Wilke I. Review: Biological and pathological effects of 2.45 GHz radiation on cells, fertility, brain, and behavior. umwelt • medizin • gesellschaft. 2018; 31 (1) Suppl: 1-32. 2018. (English translation)
Purpose: This article is a systematic review of studies on the effects of non-ionizing radiation at the microwave (MW) frequency of 2.45 GHz (2450 MHz), which is predominantly used in WLAN/Wi-Fi applications (wireless local area network) and microwave ovens. Newer WLAN standards also use the frequency ranges of 5 GHz, 6 GHz, and 60 GHz. WLAN, referred to generically in this review also as Wi-Fi, has become the technology of choice for many wireless applications because providers do not require a license, making the service free to users. To meet users’ desire to be online all the time, more and more WLAN antennas (access points, femtocells, routers) emitting pulsed 2.45 GHz radiation are being installed at libraries, hospitals, hotels, airports, railway stations, shopping malls, public places, and in buses, subways, and passenger trains. Wi-Fi consoles are used to play games. Office and household appliances are also fitted with Wi-Fi antennas. Residential routers often contain two Wi-Fi transmitters. As part of its digital learning initiative, the German Conference of Ministers of Education has decided to provide all schools with Wi-Fi networks. The extensive body of research on the health risks of Wi-Fi radiation is generally not considered by policy-makers or in the public debate.
Method: For this review, primarily the databases LIVIVO (ZBMED) and PubMed were searched for studies, without limiting the publication date range. The selected studies have all been published in peer-reviewed journals.
Result: More than 100 studies on 2.45 GHz radiation were analyzed, most of which found changes compared to the control groups at levels below the safety guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) (issued as exposure limits of the 26th Federal Pollution Control Ordinance (BImSchV) in Germany). The available studies document damage to the reproductive system, impacts on the EEG and brain functions, as well as effects on the heart, liver, thyroid, gene expression, cell cycle, cell membranes, bacteria, and plants. As a mechanism of action, many studies identify oxidative stress. Adverse effects on learning, memory, attention, and behavior are the result of cytotoxic effects.
Conclusions: Based on the extensive body of research and the adverse health effects demonstrated in the majority of the studies, it is recommended that steps should be taken to minimize RF radiation exposure in accordance with official recommendations. Wired solutions should be given preference. Current exposure limits and SAR values do not protect from health risks associated with Wi-Fi radiation. The adverse effects on learning, attention, and behavior serve as a basis for educational institutions of all age groups to forgo the use of Wi-Fi applications. Due to cytotoxic effects, Wi-Fi technologies are not suitable for hospitals and telemedicine. Wi-Fi technologies should not be used in bedrooms, work spaces, common lounges, hospital rooms, lecture halls, classrooms, and public transport. The possible risks associated with Wi-Fi radiation could be avoided by testing alternative technologies at other frequency bands like optical VLC/Li-Fi technologies (visible light communication). When Wi-Fi cannot be avoided as a transition solution, the ALARA principle must be applied: no continuous transmission, instead Wi-Fi networks that can be turned off and feature dynamic power management.
Discussion and conclusions
This overview shows that effects of 2.45 GHz radiation have been found by different research teams, repeatedly, in different study objects, and at different exposure levels. A broad spectrum of issues has been investigated such as the effects of 2.45 GHz radiation emitted by a Wi-Fi router on the release of mercury from amalgam fillings. The mercury levels were significantly increased (Paknahad et al. 2016).
To date, there are a few long-term studies, very few in humans and even fewer epidemiological studies, apart from the studies on laptops with small numbers of study subjects. It is also far too early to generate reliable figures at this time. However, there are indications that especially newborns, children, or adolescents are particularly vulnerable as has been presented in detail by the research teams of Nazırogˇ lu, Atasoy, Margaritis/ Panagopoulos, Orendacˇ ova, Othmann, Ozorak, Sangun, Shahin and Yuksel. The experiments were carried out with rats or mice, in some cases as long-term studies (up to 1 year). In this context, it is important to note that rats and mice used in laboratories have a life expectancy of perhaps two years. This at least allows us to infer that human children and adolescents have to be protected from possible increased risks. In the study of Margaritis et al. (2014), the authors point out that the exposure levels from Bluetooth (0.3 V/m) and Wi-Fi routers (here 2.1 V/m) showed greater effects than cell phone radiation sources with much higher field strengths. This may coincide with the findings of the papers by von Klitzing, which stated that the power-dependent pulse of 10 Hz (1 ms) from Wi-Fi routers triggered reactions. Kumari et al. observed in a study from 2012 that higher levels of ROS in the liver suppress antioxidant enzymes and that lower levels cause an increase. This could be a key to further mechanisms as to how or whether tissue damage occurs or perhaps not. Likewise, the polarization of RF radiation (Meena et al. 2014, Panagopoulos et al. 2015) should also receive additional attention.
This review presents the findings of more than 100 studies that were published in reputable scientific journals. Most of these studies confirm potential health impacts as were summarized in the joint “Nicosia Declaration on Electromagnetic and Radiofrequency Radiation” by the Cyprus and Austrian medical associations in 2017: “Potential health impacts of non-ionizing radiation from EMF/RF (electromagnetic fields/radiofrequencies) of 30 KHz – 300 GHz include carcinogenicity (Class B, IARC 2011), developmental neurotoxicity, effects on DNA, fertility, hypersensitivity and other serious effects are well documented in peer reviewed studies. RFR can increase oxidative stress in cells and lead to increase of pro-inflammatory cytokines and lower capacity to repair DNA single- and double-strand breaks. Cognitive impairments in learning and memory have also been shown. These effects can occur at levels well below existing limits of ICNIRP. … Exposure to EMF/RF at an early developmental stage is of particular concern due, amongst other, to greater absorption and potential effects on the developing developing brain, nervous system as well as their reproductive system, may induce cancer, cognitive effects, etc.” (www.diagnose-funk.org/publikationen/artikel/detail&newsid=1242 and www.cyprus-child-environment.org/easyconsole.cfm/id/428).
The potential health impact of Wi-Fi, even at low exposure levels, can no longer be called into question or relativized away, not even by those studies that found no effects. The decision-makers in government, school boards, and health agencies have a responsibility to deal with the available body of research and not to be deceived by the arguments of the industry lobby or boilerplates of government institutions. Health risks are a reality. It would be particularly important to carry out further research regarding the effects on the brain and young people. The application of the precautionary principle, which is recognized in all European countries, only allows for one conclusion: Wi-Fi must not be used continuously and close to the human body. It is no coincidence that the user guide of the Telekom Wi-Fi router states: “The integrated antennas of your Speedport transmit and receive wireless signals, for example, to provide Wi-Fi connectivity. Avoid placing your Speedport in close proximity to bedrooms, children’s rooms, as well as common rooms and lounges to keep the exposure to the electromagnetic field as low as possible.” In their joint appeal with regard to Wi-Fi, the Cyprus and Austrian medical associations call on decision-makers to “promote age-related rational application of digital technology and not allow at schools, particular at preschool, kindergarten and elementary schools wireless networks and opt for wired connections” (ibid). Lawmakers are called upon to adjust protective legislation to the current state of research and to support research into alternatives to Wi-Fi such as VLC technologies (visible light communication, Li-Fi).
The scientific journal umwelt · medizin · gesellschaft addresses environmental medicine topics on a scientific basis–and their interdependence with today’s society. The specialist journal reports on the latest medical findings and examines ecologically explosive, socially relevant topics. The UMG magazine is the official association organ of the environmental and medical associations dbu, DEGUZ, DGUHT, EUROPAEM, IGUMED, KMT and ÖÄB.
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