I. Belyaev et al., 10/7/02

Effects of ELF and Microwaves on human lymphocytes from hypersensitive persons

Tramès per Klaus Rudolph (Citizens' Initiative Omega)

I. Belyaev, L. Hillert, C. Tamm, M. Harms-Ringdahl, L. Malmgren, B. Persson.

Department of Genetic and Cellular Toxicology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; Department of Environmental Health, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden; Department of Radiation Physics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.


Hypersensitivity to electricity (electromagnetic fields, EMF) is a fairly new phenomenon and etiology of the EMF hypersensitivity is not yet known. There are several symptoms that these people experience in the proximity to different sources of EMF.

The symptoms are not specific to this illness and there is no known pathophysiological marker or diagnostic test [1-2]. No causal relationship between EMF and symptoms has yet been proven, but sensitivity to specific frequencies has been suggested [1]. The frequency dependent non-thermal effects of ELF magnetic fields and microwaves on the conformation of chromatin in lymphocytes have been described and individual variability has been observed [3, 4].


Here, we used specific conditions of exposure to ELF to investigate if the response of lymphocytes from
hypersensitive persons is different as compared to healthy subjects. We also used GSM modulated
microwaves, which have been previously shown to affect brain blood barrier in rats [5].


Fresh blood samples from two groups of donors, 7 persons reporting electrosensitivity and 7 healthy controls matched by gender, age and smoking habits were coded and all data were analysed in blind. The changes in chromatin conformation were measured with the method of anomalous viscosity time dependencie (AVTD).

Apoptosis was determined up to 72 h by morphological changes. Apoptotic fragmentation of DNA was
analyzed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Sinusoidal magnetic field (8 Hz, 30 mT amplitude or 50 Hz, 15 mT amplitude) was applied using Helmholtz coils. Installation employing GSM signal, 915 MHz, all modulations included, SAR=1-2 mW/g in the TEMcell was used. All exposures were 2 h. The data were analyzed with the t-test.


Exposure to ELF at 8 Hz and specific static magnetic field as described in [3] resulted in statistically significant changes of chromatin conformation, which disappeared 19 h after exposure. This ELF exposure resulted in apoptotic DNA fragmentation, which was comparable with the response induced by 2 cGy of g-rays.

No significant differences in effects were seen between groups of control and hypersensitive donors.  However, a trend to a prolonged state of relaxed chromatin was observed in lymphocytes from hypersensitive persons.

No effects of 8 Hz exposure on apoptosis or AVTD were observed when static magnetic field was changed  by 10 mT.

Exposure either to 50 Hz or microwaves resulted in significant condensation of chromatin which was  comparable with heat shock at 41oC. This condensation disappeared 2 h after exposure and no apoptosis  was observed during 72 h.

Comparison of pooled data obtained with 50 Hz and 915 MHz did not show significant differences in effects  between 4 control and 4 sensitive subjects. However, in 3 of 4 matched pairs, both 50 Hz and 915 MHz  stronger affected cells from hypersensitive persons.


The data suggested that ELF magnetic fields and microwaves under specific conditions of exposure affect  lymphocytes from healthy and electrosensitive donors. ELF under specific conditions of exposure resulted in apoptotic DNA fragmentation.

These effects differ at different frequencies and vary between donors. In some cases, cells from  electrosensitive donors responded stronger than cells from gender- and age-matched control subjects, but the results need to be confirmed in a larger study group.

These studies were supported by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research and the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute.



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* Hillert, L., Hedman B.K., Soderman E., and B.B. Arnetz, Hypersensitivity to electricity: working definition and additional characterization of the syndrome. J. Psychosom. Res., 47, 429-38, 1999

* Belyaev, I.Ya., Y.D. Alipov, and M. Harms-Ringdahl, Resonance effects of weak ELF on E. coli cells and human lymphocytes: role of genetic, physiological and physical parameters, In: Electricity and Magnetism in Biology and Medicine, ed. F. Bersani, Kluwer Academic, NY, 481-484, 1999

* Belyaev, I.Ya., and V.G. Kravchenko, Resonance Effect of Low Intensity Millimeter Waves on the Chromatin Conformational State of Rat Thymocytes, Z. Naturforsch., 49c, 352-358,1994

* Persson, B.R.R., Salford, L.G., and Brun, A. Blood-Brain Barrier permeability in rats exposed to electromagnetic fields used in wireless communication. Wireless Networks 3, 455-461, 1997