Saturday, 2 October 2010

In January 2009 the administration of the Bavarian Municipality of
Selbitz gathered relevant data from 251 residents as part of a health
survey. Subsequently, the data were assessed based on the exposure
levels of cell phone radiation.
In a next step, the exposure levels based on residential location and
available RF measurements of local cell phone radiation levels were
used to classify participants into exposure groups.
The mean radiation exposure level of the highest exposure group in
Selbitz (1.2 V/m) was substantially higher than that of the study
population in the QUEBEB study (1) of the German Mobile Phone
Programme (mean value 0,07 V/m). For such symptoms as sleep
problems, depressions, cerebral symptoms, joint problems,
infections, skin problems, cardiovascular problems as well as
disorders of the visual and auditory systems and the gastrointestinal
tract, a significant dose-response relationship was observed in
relation to objectively determined exposure levels. The impact of
microwave radiation on the human nervous system serves as an
Carried out without outside funds, the study presented here provides
a protocol concept that allows physicians and municipalities to
cooperate and assess the potential human health impact of cell
phone base stations located within residential areas.
Keywords: symptoms, cell phone radiation, wireless technologies, doseresponse
Participating offices: Dr. Brömel/Pozder, Schulstraße 4, 95197 Schauenstein;
Dr. Jahn, Brunnenstraße 1, 95152 Selbitz; Dr. Müller, Wildenberg 22, 95152
Deutsche Zusammenfassung
In der bayerischen Stadt Selbitz wurden im Januar 2009 zuerst durch die
Gemeinde im Rahmen einer Gesundheitsbefragung relevante Daten von 251
Einwohnern erfasst und anschließend daran nach Belastungsstärken durch
Mobilfunkwellen ausgewertet.
Die Belastungswerte wurden in einem zweiten Schritt an hand von Wohnort
und vorliegenden Messdaten der örtlichen Mobilfunkstrahlung zur
Stratifizierung der Teilnehmer in Belastungsgruppen verwendet.
Die mittlere Strahlenbelastung der höchstbelasteten Gruppen in Selbitz (1,2
V/m) lag deutlich höher als die untersuchte Studienpopulation der QUEBEBElectromagnetic
Fields Original Scientific Paper
Original German umwelt-medizin-gesellschaft ⏐23⏐2/2010 2
Studie (1) des Deutschen Mobilfunkforschungsprogramms (Mittelwert DMF
O,07V Im). Fürdie Beschwerden Schlafstörung, Depressionen, cerebrale
Symptome, Gelenkbeschwerden, Infekte, Hautveränderungen, Herz-Kreislauf
Störungen sowie Störungen des optischen und akustischen Sensoriums und
des Magen-Darm-Traktes besteht eine signifikante dosiswirkungsabhängige
Korrelation zu objektiv bestimmten Expositionslagen, die mit dem Einfluss
von Mikrowellen auf das Nervensystem des Menschen erklärt wird.
Die vorliegende fremdmittelfrei erstellte Arbeit gibt einen Konzeptentwurf
vor, mit dem Ärzte und Gemeindeverwaltungen gemeinsam den
gesundheitlich relevanten Einfluss von innerörtlichen Mobilfunksendern
abschätzen können.
Over the last decades wireless technologies have gained in importance. As a
result, however, TV and radio stations are no longer the broadcasting sources
that cause the highest exposure levels in residential areas; now it is cell
phone base stations. Since 2003 the German Commission on Radiological
Protection (SSK) has explicitly pointed out that there is a lack of knowledge
about the consequences of these technologies on human health (2).
In Upper Franconian Selbitz, the municipality collaborated with local medical
offices1 whereby two separate data sets—a general health survey and
available RF measurements—were used to correlate gathered symptom
scores with independently available RF emission measurements of relevant
cell phone radiation.
Materials and Methods
Selbitz in Upper Franconia is located in the northeast of Bavaria, Germany,
having a total population of 4,644 (2,171 male and 2,473 female) on 31
December 2008 (3).
Cell phone coverage is available across the entire municipality. In the center,
cell phone transmitters of two service providers are located in the street
Feldstraße 28 and the installation of a third telecommunication service
provider is located in the
street Burgstraße 26a (4).
Fig. 1:
Cell Phone Transmitters on
Top of the Multistory
Building at Feldstraße 28,
Selbitz, Upper Franconia
Electromagnetic Fields Original Scientific Paper
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As part of a survey in 2009, Selbitz municipality sent standardized health
questionnaires by mail to 1,080 persons within the municipality and
surrounding areas. The participants were aware that they could receive a
questionnaire when they lived within a 400-m radius of the cell phone base
station at Feldstraße 28 or also outside of this radius. There were no personal
interviews. A total of 88 sets of information on health symptoms were
gathered, using a quantitative scale of zero to five. The symptom groups
based on clinical entities were summarized as clusters for the assessment
(Table 1).
Table 1: Summary of Symptom Groups Based on Clinical Entities
The cover letter of the invitation to participate stated that participant
confidentiality is ensured. The questionnaires could be returned or sent back
to Selbitz municipality or the local doctor’s offices. After the questionnaires
were returned, the personal information form was separately filed from the
symptom information form at the doctor’s office of Dr. Eger, Naila. The
anonymously coded symptom information forms were then passed on for
data entry to the administrative staff of Selbitz municipality. The staff of the
IT department entered the anonymized data into an Excel table for analysis.
On the personal information form, the existence of a DECT phone in the
residence was indicated by a simple checkmark, which was also entered into
the data pool.
Symptom Group Symptom Number
1 Sleep disorders 1-5
2 Symptoms of depression 6,7,18-23
3 Headaches 8
4 Cerebral affections 8-12
5 Concentration difficulties 24-29
6 Joint problems 30-34
7 Toothaches 35
8 Infections 36-41
9 Skin problems 42-47
10 Dizziness 55
11 Cardiovascular problems 48-52
12 Auditory system,
Disturbance of equilibrium
13 Visual problems 62-67
14 Nosebleed 68
15 Hormonal imbalances 70-74
16 Weight gain 75
17 Weight loss 76
18 Gastrointestinal problems 77-81
19 Bedwetting 85
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All participants who returned their questionnaires were classified into groups
based on their residential address. The circles drawn in Figure 2 show
distances of 100 m, 200 m, 300 m, or 400 m from the two cell transmitters
installed on the building of Feldstraße 28, identifying the groups 1 to 4. One
control group (group 5), which can be classified as low-emission, includes
participants outside the 400-m radius directly in Selbitz and also from
surrounding areas that are further away from the municipality.
According to the elevation map, the landscape around the transmitter is level
toward the west and east, gently rises toward the north, and declines with 7°
to 9° toward the south.
The cell phone facilities of the service providers are located at a height of
19.20 m, 20.20 m, and 23.50 m above ground with the actual transmitters at
19.35 m and 22.70 m. The down tilt of the transmitters is given with 8°. The
frequency ranges used are at about 940 MHz and 1850 MHz (5).
Under these conditions, the area where the main beam touches the ground is
located almost 200 m away from the transmitters. Within the 200-m radius
additional side lobes are to be expected.
Fig. 2: The map from the land title office shows in the center of the
concentric circles the cell transmitters at Feldstraße 28 in Selbitz.
(Source: 5, With kind permission of Selbitz municipality)
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Testing Situation and Measurement Results
Based on the testing report by the accredited company ECL, mean exposure
values of the cell phone radiation could be assigned to the individual
exposure groups (6). For the groups 1 and 2 the mean value is 1.17 V/m, for
the groups 3 and 4 0.7 V/m.
The testing results for the area outside the 400-m radius were on average at
0.18 V/m and serve as a reference value. Weidesgrün area showed the
lowest measurements with 0.01 V/m.
The analysis is performed by using a two-tailed t-test of two unrelated
samples for a total of 19 symptom scores of the individual groups 1 through
5 to test the null hypothesis that the symptom scores of the compared
groups are evenly distributed and thus independent of the radiation effect
The comparison of the health-relevant data was carried out based on two
A) Comparison of the participant groups 1 to 4 within the 400-m radius of
the transmitter location to the control group outside the 400-m radius in
Selbitz/surrounding areas.
B) Comparison of the participant groups within the 400-m radius of the
transmitter location, comparing the highest-exposure groups 1 and 2 to
the groups 3 and 4 further away.
A total of 255 persons above the age of 18 participated in the survey; 4
questionnaires could not be evaluated. This corresponds with a response rate
of 23% from 1,090 questionnaires sent out. In total, the groups 1 to 4 close
to the transmitter had a response rate of 22% and the control group’s rate
was 27%, thus displaying no significant difference in the response rate
(Table 2).
For all participants the gender ratio of 43% male and 57% female applies,
which roughly corresponds with the ratio of the statistically registered
inhabitants of Selbitz with 47% male and 53% female (Table 3).
For groups 1 through 4, the control group 5, and persons in Selbitz from the
age of 18, the average age is 54.5, 52.0, and 53.5 years.
The age distribution in 5-year increments corresponds with the total
population in Selbitz (Table 3, Figure 3a-e). The survey participants, thereby,
represent an age-representative sample of the total population of all
inhabitants of Selbitz from age 18.
Within the 400-m radius around the transmitter, a higher symptom rate
could be documented for 14 out of 19 symptom groups in the highest
exposure groups 1 and 2 close to the transmitter compared to groups 3 and
4 further away from the transmitter (Table 4). The difference is statistically
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Mailouts Responses
Comparison of
incl. Control Group 5
(chi-square test)
1 125 45 (36.0%) 80 (64.0%) n.s.**
2 144 37 (25.7%) 107 (74.3%) n.s.
3 281 60 (21.4%) 221 (78.6%) n.s.
4 273 38 (14.0%) 235 (86.0%9 p < 0.01 (chi2)
Group 5 254 71 (28.0%) 183 (72.0%)
Sum 1077* 251 826
Table 2: Distribution of Questionnaires in Groups 1 to 4 and Control Group 5
according to Responses and Nonresponses.
With the exception of the low response rate in group 4, the
differences between the responders/nonresponders of the individual
groups and the control group 5 are not statistically significant.
*Three persons of the 1,080 surveys sent out could not be
** n.s. = not significant
Number Gender
(in %)
Age in
Levels of Cell
in V/m
1 45 47/53 57.5/57 0-100 m
2 37 41/59 52.0/52 100-200 m
1.17 V/m
3 60 40/60 55.0/57 200-300 m
4 38 42/57 53.5/52 300-400 m
0.70 V/m
5 71 44/56 52.0/52 > 400 m 0.18 V/m
Selbitz* 4644 47/53 53.5/52
Table 3: Overview of Investigated Groups Based on Gender, Age, Residential
Location, and Exposure Level. Groups 1-4 with a total of 180
participants are located within the 400-m radius of the transmitter.
The 71 participants of control group 5 are further away than 400 m.
Both the gender distribution as well as the comparison of age
groups does not statistically differ from the total population of
* For the comparison of the mean age only persons above the age
of 18 were chosen from the Selbitz population. Total population of
Selbitz: 4,644; Inhabitants above age 18: 3,890.
** Age values are given within 5-year groups.
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Group 1 Group 2
Group 3 Group 4
Control Group 5
Fig. 3a-e: Age Distribution in Groups 1-4 and Control Group 5 in 5-year
Electromagnetic Fields Original Scientific Paper
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Comparison of
Groups 1 to 4
(0-400 m/n=180)
to control group 5
(> 400 m/n=71)
Comparison of
Groups 1 and 2
to groups 3 and 4
(200-400 m/n=98)
Symptoms Significance level
p (t-test)
Significance level
p (t-test)
1 Sleep problems 0.001 0.001
2 Symptoms of depression 0.001 0.001
3 Headaches n.s. 0.001
4 Cerebral affections 0.001 0.001
5 Concentration difficulties n.s. 0.001
6 Joint problems 0.01 0.001
7 Toothaches n.s. n.s.
8 Infections 0.01 0.001
9 Skin problems 0.001 0.001
10 Dizziness n.s. 0.01
11 Cardiovascular problems 0.001 0.001
12 Auditory system
Disturbance of equilibrium 0.01 0.001
13 Visual problems 0.01 0.001
14 Nosebleed n.s. 0.01
15 Hormonal imbalances 0.05 n.s.
16 Weight gain n.s. n.s.
17 Weight loss n.s. n.s.
18 Gastrointestinal problems 0.01 0.001
19 Bedwetting n.s. n.s. = not significant
Table 4: Specific Symptoms of Study Participants in Relation to Distance
from Emission Source
A) Comparison of participant groups 1 to 4 around the transmitter to
control group outside 400-m radius in Selbitz/surrounding areas
B) Comparison of participant groups within 400-m radius of
transmitter. Groups 1 and 2 with the highest exposure are
compared to groups 3 and 4 with a lower exposure level further
away from the transmitter. Exposure levels for groups 1 and 2 were
1.17 V/m, for groups 3 and 4 0.7 V/m, and for control group 5 0.18
In comparison to the control group, significant (p < 0.01, t-test) differences
were found for the following symptom groups in the four exposure groups 1
to 4 located close to the transmitter: sleep problems, symptoms of
depression, cerebral symptoms, joint problems, infections, skin problems,
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cardiovascular problems, disorders of the visual and auditory system as well
as hormone system and also gastrointestinal problems. The control
symptoms “toothaches” and “bedwetting” were not significant (Table 4).
An overview of the documented mean values for all 19 symptoms or
symptom scores is shown in Figure 4. The highest mean values are found
mostly in the two highest exposure groups 1 and 2.
Fig. 4: Comparison of Specific Symptoms to Field Strengths
The spatial representation shows the 19 symptom scores on the yaxis
where the mean value of each symptom score is plotted
quantitatively. On the z-axis the exposure groups 1 to 5 are shown.
In Figure 5 and 8, the symptom scores for sleep problems, symptoms of
depression, joint problems and cardiovascular problems are shown with their
mean values and 95% confidence intervals. In a highly visual way, the
significant relationships from Table 4 become obvious here.
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Fig. 5:
Control Symptom Score 1 for
Sleep Problems for Groups 1-4
and Control Group 5
On the y-axis the mean values
of the symptom scores are
shown; the vertical bars at the
result points represent the
95% confidence intervals.
Fig. 6:
Control Symptom Score 2 for
Symptoms of Depression for
Groups 1-4 and Control Group
On the y-axis the mean values
of the symptom scores are
shown; the vertical bars at the
result points represent the
95% confidence intervals.
Fig. 7:
Control Symptom Score 6 for
Joint Problems for Groups 1-4
and Control Group 5
On the y-axis the mean values
of the symptom scores are
shown; the vertical bars at the
result points represent the
95% confidence intervals.
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Fig. 8:
Control Symptom Score 11 for
Cardiovascular Problems for
Groups 1-4 and Control Group
On the y-axis the mean values
of the symptom scores are
shown; the vertical bars at the
result points represent the
95% confidence intervals.
Fig. 9:
Control Symptom Score 7 for
Toothaches for Groups 1-4
and Control Group 5
On the y-axis the mean values
of the symptom scores are
shown; the vertical bars at the
result points represent the
95% confidence intervals.
Fig. 10:
Control Symptom Score 19 for
Bedwetting for Groups 1-4 and
Control Group 5
On the y-axis the mean values
of the symptom scores are
shown; the vertical bars at the
result points represent the
95% confidence intervals.
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The symptoms “toothaches” and “bedwetting” served as controls in order to
validate with these radiation-independent symptoms the plausibility of the
participants’ responses. There were no significant differences found for
groups 1 and 2 in comparison to groups 3 and 4 or to control group 5,
respectively (Table 4).
In a second step, we investigated if, within the 400-m radius, documented
symptom scores are related to the distance or measured exposure level.
In Figure 11 the mean values are shown, comparing group 1 and 2 (upper
black line) to group 3 and 4 (lower gray line).
Except for the symptoms toothache, hormone imbalance, weight gain, weight
loss, and bedwetting, significant differences were found (p < 0.01; t-test).
Among the study participants a significant dose-response relationship was
found between the theoretically calculated or measured exposure level and
the symptom score levels.
Fig. 11: Comparison of Groups 1 and 2 near the Transmitter to Groups 3 and
4 further away within the 400-m Radius
The numbers a shade lighter represent the nonsignificant symptom
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Data Gathering of DECT Phone Use
In the personal information form, participants could checkmark whether they
have a DECT phone in their household. Out of 251 participants, 171 said they
owned such a device and 80 said no. The average age of DECT phone users
was with 50.5 years significantly lower than for those participants without a
DECT phone (t-test, p < 0.001) so that no comparison group existed for
individual relationships.
The presented results show a significant relationship between mean exposure
levels of the study participants and reported health symptoms.
For the highest exposure group, the mean microwave exposure is given with
a field intensity of 1.2 V/m. An additional question concerning the use of
DECT phones at home revealed an additional background exposure level in
all participating households.
The graphs show clear trends for decreasing symptom scores in relation to
decreasing mean exposure levels caused by cell phone transmitter emissions.
The comparison with the national and international research to classify these
results provides additional arguments for nonrandom relationships.
Within the framework of the German Mobile Phone Programme (DMF), the
QUEBEB study also investigated if health symptoms in the population could
be associated with cell phone base stations and measured microwave
radiation levels.
This study did not show any significant relationships because the highest
measurement is given with 1 volt per meter, whereby 99% of the
measurements are below 0.34 V/m. The mean exposure level was at 0.07
V/m with a 95% percentile at 0.17 V/m (1).
While less than 1% of the participants of the DMF study were exposed above
0.34 V/m, 82 out of the 251 study participants in Selbitz belonged to a highexposure
group above 0.7 V/m, that is, 32.7%.
High exposure groups as found in Selbitz did basically not occur in the
samples of the German Mobile Phone Programme. To a certain degree, this
has to do with the method of random sampling and leads to a systematic
underestimation of the risk for population groups with higher exposures.
Thus the finding of the QUEBEB study that found no correlation applies only
to low-exposure groups and does in no way contradict the findings in Selbitz.
In Germany where complete cell phone coverage is provided, the Federal
Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) has received highly important
information about the health problems affecting residents living next to cell
phone base stations. In a meeting on 2 August 2006 in Neuherberg, strongly
worded official medical reports were quoted that document problem
situations in particularly highly exposed households (17-19).
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It has become known to industry that the health of their technicians is
damaged (20,21).
There are already efforts under way to explore possibilities of how the
electromagnetic pollution in wireless networks could be reduced. The
reasoning for a patent filed in 2003 explicitly quotes evidence of damage in
human DNA (22).
Since the 1960s long-term, nonthermal effects on the human central nervous
system have been causally linked to microwaves, ultrashort waves, and
shortwaves in several studies.
As part of a dissertation, Wenzel studied the health status of radio personnel
in East German military forces (NVA) and summarized his results in a report
that was confidential until 1989. In comparison to a nonexposed group, he
observed an increase in headaches, sleep problems, general fatigue, eye
pain, stabbing pain in the chest, declining mental power, irritability,
dizziness, tendency to sweat, and visual problems. As a result of his findings,
the inadequacy of the current exposure limits had already been pointed out
in 1967 (9).
The review of occupational surveys in the Soviet Union between 1960 and
1996, which had been carried out by Prof. Hecht on behalf of the Federal
Office for Telecommunications, revealed causal links for microwave radiation
as a stressor of the central nervous system (26).
In 1960 Iranyi et al. from Hungary reported for the first time in the Munich
Medical Weekly Journal about a substantially increasing number of health
problems in radio personnel of “modern” radio stations that had been
validated by measurements and confirmed by medical doctors, including
headaches, dizziness, tiredness, sleep problems, tremors, and other
symptoms. The symptoms occurred from field intensities above 3.8 V/m.
There was no indication of simulated complaints. Because the symptoms
occurred during their working hours and were associated with the number of
years of employment, the authors concluded that there is a causal link
between symptoms and exposure levels (10).
In 1962 Miro found increasing cases of pain, dizziness, nausea, personality
changes, weight loss, fever attacks with chilling and sweating, and general
fatigue in French radar personnel. The RF radiation exposure was at ca. 5
V/m (8).
In 1996 a study by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy around the shortwave
transmitter at Schwarzenburg in Switzerland documented highly significant
health problems in the civilian population regarding sleep problems,
headaches, joint pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. In a blinded follow-up
study, symptoms started to improve one day after the transmitter was
turned off (11-13).
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In 2002 Santini et al. had also demonstrated a clear dose-response
relationship for the following symptoms in the vicinity of French cell phone
base stations: sleep problems, tiredness, fatigue, irritability, depression, and
other symptoms. As a conclusion, it was recommended back then to install
this type of transmitter no closer to residences than 300 m (14).
Similar findings were revealed in the work by Navarro et al. with the followup
measurements by Oberfeld (Government of Land Salzburg, Health
Department), in which case the measured exposure levels were highly
significantly correlated with major health problems. Three groups showed the
following field intensity distribution: group 1 – 0.02-0.04 V/m, group 2 –
0.05-0.22 V/m, and group 3 – 0.25-1.29 V/m (15).
In 2007 the paper by Abdel-Rassoul et al. showed significant problems of the
central nervous system (headaches, memory problems, dizziness, tremors,
symptoms of depression, sleep problems) in an exposed population
compared to the control group. The measured field intensity of the group
classified as exposed was 3 V/m (16).
The survey presented here included specific control questions to verify the
credibility of the participants’ responses. From the number of described
symptoms, for example, it was possible to see that the questionnaires had
not been filled out randomly. Thus the control question for “toothaches,” a
disease mainly caused by caries, showed no difference between the exposed
and unexposed groups.
As was to be expected, the control symptom “bedwetting” occurred only in a
very small percentage and also showed no difference between exposed and
unexposed groups.
The relationship between the question “weight gain” and “weight loss”
corresponded with the known clinical reality. The obesity prevalence (body
mass index BMI > 30) in the population is on average at 20%, which
corresponds with a value of 1 (20% of maximum value 5) in our symptom
scores. Underweight is found only in ca. 1-6% of the German population,
which is reflected in the low symptom score for weight loss at 0.2 in our
study (28).
A trend toward voting behavior in terms of symptom aggravation could thus
be ruled out.
The occurrence of the symptom groups sleep problems, depression, cerebral
symptoms, infections, skin problems, cardiovascular problems, problems of
the visual and auditory system as well as the gastrointestinal tract proved to
be consistently and significantly higher in the exposed groups. As can be
seen from the literature review, it has been known since the 1960s that RF
electromagnetic fields and microwaves can trigger these symptoms (8-10).
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Equally significant were differences for the scores of joint problems, which
again replicated already published findings of the Schwarzenburg study,
Switzerland (11-13).
The results presented here were statistically validated by the t-test (7). The
often stereotypically quoted criticism of too small case numbers for a
validation of an association was mathematically refuted by the application of
this statistical test and its significant results.
Considerably more crucial is the limitation of the gathered data because of
the noticeable self-selection of the participants compared to the total number
of the survey sample, which is reflected in the low response rate to the
questionnaires. However, neither the response rates of the entire 400-m
radius around the transmitter nor the highest exposure area do significantly
differ from the response rate of control area 5, which again suggests a
homogenous response behavior and speaks against an overselection of
allegedly sick persons (Table 2).
The approached participants, including persons from the 400-m radius
around the cell phone transmitter at the Feldstraße as well as Selbitz
residents from further away, did not know that they would be classified into
groups based on their residential location and exposure level. Thus it was not
possible for the participants to classify themselves into groups 1 to 5.
In follow-up studies one should try to increase the response rate by phone
calls or personal interviews instead of relying on a single mailout as was done
in this study.
In Selbitz municipality, there are proponents as well as critics of wireless
technologies and also persons who are indifferent to it so that each group
had the same opportunity to respond. The number of study participants who
considered their health affected by cell phone radiation was 12% in Selbitz
and, therefore, falls below the participation rate of 23%. This corresponds
with a percentage of 9% as found in the DMF. Thus a selection bias was not
The participating individual groups did not differ based on age or gender,
respectively; the plausibility of the responses was validated within the study.
It is therefore assumed that the documented results reflect the actual
distribution of the health problems.
International definitions stipulate that adverse health effects caused by
microwave radiation can only be regarded as verified if the explanation for a
plausible effect mechanism is provided, studies are independently replicated
several times, and no contradictions exist in other studies (23).
With the paper presented here, these conditions are met so that the ongoing
demand for evidence has been met once again. When taking the low
exposure levels into account, the negative results of the German Mobile
Phone Programme are consistent.
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Until 2009 the official protocol for the investigation of health problems in
residents living next to transmitters amounted to nothing more than
measuring exposure levels in affected households instead of on-site
monitoring with transmitter shutdowns to investigate causal links.
From the compliance with the currently valid exposure limits, it was
concluded without any further investigation—using the logic of
reductionism—that below these exposure limits no health effects could occur
because, first, the exposure limits have already been met and, second, no
scientifically accepted studies are available. The latter statement is not up to
the current state of science.
According to the Federal Immission Control Act (§ 22 BlmSchG) as well as
the German constitution (art. 2, para. 2 GG), during the operation of
technical facilities health hazards to a third party must indisputably be ruled
With the Federal Immission Control Ordinance (26. BlmSchV), the federal
regulation maker establishes exposure limit regulations for electromagnetic
fields whose specifications are required by acts and the constitution. But as
the presented paper shows once more, a clearly increasing incidence of
disease is already taking place far below legally binding exposure guideline
Even if in legal terms, this is not yet proof for an individual-specific evidence
of damage, the presented investigations make it clear that the conclusions
drawn by the federal regulation maker from the results of the German Mobile
Phone Programme, according to which no health risk is to be expected below
the exposure limits of the 26. BlmSchV, are scientifically and legally
From a legal perspective, it should be noted here that the current exposure
limit regulations basically do not provide sufficient protection against health
risks. Insofar as official agencies still suggest that the exposure limits of the
26. BlmSchV would be precautionary limits, these limits are now disproven—
among others—through our investigation, as it showed a significantly
increased health risk in the vicinity of cell phone base stations.
As has already been demanded by the European Parliament, current
exposure guidelines need to be urgently reviewed. Because of the
documented relationship between exposure and health symptoms, there is
also an urgent need for further research to elucidate the detailed
relationships of health symptoms.
It is a physician’s responsibility—not bound by directives—to work towards
the preservation of the natural basis of life regarding human health (24).
As representatives of public health agencies, state offices such as the Public
Health Department, the State Office for the Environment, and the Bavarian
Ministry of the Environment as well as higher-ranking government levels
Electromagnetic Fields Original Scientific Paper
Original German umwelt-medizin-gesellschaft ⏐23⏐2/2010 18
such as the Federal Ministry of the Environment and the European Union are
invited to specify the cause of this possible slow poisoning.
After shutting down the respective transmitters for half a year, a portion of
the health symptoms reported by the study participants in Selbitz should
become normalized. The significant clinical relevance of the observed results
has been discussed.
Contact Horst Eger (correspondence)
Marktplatz 16
95119 Naila
Phone: 09282/1304
Medical Quality Assurance Working Group “Electromagnetic Fields in Medicine—
Diagnostics, Therapy, Environment” Code No. 65143 (KVB), recognized by the
Bavarian Medical Association
Dr. med Manfred Jahn
Brunnenstr. 1
95152 Selbitz
Beside the people of Selbitz, we especially thank Mayor Klaus Adelt, Sabine
Bodenschatz, Tanja Wohlfahrt, and Udo Wohlfahrt because without their
help this paper would never have been possible.
We owe Christina Panchyrz our gratitude for the record keeping.
Performed by Katharina Gustavs and authorized by the authors and publisher
Original publication:
EGER, H., JAHN, M., Spezifische Symptome und Mobilfunkstrahlung in Selbitz
(Bayern) – Evidenz für eine Dosiswirkungsbeziehung,
umwelt·medizin·gesellschaft, 23, 2 (2010), 130-139.
Upon request, the anonymized raw data can be provided by Selbitz
municipality to scientific institutions.
Submitted: 12 November 2009
Revised version accepted: 3 May 2010
Electromagnetic Fields Original Scientific Paper
Original German umwelt-medizin-gesellschaft ⏐23⏐2/2010 19
Editor’s Note
The above paper is identified as an original scientific paper and it was
subject to a special peer-review process in cooperation with the Scientific
Advisory Board.
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Electromagnetic Fields Original Scientific Paper
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Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences. 2010; 115: 91–96
Effect of radio-frequency electromagnetic radiations (RF-EMR)
on passive avoidance behaviour and hippocampal morphology in
Wistar rats
1Department of Physiology, Melaka Manipal Medical College, Manipal University, Manipal, India, 2Department of
Anatomy, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal University, Manipal, India, 3Department of Anatomy, Melaka Manipal
Medical College, Manipal University, Manipal, India, 4Department of Biochemistry, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal
University, Manipal, India, and 5Department of Biochemistry, Melaka Manipal Medical College, Manipal University,
Manipal, India
Introduction. The interaction of mobile phone radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) with the brain is a serious
concern of our society.
Objective. We evaluated the effect of RF-EMR from mobile phones on passive avoidance behaviour and hippocampal
morphology in rats.
Materials and methods. Healthy male albino Wistar rats were exposed to RF-EMR by giving 50 missed calls (within 1 hour) per
day for 4 weeks, keeping a GSM (0.9 GHz/1.8 GHz) mobile phone in vibratory mode (no ring tone) in the cage. After the
experimental period, passive avoidance behaviour and hippocampal morphology were studied.
Results. Passive avoidance behaviour was significantly affected in mobile phone RF-EMR-exposed rats demonstrated as shorter
entrance latency to the dark compartment when compared to the control rats. Marked morphological changes were also
observed in the CA3 region of the hippocampus of the mobile phone-exposed rats in comparison to the control rats.
Conclusion. Mobile phone RF-EMR exposure significantly altered the passive avoidance behaviour and hippocampal
morphology in rats.
Key words: Hippocampus, memory, mobile phone, passive avoidance, RF-EMR (radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation)
The use of mobile phones is increasing day by day,
and it is estimated that approximately 500 million
people worldwide are using mobile phones currently.
A large proportion of users is made up of children and
teenagers. Due to the wide and growing use of mobile
communication, there is increasing concern about
the interactions of electromagnetic radiation with
the human organs and, in particular, with the brain.
Experimental studies have shown that the radiofrequency
electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR)
emitted from the mobile phones can affect the brain
in various ways. These effects have been described
in vitro and in vivo in a number of studies: in particular,
effects on cerebral blood flow (1–4), blood-brain barrier
permeability (4), oxidant and antioxidant balance
(5), neurotransmitter balance (6), nerve cell damage
(7), and genomic responses (8) have been reported.
There is some concern that short-term memory loss
Correspondence: Sareesh Naduvil Narayanan, Department of Physiology, Melaka Manipal Medical College, Manipal University, Manipal 576104, India.
(Received 3 August 2009; accepted 10 December 2009)
ISSN 0300-9734 print/ISSN 2000-1967 online 2010 Informa UK Ltd. (Informa Healthcare, Taylor & Francis AS)
DOI: 10.3109/03009730903552661
or other cognitive effects may be associated with
the use of mobile telephones. In our previous study
we had reported that mobile phone exposure in
Wistar rats resulted in impaired spatial memory
performance in the Morris Water Maze (MWM)
test, demonstrated as more time taken to reach the
target quadrant and less time spent in the target quadrant
(9). In the present study, we tried to evaluate the
effect of long-term exposure to RF-EMR emitted from
a mobile phone (0.9 GHz/1.8 GHz) on passive avoidance
behaviour and hippocampal morphology in male
Wistar rats.
Materials and methods
Inbred healthy male albino Wistar rats (8–10 weeks
old) were used in this experiment. They were
obtained from Manipal University (MU) central animal
facility. The rats were housed in plastic cages of
size 36 cm 23 cm 21 cm (three rats in each cage)
inside a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment
with free access to food and water ad libitum,
with a 12 h light and 12 h dark cycle. All the experiments
were carried out with prior approval from the
institutional animal ethics committee. Care was taken
to handle the rats in a humane manner, and all
precautions were taken to use the minimum number
of animals required to generate significant data.
Experimental design
Animals were divided into two groups: group I
(n = 12), normal control; and group II (n = 12)
were exposed to RF-EMR by giving 50 missed calls
(within 1 hour) per day for 4 weeks, keeping a GSM
(0.9 GHz/1.8 GHz) mobile phone in vibratory mode
(no ring tone) in the cage (9). Each missed call was of
the duration of 45 seconds. Animals were free to move
in the cage. The phone was kept in a small woodbottomed
cage sized 12 cm 7 cm 7 cm. The
bamboo wire mesh on top of the wood bottom cage
prevented the animals from contact with the phone.
Twenty-four hours after the last exposure, six randomly
picked animals from both groups were tested
for passive avoidance behaviour using passive avoidance
apparatus. This test was conducted between
4.00 p.m. and 6.00 p.m. The remaining animals
from both groups were sacrificed to study the histological
changes in the hippocampus. Statistical analysis
was done by using Student’s t test. P-value < 0.05
was considered as significant.
Passive avoidance apparatus
The apparatus has two compartments, a rectangular
larger compartment with a 50 cm 50 cm grid floor
and wooden walls of 35 cm height. It has a roof, which
can be opened or closed. One of the walls has a
6 cm 6 cm opening connecting the larger compartment
to a dark smaller compartment. The smaller
compartment has a 15 cm 15 cm electrifiable grid
connected to a constant current stimulator, wooden
walls of 15 cm height, and a ceiling that can be
opened or closed. The connection between the two
compartments can be closed with a sliding door
made of Plexiglas. The larger compartment was
illuminated with a 100-W bulb placed 150 cm above
the centre.
Passive avoidance test
Passive avoidance test was conducted by the method
of Bures et al. (10), with modifications. The experiment
had three parts: 1) an exploration test, 2) an
aversive stimulation and learning test, and 3) a
retention test. The exploration test was conducted
in three trials. During this, each rat was kept in the
centre of the larger compartment facing away from
the entrance to the dark compartment. The door
between the two compartments was kept open. The
rat was allowed to explore the apparatus (both larger
and smaller compartments) for 3 minutes. In each
trial, the total time taken by the animal to enter the
dark compartment was noted using a stop-watch. At
the end of the trial, the rat was replaced in the home
cage, where it remained during an inter-trial interval
of 5 minutes. After the last exploration trial, the rat
was again kept in the larger compartment as in the
trial sessions. When the animal entered the smaller
compartment, the sliding door between the two
compartments of the apparatus was closed and three
strong foot shocks (50 Hz, 1.5 mA, and 1 s duration)
were given at 5-second intervals. The ceiling was
then opened and the rat was then returned to its
home cage. The retention test was carried out after
24 and 48 hours. The rat was kept in the centre of the
larger compartment facing away from the entrance
to the smaller compartment for a maximum period
of 3 minutes. The sliding door was kept open during
this period. The latency time required for the
animal to enter the dark compartment was recorded.
The latency time was recorded as 3 minutes for
those animals that did not enter the dark compartment
within 3 minutes. Absence of entry into the
dark compartment indicated positive memory
92 S. N. Narayanan et al.
Hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining
All histological procedures were uniform for control
and test group animals. The rats were sacrificed by
cervical dislocation under ether anaesthesia, and the
brain was exposed by cutting the skull along the midline.
The whole brain was carefully dissected out and
fixed in 10% buffered formalin (with pH 7.4) for 24 h.
It was then dehydrated in ethanol, defatted in xylene,
and embedded in paraffin. Care was taken to ensure
that all brains were oriented in the same direction
during embedding to minimize differences in the
angles at which the brains were sectioned. A single
investigator processed all brains to maintain consistency
in histological analysis. Sections were cut on a
rotary microtome (Leica RM2155, Germany) at
5-micron thickness and stained with hematoxylin
and eosin (H&E) according to standard procedure.
The hippocampal CA3 region was studied under a
light microscope. To avoid observer’s bias, an independent
person coded the slides before subjecting
them to morphological evaluations.
Passive avoidance test
In the exploration trials, the entrance latency to the
dark compartment was decreased in both the groups
from first to third trial, but there was a significant
difference in the entrance latency time of the groups in
the second and third trials. The RF-EMR-exposed
animals took more time to enter the dark compartment
during the second and third exploration trials
(Figure 1).
During the memory retention test, the entrance
latency to the dark compartment was significantly
less for mobile phone-exposed rats when compared
with the control group. The latency was approximately
four times less in the mobile phone-exposed
animals tested 24 hrs after the shock trial (Figure 2A),
and the latency was approximately three times less in
the mobile phone-exposed rats tested 48 hours after
the shock trial (Figure 2B).
Hippocampal morphology
In comparison to the control animals, marked morphological
changes were detected in the CA3 region of
the hippocampus of the RF-EMR-exposed rats. The
hippocampus of RF-EMR-exposed rats showed
shrunken, darkly stained neurons (Figure 3B). No
such changes were observed in the control rats
(Figure 3A).
Passive avoidance tests or conditioned avoidance tests
have been used in several studies to assess memory or
retention and also retrieval after or during other
treatments (11–13). Generally rats avoid intense illumination
and prefer dim illumination. When placed
in a brightly illuminated space connected with a dark
enclosure, they rapidly enter the dark compartment
and remain there. After an aversive consequence (foot
shock) in the dark compartment, the animals modify
their behaviour by inhibiting the innate activities or
learned habits (staying in the dark) and remain in the
bright compartment (10). So, in this task the animals
learn to avoid a noxious event by suppressing a
particular behaviour (14).
In the current study, the mobile phone exposure
significantly affected the passive avoidance behaviour
in rats. In other words, the memory retention and the
retrieval were significantly affected in mobile phone
RF-EMR-exposed rats. In comparison to the control
group, mobile phone-exposed animals showed
shorter latency to enter into the dark compartment
in the memory retention test (24 h and 48 h after the
aversive stimulus). This showed that the animals, after
being exposed to aversive stimulation (foot shock) in
the passive avoidance task, did not remember this task
to some extent on the following day, and this clearly
indicates the impairment of the memory. In mobile
phone-exposed animals the associative memory which
had built up through repetition over many trials and
expressed primarily in the performance of tasks
Trial 1 Trial 2
Control Exposed
Entrance latency to the dark
compartment (sec)
Trial 3
Figure 1. Time taken by the animals to enter the dark compartment
of the passive avoidance apparatus during the exploration trials
of passive avoidance test. The entrance latency to the dark compartment
was decreased in both the groups from first to third trial,
but there was a significant difference in the entrance latency time of
the groups in the second and third trials. The radio-frequency
electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR)-exposed animals took
more time to enter the dark compartment during the exploration
trials. *P < 0.05.
Effect of RF-EMR on Wistar rats 93
was affected. This change in the behaviour of animals
(the shorter latency to enter the dark compartment) in
the passive avoidance task could be due to the altered
functioning of both hippocampal and amygdaloidal
neurons due to the damage caused by the RF-EMR
emitted from the mobile phone. A number of clinical
and experimental studies have shown the role of
hippocampal formation and related structures in
the medial temporal lobe in learning and memory
(15,16). In rats, bilateral lesion of the specific areas of
the hippocampus (CA1 and CA3) produced greater
impairments in the performance of passive avoidance
task (17). Bilateral hippocampal lesions in chicks
caused decreased retention of the avoidance response
(18). These studies suggest the involvement of the
hippocampal system in associative learning processes
and in memory.
In our current study, the hematoxylin and eosin
staining of the hippocampal region clearly showed
interspersed, deeply stained, shrunken cells, which
clearly indicates the degenerative changes in these
areas. The exact mechanism responsible for this
degeneration has to be investigated; perhaps the
mechanism is through reactive oxygen species. Earlier
A. B.
Figure 3. Representative photomicrograph of sections of hippocampal CA3 region of the brain from both control and radio-frequency
electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR)-exposed rat stained with hematoxylin and eosin. A: Control animal; row of normal nerve cells in a section
of the pyramidal cell band of the hippocampus CA3 region is seen. B: Mobile phone RF-EMR-exposed rat; among the normal nerve cells, dark
(deeply stained) and shrunken nerve cells are seen.
A. 40 B.
Control Exposed
Entrance latency to the dark
compartment (sec)
Entrance latency to the dark
compartment (sec)
30 *
Figure 2. Effect of radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) on latency to enter the dark compartment 24 hours (A) and 48 hours
(B) after the shock trial. Rats exposed to the mobile phone took significantly less time to enter the dark compartment in the memory retention
test. Results are expressed as mean ± SEM. *P < 0.05.
94 S. N. Narayanan et al.
reports have stated that mobile phones caused oxidative
damage biochemically by increasing the levels of
Malondialdehyde (MDA), carbonyl groups, Xanthine
oxidase (XO) activity, and decreasing CAT activity;
and that treatment with melatonin significantly prevented
oxidative damage in the brain (19). The studies
on guinea-pigs have shown increases in MDA,
vitamins A, D3 (3), and E levels, increased CAT
enzyme activity, and decreased Glutathione (GSH)
level in the blood of Electromagnetic field (EMF)-
exposed guinea-pigs (20). The rats, when exposed to
900 MHz electromagnetic radiation from a mobile
phone for 7 days (1 h/day) showed 1) increase in
malondialdehyde and nitric oxide levels in brain tissue,
2) decrease in brain superoxide dismutase and
glutathione peroxidase activities, and 3) increase in
brain xanthine oxidase and adenosine deaminase
activities. Ginkgo biloba significantly prevented these
changes in the brain (21). Exposure of adult Sprague-
Dawley rats to regular cell phones resulted in mRNA
up-regulation of several injury-associated proteins,
such as calcium ATPase, neural cell adhesion molecule,
neural growth factor, and vascular endothelial
growth factor (22). The possible role of programmed
cell death in the brain could also not to be excluded.
Short-term exposure to cell phone radio-frequency
emissions (1900 MHz) can up-regulate elements of
apoptotic pathways in cells derived from the brain,
and neurons appear to be more sensitive to this effect
than are astrocytes (23). The primary neuronal cultures
of rats exposed to a continuous wave (CW) 900 MHz
Radiofrequency fields (RF) for 24 h induced apoptosis
through a caspase-independent pathway that involves
Apoptosis inducing factor (AIF) (24).
Both neurons and glia interact dynamically to
enable information processing and behaviour
(25,26). The poor performance of rats in the behavioural
tests could also be due to the damaging effect
of microwaves on glial cells, which in turn alters the
neuronal activity in the rat hippocampus and amygdala.
Acute exposure to GSM 900 MHz electromagnetic
fields (a single GSM exposure = 15 min)
induced glial reactivity and biochemical modifications
in the rat brain (27). Chronic exposure to GSM
900 MHz microwaves induced persistent astroglia
activation in the rat brain, which is the sign of a
potential gliosis (28). Reports also suggest that both
amygdala and hippocampus act synergistically to form
long-term memories of significantly emotional events,
and these brain structures are activated following an
emotional event and cross-talk with each other in the
process of consolidation (29). In order to prove the
involvement of various pathways (Reactive Oxygen
Species (ROS), apoptosis, or glial reactivation, or a
combination of all three) in the alteration of rat
behaviour and hippocampal morphology after
mobile phone RF-EMR exposure, further studies
are warranted.
The health effects of commonly encountered radiofrequency
electromagnetic radiations (RF-EMR) from
mobile phone exposures do exist. The evidence from
this study points to the quite substantial hazard of
RF-EMR from the mobile phone on passive avoidance
behaviour and hippocampal morphology in rats.
Declaration of interest: The authors report no
conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible
for the content and writing of this paper.
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