Mobile phones and gamma radiation

May 25, 2024 

What happens when a mobile phone user is exposed to the gamma radiation used by diagnostic and cancer treatment technologies, or lives in an environment of relatively higher ionizing radiation?

The first study ever to look at the effects of gamma radiation and real-life mobile phone signals on human blood cells has just been published – and it sheds new light on why international safety limits need to be urgently updated to protect us.

The study’s author, Dr Dimitris J. Panagopoulos from the University of Athens, says that both gamma radiation and mobile phone radiation are genotoxic [causing DNA damage], with gamma radiation being more genotoxic and a known human carcinogen. But when you put them both together, the effects are even more profound.

Panagopoulos took blood samples from healthy male and female volunteers and exposed them to a UMTS (3G/4G) mobile phone in talk mode for 15 minutes at a 1 cm distance. Some samples were also exposed to gamma radiation at doses that compared to those used for medical diagnosis and cancer treatments. The blood was then examined for chromosome damage.

The study showed that exposure to the UMTS mobile phone signal increased the number of chromosomal aberrations [abnormalities] and exposure to gamma radiation did even more so. However, the blood samples that were exposed to both UMTS and gamma radiation had significantly more aberrations than the samples exposed to gamma radiation alone, or the sum of aberrations induced by exposure to UMTS and gamma radiation separately.

‘In other words, the combination of various doses of gamma radiation with a 15-min exposure to a 3G/4G mobile phone (with disabled Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functions) increased greatly and in some cases nearly doubled the effects of gamma radiation in all subjects,’ Panagopoulos said.

‘This clearly shows that living tissue is more vulnerable when subjected to conditions of combined stress than when subjected to individual stressors, and the adverse effect in the case of combined stress is greater than the sum of the individual effects from the separate exposures to each stressor.’

This result has important implications for people undergoing diagnostic and therapeutic treatments and their doctors. Panagopoulos recommends that ‘People/patients who are subjected to diagnostic or therapeutic treatment with ionizing radiation should be prudently advised to avoid using WC [wireless communication] devices for a few days before, during, and after such treatments’ and that ‘Medical/radiology practitioners should be specifically educated on the risks of anthropogenic electromagnetic field [EMF]-exposures in addition to those of ionizing radiations.’

The study’s findings are in line with previous research that has considered the effects of both wireless radiation and ionizing radiation. However, Panagopoulos’s study differs in that it used mobile phones rather than simulated mobile phone signals, making it more representative of real-life exposure.

Panagopoulos also compared the chromosome damage caused by mobile phone radiation to that caused by high levels of caffeine. The mobile phone radiation caused more damage.

According to Panagopoulos, ‘a single MT [mobile phone] EMF exposure [approximately] 136 times lower than the most recent ICNIRP* (2020) limit induced chromosomal aberrations in a slightly higher degree than a caffeine dose [approximately] 290 times higher than the permissible single caffeine dose for an adult human.’

He says that this shows that international limits for EMF exposure are vastly too lax. ‘…the exposure limits set for microwave EMFs by ICNIRP (2020) may be enormously less stringent (~136×290 or ~40000 times) than those for caffeine, and thus, should be lowered by (at least) ~40000 (forty thousand) times.’

Panagopoulos draws a similar conclusion by comparing the chromosome damage caused by mobile phone and gamma radiation. He says, ‘the exposure limits for microwave EMFs set by ICNIRP (2020) may be enormously less stringent (~136×1000/3 or ~4.5×104 = 45000 times) than those for gamma radiation.’

This means that exposures to mobile phone and other types of wireless communication radiation should have a power density of no more than 0.1 µW/cm2 for short-term exposures and 0.001 µW/cm2 for long-term exposures (instead of the ICNIRP limit which is 4000 µW/cm2 averaged over 6 mins). Panagopoulos says these lower levels are in line with those recommended by other experts.

This paper suggests the importance of considering mobile phone radiation with other environmental and health stressors.

‘Since anthropogenic EMF exposure at different frequency bands of the spectrum (RF, ELF, etc.) constitutes a new reality in daily life for everyone, its combination with a variety of other existing stressors on human/biological systems (such as development, aging, sickness, infections, ionizing radiation, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, smoking, coffee drinking, psychological stress, etc.) should be examined as a priority by future studies,’ Panagopoulos says.

Panagopoulos, DJ. (2024). Mobile telephony radiation exerts genotoxic action and significantly enhances the effects of gamma radiation in human cells. General Physiology and Biophysics. 2024. 103-120. 10.4149/gpb_2023036.

*ICNIRP: International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. (Australia’s radiation standard is in line with the Guidelines produced by ICNIRP.) 

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