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PCE contamination


Human Cells May Be Affected By 
Mobile-Phone Radiation 

GAUTAM NAIK / Wall Street Journal 20jun02

LONDON-A two-year Finnish study suggests that radiation from mobile-phone handsets may affect the biochemistry of cells, though the research doesn't show whether the devices are a health risk.

In the study, human cells that line blood vessels were first grown in a lab and then bombarded with an hour's worth of mobile-phone radiation. The researchers found that several hundred proteins appeared to respond to the low-level emission. Though the scientists haven't yet identified most of those proteins, one affected entity was hsp27, a known "stress protein."

The Finnish study, which appeared in the May issue of Differentiation, a peer-reviewed biology journal, adds to scientific knowledge about prolonged mobile-phone use, but it doesn't help consumers come to any definitive conclusions. "I don't think anyone can say whether there are or are not safety problems," said Dariusz Leszczynski, the lead author of the study and a molecular biologist at Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.

Several mobile-phone manufacturers, wireless operators and groups such as the World Health Organization are studying potential health risks of the handsets. So far, studies haven't yet conclusively shown that the widely used wireless handsets are harmful. Preliminary studies in animals have linked microwaves emitted by mobile phones to a variety of ills, ranging from increased blood pressure and anxiety to memory loss and cancer. But there is no consensus on the gadgets' effect on human health.

A major United Kingdom government study undertaken two years ago concluded that exposure to radio waves below levels set in international guidelines doesn't cause health problems for the general population, although it recommended a "precautionary approach," especially when it comes to children.

A study of 11,000 mobile-phone users in Sweden found symptoms such as fatigue and headaches. And a Japanese study earlier this year suggested that widespread wireless use in trains caused

large amounts of microwaves emitted by cellphones to be trapped inside the carriage. The research found that such radiation levels can exceed international safety limits and pose a potential health risk.

With the Finnish study, Dr. Leszczynski hypothesizes that changes to the stress protein hsp27 may affect the crucial blood-brain barrier-a semipermeable shield that protects the brain from foreign or harmful substances. When hsp27 is activated-in this case, potentially by radiation-it can affect the stability of certain fibers in cells. That could cause the cell lining to retract, forming gaps in the blood-brain barrier.

Over time, this may become a health hazard as foreign molecules invade the brain. That, in turn, could speed the onset of anything from headaches and sleep disorders to Alzheimer's disease, said Dr. Leszczynski. A recent experiment in Sweden involving rats that were exposed to mobile-phone radiation showed occasional examples of leakage through the blood-brain barrier, he said.

The Finnish study has limitations. For instance, our skulls may help protect the brain from cellphone radiation-a situation that wasn't simulated in the lab tests. And human cells may behave very differently in the body from the way they act when they are in a test tube.

Dr. Leszczynski acknowledged that his research brings the community no closer to determining whether cellphones pose a health threat. "At the moment, there is no reason for concern," he said. "But this gives us a justification for designing" a longer-term study to see whether radiation from cellphones can cause a breach in the blood-brain barrier.

Until more-conclusive evidence arises, the debate will continue. Just yesterday, British wireless company, Vodafone Group PLC disclosed in its annual report that it is named as a defendant in four lawsuits in the U.S. alleging personal injury, including brain cancer, from mobile-phone use.

The company said it would vigorously defend itself against the claims. "The company isn't aware that the health risks alleged in such personal-injury claims have been substantiated," Vodafone said.

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