Toxic products in biological systems linked to applied magnetic fields

Weak magnetic fields from overhead power lines, electrical equipment, and mobile phones have been linked to toxic products in biological systems.

Concerns have been raised that the magnetic fields associated with power lines and mobile phones could damage human health. In a study of a modified biological system, Peter Hore at the University of Oxford, UK, shows that there is a link between toxic product generation and weak magnetic fields.

When plants and some bacteria absorb light, a series of fast reactions is triggered. These reactions carry the energy to a reaction centre where it is trapped by a pigment. Although the pigment usually reacts safely with a nearby quinine molecule, in some instances it forms an excited triplet state molecule instead. This is dangerous for the organism because the triplet state pigment can react with molecular oxygen to give singlet oxygen which has been linked to biological damage.

Hore and his colleagues, at both Oxford and Leiden University in the Netherlands, modified a plant reaction centre so that the triplet state pigment would be generated. They then looked at the formation of toxic singlet oxygen and found that the amount of the toxic product depended on the size of the applied magnetic field and consequently the damage to the reaction centre also depended on the field.

Whilst Hore points out that the study did not use an intact biological system he does conclude that ’these observations.establish the principle that the production of a highly reactive and biologically damaging non-radical species can be magnetic field sensitive’.

Caroline Evans