Fragopoulou AF, Koussoulakos SL, Margaritis LH. Cranial and postcranial skeletal variations induced in mouse embryos by mobile phone radiation. Pathophysiology. Oct 23, 2009. Ahead of print.
Billions of people worldwide are exposed daily either knowingly or unknowingly to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). EMFs produced by mobile phones and transmitting towers are of particular concern because of their close proximity to human populations and of their use close to sensitive organs such as the brain and eyes. To date, studies on the health effects of exposure to EMFs are inconclusive. Little attention has been paid to the effects of radiofrequency (RF) EMF on pregnancy and further laboratory or mechanistic studies have been recommended.
The aim of the present study was to analyze the embryonic development of mice whose mothers (dams) were exposed to mild RF EMFs emitted by a commercially available mobile phone in close contact with each animal.
Healthy, young female mice were used in the experiment. Five days before mating, females were individually exposed in their cages for 0 (control group), 6, and 30 (experimental groups) minutes/day on successive days. This was suggested to allow for a likely activation of intrinsic defense mechanisms. After successful mating, pregnant mice were exposed from the beginning of the pregnancy until term, resulting in total exposure times of 0 min (5 mice), 126 min (7 mice) and 630 min (7 mice). Mice were free to move around in their cages during exposure. Exposure consisted of a GSM 900 MHz mobile phone placed in the middle of the cage base. The EMF produced by the mobile phone was monitored constantly and resulted in a specific absorption rate (SAR) of 0.6-0.95 W/kg. The control group was exposed to a battery-less mobile phone. Pregnant mice were regularly weighed and were examined daily throughout the gestation period for general appearance and locomotor activity by cage-side observation. At birth, 9 newborns from each of the exposure groups (27 total) remained with their mothers until eruption of all their teeth. Specimens from 47 offspring (7 from 0 min, 20 from 6 min, and 20 from 30 min) were examined to reveal skeletal abnormalities. Sixteen newborns (4 from 0 min, 6 from 6 min, and 6 from 30 min) were also processed using a different method. Before processing, all newborns were weighed, measured, and outwardly inspected.
No obvious difference in the body mass increase, stereotyped behaviour, and fixed motor patterns were seen between exposed and unexposed pregnant mice. Similarly, no external differences were seen between experimental (70 pups) and control (20 pups) newborns. When skeletal elements were examined under a microscope, only a few cranial bones and thoracic cage ribs showed some developmental variations, even in the group that was mildly exposed for 6 min/day.
Interpretation and Limitations
A limitation of the literature on the health effects of EMF exposure presented to date is that most studies are incomparable due to differences in the exposure conditions and test subjects. For example, the results of the present study are in accordance with some studies, but do not agree with others who found no biological effects in either dams or fetuses. The authors of the present study suggest that their data could be used to extrapolate safe exposure levels to humans.
The authors conclude that their study shows that even modest exposure levels of pregnant mice to EMF emitted by commercially available mobile phone affects normal developmental procedures, as indicated by the observed morphological variations. Nonetheless, these effects are not permanent since the animals seemed to recover after birth.