Verschaeve L. Genetic damage in subjects exposed to radiofrequency radiation. Mutat Res. Nov 27 2008 Ahead of print.
Due to the widespread use of cellular phones and telecommunications and the possibility that exposure to radiofrequency (RF) radiation might interact with DNA and cause genetic damage, several studies were conducted on laboratory animals, cell culture and also on humans exposed to RF radiation. The results of those studies were inconclusive as many have showed very small or no effects while others showed increased genetic damage. Thermal effects of exposure were thought to contribute to the increased genetic effects. And in other studies, exposures to other environmental carcinogens/mutagens merit further attention. Small number of exposed subjects prevented a firm conclusion about the effects of radiation exposure. Furthermore exposure levels in all studies were not known as only approximate dose estimates were provided.
The author reviewed studies that have been conducted on individuals exposed to radiofrequency (RF) radiation.
The first type of studies reviewed were those investigating cytogenetic effects in occupationally exposed subjects. Some of the reviewed studies found an increased frequency of genetic damage (chromosomal aberrations, acentric and dicentric chromosomal fragments, micronuclei formation, chromatid exchanges). However, most of the studies were based on small number of exposed subjects and other studies compared the exposed subjects with historical controls. Smoking and recent x-ray exposures may have confounded the results of some studies.
The author also reviewed the second type of studies on cytogenetic effects of mobile phone users. Several studies were conducted on cell phone users by analyzing peripheral lymphocytes or buccal mucosa for micronucleus formation and chromosomal aberrations. Some of the studies showed increased frequencies of genetic damage. However, studies suffered from a number of methodological shortcomings.
Discussion and Conclusion
The author finally concludes that due to several limitations of the reviewed studies, a firm conclusion cannot be drawn on the effects of radiofrequency radiation. However, the fact that amongst 16 human cytogenetic biomonitoring studies only 3 did not find cytogenetic damage raises concerns. Therefore, the author recommended large, well coordinated, multi-centred, collaborative investigation with the participation of scientists with extensive expertise in cytogenetics and RF-dosimetry. The author also recommended that other expertise should include the participation of other scientists (maybe epidemiologists in human biomonitoring studies) and scientists with experience and a publication record demonstrating that parameters other than RF-intensity and frequency are important to control because they can have biological consequences.