic field will vary with power consumption but the electric field strength will be
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
III B. Natural sources of electromagnetic fields
Electromagnetic fields are present everywhere in our environment but are invisible to
the human eye. Electric fields are produced by the local build-up of electric charges in
the atmosphere associated with thunderstorms. The earth's magnetic field causes a
compass needle to orient in a North-South direction and is used by birds and fish for
III C. Human-made sources of electromagnetic fields
Besides natural sources the electromagnetic spectrum also includes fields generated
by human-made sources: X-rays are employed to diagnose a broken limb after a sport
accident. The electricity that comes out of every power socket has associated low
frequency electromagnetic fields. And various kinds of higher frequency radiowaves
are used to transmit information – whether via TV antennas, radio stations or mobile
phone base stations.
III D. What makes the various forms of electromagnetic fields so different?
One of the main characteristics which defines an electromagnetic field (EMF) is its
frequency or its corresponding wavelength. Fields of different frequencies interact
with the body in different ways. One can imagine electromagnetic waves as series of
very regular waves that travel at an enormous speed, the speed of light. The frequency
simply describes the number of oscillations or cycles per second, while the term
wavelength describes the distance between one wave and the next. Hence wavelength
and frequency are inseparably intertwined: the higher the frequency the shorter the
III E. A few basic facts
Field strength: An electromagnetic field consist of an electrical part and a magnetic
part. The electrical part is produced by a voltage gradient and is measured in
volts/metre. The magnetic part is generated by any flow of current and is measured in
Tesla. For example, standing under a power line would expose you to an electrical
voltage gradient due to the difference between the voltage of the line (set by the
power company) and earth. You would also be exposed to a magnetic field
proportional to the current actually flowing through the line, which depends on
consumer demand. Both types of field give biological effects, but the magnetic field
may be more damaging since it penetrates living tissue more easily. Magnetic fields
as low as around 2 milligauss (mG) or 0.2 microTesla (a millionth of a Tesla) can
produce biological effects. For comparison, using a mobile (cell) phone or a PDA
exposes you to magnetic pulses that peak at several tens of microTesla (Jokela et al,
2004; Sage et al, 2007), which is well over the minimum needed to give harmful
effects. Because mobile phones and other wireless gadgets are held close to the body
and are used frequently, these devices are potentially the most dangerous sources of
electromagnetic radiation that the average person possesses.
Frequency: The fields must vary with time, e.g. those from alternating currents, if
they are to have biological effects. Extremely low frequencies (ELF) represent powerlines
and domestic appliances, and here, just now in June 2007, the WHO again has
pointed them out as an area for general caution since they are believed to be one of
the causes for children’s leukemia. Pulsed or amplitude modulated, at a biologically
active lower frequency (i.e. when the radio signal strength rises and falls in time with
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
the lower frequency), high-frequencies are the hallmark of mobile phones, WiFi
systems, PDAs, etc,
III F. Electromagnetic fields at low frequencies
Electric fields exist whenever a positive or negative electrical charge is present. They
exert forces on other charges within the field. The strength of the electric field is
measured in volts per metre (V/m). Any electrical wire that is charged will produce an
associated electric field. This field exists even when there is no current flowing. The
higher the voltage, the stronger the electric field at a given distance from the wire.
Electric fields are strongest close to a charge or charged conductor, and their strength
rapidly diminishes with distance from it. Conductors such as metal shield them very
effectively. Other materials, such as building materials and trees, provide some
shielding capability. Therefore, the electric fields from power lines outside the house
are reduced by walls, buildings, and trees. When power lines are buried in the ground,
the electric fields at the surface are hardly detectable.
Plugging a wire into an outlet creates electric fields in the air surrounding the
appliance. The higher the voltage the stronger the field produced. Since the voltage
can exist even when no current is flowing, the appliance does not have to be turned on
for an electric field to exist in the room surrounding it.
Magnetic fields arise from the motion of electric charges. The strength of the
magnetic field is measured in amperes per meter (A/m); more commonly in
electromagnetic field research, scientists specify a related quantity, the flux density
(in microtesla, μT) instead. In contrast to electric fields, a magnetic field is only
produced once a device is switched on and current flows. The higher the current, the
greater the strength of the magnetic field.
Like electric fields, magnetic fields are strongest close to their origin and rapidly
decrease at greater distances from the source. Magnetic fields are not blocked by
common materials such as the walls of buildings.
III G. How do static fields differ from time-varying fields?
A static field does not vary over time. A direct current (DC) is an electric current
flowing in one direction only. In any battery-powered appliance the current flows
from the battery to the appliance and then back to the battery. It will create a static
magnetic field. The earth's magnetic field is also a static field. So is the magnetic field
around a bar magnet which can be visualized by observing the pattern that is formed
when iron filings are sprinkled around it.
In contrast, time-varying electromagnetic fields are produced by alternating currents
(AC). Alternating currents reverse their direction at regular intervals. In most
European countries electricity changes direction with a frequency of 50 cycles per
second or 50 Hertz. Equally, the associated electromagnetic field changes its
orientation 50 times every second. North American electricity has a frequency of 60
What are the main sources of low, intermediate and high frequency fields? The timevarying
electromagnetic fields produced by electrical appliances are an example of
extremely low frequency (ELF) fields. ELF fields generally have frequencies up to
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
300 Hz. Other technologies produce intermediate frequency (IF) fields with
frequencies from 300 Hz to 10 MHz and radiofrequency (RF) fields with frequencies
of 10 MHz to 300 GHz. The effects of electromagnetic fields on the human body
depend not only on their field level but on their frequency and energy. Our electricity
power supply and all appliances using electricity are the main sources of ELF fields;
computer screens, anti-theft devices and security systems are the main sources of IF
fields; and radio, television, radar and cellular telephone antennas, and microwave
ovens are the main sources of RF fields. These fields induce currents within the
human body, which if sufficient can produce a range of effects such as heating and
electrical shock, depending on their amplitude and frequency range. (However, to
produce such effects, the fields outside the body would have to be very strong, far
stronger than present in normal environments.)
There are four phenomena that emerge from the use of electricity: ground currents;
"electromagnetic smog" from communications equipment; magnetic fields from
power lines and specialized equipments; and radiofrequencies on power lines or socalled
"dirty electricity." They may all be potential environmental toxins and this is an
area of research that must be further pursued.
Electromagnetic fields at high frequencies
Mobile telephones, television and radio transmitters and radar produce RF fields.
These fields are used to transmit information over long distances and form the basis
of telecommunications as well as radio and television broadcasting all over the world.
Microwaves are RF fields at high frequencies in the GHz range. In microwaves ovens,
we use them to quickly heat food at 2.45 GHz (or 2,450 MHz ).
Communications and radar antennae expose those who live or work near these
installations to their emissions. The radiation travels through buildings, and can also
be conducted along electrical wires or metal plumbing. Wireless communications
create levels within buildings that are orders of magnitude higher than natural
background levels.
At radio frequencies, electric and magnetic fields are closely interrelated and we
typically measure their levels as power densities in watts per square metre (W/m2).
IV. The immune system and the impairment electrohypersensitivity
An increasing number of studies has clearly shown various biological and medical
effects at the cellular level of electromagnetic fields, including power-frequency and
radiofrequency/microwave exposures at low-intensity levels. Such electromagnetic
fields are present in everyday life, at the workplace, in your home in homes and at
places of leisure. Such bioeffects and health impacts are substantially documented in
the scientific literature, and are directly relevant to public health.
Direct effects on the immune system were first reported in relation to people with
symptoms of electrohypersensitivity. Subjective and objective skin- and mucosarelated
symptoms, such as itch, smarting, pain, heat sensation, redness, papules,
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
pustles, etc., after exposure to visual display terminals (VDTs), mobile phones, DECT
telephones, WI-FI equipments, as well as other electromagnetic devices were
reported. Frequently, symptoms from internal organ systems, such as the heart and the
central nervous system were reported.
A working definition of EHS from Bergqvist et al. (1997) is:
“a phenomenon where individuals experience adverse health effects while using or
being in the vicinity of devices emanating electric, magnetic or electromagnetic fields
Stenberg (2004) distinguishes between two groups: those who experience facial skin
symptoms in connection with VDT work (sensory sensations of the facial skin
including stinging, itching, burning, erythema, rosacea) while EHS symptoms include
these and also fatigue, headache, sleeplessness, dizziness, cardiac and cognitive
Hillert (2004) reports that symptoms of EHS may include facial skin complaints, eye
irritation, runny or stuffy nose, impaired sense of smell, hoarse dry throat, coughing,
sense of pressure in ear(s), fatigue, headache, heaviness in the head, nausea/dizziness,
and difficulties in concentrating.
Cox (2004) reported on a study of electrical hypersensitivity in the United Kingdom.
Symptoms reported by mobile phone users included headaches (85%), dizziness
(27%), fatigue (24%), nausea (15%), itching (15%), redness (9%), burning 61%), and
cognitive problems (42%). For those individuals reporting EHS symptoms in the UK
population, the percentage of patients with symptoms from cell phone masts was
18%, DECT cordless phones (36%), landline phones (6%), VDTs (27%), television
(12%) and fluorescent lights (18%).
Fox et al (2004) reported that a questionnaire survey of EHS individuals revealed
symptoms of nausea, muzziness/disorientation.
Levallois et al. (2002) reported on their study of prevalence of self-perceived
hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields in California. They found that about 3% of
the population reports to be electrohypersensitive. About 0.5% of the population has
reported the necessity to change jobs or to remain unemployed due to the severity of
their electrohypersensitivity symptoms. Underestimation of these percentages is
discussed, since the population surveyed was found through contact with either an
occupational clinic or a support group, and electrohypersensitive people very
frequently cannot due normal outings (go out, travel, meet in buildings with EMF
exposures, etc). The study concludes that while there was no clinical confirmation of
the reported symptoms of electrohypersensitivity, the perception is of public health
importance in California, and perhaps North America. The results were based on a
telephone survey among a sample of 2,072 Californians. Being “allergic or very
sensitive” to getting near electrical devices was reported by 68 subjects resulting in an
adjusted prevalence of 3.2% (95% confidence interval: 2.8, 3.7). Twenty-seven
subjects (1.3%) reported sensitivity to electrical devices but no sensitivity to
chemicals. Alleging that a doctor had diagnosed “environmental illness or multiple
chemical sensitivity” was the strongest predictor of reporting being hypersensitive to
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
EMF in this population (adjusted prevalence odds ratio = 5.8, 95 % confidence
interval: 2.6 - 12.8. This study confirms the presence of this self-reported disorder in
North America.
A recent German survey suggests that the prevalence of subjects who attribute health
complaints to EMF exposures is not negligible. In a sample of 2,500 interviewees, 8%
specifically attributed health complaints to exposures from mobile phone base station
antennas or the use of mobile or cordless phones [Institut für angewandte
Sozialwissenschaft (infas), 2004]. In Sweden, 3.1% of the population claimed to be
hypersensitive to EMF. Considerable variation across countries, regions within
countries, and surveys in the same regions has been noted before. In 1997, a European
expert group reported that electrical hypersensitivity had a higher prevalence in
Sweden, Germany, and Denmark than in the United Kingdom, Austria, and France
[European group of experts, 1997]. All these data suggest that the true number is still
uncertain and the topic merits further research (cf. Schuz et al, 2006).
Roosli et al. (2004a, 2004b) estimates that the proportion of individuals in
Switzerland with EHS symptoms is about 5%, where the exposures of concern are
cited to be powerlines, handheld phones, television and computer exposures rather
than base stations (cell towers). He reported that about half the Swiss population is
concerned about health effects from EMF exposures in general.
V. Scientific studies of electrohypersensitivity, as well as effects of
electromagnetic fields on humans
Lyskov et al. (2004) reported that EHS individuals exhibited sensitivity to VDTs,
fluorescent lights and television, all of which produce flickering light. EHS
individuals that were given provocation tests with flickering light exhibited a higher
critical flicker frequency (CFF) than normal, and their visual evoked potential (VEP)
was significantly higher than in controls. Follow-up studies, individuals with EHS
demonstrated increased CFF, increased VEP, increased heart rate, decreased heart rate
variability (HRV) and increased electrodermal (EDA) reaction to sound stimuli.
These results indicate an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system and a lack of
normal circadian rhythms in these EHS individuals. However, it may also just show
that they feel ill.
Mueller and Schierz (2004) reported that soundness of sleep and well-being in the
morning but not sleep quality were affected by exposure in EHS individuals to
overnight EMF exposures. An effect was reported where EHS individuals shifted
their position in the bed during sleep to the non-exposed (or probably less exposed)
side of the bed.
Vecchio et al (2007) have reported that EMF from mobile phones affects the
synchronization of cerebral rhythms. Their findings suggest that prolonged exposure
to mobile phone emissions affect cortical activity and the speed of neural
synchronization by interhemispherical functional coupling of EEG rhythms. This may
be evidence that such exposure can affect the way in which the brain is able to
process information, by interfering with the synchronization rhythms between the
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
halves of the brain, and by disregulating the normal alpha wave 2 (about 8-10 Hz) and
alpha 3 (10-12 Hz) bands.
Markova et al. (2005) reported that non-thermal microwave exposure from Global
System for Mobile Communication (GSM) mobile telephones at lower levels than the
ICNIRP safety standards affect 53BP1 and γ-H2AX foci and chromatin conformation
in human lymphocytes. They investigated effects of microwave radiation of GSM at
different carrier frequencies on human lymphocytes from healthy persons and from
persons reporting hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). They measured
the changes in chromatin conformation, which are indicative of stress response and
genotoxic effects, by the method of anomalous viscosity time dependence, and
analyzed tumor suppressor p53-binding protein 1 (53BP1) and phosphorylated histone
H2AX (γ-H2AX), which have been shown to colocalize in distinct foci with DNA
double-strand breaks (DSBs), using immunofluorescence confocal laser microscopy.
The authors reported that microwave exposure from GSM mobile telephones affect
chromatin conformation and 53BP1/γ-H2AX foci similar to heat shock. For the first
time, they reported that effects of microwave radiation from mobile telephones on
human lymphocytes are dependent on carrier frequency. On average, the same
response was observed in lymphocytes from hypersensitive and healthy subjects.
These effects occurred at non-thermal microwave exposure levels from mobile
telephones. These levels are presently permissible under safety standards of the
International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
Recent evidence has indicated activation of stress-induced pathways in cultivated
cells in response to microwaves (Leszczynski et al, 2002). Their article indicated that
mobile telephone microwaves activate a variety of cellular signal transduction
pathways, among them the hsp27/p38MAPK stress response pathway (Leszczynski et
al, 2002). Whether activation of stress response pathways relates to apoptosis, bloodbrain
barrier permeability, or increased cancer in humans remains to be investigated.
Further work reported gene and protein expression changes in human endothelial cell
lines with microwave 900 MHz mobile phone exposure (Leszczynski and Nylund,
Persons claiming adverse skin reactions after having been exposed to computer
screens or mobile phones very well could be reacting in a highly specific way and
with a completely correct avoidance reaction, especially if the provocative agent was
radiation and/or chemical emissions -- just as would happen if you had been exposed
to e.g. sun rays, X-rays, radioactivity or chemical odors. The working hypothesis,
thus, early became that they react in a cellularly correct way to the electromagnetic
radiation, maybe in concert with chemical emissions such as plastic components,
flame retardants, etc., something later focussed upon by professor Denis L. Henshaw
and his collaborators at the Bristol University (cf. Fews et al, 1999a,b). This is also
covered in great depth by the author Gunni Nordström in her latest book (2004).
Very early immune cell alterations were observed when exposing two EHS
individuals to a TV monitor (Johansson et al, 1994). In this people were placed in
front of, in front of an ordinary TV set (an open provocation study). Subjects who
regarded themselves as suffering from skin problems due to work at video display
terminals were tested. Employing immunohistochemistry, in combination with a wide
range of antisera directed towards cellular and neurochemical markers, we observed
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
and reported a high-to-very high number of somatostatin-immunoreactive dendritic
cells as well as histamine-positive mast cells in skin biopsies from the anterior neck
taken before the start of the provocation. At the end of the provocation the high
number of mast cells was unchanged, however, all the somatostatin-positive cells had
seemingly disappeared. The reason for this latter finding may be discussed in terms of
loss of immunoreactivity, increase of breakdown, etc. The high number of mast cells
present may explain the clinical symptoms of itch, pain, edema and erythema.
In facial skin samples of electrohypersensitive persons, the most common finding is a
profound increase of mast cells as monitored by various mast cell markers, such as
histamine, chymase and tryptase (Johansson and Liu, 1995). From these studies, it is
clear that the number of mast cells in the upper dermis is increased in the
electrohypersensitivity group. A different pattern of mast cell distribution also
occurred in the electrohypersensitivity group, namely, the normally empty zone
between the dermo-epidermal junction and mid-to-upper dermis disappeared in the
electrohypersensitivity group and, instead, this zone had a high density of mast cell
infiltration. These cells also seemed to have a tendency to migrate towards the
epidermis (=epidermiotrophism) and many of them emptied their granular content
(=degranulation) in the dermal papillary layer. Furthermore, more degranulated mast
cells could be seen in the dermal reticular layer in the electrohypersensitivity group,
especially in those cases which had the mast cell epidermiotrophism phenomenon
described above. Finally, in the electrohypersensitivity group, the cytoplasmic
granules were more densely distributed and more strongly stained than in the control
group, and, generally, the size of the infiltrating mast cells was found to be larger in
the electrohypersensitivity group as well. It should be noted, that increases of similar
nature later on were demonstrated in an experimental situation employing normal
healthy volunteers in front of visual display units, including ordinary house-hold
television sets (cf. Johansson et al, 2001).
Mast cells, when activated, release a spectrum of mediators, among them histamine,
which is involved in a variety of biological effects with clinical relevance, e.g.,
allergic hypersensitivity, itch, edema, local erythema, and many types of dermatoses.
From the results of the above studies, it is clear that electromagnetic fields affect the
mast cell, and also the dendritic cell, population, and may degranulate these cells.
The release of inflammatory substances, such as histamine, from mast cells in the skin
results in a local erythema, edema, and sensation of itch and pain, and the release of
somatostatin from the dendritic cells may give rise to subjective sensations of ongoing
inflammation and sensitivity to ordinary light. These are, as mentioned, the common
symptoms reported from persons suffering from electrohypersensitivity/screen
dermatitis. Mast cells occur in the brain (Zhuang et al, 1999) and their presence may,
under the influence of electromagnetic field and/or radiofrequency radiation exposure
lead to chronic inflammatory response by the mast cell degranulation.
Mast cells are also present in the heart tissue and their localization is of particular
relevance to their function. Data from studies made on interactions of electromagnetic
fields with the cardiac function have demonstrated that changes are present in the
heart after exposure to electromagnetic fields. Some electrically sensitive people have
symptoms similar to heart attacks after exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
We have also compared facial skin from electrohypersensitive persons with
corresponding material from normal healthy volunteers (Johansson et al, 1996). The
aim of the study was to evaluate possible markers to be used for future double-blind
or blind provocation investigations. Differences were found for the biological markers
calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), somatostatin (SOM), vasoactive intestinal
polypeptide (VIP), peptide histidine isoleucine amide (PHI), neuropeptide tyrosine
(NPY), protein S-100 (S-100), neuron-specific enolase (NSE), protein gene product
(PGP) 9.5 and phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PNMT). The overall
impression in the blind-coded material was such that it turned out easy to blindly
separate the two groups from each other. However, no single marker was 100% able
to pin-point the difference, although some were quite powerful in doing so (CGRP,
SOM, S-100). In our on-going investigations, we have also found alterations of the
Merkel cell number in the facial skin of electrohypersensitive persons (Yoshimura et
al, 2006). However, it has to be pointed out that we cannot, based upon those results,
draw any definitive conclusions about the cause of the changes observed. Blind or
double-blind provocations in a controlled environment (Johansson et al, 2001) are
necessary to elucidate the underlying causes for the changes reported in this particular
Gangi and Johansson (1997, 2000) have proposed models for how mast cells and
substances secreted from them (e.g., histamine, heparin, and serotonin) could explain
sensitivity to electromagnetic fields similar to those used to explain UV- and ionizing
irradiation-related damages. We discuss an increasing number of persons who report
cutaneous problems as well as symptoms from certain internal organs, such as the
central nervous system and the heart, when being close to electric equipment. Many
of these respondents are users of video display terminals, and have both subjective
and objective skin- and mucosa-related symptoms, such as pain, itch, heat sensation,
erythema, papules, and pustules. The central nervous system-derived symptoms are,
e.g., dizziness, tiredness, and headache, erythema, itch, heat sensation, edema, and
pain which are also common symptoms of sunburn (UV dermatitis). Alterations have
been observed in cell populations of the skin of electrohypersensitive persons similar
to those observed in the skin damaged due to ultraviolet light or ionizing radiation.
Gangi and Johansson (1997, 2000), have proposed a theoretical mechanism to explain
how mast cells and substances secreted from them could cause sensitivity to
electromagnetic fields. The mechanism derives from known facts in the fields of UVand
ionizing irradiation-related damage. Alterations seen after power-frequency or
microwave electromagnetic field exposures that result in electrohypersensitivity
symptoms may be understood by comparison to to ionizing radiation damage
according to the type of immune function responses seen in both.
The working hypothesis is that electrohypersensitivity is a kind of irradiation damage,
since the observed cellular changes are very much the same as the ones documented
in tissue subjected to UV-light or ionizing radiation (see references below).
Mast cells are located in close proximity to neurons in the peripheral and central
nervous systems, suggesting a functional role in normal and aberrant
neurodegenerative states. They also possess many of the features of neurons, in terms
of monoaminergic systems, responsiveness to neurotrophins and neuropeptides and
the ability to synthesise and release bioactive neurotrophic factors. Mast cells are able
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
to secrete an array of potent mediators which may orchestrate neuroinflammation and
affect the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. The «cross-talk» between mast cells,
lymphocytes, neurons and glia constitutes a neuroimmune axis which is implicated in
a range of neurodegenerative diseases with an inflammatory and/or autoimmune
component, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.
Mast cells are involved in numerous activities ranging from control of the vasculature,
to tissue injury and repair, allergic inflammation and host defences. They synthesize
and secrete a variety of mediators, activating and modulating the functions of nearby
cells and initiating complex physiological changes. Interestingly, NO produced by
mast cells and/or other cells in the microenvironment appears to regulate these diverse
roles. Some of the pathways central to the production of NO by mast cells and many
of the tightly controlled regulatory mechanisms involved have been identified.
Several cofactors and regulatory elements are involved in NO production, and these
act at transcriptional and post-translational sites. Their involvement in NO production
and the possibility that these pathways are critically important in mast cell functions
should be investigated. The effects of NO on mast cell functions such as adhesion,
activation and mediator secretion ought to be examined with a focus on molecular
mechanisms by which NO modifies intracellular signalling pathways dependent or
independent of cGMP and soluble guanylate cyclase. Metabolic products of NO
including peroxynitrite and other reactive species may be the critical elements that
affect the actions of NO on mast cell functions. Further understanding of the actions
of NO on mast cell activities may uncover novel strategies to modulate inflammatory
It is important to remember that mastocytosis - an abnormal accumulation of mast
cells in one or more organ system - can occur secondarily to other causes, such as
inflammation and some kinds of leukemia. The increase in EHS being described here
is more accurately thought of as “primary” mastocytosis, meaning that the increased
number of mast cells occurs independently of any other cause. However, because of
the increased number of mast cells in primary mastocytosis, conditions such as
osteoporosis and inflammation may arise as a result of the activity of those mast cells.
The manner in which primary mastocytosis can be distinguished from secondary
mastocytosis and other conditions should be addressed.
Research of mast cells and mastocytosis has made impressive progress over the past
decade toward understanding what is different about mast cells in patients who have
mastocytosis compared with mast cells in people who do not. A group of 23
researchers from Europe and the United States met in Vienna in September, 2000,
and, after lengthy discussions, arrived at a consensus as to what criteria will
accurately diagnose mastocytosis, and how to classify the various sub-types. Their
conclusions are reported in a series of articles in the July, 2001, issue of Leukemia
Research. Unfortunately, nothing was mentioned about mast cells and EMF effects.
Patients with mastocytosis may or may not have constitutional symptoms, including
weight loss, pain, nausea, headache, malaise, or fatigue. These symptoms may be due
to uncontrolled proliferation of mast cells or involvement of distinct organs, such as
the stomach and intestines, or bone or bone marrow. Constitutional symptoms also
can result from high levels of mast cell mediators in the blood stream. The severity of
symptoms varies from mild to life-threatening.
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
The study of biopsy tissue in patients with suspected mastocytosis requires the use of
appropriate stains. Tryptase is the stain of choice, as toluidine blue and Giemsa stains
are more likely to be affected by tissue processing and may not always produce
reliable results.
In skin, accumulation of groups of mast cells combined with the presence of urticaria
pigmentosa or mastocytoma is diagnostic of cutaneous mastocytosis. In some cases, it
may be difficult to establish a diagnosis. The absence of skin lesions does not rule out
the diagnosis of mastocytosis.
The abnormalities that may be seen in mastocytosis mast cells are elongated shape,
oval nuclei that are not in the center of the mast cell, and fewer than usual granules
inside the mast cells, with those present being in groups rather than scattered. If two
or more of these features are found, the cells are referred to as atypical mast cells.
Sometimes the nucleus of atypical mast cells will have "lobes."
When the diagnosis of mastocytosis has not previously been established, specialized
analyses may be required to differentiate between mastocytosis and other non-mast
cell disorders of the blood-forming system, such as leukemias and myeloproliferative
disorders. In some of these other disorders, the diseased cells contain and release low
amounts of tryptase. Additional blood cell studies and chromosome analysis may be
necessary to make a clear diagnosis in such cases.
Holmboe and Johansson (2005) reported on testing for the presence of increased
levels of IgE or signs of a positive Phadiatop Combi (which is a screening test for
allergies towards certain articles of food, pollen, insects, and other animals) which
both would be indicators of an immune system alert. Twenty-two people (5 men, 17
women) participated in the study. Skin and nervous system effects were the primary
symptoms reported by participants in the study. The most frequently reported
symptoms were skin redness, eczema and sweating, loss of memory, concentration
difficulties, sleep disturbances, dizziness, muscular and joint-related pain, and
muscular and joint-related weakness. Headache, faintness, nasal stuffiness, and
fatigue were also common. In addition, 19 of the people had disturbances of the
gastrointestinal tract. All the people with the impairment electrohypersensitivity had
No connection between IgE blood levels and symptoms were found. All the people
who reported electrohypersensitivity had normal values (<122 kU/l). Only 3 people
had a positive Phadiatop Combi. Such increases could be used in the diagnosis of
electrohypersensitivity, but they were not found to be useful indicators.
Animal Studies
In addition to the studies in humans, series of animal experiments were performed in
collaboration with the Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Novi Sad, Serbia
and Montenegro), and the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden (Rajkovic et al,
2005a,b, 2006).
The aim of these was to investigate the influence of extremely low-frequency
electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMFs) on mast cells, parafollicular cells, and nerve
fibers in rat skin and thyroid gland, as seen using light and transmission electron
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
microscopy. The experiments were performed on 2-month-old Wistar male rats
exposed for 4 h a day, 5 or 7 days a week for 1 month to power-frequent (50 Hz)
EMFs (100-300 μT, 54-160 V/m). After sacrifice, samples of skin and thyroid were
processed for indirect immunohistochemistry or toluidine blue staining and were then
analyzed using the methods of stereology. Antibody markers to serotonin, substance
P, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), and protein gene product 9.5 (PGP) were
applied to skin sections and PGP, CGRP, and neuropeptide Y (NPY) markers to the
thyroid. A significantly increased number of serotonin-positive mast cells in the skin
(p<0.05) and NPY-containing nerve fibers in the thyroid (p<0.01) of rats exposed to
ELF-EMF was found compared to controls, indicating a direct EMF effect on skin
and thyroid vasculature.
After ultrastructural examination, a predominance of microfollicles with less colloid
content and dilated blood capillaries was found in the EMF group. Stereological
counting showed a statistically significant increase of the volume density of follicular
epithelium, interfollicular tissue and blood capillaries as well as the thyroid activation
index, as compared to the controls. The volume density of colloid significantly
decreased. Ultrastructural analysis of thyroid follicular cells in the EMF group
revealed the frequent finding of several colloid droplets within the same thyrocyte
with the occasional presence of large-diameter droplets. Alterations in lysosomes,
granular endoplasmic reticulum and cell nuclei compared to the control group were
also observed. Taken together, the results of this study show the stimulative effect of
power-frequency EMFs on thyroid gland at both the light microscope and the
ultrastructural level.
The animal results reported in these studies can not be explained away as
psychosomatic in origin because they were conducted on animals, not humans.
In summary, both human and animal studies report large immunohistological changes
in mast cells, and other measures of immune disfunction and disregulation due to
exposures to ELF and RF at environmental levels associated with new electrical and
wireless technologies.
It iss evident from our preliminary experimental data that various biological
alterations are present in the electrohypersensitive persons claiming to suffer from
exposure to electromagnetic fields. The alterations are themselves enough to fully
explain the EHS symptoms, and the involvement of the immune system is evident. In
view of recent epidemiological studies, pointing to a correlation between long-term
exposure from power-frequent magnetic fields or microwaves and cancer, our data
ought to be taken seriously and to be further analyzed.
Thus, it is of paramount importance to continue the investigation of persons with the
impairment electrohypersensitivity. We would favour studies of electromagnetic
fields' interaction with mast cell release of histamine and other biologically active
substances, studies of lymphocyte viability as well as studies of the newly described
serotonin-containing melanocytes. Also, continued analysis of the intraepidermal
nerve fibers and their relations to these mast cells and serotonin-containing
melanocytes are very important. Finally, not to be forgotten, a general investigation -
of persons with the impairment electrohypersensitivity versus normal healthy
volunteers - regarding the above markers as well as other markers for cell traffic,
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
proliferation and inflammation is very much needed. Such scientific work may lay a
firm foundation for necessary adjustment of accessibility, thus helping and supporting
all persons with the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity.
VI. Direct effects of EMFs on the immune system
Childhood leukemia was early connected to power-frequent magnetic fields already in
the pioneering work by Wertheimer and Leeper (1979), and more recently
Scandinavian scientists have identified an increased risk for acoustic neuroma (i.e., a
benign tumor of the eighth cranial nerve) in cell phone users, as well as a slightly
increased risk of malignant brain tumors such as astrocytoma and meningioma on the
same side of the brain as the cell phone was habitually held (Hardell et al, 1999, 2004,
2005; Lonn et al, 2004). In addition, a clear association between adult cancers and FM
radio broadcasting radiation has been noticed, both in time and location (Hallberg and
Johansson, 2002b, 2004a, 2005a). Initial studies on facial nevi indicates that
nowadays also young children can have a substantial amount of these. If it can be
shown that radiofrequency radiation is not correlated with childhood cancers the
current focus on low-frequency electromagnetic fields can continue. If there is also a
radiofrequency and/or microwave correlation then this must be considered in future
research as well as in today's preventive work.
Anane and coworkers (2003) studied the effects of acute exposure to GSM-900
microwaves (900 MHz, 217 Hz pulse modulation) on the clinical parameters of the
acute experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) model in rats in two
independent experiments: rats were either habituated or nonhabituated to the exposure
restrainers. EAE was induced with a mixture of myelin basic protein and
Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Female Lewis rats were divided into cage control, sham
exposed, and two groups exposed either at 1.5 or 6.0 W/kg local specific absorption
rate (SAR averaged over the brain) using a loop antenna placed over their heads. No
effect of a 21-day exposure (2 h/day) on the onset, duration, and termination of the
EAE crisis was seen.
The object of the study by Boscol et al. (2001) was to investigate the immune system
of 19 women with a mean age of 35 years, for at least 2 years (mean = 13 years)
exposed to electromagnetic fields induced by radiotelevision broadcasting stations in
their residential area. In September 1999, the EMFs (with range 500 KHz-3 GHz) in
the balconies of the homes of the women were (mean +/- S.D.) 4.3 +/- 1.4 V/m.
Forty-seven women of similar age, smoking habits and atopy composed the control
group, with a nearby resident EMF exposure of < 1.8 V/m. Blood lead and urinary
trans-trans muconic acid (a metabolite of benzene), markers of exposure to urban
traffic, were higher in the control women. The EMF exposed group showed a
statistically significant reduction of blood NK CD16+-CD56+, cytotoxic CD3(-)-
CD8+, B and NK activated CD3(-)-HLA-DR+ and CD3(-)-CD25+ lymphocytes. 'In
vitro' production of IL-2 and interferon-gamma (INF-gamma) by peripheral blood
mononuclear cells (PBMC) of the EMF exposed group, incubated either with or
without phytohaemoagglutinin (PHA), was significantly lower; the 'in vitro'
production of IL-2 was significantly correlated with blood CD16+-CD56+
lymphocytes. The stimulation index (S.I.) of blastogenesis (ratio between cell
proliferation with and without PHA) of PBMC of EMF exposed women was lower
than that of the control subjects. The S.I. of blastogenesis of the EMF exposed group
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
(but not blood NK lymphocytes and the 'in vitro' production of IL-2 and INF-gamma
by PBMC) was significantly correlated with the EMF levels. Blood lead and urinary
trans-trans muconic acid were barely correlated with immune parameters: the urinary
metabolite of benzene of the control group was only correlated with CD16+-CD56+
cells indicating a slight effect of traffic on the immune system. In conclusion, this
study demonstrates that high-frequency EMFs reduce cytotoxic activity in the
peripheral blood of women without a dose-response effect. Such an effect could, of
course, only be considered as very serious, since this could hamper the immune
system in it’s daily struggle against various organisms/agents.
On the other hand, Chagnaud and Veyret in 1999 could not demonstrate an effect of
low-level pulsed microwaves on the integrity of the immune system. They
investigated the effects of GSM-modulated microwaves on lymphocyte subpopulations
of Sprague-Dawley rats and their normal mitogenic responses using flow
cytometry analysis and a colorimetric method. No alterations were found in the
surface phenotype of splenic lymphocytes or in their mitogenic activity.
Cleary et al. (1990) reported a biphasic, dose-dependent effect of microwave
radiation on lymphycyte proliferation with non-thermal exposures. Whole human
blood was exposed or sham-exposed in vitro for 2 h to 27 or 2,450 MHz radiofrequency
electromagnetic (RF) radiation under isothermal conditions (i.e., 37 +/- 0.2
degrees C). Immediately after exposure, mononuclear cells were separated from blood
by Ficoll density-gradient centrifugation and cultured for 3 days at 37 degrees C with
or without mitogenic stimulation by phytohemagglutinin (PHA). Lymphocyte
proliferation was assayed at the end of the culture period by 6 h of pulse-labeling with
3H-thymidine (3H-TdR). Exposure to radiation at either frequency at specific
absorption rates (SARs) below 50 W/kg resulted in a dose-dependent, statistically
significant increase of 3H-TdR uptake in PHA-activated or unstimulated
lymphocytes. Exposure at 50 W/kg or higher suppressed 3H-TdR uptake relative to
that of sham-exposed cells. There were no detectable effects of RF radiation on
lymphocyte morphology or viability. Notwithstanding the characteristic temperature
dependence of lymphocyte activation in vitro, the isothermal exposure conditions of
this study warrant the conclusion that the biphasic, dose-dependent effects of the
radiation on lymphocyte proliferation were not dependent on heating.
Cleary et al. (1996) subsequently published yet another paper reporting a biphasic
response of lymphycytes to radiofrequency/microwave radiation where higher SARs
resulted in decreased cell proliferation and lower SARs result in increased cell
proliferation, dependent on the mitotic state of the cells. Previous in vitro studies had
provided evidence that RF electromagnetic radiation modulates proliferation of
human glioma, lymphocytes, and other cell types. The mechanism of such RF
radiation cell proliferation modulation, as well as mechanisms for effects on other cell
physiologic endpoints, however, were not well understood. To obtain insight
regarding interaction mechanisms, they investigated effects of RF radiation exposure
on interleukin 2 (IL-2) -dependent proliferation of cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTLL-2).
After exposure to RF radiation in the presence or absence of IL-2 cells were cultured
at various physiological concentrations of IL-2. Treatment effects on CTLL-2
proliferation were determined by tritiated thymidine incorporation immediately or 24
h after exposure. Exposure to 2,450 MHz RF radiation at specific absorption rates
(SARs) of greater than 25 W/kg (induced E-field strength 98.4 V/m) induced a
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
consistent, statistically significant reduction in CTLL-2 proliferation, especially at
low IL-2 concentrations. At lower SARs, 2,450 MHz exposure increased CTLL-2
proliferation immediately after exposure but reduced 24 h post-exposure proliferation.
RF radiation effects depended on the mitotic state of the cells at the time of exposure.
In 1992, Czerska et al. studied the effects of continuous and pulsed 2,450-MHz
radiation on spontaneous lymphoblastoid transformation of human lymphocytes in
vitro. Normal human lymphocytes were isolated from the peripheral blood of healthy
donors. One-ml samples containing one million cells in chromosome medium 1A
were exposed for 5 days to conventional heating or to continuous wave (CW) or
pulsed wave (PW) 2,450-MHz radiation at non-heating (37 degrees C) and various
heating levels (temperature increases of 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, and 2 degrees C). The pulsed
exposures involved 1-microsecond pulses at pulse repetition frequencies from 100 to
1,000 pulses per second at the same average SAR levels as the CW exposures. Actual
average SARs ranged to 12.3 W/kg. Following termination of the incubation period,
spontaneous lymphoblastoid transformation was determined with an image analysis
system. The results were compared among each of the experimental conditions and
with sham-exposed cultures. At non-heating levels, CW exposure did not affect
transformation. At heating levels both conventional and CW heating enhanced
transformation to the same extent and correlate with the increases in incubation
temperature. PW exposure enhanced transformation at non-heating levels. This
finding is significant (p<0.002). At heating levels PW exposure enhanced
transformation to a greater extent than did conventional or CW heating. This finding
is significant at the 0.02 level. It was concluded that PW 2,450-MHz radiation acts
differently on the process of lymphoblastoid transformation in vitro compared with
CW 2,450-MHz radiation at the same average SARs.
In 2003, Dabrowski et al. exposed samples of mononuclear cells isolated from
peripheral blood of healthy donors (n = 16) to 1,300 MHz pulse-modulated
microwaves at 330 pps with 5 μs pulse width. The samples were exposed in an
anechoic chamber at the average value of power density of S = 10 W/m2 (1 mW/cm2).
The average specific absorption rate (SAR) was measured in rectangular waveguide
and the value of SAR = 0.18 W/kg was recorded. Subsequently, the exposed and
control cells were assessed in the microculture system for several parameters
characterizing their proliferative and immunoregulatory properties. Although the
irradiation decreased the spontaneous incorporation of 3H-thymidine, the proliferative
response of lymphocytes to phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and to Con A as well as the
T-cell suppressive activity (SAT index) and the saturation of IL-2 receptors did not
change. Nevertheless, the lymphocyte production of interleukin (IL)-10 increased
(p< 0.001) and the concentration of IFNγ remained unchanged or slightly decreased in
the culture supernatants. Concomitantly, the microwave irradiation modulated the
monokine production by monocytes. The production of IL-1β increased significantly
(p< 0.01), the concentration of its antagonist (IL-1ra) dropped by half (p< 0.01) and
the tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) concentration remained unchanged. These changes
of monokine proportion (IL-1 β vs. IL-1ra) resulted in significant increase of the
value of LM index (p<0.01), which reflects the activation of monocyte immunogenic
function. The results indicate that pulse-modulated microwaves represent the potential
of immunotropic influence, stimulating preferentially the immunogenic and
proinflammatory activity of monocytes at relatively low levels of exposure,
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
Following these findings of Go phase peripheral blood mononulclear cells (PBMC)
exposed to low-level (SAR = 0.18 W/kg) pulse-modulated 1300 MHz microwave,s
and subsequently cultured, demonstrating changed immune activity (as of above), in
2006 Stankiewicz and coworkers investigated whether cultured immune cells induced
into the active phases of cell cycle (G1, S) and then exposed to microwaves will also
be sensitive to electromagnetic fields. An anechoic chamber containing a microplate
with cultured cells and an antenna emitting microwaves (900 MHz simulated GSM
signal, 27 V/m, SAR 0.024 W/kg) was placed inside an ASSAB incubator. The
microcultures of PBMC exposed to microwaves demonstrated significantly higher
response to mitogens and higher immunogenic activity of monocytes (LM index) than
control cultures. The LM index, described in detail elsewhere (Dabrowski et al,
2001), represents the monokine influence on lymphocyte mitogenic response. The
results suggest that immune activity of responding lymphocytes and monocytes can
be additionally intensified by 900 MHz microwaves. The above described effects of
an immune system activity-intensifying effect of 900 MHz microwaves are, of course,
a very important warning signal as well as a very important piece of the explanatory
jigsaw puzzle regarding, for instance, the functional impairment
electrohypersensitivity. In the latter, affected persons very often describe “influenzalike”
sensations in their body. Maybe the mobile phones, as well as other highfrequency
devices, have aroused the immune system to a too high an activation level?
In an attempt to understand how non-atopic and atopic fertile women with uniform
exposure to toxic compounds produced by traffic - immunologically react to high or
low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELMF), Del Signore et al. (2000) performed a
preliminary study. Women were divided in group A (non-atopic, non-exposed to
ELMF); B (atopic, non-exposed to ELMF); C (non-atopic, exposed to ELMF); D
(atopic, exposed to ELMF). In vitro cell proliferation of peripheral blood
mononuclear cells (PBMC) of atopic women (groups B and D) stimulated by
phytohaemoglutinin (PHA) was reduced. The ELMF exposed women (groups C and
D) showed lower levels of blood NK CD16(+)-CD56+ lymphocyte subpopulations
and of "in vitro" production of interferon-gamma (both spontaneously and in presence
of PHA) by PBMC, suggesting that ELMF reduces blood cytotoxic activity. Serum
IgE of the atopic women exposed to ELMF (group D) was higher than that of the
other groups. Linear discriminant analysis including serum zinc and copper (essential
enzymes for immune functions), blood lead and urinary transtrans muconic acid, a
metabolite of benzene (markers of exposure to traffic) and key parameters of immune
functions (CD16(+)-CD56+ lymphocyte subset, serum IgE, interferon-gamma
produced by PBMC in presence of PHA, stimulation index of blastogenesis) showed
absence of significant difference between groups A and C and a marked separation of
groups B and D. This datum suggests that ELMF have a greater influence on atopic
women exposed to traffic than on non-atopic ones, again pointing out differing
reaction capacities in the human population – maybe dependent on varying immune
functions based on variations in genetic make-up.
A more general reaction pattern was found by Dmoch and Moszczynski (1998) who
assessed immunoglobulin concentrations and T-lymphocyte subsets in workers of TV
re-transmission and satellite communication centres. An increase in IgG and IgA
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
concentrations, an increased count of lymphocytes and T8 lymphocytes, an decreased
count of NK cells and a lower value of T-helper/T-suppressor ratio were found.
Elekes et al. (1996) found a very interesting sex-difference. The effect of continuous
(CW; 2.45 GHz carrier frequency) or amplitude-modulated (AM; 50 Hz square wave)
microwave radiation on the immune response was tested. CW exposures (6 days, 3
h/day) induced elevations of the number of antibody-producing cells in the spleen of
male Balb/c mice (+37%). AM microwave exposure induced elevation of the spleen
index (+15%) and antibody-producing cell number (+55%) in the spleen of male
mice. No changes were observed in female mice. It is concluded that both types of
exposure conditions induced moderate elevation of antibody production only in male
Irradiation with electromagnetic waves (8.15-18 GHz, 1 Hz within, 1 microW/cm2)
in vivo increases the cytotoxic activity of natural killer cells of rat spleen (Fesenko et al,
1999a). In mice exposed for 24-72 h, the activity of natural killer cells increased by 130-
150%, the increased level of activity persisting within 24 h after the cessation of treatment.
Microwave irradiation of animals in vivo for 3.5 and 5 h, and a short exposure of splenic
cells in vitro did not affect the activity of natural killer cells.
Whole body microwave sinusoidal irradiation of male NMRI mice with 8.15-18 GHz
(1 Hz within) at a power density of 1 microW/cm2 caused a significant enhancement of
TNF production in peritoneal macrophages and splenic T lymphocytes (Fesenko et al,
1999b). Microwave radiation affected T cells, facilitating their capacity to proliferate in
response to mitogenic stimulation. The exposure duration necessary for the stimulation of
cellular immunity ranged from 5 h to 3 days. Chronic irradiation of mice for 7 days
produced the decreasing of TNF production in peritoneal macrophages. The exposure of
mice for 24 h increased the TNF production and immune proliferative response, and these
stimulatory effects persisted over 3 days after the termination of exposure. Microwave
treatment increased the endogenously produced TNF more effectively than did
lipopolysaccharide, one of the most potential stimuli of synthesis of this cytokine.
Microwaves, thus, indeed can be a factor interfering with the process of cell immunity!
Gapeev et al. (1996) reported that low-intensity electromagnetic radiation of
extremely high frequency in the near field of modified the acitivity of mouse
peritoneal neutrophils in a quasi-reasonance fashion., He compared the effect of
radiation from various types of antennae, including one which created a uniform
spatial distribution of specific absorbed rating in the frequency range used and wideband
matching with the object both in near field and far field zones of the radiator.
The authors extremely high frequency in near field zone but not the far field zone of
the channel radiator modified the activity of mouse peritoneal neutrophils on a quasiresonance
manner. The interaction of electromagnetic radiation with the biological
object has been revealed in the narrow-band frequencies of 41.8-42.05 GHz and
consists in inhibition of luminol-dependent chemiluminescence of neutrophils
activated by opsonized zymosan. It is not found any frequency dependence of the
electromagnetic radiation effects in the far field zone of the radiator. The results
obtained suggest, that the quasi-resonance dependence of the biological effect on the
frequency of the electromagnetic radiation in the near field zone is conditioned by
structure and nature of the electromagnetic radiation in this zone.
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
In 2003, Gatta et al. studied the effects of in vivo exposure to GSM-modulated 900
MHz radiation on mouse peripheral lymphocytes. The aim of this study was to
evaluate whether daily whole-body exposure to 900 MHz GSM-modulated radiation
could affect spleen lymphocytes. C57BL/6 mice were exposed 2 h/day for 1, 2 or 4
weeks in a TEM cell to an SAR of 1 or 2 W/kg. Untreated and sham-exposed groups
were also examined. At the end of the exposure, mice were killed humanely and
spleen cells were collected. The number of spleen cells, the percentages of B and T
cells, and the distribution of T-cell subpopulations (CD4 and CD8) were not altered
by the exposure. T and B cells were also stimulated ex vivo using specific monoclonal
antibodies or LPS to induce cell proliferation, cytokine production and expression of
activation markers. The results did not show relevant differences in either T or B
lymphocytes from mice exposed to an SAR of 1 or 2 W/kg and sham-exposed mice
with few exceptions. After 1 week of exposure to 1 or 2 W/kg, an increase in IFNgamma
(Ifng) production was observed that was not evident when the exposure was
prolonged to 2 or 4 weeks. This suggests that the immune system might have adapted
(!) to RF radiation as it does with other stressing agents. All together, from their in
vivo data, they made the conclusion that it indicated that the T- and B-cell
compartments were not substantially affected by exposure to RF radiation and that a
clinically relevant effect of RF radiation on the immune system is unlikely to occur.
Another explanation could be that the cells were unable to deal with the exposure and
the obvious follow-up question then will be: What happened with the immune cells
after months and years of exposure?
On the other hand, Kolomytseva et al. (2002), in their whole-body exposure
experiment designed to study the dynamics of leukocyte number and functional
activity of peripheral blood neutrophils under whole-body exposure of healthy mice to
low-intensity extremely-high-frequency electromagnetic radiation (EHF EMR, 42.0
GHz, 0.15 mW/cm2, 20 min daily), showed that such a whole-body exposure of
healthy mice to low-intensity EHF EMR has a profound effect on the indices of
nonspecific immunity. It was shown that the phagocytic activity of peripheral blood
neutrophils was suppressed by about 50% (p<0.01 as compared with the shamexposed
control) in 2-3 h after the single exposure to EHF EMR. The effect persisted
for 1 day after the exposure, and then the phagocytic activity of neutrophils returned
to the norm within 3 days. A significant modification of the leukocyte blood profile in
mice exposed to EHF EMR for 5 days was observed after the cessation of exposures:
the number of leukocytes increased by 44% (p<0.05 as compared with sham-exposed
animals), mostly due to an increase in the lymphocyte content. The supposition was
made that EHF EMR effects can be mediated via the metabolic systems of
arachidonic acid and the stimulation of adenylate cyclase activity, with subsequent
increase in the intracellular cAMP level.
The modification of indices of the humoral immune response to thymus-dependent
antigen (sheep erythrocytes) after a whole-body exposure of healthy mice to lowintensity
extremely-high-frequency electromagnetic radiation was reported by
Lushnikov et al. in 2001. Male NMRI mice were exposed in the far-field zone of horn
antenna at a frequency of 42.0 GHz and energy flux density of 0.15 mW/cm2 under
different regimes: once for 20 min, for 20 min daily during 5 and 20 successive days
before immunization, and for 20 min daily during 5 successive days after
immunization throughout the development of the humoral immune response. The
intensity of the humoral immune response was estimated on day 5 after immunization
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
by the number of antibody-forming cells of the spleen and antibody titers. Changes in
cellularity of the spleen, thymus and red bone marrow were also assessed. The indices
of humoral immunity and cellularity of lymphoid organs changed insignificantly after
acute exposure and series of 5 exposures before and after immunization of the
animals. However, after repeated exposures for 20 days before immunization, a
statistically significant reduction of thymic cellularity by 17.5% (p<0.05) and a
decrease in cellularity of the spleen by 14.5% (p<0.05) were revealed. The results
show that low-intensity extremely-high-frequency electromagnetic radiation with the
frequency and energy flux density used does not influence the humoral immune
response intensity in healthy mice but influences immunogenesis under multiple
repeated exposures.
The immunoglobulins' concentrations and T lymphocyte subsets during occupational
exposures to microwave radiation were assessed in 1999 by Moszczynski et al. In the
workers of retransmission TV center and center of satellite communications on
increased IgG and IgA concentration and decreased count of lymphocytes and T8
cells was found. However, in the radar operators IgM concentration was elevated and
a decrease in the total T8 cell count was observed. The different behaviour of
examined immunological parameters indicate that the effect of microwave radiation
on immune system depends on character of an exposure. Disorders in the
immunoglobulins' concentrations and in the T8 cell count did not cause any reported
clinical consequences.
Experiments have also been conducted to elucidate the effects of chronic low powerlevel
microwave radiation on the immunological systems of rabbits (Nageswari et al,
1991). Fourteen male Belgian white rabbits were exposed to microwave radiation at 5
mW/cm2, 2.1 GHz, 3 h daily, 6 days/week for 3 months in two batches of 7 each in
specially designed miniature anechoic chambers. Seven rabbits were subjected to
sham exposure for identical duration. The microwave energy was provided through S
band standard gain horns connected to a 4K3SJ2 Klystron power amplifier. The first
batch of animals were assessed for T lymphocyte-mediated cellular immune response
mechanisms and the second batch of animals for B lymphocyte-mediated humoral
immune response mechanisms. The peripheral blood samples collected monthly
during microwave/sham exposure and during follow-up (5/14 days after termination
of exposures, in the second batch animals only) were analysed for T lymphocyte
numbers and their mitogen responsiveness to ConA and PHA. Significant suppression
of T lymphocyte numbers was noted in the microwave group at 2 months (p less than
0.01) and during follow-up (p less than 0.01). The first batch animals were initially
sensitised with BCG and challenged with tuberculin (0.03 ml) at the termination of
microwave irradiation/sham exposure and the increase in foot pad thickness (delta
mm), which is a measure of T cell-mediated immunity (delayed type hypersensitivity
response, DTH) was noted in both the groups. The microwave group revealed a more
robust response than the control group (delta % +12.4 vs. +7.54).
Nakamura et al. (1997) reported on the effect of microwaves on pregnant rats. The
authors reported that microwaves at the power of 10 mW/cm2 produced activation of
the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and increased oestradiol in both virgin and
pregnant rats, suggesting that microwaves greatly stress pregnant organisms. Earlier
data had indicated that these microwaves produce various detrimental changes based
on actions of heat or non-specific stress, although the effects of microwaves on
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
pregnant organisms was not uniform. This study was therefore designed to clarify the
effect of exposure to microwaves during pregnancy on endocrine and immune
functions. Natural killer cell activity and natural killer cell subsets in the spleen were
measured, as well as some endocrine indicators in blood--corticosterone and
adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) as indices of the hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenal
axis--beta-endorphin, oestradiol, and progesterone in six female virgin rats
and six pregnant rats (nine to 11 days gestation) exposed to microwaves at 10
mW/cm2 incident power density at 2,450 MHz for 90 minutes. The same
measurements were performed in control rats (six virgin and six pregnant rats). Skin
temperature in virgin and pregnant rats increased immediately after exposure to
microwaves. Although splenic activity of natural killer cells and any of the subset
populations identified by the monoclonal antibodies CD16 and CD57 did not differ in
virgin rats with or without exposure to microwaves, pregnant rats exposed to
microwaves showed a significant reduction of splenic activity of natural killer cells
and CD16+CD57-. Although corticosterone and ACTH increased, and oestradiol
decreased in exposed virgin and pregnant rats, microwaves produced significant
increases in beta-endorphin and progesterone only in pregnant rats.
Nakamura et al. (1998) evaluated the involvement of opioid systems in reduced
natural killer cell activity (NKCA) in pregnant rats exposed to microwaves at a
relatively low level (2 mW/cm2 incident power density at 2,450 MHz for 90 min).
They assayed beta-endorphin (betaEP) in blood, pituitary lobes, and placenta as well
as splenic NKCA in virgin and/or pregnant rats. Although microwaves elevated
colonic temperatures by 0.8 degrees C for virgin and 0.9 degrees C for pregnant rats,
and betaEP in blood and anterior pituitary lobes (AP) significantly, it did not change
blood corticosterone as an index of hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis. There were
significant interactions between pregnancy and microwave exposure on splenic
NKCA, betaEP in both blood and AP, and blood progesterone. Intra-peritoneal
administration of opioid receptor antagonist naloxone prior to microwave exposure
increased NKCA, blood, and placental betaEP in pregnant rats. Alterations in splenic
NKCA, betaEP and progesterone in pregnant rats exposed to microwaves may be due
to both thermal and non-thermal actions. These results suggest that NKCA reduced by
microwaves during pregnancy is mediated by the pituitary opioid system.
To further clarify the effects of microwaves on pregnancy, Nakamura et al. (2000)
investigated rats exposed to continuous-wave (CW) microwave at 2 mW/cm(2)
incident power density at 2,450 MHz for 90 min.. The effects on uterine or
uteroplacental blood flow and endocrine and biochemical mediators, including
corticosterone, estradiol, prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)), and prostaglandin F(2)alpha
(PGF(2)alpha) were measured, Colonic temperature in virgin and pregnant rats was
not significantly altered by microwave treatment. Microwaves decreased
uteroplacental blood flow and increased progesterone and PGF(2)alpha in pregnant,
but not in virgin rats. Intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration of angiotensin II, a
uteroplacental vasodilator, before microwave exposure prevented the reduction in
uteroplacental blood flow and the increased progesterone and PGF(2)alpha in
pregnant rats. Increased corticosterone and decreased estradiol during microwave
exposure were observed independent of pregnancy and pretreatment with angiotensin
II. These results suggest that microwaves (CW, 2 mW/cm(2), 2,450 MHz) produce
uteroplacental circulatory disturbances and ovarian and placental dysfunction during
pregnancy, probably through non-thermal actions. The uteroplacental disturbances
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
appear to be due to actions of PGF(2)alpha and may pose some risk for pregnancy.
Reported pregnancy losses in women (Lee, 2001; Li, 2001) and infertility (Magras
and Xenos, 1997) might be related to these laboratory findings.
Nasta et al. (2006), very recently examined the effects of in vivo exposure to a GSMmodulated
900 MHz RF field on B-cell peripheral differentiation and antibody
production in mice. Their results show that exposure to a whole-body average specific
absorption rate (SAR) of 2 W/kg, 2 h/day for 4 consecutive weeks does not affect the
frequencies of differentiating transitional 1 (T1) and T2 B cells or those of mature
follicular B and marginal zone B cells in the spleen. IgM and IgG serum levels are
also not significantly different among exposed, sham-exposed and control mice. B
cells from these mice, challenged in vitro with LPS, produce comparable amounts of
IgM and IgG. Moreover, exposure of immunized mice to RF fields does not change
the antigen-specific antibody serum level. Interestingly, not only the production of
antigen-specific IgM but also that of IgG (which requires T-B-cell interaction) is not
affected by RF-field exposure. This indicates that the exposure does not alter an
ongoing in vivo antigen-specific immune response. In conclusion, the results of Nasta
et al. (2006) do not indicate any effects of GSM-modulated RF radiation on the B-cell
peripheral compartment and antibody production.
Whole-body microwave sinusoidal irradiation of male NMRI mice, exposure of
macrophages in vitro, and preliminary irradiation of culture medium with 8.15-18
GHz (1 Hz within) at a power density of 1 microW/cm2 caused a significant
enhancement of tumor necrosis factor production in peritoneal macrophages
(Novoselova et al, 1998). The role of microwaves as a factor interfering with the
process of cell immunity must, thus, be seriously considered. Furthermore the effect
of 8.15-18 GHz (1 Hz within) microwave radiation at a power density of 1
microW/cm2 on the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) production and immune
response was tested by Novoselova et al. (1999). A single 5 h whole-body exposure
induced a significant increase in TNF production in peritoneal macrophages and
splenic T cells. The mitogenic response in T lymphocytes increased after microwave
exposure. The activation of cellular immunity was observed within 3 days after
exposure. The diet containing lipid-soluble nutrients (beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol
and ubiquinone Q9) increased the activity of macrophages and T cells from irradiated
Obukhan (1998) has performed cytologic investigations designed to study bone
marrow, peripheral blood, spleen, and thymus of albino rats irradiated by an
electromagnetic field, 2,375, 2,450, and 3,000 MHz. Structural and functional
changes in populations of megakaryocytes, immunocompetent cells as well as of
undifferentiated cells, and of other types of cells that are dependent on the intensity of
The possibility of genotoxicity of radiofrequency radiation (RFR) applied alone or in
combination with x-rays was recently investigated in vitro using several assays on
human lymphocytes by Stronati and colleagues (2006). The chosen specific
absorption rate (SAR) values are near the upper limit of actual energy absorption in
localized tissue when persons use some cellular telephones. The purpose of the
combined exposures was to examine whether RFR might act epigenetically by
reducing the fidelity of repair of DNA damage caused by a well-characterized and
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
established mutagen. Blood specimens from 14 donors were exposed continuously for
24 h to a Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) basic 935 MHz signal.
The signal was applied at two SAR; 1 and 2 W/Kg, alone or combined with a 1-min
exposure to 1.0 Gy of 250 kVp x-rays given immediately before or after the RFR. The
assays employed were the alkaline comet technique to detect DNA strand breakage,
metaphase analyses to detect unstable chromosomal aberrations and sister chromatid
exchanges, micronuclei in cytokinesis-blocked binucleate lymphocytes and the
nuclear division index to detect alterations in the speed of in vitro cell cycling. By
comparison with appropriate sham-exposed and control samples, no effect of RFR
alone could be found for any of the assay endpoints. In addition RFR did not modify
any measured effects of the x-radiation. In conclusion, this study has used several
standard in vitro tests for chromosomal and DNA damage in Go human lymphocytes
exposed in vitro to a combination of x-rays and RFR. It has comprehensively
examined whether a 24-h continuous exposure to a 935 MHz GSM basic signal
delivering SAR of 1 or 2 W/Kg is genotoxic per se or whether, it can influence the
genotoxicity of the well-established clastogenic agent; x-radiation. Within the
experimental parameters of the study in all instances no effect from the RFR signal
was observed.
Tuschl et al. (1999) recorded a considerable excess of recommended exposure limits
in the vicinity of shortwave diathermy devices used for medical treatment of patients.
Different kinds of field probes were used to measure electric and magnetic field
strength and the whole body exposure of medical personnel operating shortwave,
decimeter wave and microwave units was calculated. To investigate the influence of
chronic exposure on the immune system of operators, blood was sampled from
physiotherapists working at the above mentioned devices. Eighteen exposed and
thirteen control persons, matched by sex and age, were examined. Total leucocyte and
lymphocyte counts were performed and leucocytic subpopulations determined by
flow cytometry and monoclonal antibodies against surface antigens. In addition, to
quantify subpopulations of immunocompetent cells, the activity of lymphocytes was
measured. Lymphocytes were stimulated by mitogen phytohemagglutinin and their
proliferation measured by a flow cytometric method. No statistically significant
differences between the control and exposed persons were found. In both study groups all
immune parameters were within normal ranges.
Despite the important role of the immune system in defending the body against
infections and cancer, only few investigations on possible effects of radiofrequency
(RF) radiation on function of human immune cells have been undertaken. One of
these is the investigation by Tuschl et al. in 2005 where they assessed whether GSM
modulated RF fields have adverse effects on the functional competence of human
immune cells. Within the frame of the multidisciplinary project "Biological effects of
high frequency electromagnetic fields (EMF)" sponsored by the National Occupation
Hazard Insurance Association (AUVA) in vitro investigations were carried out on
human blood cells. Exposure was performed at GSM Basic 1950 MHz, an SAR of 1
mW/g in an intermittent mode (5 min "ON", 10 min "OFF") and a maximum Delta T
of 0.06 degrees C for the duration of 8 h. The following immune parameters were
evaluated: (1) the intracellular production of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon (INF)
gamma in lymphocytes, and IL-1 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha in
monocytes were evaluated with monoclonal antibodies. (2) The activity of immunerelevant
genes (IL 1-alpha and beta, IL-2, IL-2-receptor, IL-4, macrophage colony
stimulating factor (MCSF)-receptor, TNF-alpha, TNF-alpha-receptor) and
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
housekeeping genes was analyzed with real time PCR. (3) The cytotoxicity of
lymphokine activated killer cells (LAK cells) against a tumor cell line was determined
in a flow cytometric test. For each parameter, blood samples of at least 15 donors
were evaluated. No statistically significant effects of exposure were found and there is
no indication that emissions from mobile phones are associated with adverse effects
on the human immune system.
Irradiation by pulsed microwaves (9.4 GHz, 1 microsecond pulses at 1,000/s), both
with and without concurrent amplitude modulation (AM) by a sinusoid at discrete
frequencies between 14 and 41 MHz, was assessed for effects on the immune system
of Balb/C mice (Veyret et al, 1991). The mice were immunized either by sheep red
blood cells (SRBC) or by glutaric-anhydride conjugated bovine serum albumin (GABSA),
then exposed to the microwaves at a low rms power density (30 microW/cm2;
whole-body-averaged SAR approximately 0.015 W/kg). Sham exposure or
microwave irradiation took place during each of five contiguous days, 10 h/day. The
antibody response was evaluated by the plaque-forming cell assay (SRBC
experiment) or by the titration of IgM and IgG antibodies (GA-BSA experiment). In
the absence of AM, the pulsed field did not greatly alter immune responsiveness. In
contrast, exposure to the field under the combined-modulation condition resulted in
significant, AM-frequency-dependent augmentation or weakening of immune
Finally, in addition, classical allergy reactions, such as chromate allergy, has been studied
by Seishima et al. (2003). The background for the study was an earlier case report about a
patient with allergic contact dermatitis caused by hexavalent chromium plating on a
cellular phone. The new study described the clinical characteristics and results of patch
tests (closed patch tests and photopatch tests were performed using metal standard
antigens) in 8 patients with contact dermatitis possibly caused by handling a cellular
phone. The 8 patients were 4 males and 4 females aged from 14 to 54 years. They each
noticed skin eruptions after 9-25 days of using a cellular phone. All patients had erythema,
and 7 had papules on the hemilateral auricle or in the preauricular region. Three of 8
patients had a history of metal allergy. Chromate, aluminium and acrylnitrile-butadienestyrene
copolymer were used as plating on the cellular phones used by these patients. The
patch test was positive for 0.5, 0.1 and 0.05% potassium dichromate in all 8 patients. The
photopatch test showed the same results. One patient was positive for 2% cobalt chloride
and one for 5% nickel sulfate. Based on these data, it is important to consider the
possibility of contact dermatitis due to a cellular phone, possibly caused by chromate,
when the patients have erythema and papules on the hemilateral auricle or in the
preauricular region.
VII. Electromagnetic fields and health
Since the formation of life on Earth, as we know it, more than 3.5 billion years ago,
the only real source of radiation, apart from Earth’s static geomagnetic field, has been
the sun. All living organisms that have evolved and not been able to cope with it are
either gone or have adapted to it in one of several ways. Living under-ground, only
being active during night, living in the deeper waters (1 meter or deeper) in oceans
and lakes, under the foliage of jungle trees, or - as all day-active organisms have –
developed a skin (or, for plants, a cortex) containing a pigment (animals and plants
have very similar ones) that will shield some heat and some sunshine…but not very
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
much. Any fair-skinned Irish or Scandinavian person learns very early to avoid even
the rather bleak sun up-north, because – if not – you will easily get a nasty sunburn.
Later on, that sunburn will develop into a postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, with
it’s cosmetic values, however, well before it you will get a strong alarm signal in the
form of a redness of the skin.
When considering other frequencies, the pigment does not furnish any protection at
all, something mankind has found out during the last 100 years. Cosmic rays,
radioactivity, X-rays, UVC, UVB and now even UVA are considered, together with
radar-type microwaves to be very, or even extremely, dangerous to your health. You
are translucent to exposures such as power-frequent magnetic fields as well as mobile
phone and WI-FI microwaves, but this does not mean that they are without possible
effect, through thermal or non-thermal mechanisms.
Is it possible that we can adapt our biology to altered exposure conditions in less than
100 years, or do we have to have thousands of years for such an adaptation? And, in
the meantime, what kind of safety standards must we adopt if the current public safety
limits are not sufficiently protective of public health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged the condition of
electrohypersensitivity, and published a 2006 research agenda for radio-frequency
fields (see Addendum to Chapter 12 on the Swedish Government response to persons
with Electrosensitivity). The WHO recommends that people reporting sensitivities
receive a comprehensive health evaluation. It states: "Some studies suggest that
certain physiological responses of EHS individuals tend to be outside the normal
range. In particular, hyperactivity in the central nervous system and imbalance in the
autonomic nervous system need to be followed up in clinical investigations and the
results for the individuals taken as input for possible treatment." Studies of
individuals with sensitivities ought to consider sufficient acclimatization of subjects
as recommended for chemical sensitivities, as well as recognition of individuals’
wavelength-specific sensitivities. Reduction of electromagnetic radiation may
ameliorate symptoms in people with chronic fatigue.
Off-gassing of electrical equipment may also contribute to sensitivities. Different
sorts of technology (e.g. various medical equipment, analogue or digital telephones;
flat screen monitors and laptop computers or larger older monitors) may vary
significantly in strength, frequency and pattern of electromagnetic fields. One
challenging question for science is to find out if, for instance, 50- or 60-Hz ELF pure
sine wave, square waves or sawtooth waveform, ELF-dirty (e.g. radiofrequencies on
power lines), ELF-modulated radiofrequency fields, continuous wave radiofrequency
radiation and particularly pulsed radiofrequency signals are more or less bioactive,
e.g. as neurotoxic and/or carcinogenic environmental exposure parameters. (see
Chapter 8 on Disruption by Modulation).
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
VIII. Conclusions
• Both human and animal studies report large immunological changes with exposure
to environmental levels of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Some of these exposure
levels are equivalent to those of e.g. wireless technologies in daily life.
• Measurable physiological changes (mast cells increases, for example) that are
bedrock indicators of allergic response and inflammatory conditions are stimulated by
EMF exposures.
• Chronic exposure to such factors that increase allergic and inflammatory responses
on a continuing basis may be harmful to health.
• It is possible that chronic provocation by exposure to EMF can lead to immune
dysfunction, chronic allergic responses, inflammatory responses and ill health if they
occur on a continuing basis over time. This is an important area for future research.
• Specific findings from studies on exposures to various types of modern equipment
and/or EMFs report over-reaction of the immune system; morphological alterations of
immune cells; profound increases in mast cells in the upper skin layers, increased
degranulation of mast cells and larger size of mast cells in electrohypersensitive
individuals; presence of biological markers for inflammation that are sensitive to
EMF exposure at non-thermal levels; changes in lymphocyte viability; decreased
count of NK cells; decreased count of T lymphocytes; negative effects on pregnancy
(uteroplacental circulatory disturbances and placental dysfunction with possible risks
to pregnancy); suppressed or impaired immune function; and inflammatory responses
which can ultimately result in cellular, tissue and organ damage.
• Electrical hypersensitivity is reported by individuals in the United States, Sweden,
Switzerland, Germany. Denmark and many other countries of the world. Estimates
range from 3% to perhaps 10% of populations, and appears to be a growing condition
of ill-health leading to lost work and productivity.
• The WHO and IEEE literature surveys do not include all of the relevant papers
cited here, leading to the conclusion that evidence has been ignored in the current
WHO ELF Health Criteria Monograph; and the proposed new IEEE C95.1 RF public
exposure limits (April 2006).
• The current international public safety limits for EMFs do not appear to be
sufficiently protective of public health at all, based on the studies of immune
function. New, biologically-based public standards are warranted that take into
account low-intensity effects on immune function and health that are reported in the
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
IX. Acknowledgements
Supported by the Karolinska Institute, the Help Foundation (Hjälpfonden) and the
Cancer and Allergy Foundation (Cancer- och Allergifonden).
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Immune Function Dr. Johansson
Appendix 8-A Some legal aspects of the functional impairment
electrohypersensitivity in Sweden
In Sweden, electrohypersensitivity (EHS) is an officially fully recognized functional
impairment (i.e., it is not regarded as a disease). Survey studies show that somewhere
between 230,000 - 290,000 Swedish men and women, out of a population of
9,000,000 people, report a variety of symtoms when being in contact with
electromagnetic field (EMF)-sources.
The electrohypersensitive persons have their own handicap organisation; The Swedish
Association for the ElectroSensitive; (the website has an English
version). This organisation is included in the Swedish Disability Federation
(Handikappförbundens SamarbetsOrgan; HSO). HSO is the unison voice of the
Swedish disability associations towards the government, the parliament and national
authorities and is a cooperative body that today consists of 43 national disability
organisations (where The Swedish Association for the ElectroSensitive is 1 of these
43 organisations) with all together about 500,000 individual members. You can read
more on (the site has an English short version). The Swedish
Association for the ElectroSensitive gets a governmental subsidy as a handicap
organization according to SFS 2000:7 §2 (SFS = The Swedish Governmental
Statute-Book). EHS persons' right to get disablement allowances has been settled in
The Swedish Supreme Administrative Court, i.a. in the judgement "dom 2003-01-29,
mål nr. 6684-2001".
Swedish municipalities, of course, have to follow the UN 22 Standard Rules on the
equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities ("Standardregler för att
tillförsäkra människor med funktionsnedsättning delaktighet och jämlikhet"; about the
UN 22 Standard Rules, see website: All persons with disabilities
shall, thus, be given the assistance and service they have the right to according to the
Swedish Act concerning Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional
Impairments (LSS-lagen) and the Swedish Social Services Act (Socialtjänstlagen).
Persons with disabilities, thus, have many different rights and can get different kinds
of support. The purpose of those rights and the support is to give every person the
chance to live like everyone else. Everyone who lives in the Swedish municipalities
should be able to lead a normal life and the municipalities must have correct
knowledge and be able to reach the persons who need support and service. Persons
with disabilities shall be able to get extra support so that they can live, work, study, or
do things they enjoy in their free time. The municipalities are responsible for making
sure that everyone gets enough support. Everyone shall show respect and remember
that such men and women may need different kinds of support.
In Sweden, impairments are viewed from the point of the environment. No human
being is in itself impaired, there are instead shortcomings in the environment that
cause the impairment (as the lack of ramps for the person in a wheelchair or rooms
electrosanitized for the person with electrohypersensitivity). This environment-related
impairment view, furthermore, means that even though one does not have a
scientifically-based complete explanation for the impairment electrohypersensitivity,
and in contrast to disagreements in the scientific society, the person with
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
electrohypersensitivity shall always be met in a respectful way and with all necessary
support with the goal to eliminate the impairment. This implies that the person with
electrohypersensitivity shall have the opportunity to live and work in an
electrosanitized environment.
This view can fully be motivated in relation to the present national and international
handicap laws and regulations, including the UN 22 Standard Rules and the Swedish
action plan for persons with impairments (prop. 1999/2000:79 "Den nationella
handlingplanen för handikappolitiken - Från patient till medborgare"). Also the
Human Rights Act in the EU fully applies.
A person is disabled when the environment contains some sort of impediments. It
means that in that moment a man or woman in a wheelchair can not come onto the
bus, a train, or into a restaurant, this person has a disability, he or she is disabled.
When the bus, the train or the restaurant are adjusted for a wheelchair, the person do
not suffer from his disability and are consequently not disabled. An
electrohypersensitive person suffers when the environment is not properly adapted
according to their personal needs. Strategies to enable a person with this disability to
attend common rooms such as libraries, churches and so on, are for instance to switch
off the high-frequency fluorescent lamps and instead use ordinary light bulbs.
Another example is the possibility to switch off - the whole or parts of - the assistive
listening systems (persons with electrohypersensitivity are often very sensitive to
assistive listening systems).
In the Stockholm municipality - were I live and work as a scientist with the
responsibility to investigate comprehensive issues for persons with
electrohypersensitivity - such persons have the possibility to get their home sanitized
for EMFs. It means for example that ordinary electricity cables are changed to special
cables. Furthermore, the electric stove can be changed to a gas stove and walls, roof
and floors can be covered with special wallpaper or paint with a special shelter to stop
EMFs from the outside (from neighbours and mobile telephony base stations). Even
the windows can be covered with a thin aluminum foil as an efficient measure to
restrain EMFs to get into the room/home. If these alterations turn out not to be
optimal they have the possibility to rent small cottages in the countryside that the
Stockholm municipality owns. These areas have lower levels of irradiation than
others. The Stockholm municipality also intend to build a village with houses that are
specially designed for persons who are electrohypersensitive. This village will be
located in a low-lewel irradiation area. [One of my graduate students, Eva-Rut
Lindberg, has in her thesis project studied the "construction of buildings for persons
with the impairment electrohypersensitivity". The doctoral thesis will be presented
during the Autumn.]
Persons with electrohypersensitivity also have a general (legal) right to be supported
by their employer so that they can work despite of this impairment. For instance, they
can get special equipment such as computers that are of low-emission type, that highfrequency
fluorescent lamps are changed to ordinary light bulbs, no wireless DECT
telephones in their rooms, and so on.
Some hospitals in Sweden (e.g. in Umeå, Skellefteå and Karlskoga) also have built
special rooms with very low EMFs so that persons who are hypersensitive can get
Immune Function Dr. Johansson
medical care. Another example is the possibility for persons who are
electrohypersensitive to get a specially designed car so that the person can transport
himself/herself between his/her home and their workplace.
Recently, some politicians in the Stockholm municipality even proposed to the
politicians responsible for the subway in the Stockholm City that a part of every
trainset should be free from mobile phones; that the commuters have to switch of the
phones in these selected parts to enable persons with electrohypersensitivity to travel
with the subway (compare this with persons who have an allergy for animal fur
whereupon people consequently is prohibited to have animals, such as dogs or cats, in
selected parts of the trainset).
In addition, when the impairment electrohypersensitivity is discussed it is also of
paramount importance that more general knowledge is needed with the aim to better
adapt the society to the specific needs of the persons with this impairment. The
Swedish "Miljöbalk" (the Environmental Code) contains an excellent prudence
avoidance principle which, of course, most be brought into action also here, together
with respect and willingness to listen to the persons with electrohypersensitivity.
Naturally, all initiatives for scientific studies of the impairment
electrohypersensitivity must be characterized and marked by this respect and
willingness to listen, and the investigations shall have the sole aim to help the persons
with this particular impairment. Rule 13 in the UN 22 Standard Rules clearly says that
scientific investigations of impairments shall, in an unbiased way - and without any
prejudice - focus on cause, occurrence and nature and with the sole and explicit
purpose to help and support the person with the impairment.
A unique conference recently was held in Stockholm in May, 2006. The theme for the
conference was "The right for persons with the impairment electrohypersensitivity to
live in a fully accessible society". The conference was organized by the Stockholm
City municipality and the Stockholm County Council and dealt with the most recent
measures to make Stockholm fully accessible for persons with the impairment
electrohypersensitivity. Among such measures are to offer home equipment
adjustments, ban mobile phones from certain underground cars as well as certain
public bus seats, and through electrosanitized hospital wards. The conference was
documented on film.