In 2015 German scientists released the alarming study “Tumor promotion by exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields below exposure limits for humans,” that concluded low to moderate exposure levels to electromagnetic fields well below current exposure limits for the users of mobile phones, promotes tumors.
The team was led by Professor Dr Alexander Lerchl of the Department of Life Sciences and Chemistry, Jacobs University Bremen. It was funded by a grant from the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Salzgitter, Germany. In the past Dr Lerchl has vehemently held the position that low levels of microwave RF exposure are not carcinogenic. Most studies with cells and animals showing damage due to RF “could not be confirmed,” he wrote in a 2007 opinion piece.
“The vast majority of in vitro and in vivo studies did not find cancerogenic effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF), i.e. emitted by mobile phones and base stations,” the authors write. Previously published results from a pilot study with carcinogen-treated mice, however, suggested tumor-promoting effects of RF-EMF (Tillmann et al, 2010).
“We have performed a replication study using higher numbers of animals per group and including two additional exposure levels (0 (sham), 0.04, 0.4 and 2 W/kg SAR). Numbers of tumors of the lungs and livers in exposed animals were significantly higher than in sham-exposed controls. In addition, lymphomas were also found to be significantly elevated by exposure. A clear dose-response effect is absent. We hypothesize that these tumor promoting effects may be caused by metabolic changes due to exposure.”
“Our study confirms and extends the previously published observations of tumor-promoting effects of life-long RF-EMF exposure… Since many of the tumor-promoting effects in our study were seen at low to moderate exposure levels (0.04 and 0.4 W/kg SAR), thus well below exposure limits for the users of mobile phones.”
“Since many of the tumor-promoting effects in our study were seen at low to moderate exposure levels (0.04 and 0.4 W/kg SAR), thus well below exposure limits for the users of mobile phones, further studies are warranted to investigate the underlying mechanisms. Our findings may help to understand the repeatedly reported increased incidences of brain tumors in heavy users of mobile phones.”
Lerchl’s rat study unlike many of the others that have been carried out in the past – he employed (like Tillmann’s 2010 study) free-roaming animals.
In sum, tumor production was evident at a level approximately 50 times less than most national exposure standards. And no clear dose response effect was noted, i.e., exposure at low levels was just as likely to produce tumors as at higher levels.
However Lerchl point out – “Our results show that electromagnetic fields obviously enhance the growth of tumors. The assumption that they can cause cancer has not been proven so far. We can clearly demonstrate the effects. Now new studies must aim at explaining the underlying mechanisms.”
Franz Adlkofer, a professor of internal medicine (who previously worked for the mobile phone industry), issued a statement calling Lerchl the “longstanding chief witness for the harmlessness of mobile communication radiation” and that his new study was the worst possible outcome for the telecom industry.
Adlkofer was part of the EU-funded study REFLEX, which aimed to explore the effects of cell-phone radiation on the brain. The study’s conclusions demonstrated that low frequency as well as radiofrequency electromagnetic fields below the allowed exposure limits displayed gene-damaging potential.
“The practices of institutional corruption in the area of wireless communication are of enormous concern,” Adlkofer told Harvard Law School audience in 2011. “Based on the unjustified trivializing reports distributed by the mass media by order and on account of the wireless communication industry, the general public cannot understand that its future well being and health may be at stake.”
As far as extrapolating findings from rat studies to humans, Science magazine reports that in five European countries, scientists are tracking the cellphone habits of nearly 300,000 people for up to 5 years, while at the same time monitoring them for cancers, neurological and heart diseases, as well as headaches and sleep disorders. Another project based at the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain, is comparing the cellphone habits of 903 people ages 10 to 24 with brain cancer with 1800 similar people without cancer. Neither project has yet reported results.
A. Lerchl, M. Klose, K. Grote, A.F.X. Wilhelm, O. Spathmann, T. Fiedler, J.Streckert, V. Hansen, M. Clemens, Tumor promotion by exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields below exposure limits for humans, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2015.02.151