Why EMF is Called Genotoxic

Henry Lai

The body of known science on the bioeffects of EMF exposure is increasingly large (extending back to at least 1926, when a surgeon with the US Public Health Service recognized that doses of ultra-shortwave EMF could kill mice).

Even so, it is not currently possible to provide precise answers to questions such as, “what is my increased risk of developing a brain tumor from using my cell phone?”

The science of bioeffects of EMF exposure is still quite incomplete, as well as complicated, at the intersection of physics, chemistry and biology.

The type of science that can specifically inform the risk of developing cancers is known as epidemiology, which studies the incidence of disease in populations. Epidemiology does not take place in a lab; researchers study the real world. They pick populations, study exposures of these populations, and measure health outcomes. It with the tools of epidemiology that scientists such as Dr. Lennart Hardell can conclude that using a cell phone for up to 1,000 minutes (cumulative in a life) correlates with a doubled risk of brain cancer 10 years later.

While everyone is naturally most interested in the risk of realizing negative health outcomes like cancer, these are among the most difficult risks to assess. Epidemiology is time-consuming (the higher quality studies on this subject analyze over 10 years of data), expensive and, well, just sloppy. Just think of how difficult it is to find a population today that is unexposed to EMF radiation from wireless communication or AC power lines and appliances. Even at their best, epidemiological studies can only suggest causation, by demonstrating correlations. Epidemiology can not prove anything.

If you want “proof” (in the scientific sense) you must turn to a laboratory. Laboratory science is much cleaner than epidemiology. You can craft the experiments as precisely as you wish, to explore specific questions. You can run the same tests over and over again, on different subjects. If you did it right, your results should be reproducible by other scientists, elsewhere in the world.

One of the areas that has received a lot of laboratory investigation is the question of the effect of EMF exposure on DNA, stemming back to the ground-breaking research of Drs. Henry Lai and Narendra Singh. Beginning in the 1990s, Lai and Singh demonstrated that doses of EMF equivalent to those from a cell or cordless phone — even for just two hours — can significantly affect the rates of DNA damage and repair in mice.

Henry Lai
Dr. Henry Lai was ‘war-gamed’ by Motorola for having the audacity to demonstrate that cell phone radiation can result in irreparable harm to cells.

In the ensuing decades, a significant body of science has formed demonstrating that EMF exposures — even those well within current FCC regulations on cell phone radiation emissions — affect the rates of DNA mutation and repair, as well as the amount of micronuclei that are found in the body. These are important indicators of damage; DNA mutation is a widely accepted carcinogenic mechanism, and the presence of high numbers of micronuclei is so well-associated with cancer, that doctors use it as one means to test for the presence of tumors.

It is because of the findings from studies such as these, that many refer to electromagnetic radiation as genotoxic, or poisonous to your genes. Just because you haven’t dropped dead from using a cell phone, does not mean that it is not doing irreparable harm to your body.

Now, to be clear, there are also many studies that demonstrate no such genotoxic effects of any kind resulting from exposures of this type. Manufacturers of wireless technologies (who often provide the funding for the studies demonstrating no biological effect) explain that such results refute the genotoxicity of EMF. Indeed, many insist that EMF is completely biologically safe at levels of radiation exposure insufficient to cause an increase in temperature.

However, in reality, when a bunch of the science shows genotoxic effects, and a bunch of the science show no such effects, science is painting a picture of extraordinarily complex mechanisms, which we understand quite poorly.

Does this mean there is no risk? Absolutely not! It means the risks can not be accurately quantified. (And, as any actuary or options trader will tell you, uncertainty increases risk; it does not erase it.)

For those interested in learning more about what science can tell us about the genotoxicity of cell phone and WiFi radiation, I encourage you to read Dr. Lai’s review (originally written in 2007 and supplemented in 2012) of the modern science that addresses this question. Dr. Lai’s reviews include studies that show effects, as well as studies that show no effects.

But, let’s be clear. While certain questions of public health remain quite difficult to answer, the science today incontrovertibly demonstrates that EMF affects all living things, and — at the very least — there are a great many instances in which exposure to cell phone and WiFi radiation yields genotoxic effects.

Not to put too fine a point on it, exposure to cell phone and WiFi radiation can irreparably damage DNA and destroy the genetic integrity of your cells.

This is one of the more compelling reasons that it is incumbent upon manufacturers of wireless technology to design safer technology from the perspective of EM exposures — but this is especially so when it comes to microwave transmitters that are designed to be mounted on the brain and worn for extended periods of time.

And until such time as manufacturers make their products safer, you should minimize your use of EMF-generating technologies, and consider using products like the Pocket Patch to reduce your personal exposures to this genotoxic force.

 

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