The prime minister's wife Cherie Blair's recent appearance with a "bioelectric" device to help protect herself from harmful electromagnetic radiation (EMR) has thrust the issue of EMR hazards and protection on the public's attention.
Said by its inventor to deflect EMR from office equipment, the device has been dismissed by various members of the medical fraternity as "superstition" and a "placebo". But they're not dismissing the potential hazards of EMR from mobile phones quite as vociferously.
Not after research by the Ministry of Defence's Defence Evaluation Research Agency received front page coverage in the media. Researchers, led by Dr J Tattersall and based at Porton Down, the secret military research base in Wiltshire, have tested the effects of 700MHz (the mobile phone frequency is 900MHz) on slices of rat hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and short term memory, and involved in epilepsy. Exposing the slices for 30 seconds at a time, the researchers found that the evoked potential rose at very low frequencies and then dropped immediately when the power was increased. Switch off the power and the slices recovered, switch on again and the effect was repeated.
Research is being funded by the Department of Health to investigate the implications of this on whole animals, including humans, and is hoped to be completed in a year. The original research was in fact described at the annual Bioelectromagnetics (BEMS) Conference in Florida in June and is published in its abstracts.
Other recent research also reported at the conference included the largest ever study of some 11,000 analogue and digital mobile phone users (see page 11). Conducted by Swedish scientist Dr Hansson Mild of the National Institute of Working Life in Sweden, the study found, among other things, an increase in headaches, fatigue and sensations of facial heating in users of either type of phone. Details of more serious complaints will be released by the end of the year.
Research is not concentrating solely on the hazards of EMR, but also on how to reduce or prevent exposure. While Cherie Blair's "bioelectric shield" may not be everyone's approach, French scientists also presented evidence at the June conference of how a new antenna protected chick embryos from mobile phone radiation.
Dr Madelaine Bastide and her colleagues at Montpelier University exposed chicken embryos to radiation from a mobile phone, measuring the ELF (0-300Hz) and VLF (300Hz-30MHz) range, and observed that the exposed group suffered a 72 per cent higher death rate than the unexposed group (12 per cent). The distribution of the dead embryos was essentially around the source of the phone radiation. (The same researchers have reported depressed immune system function in chickens from VDU radiation.)
In a second stage of the EMR experiment, chick embryos were again exposed to similar radiation, but for one group the phone was fitted with a Tecno AO antenna made by the French company Tecnosphere. The embryonic death rate for the "protected" group was found to be 29 per cent versus 57 per cent in the "unprotected" group, indicating that the Tecno AO antenna shielded the embryos. With further research, such results could have significant implications for pregnant women.
Researchers at Britain's Luton University found that the Tecno AO device fixed to a VDU significantly reduced stress in users, compared to the effects experienced by those using a VDU without one.
Eminent ophthalmologist Professor Mikio Miyata at Kitasato University, Japan, has shown that the Tecno AO also protected against corneal injury caused by VDU use. Analysis of the results is still continuing and will be published in a peer reviewed journal.
While the inventor of the bioelectric shield says it works as a gatekeeper, filtering out incompatible energy fields, the Tecno AO antenna is thought to help the body protect itself against various frequencies by boosting brain wave frequencies to combat them. More information and evidence is available from the Tecno AO distributor in Britain, Marketex UK Ltd (Hill Cottage, Barham, Kent CT4 6QD).
The evidence that digital mobile phones can have serious health effects is becoming overwhelming. A researcher's case against a Welsh mobile phone distributor continues. Roger Coghill is claiming that all mobile phones should carry a label, warning of possible health effects.
And in the first British legal action of its kind, a 27 year old British woman is taking a manufacturer to court, claiming that her brain tumour was caused by radiation from her mobile phone.
Clearly, it is prudent for all of us to protect ourselves from pulsed microwave radiation, given that many of us will probably use technology that generates EMR every day for the rest of our lives which could amount to up to 40 years of exposure.
For further information: Electromagnetic Hazard & Therapy, PO Box 25, Liphook, Hants GU30 7SE (send s.a.e.).