Why does wireless radiation affect us and are we adequately protected? Part 3


Why does wireless radiation affect us and are we adequately protected? Part 3

What are the features of wireless radiation that determine whether and how our bodies will react to it?


Professor Henry Lai, from the University of Washington, and science journalist Blake Levitt have described what they consider to be three of the most important, in a paper published recently in the journal Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine.


Two of them – intensity and duration of exposure – we’ve covered in recent blogs.

The third is modulation.


Modulation is the process of adding one signal to another (the carrier wave) in order to convey information.


You can think of it like a cake recipe. Take a basic cake recipe, add chocolate and you have a different outcome and a different biological effect (taste).


In the case of wireless radiation, the carrier signal (the basic cake mix) has a steady, regular pattern in which the wave form has regular frequency and amplitude (height). The modulated wave (chocolate) is superimposed on it, changing the characteristics (frequency, amplitude, etc) of the carrier wave.


The modulation is the part of the combined signal that provides the information. The authors say that, without it, the carrier wave would sound like static.


At the receiving end, the signal is demodulated so that the information can be extracted by the listener/observer.


There are many ways in which wireless signals can be modulated and, therefore, many potential wireless signals to which an organism can be exposed, all of them could have different characteristics. How might this affect the body?


The authors say, ‘It is not known how these different forms interact synergistically or antagonize the effects of each other – possibly producing cascading subtle effects throughout a living system.’

Modulation could be a determining factor in how a signal affects the body in some cases. For example, some studies showed that wireless signals of the same frequency and the same intensity caused different effects on the body, depending on whether or not they were modulated.

The authors confidently say that both modulated and unmodulated (continuous-wave) signals can and do affect the body. ‘What is clear is that both modulation and continuous-wave RFR are biologically active and both should be considered in exposure guidelines.’


However, Lai and Levitt say that international standards/guidelines do not take modulation into account.


‘The FCC/ICNIRP exposure guidelines only take unmodulated continuous-wave radiation into consideration and have long been criticized for not considering modulation as a separate entity with effects of its own … enough research exists to indicate exposure guidelines that do not take modulation into consideration are insufficient. This could be especially true with 5G on the immediate horizon using signaling characteristics – such as complex phasing, beam steering, and MassiveMimo (multiple-in, multiple-out sourcing) – and frequency ranges (in high millimeter wave ranges) that have never been used before in broad civilian-based communications.’


For each of the three key characteristics of wireless radiation that the authors examined – intensity of exposure, length of exposure, and modulation – international standards and guidelines fail to provide adequate protection, the authors conclude. Nor have the responsible standard-setters responded to calls to address the shortfalls.


This needs to change. ‘We need to more responsibly address the increasing near- and far-field RFR exposures of contemporary life with an eye toward 5G technology’s unique characteristics. A new conceptual framework is called for,’ the authors say.

Lai H, Levitt BB. The roles of intensity, exposure duration, and modulation on the biological effects of radiofrequency radiation and exposure guidelines. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. 2022 Apr;41(2):230-255. DOI: 10.1080/15368378.2022.2065683. PMID: 35438055,

We would like to thank Professor Henry Lai for his assistance with this article.

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