New information points to possible effects of radiation on blood.

New information points to possible effects of radiation on blood.

Could radiation from mobile phones change the way in which human blood cells interact? Research from Sweden seems to suggests that it might.

In the UK alone it is estimated that around 40 million people own mobile phones and this high usage has led to concern about the possible health implications.

Bo Sernelius from Link?ping University advises that it is difficult to foresee all of the possible effects that electromagnetic radiation has on human tissue. One known effect is heating of the tissue; however, non-thermal radiation could also cause changes in surface tension and the interfacial forces between tissue parts.

Sernelius wanted to see what effects microwave radiation (emitted by mobile phones) might have on the attractive forces between two blood cells. The idea behind this work, he says, is that it is possible to manipulate the force between atoms and molecules with a beam of ultraviolet or visible light. Water molecules carry permanent dipole moments, and in a field are forced to rotate (an effect that is utilised in microwave ovens). As well as this, water can couple strongly to radiation in the microwave region. Given these facts Sernelius argues that by using electromagnetic radiation in the microwave region it might be possible to manipulate the force between objects in high water content solutions, with the real-life example of this situation being blood cells under the influence of mobile phone radiation.

The information on the dielectric properties of blood that is needed to make accurate calculations is limited, says Sernelius, and so his study is limited to a crude model. He finds, however, that the attractive force between two blood cells is enhanced by 10 orders of magnitude when the radiation changes from being thermal to coming from the microwave region. His suggestion is that these effects could cause thin blood vessels to contract or cause the growth of unwanted precipitates in tissue. Sernelius cautions that this work should not be considered as proof that mobile phones are harmful, it simply shows that there may be effects that have not been considered before.

Helen Fletcher