For more information about Dr Neil Cherry and his work, please visit his
Part 1 in the last issue of NZine reported on an interview with Dr
Neil Cherry about the international scientific workshop on mobile phones
and health which he attended in Vienna. He advised caution in the use of
Part 2 presents further scientific findings and the resolutions of
Dr Cherry then moved to discussing the biological effects. Central
to this is calcium ion efflux.
Calcium ion efflux
The subject of the paper presented at the workshop by Dr Carl Blackman
was calcium ion efflux - calcium ions flowing out of cells when exposed
to pulsed and modulated EMR. This was first identified in about 1974 by
American researchers, Susan Bawin and Ross Adey. Under some
conditions the RF induces a flow of calcium ions into the cell.
Dr Blackman has conducted far more experiments in his laboratory on
this influx/efflux than anyone else. They have shown that calcium ion
alteration occurs at particular carrier frequencies, particular signal
strengths, particular modulation frequencies and in particular
temperature ranges, but not in others which lie between them.
After summarising these hundreds of experiments Carl Blackman stated
that EMR must be treated as chemicals (plural) because we have made the
mistake of treating it as a single chemical looking for single effects across
the whole spectrum, when it is clear that the effects are very significant
and occur at particular combinations of variables, but do not occur at a
nearby different combination.
He finished by stating that it is very well established that there is
a biological effect called calcium ion efflux and influx that can be
caused by EMR at levels that are not involving heating but involving a
frequency which has nothing to do with the energy levels. This is therefore a
true biological effect, not a consequence of heat but produced by
particular combinations of EMR and thus is a separate biological change.
Dr Repacholi accepted that this is a biological effect at low level
exposure, but claimed that there was not a health effect. Dr
Blackman's response was that such a statement meant that Dr Repacholi was
re-writing history. The history of the research is that it began because of the
concern that workers working with microwaves had a changed response
time and changed behaviour which was identified with an altered EEG (brain
Work of Bawin and Adey
Bawin and Adey were brought into the research because of the effect on
people, and they first experimented with monkeys and found that they
had changed behaviour and changed reaction times and altered EEG. They
found the same effect in rats, rabbits and cats. With some of the cats they
also removed the top of the skull and directly monitored the electrical
signals in the brain and found there were changes in the calcium ions. The
move to chick brains was occasioned by the cost of doing hundreds of
experiments, but the same calcium ion effects were found in chick
brains. The evidence trail leads historically from people to monkeys, to
rabbits, to rats , to cats and to chicks.
Human health effect
Calcium ion influx/efflux is a mechanism for brain change which
affects behaviour and reaction times in people and is therefore indicative of
a human health effect.
Calcium ions in cells play a role in the growth and development of
cells in DNA synthesis and in the life and death of cells. Therefore calcium
ion alteration of cells by EMR is a biological mechanism linking to
neurological degeneration such as Alzheimer's and other neurological
diseases of age, to cancer and many other health effects. The scary
aspect of this is that calcium ion efflux occurs at intensities and
field strengths that are extremely low.
Research into link between Alzheimer's disease and EMR
Dr Cherry commented on two recent papers, both in the journal
"Neurology". The first paper, originally published in December 1996, had the title,
"Elevated risk of Alzheimer's disease amongst workers with likely
electromagnetic field exposure". Researchers, Sobel et al, writing
this paper have found that when they adjusted for many other compensating
factors there is close to a five times increased risk of Alzheimer's
for workers working in electromagnetic radiation fields in electrical
industries. In a later paper in the journal they present a
hypothesis about the mechanism through which there is increased production of a
substance called amyloid beta, a fact known to be associated with
Alzheimer's disease. They investigated how electromagnetic fields
might well enhance the production of that substance. The first step in this
process is calcium ion efflux from the cells. This means that there
is a mechanism and epidemiology - which is true of so many health effects
in this area.
Research in Belgium
In 1998 Belgian researcher Dr Luc Verschaeve used various genetic
tests like DNA breakage and chromosome damage tests to test the safety of
cellphones and find out whether they can produce genetic damage. In
Europe there are several cellphones using different frequencies and different
The results he termed 'inconsistent' because some cellphones
consistently showed DNA breakage and chromosome damage, and other cellphones
consistently showed no damage. His initial conclusion was that he
could not therefore say that the cellphones damaged genetic material.
His DNA assay technique is not as sensitive as that used at the
University of Washington laboratory, which may explain some of the negative
results. However, he does pick up consistent DNA and chromosome damage from
some particular cellphones. It is a common conclusion to say that some
results are up and some are down which means that it is not possible to say
whether or not cellphones are dangerous.
If Dr Verschaeve used the most sensitive methods he might find that
some cellphones produced low levels of DNA changes and others moderate or
Research into calcium ion changes
According to Dr Blackman's data on calcium ion changes it would be
more accurate to say that one cellphone damages DNA while another does no
The damage appears to depend on a particular choice of the nature of
the signal in the carrier frequency, the modulation characteristic, and
the intensity of the signal. One interesting result was that a carrier
frequency which seemed invariably to produce DNA damage was 954
megahertz carrier frequency.
This could be one of the reasons why experiments on animals using
different variables gave different results. Many researchers in the military
and industrial laboratories take the attitude that if there is going to be
an effect then it must be visible when high levels of energy are really
pumped in. The science says that with EMR it is not necessarily an effect
that occurs at a higher level and a higher energy.
Effect of low level electromagnetic fields
The ability of very low level electromagnetic fields to affect human
beings and animals has been observed and accepted by biometeorologists for
several decades. While Adey and Bawin were finding calcium ion changes in the
brains of animals as a mechanism to explain behaviour and reaction
time changes in people and animals, German researchers were finding that
human reaction time variations and daily sleep rhythms correlated with very
subtle changes in atmospheric ELF and ELF modulated RF changes.
Radiofrequency fields penetrate tissue and so they carry their
modulation signals deep into brain and muscle tissue. Here the signals can alter
the electrical signals between the cells and alter the calcium ion flows
into and out of the cells. The changed voltage gradient on the membrane of
the cells also changes the efficiency with which the electrically charged
neurotransmitters and other cell messengers find and enter their
receptors on the cell membrane surface.
Importance of low levels of exposure
This workshop made it clear why some important biological effects are
found at very low levels of exposure, which are not observed at very high
levels of exposure. This explains why it is wrong to dismiss the existence
of adverse health effects caused by low level exposures simply because at
high levels of exposure only heat-related effects are seen.
It is impossible to have an intelligent, thoughtful conversation in
front of the speakers at a rock concert, but you can interrupt a
conversation in a quiet room. At low levels EMR can interrupt the intercellular
communication and subtly and vitally change the cell growth control
factors. Many thousands of papers have been published based on
determining the thermal threshold. Almost all of them did not look
for any effects other than heat. Some attempted to determine the threshold
for behavioural effects such as avoidance of the signal. All of these
studies are irrelevant to the questions of chronic low level exposure and its
Research published in January 1999
Calcium ions as mediators of intracellular signalling are crucial for
development of apoptosis. Apoptosis is programmed cell death that
removes damaged cells. A January 1999 paper (FESEB J. 13, 95-102) concludes:
"The rescue of damaged cells may be the mechanism explaining why magnetic
fields that are not mutagenic per se are often able to increase mutation and
tumour frequencies". This was after they had shown that calcium ion
influx induced by the magnetic field reduces the apoptosis and thus allows
damaged cells to survive.
Calcium ion influx/efflux has not been seen at high exposure
intensities but it has been measured to significantly occur down to 0.00015 W/kg
or 0.08mW/cm2 . Thus adverse health effects such as brain changes, sleep
disruption, impaired immune systems, cancer and neurological diseases,
all of which are able to be initiated by altering cellular calcium, can
be caused by pulsed and modulated electromagnetic radiation.
What were the resolutions of the workshop on Mobile Phones and
The resolutions were prefaced with a note on terminology.
The preferred terminology to be used in public communication:
Instead of using the terms "athermal", "nonthermal" or "microthermal"
effects, the term"low intensity biological effects" is more appropriate.
The participants agreed that biological effects from low-intensity
exposures are scientifically established. However, the current state
of scientific consensus is inadequate to derive reliable exposure
standards. The existing evidence demands an increase in the research efforts on
the possible health impact and on an adequate exposure and dose
How could satisfactory Public Participation be ensured? The public
should be given timely participation in the process. This should include
information on technical and exposure data as well as information on
the status of the health debate. Public participation in the decision
(limits, siting, etc) should be enabled.
How could the situation of the users be improved? Technical data
should be made available to the users to allow comparison with respect to
EMF-exposure. In order to promote prudent usage, sufficient
information on the health debate should be provided. This procedure should offer
opportunities for the users to manage reduction in EMF-exposure. In
addition, this process could stimulate further developments of
low-intensity emission devices.