Exposure to Mobile Phone Electromagnetic Fields and Subjective Symptoms: A Double-Blind Study

Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom.
Psychosomatic Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.47). 05/2008; 70(3):345-8. DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31816521f1
Source: PubMed


The objective of this study was to examine whether acute exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (REFs) emitted by mobile phone may affect subjective symptoms.
Three large groups of volunteers (total 496) were exposed to REFs emitted by mobile phones in one session and sham signals in a different session. REF and sham exposure sessions were counterbalanced and double blinded. Participants were exposed to either Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) or unmodulated signals, and the mobile phone was positioned either on the left or on the right side of the head. Before and after REF and sham exposure participants completed a questionnaire to rate five symptoms. Any changes in the severity of the symptoms after REF exposure were compared with changes after sham exposure.
For one group of participants (N = 160), it was found that dizziness was affected by GSM exposure, but this was not consistently found with the other two groups of participants. No other significant effects were found.
We did not find consistent evidence suggesting that exposure to mobile phone REFs affect subjective symptoms. Even though we acknowledge that more research is needed, we believe that our results give an important contribution to the research on mobile phone use and subjective symptoms.

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    • "For the eight subjective symptoms attributed to WCDMA mobile phone radiation, neither the adult group nor the teenager group showed significant differences between sham and real exposures in any of the four stages. Cinel et al. [26] found no evidence suggesting that exposure to mobile phone RF-EMFs affected subjective symptoms. Koivisto et al. [22] also reported that the RF-EMFs exposure did not produce any consistent subjective symptoms or sensations such as headache, dizziness, and fatigue in the non-EHS subjects. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background With the rapid increasing use of third generation (3 G) mobile phones, social concerns have arisen concerning the possible health effects of radio frequency-electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) emitted by wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) mobile phones in humans. The number of people, who complain of various symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and fatigue, has also increased. Recently, the importance of researches on teenagers has been on the rise. However, very few provocation studies have examined the health effects of WCDMA mobile phone radiation on teenagers. Methods In this double-blind study, two volunteer groups of 26 adults and 26 teenagers were simultaneously investigated by measuring physiological changes in heart rate, respiration rate, and heart rate variability for autonomic nervous system (ANS), eight subjective symptoms, and perception of RF-EMFs during sham and real exposure sessions to verify its effects on adults and teenagers. Experiments were conducted using a dummy phone containing a WCDMA module (average power, 250 mW at 1950 MHz; specific absorption rate, 1.57 W/kg) within a headset placed on the head for 32 min. Results Short-term WCDMA RF-EMFs generated no significant changes in ANS, subjective symptoms or the percentages of those who believed they were being exposed in either group. Conclusions Considering the analyzed physiological data, the subjective symptoms surveyed, and the percentages of those who believed they were being exposed, 32 min of RF radiation emitted by WCDMA mobile phones demonstrated no effects in either adult or teenager subjects.
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    • "Most of the previous studies, however, focused on the adverse effects of exposure to mobile phone EMFs. For example, a considerable number of studies dealt with the potential influences of mobile phones with the former Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology on self-reported symptoms and sensations like headache, migraine, sleep disturbances , forgetfulness, and skin irritation in healthy and/or sensitive individuals [Koivisto et al., 2001; Balikci et al., 2005; Arnetz et al., 2007, 2009; Cinel et al., 2008; Hillert et al., 2008; Wiholm et al., 2009]. "
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    ABSTRACT: One of the most frequently investigated effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMFs) on the behavior of complex biological systems is pain sensitivity. Despite the growing body of evidence of EMF-induced changes in pain sensation, there is no currently accepted experimental protocol for such provocation studies for the healthy human population. In the present study, therefore, we tested the effects of third generation Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) RF EMF exposure on the thermal pain threshold (TPT) measured on the surface of the fingers of 20 young adult volunteers. The protocol was initially validated with a topical capsaicin treatment. The exposure time was 30 min and the genuine (or sham) signal was applied to the head through a patch antenna, where RF EMF specific absorption rate (SAR) values were controlled and kept constant at a level of 1.75 W/kg. Data were obtained using randomized, placebo-controlled trials in a double-blind manner. Subjective pain ratings were tested blockwise on a visual analogue rating scale (VAS). Compared to the control and sham conditions, the results provide evidence for intact TPT but a reduced desensitization effect between repeated stimulations within the individual blocks of trials, observable only on the contralateral side for the genuine UMTS exposure. Subjective pain perception (VAS) data indicated marginally decreased overall pain ratings in the genuine exposure condition only. The present results provide pioneering information about human pain sensation in relation to RF EMF exposure and thus may contribute to cover the existing gap between safety research and applied biomedical science targeting the potential biological effects of environmental RF EMFs. Bioelectromagnetics © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · Bioelectromagnetics
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    • "Several previous studies have demonstrated that sham exposures can elicit symptoms in healthy participants [7] [9] [32] and people with various forms of IEI [12] [33], and that this process might be facilitated by leaflets produced by an IEI support group [31]. However, another study failed to find, probably due to the small sample size and the lack of statistical power, a significant effect of written positive or negative information on expectations, cognitive performance, and symptom reports after a real or sham exposure to an EMF [34]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Medically unsubstantiated 'intolerances' to foods, chemicals and environmental toxins are common and are frequently discussed in the media. Idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF) is one such condition and is characterized by symptoms that are attributed to exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). In this experiment, we tested whether media reports promote the development of this condition. Participants (N=147) were randomly assigned to watch a television report about the adverse health effects of WiFi (n=76) or a control film (n=71). After watching their film, participants received a sham exposure to a WiFi signal (15min). The principal outcome measure was symptom reports following the sham exposure. Secondary outcomes included worries about the health effects of EMF, attributing symptoms to the sham exposure and increases in perceived sensitivity to EMF. 82 (54%) of the 147 participants reported symptoms which they attributed to the sham exposure. The experimental film increased: EMF related worries (β=0.19; P=.019); post sham exposure symptoms among participants with high pre-existing anxiety (β=0.22; P=.008); the likelihood of symptoms being attributed to the sham exposure among people with high anxiety (β=.31; P=.001); and the likelihood of people who attributed their symptoms to the sham exposure believing themselves to be sensitive to EMF (β=0.16; P=.049). Media reports about the adverse effects of supposedly hazardous substances can increase the likelihood of experiencing symptoms following sham exposure and developing an apparent sensitivity to it. Greater engagement between journalists and scientists is required to counter these negative effects.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · Journal of psychosomatic research
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