A Finnish scientist holds that all this time, scientists have been carrying out the wrong type of research to find out if cell phones damage human health. The head of the radiobiology laboratory at the radiation and nuclear safety authority in Helsinski, Dariusz Leszczynski believes that rather than figuring out the negative outcomes of cell phone radiation like cancer or death, the focus should be on determining the modern techniques to see how radiation affects the brain chemistry. Even if small changes are occurring in the brain’s proteins, it is necessary to be aware of them so that they can help determine the likely effects on health.
Many studies focus on the impact of cell phones, like cancers or headaches. Others link the cell phone usage with health records. Leszczynski says, “Those methods are fine, but only if you are looking for dramatic effects. The trouble is that if mobiles only exert a subtle effect on living tissue, then the chances are these methods might miss them. Exposing animals to radio frequency radiation and then watching to see if they get cancer or die will not help you pick upon subtle, yet potentially important effects.”
He believes that our lack of understanding of the biological effects of radio frequency interferes with the identification of the real health effects. If we apply physics laws, we will see that the radio waves cannot break chemical bonds due to the lack of energy. Only heating can make it possible. Cell phones can function at low power levels, which is why no heating effect is created. This is one of the many reasons why scientists believe that our health is not threatened by mobile phones.
It is necessary to initially look for the biological effects and then using them, the health consequences can be figured out. Only after this can we relate issues like nausea, tiredness and headaches to cell phone use. Leszczynski is also in favour of using intensive screening techniques, including proteomics and transcriptomics to study molecules that undergo changes because of radio waves. The levels of various kinds of proteins in cells are measured by proteomics, using a ‘protein chip’. On the other hand, levels of the ribonucleic acid base pairs used by genes to make proteins are measured by transcriptomics, using ‘RNA chip’.
His results revealed that cell phone exposure modified several proteins inhuman cells. The findings did not confirm the health risks, but they did show that the brain barrier preventing the harmful toxins to enter the blood is affected by the cell phones. In the experiment, the proteins that were affected showed that the radiowaves could modify the cell’s power to destroy itself. This explains how cell phones can cause cancer.
This was one of the earliest studies in the area of science that studied the deactivation of proteins by radiowaves. Leszczynski says, “The thought that no one had looked at this before is very disturbing. In any cell responding to any stimulus, not just electromagnetic frequencies, the first observable change is a change in proteins’ phosphorylation. So really, it’s an obvious place to start when looking for any effects.”
Alan Preece of the University of Bristol believes that it is time we started looking for implications. Though, it is no one’s fault that this was not started before. He continues saying, “Ten years ago, these techniques didn’t even exist.” Four years of constant effort to gain support resulted in Leszczynski being able to convince the World Health Organization (WHO) to make proteomics and transcriptomics a part of the research agenda for cell phone risk assessment. He discussed the topic of non-ionizing radiation with the international committee this week. WHO in Guilin, China, organized the committee.
According to Leszczynski, health effects will mainly take the form of headaches, dizziness or tiredness and will mostly lack the intensity. However, this does not mean that they should be ignored. “These sorts of effects still reduce our quality of life,” he says.
John Tattersall of the government’s defense science and technology laboratory at Porton Down acknowledges that the way of conducting research on cell phones must be changed as the health effects exist, no matter how subtle they are. With the help of government and industry-sponsored program, Tattersall is doing a research to study the effects of mobile on brain psychology and function. “If there was something obviously dangerous, I think we would have found something by now. The advent of these proteomic studies is just what we need,” says Tattersall.