Monday, December 08, 2008

Does your cell phone signal damange your DNA? - round two

An exchange in the letters to the editor section of the Nov. 28 Science Magazine:
In her widely cited News of the Week story "Fraud charges cast doubt on claims of DNA damage from cell phone fields" (Science, 29 August, p. 1144), G. Vogel writes, "The only two peer-reviewed scientific papers showing that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from cell phones can cause DNA breakage are at the center of a misconduct controversy at the Medical University of Vienna." Notwithstanding the allegations on both sides of the fence in this unresolved controversy, Vogel's opening comment and the title of her article are misleading. In fact, there are many other peer-reviewed papers from laboratories in at least seven countries, including the United States, showing that cell phone or similar low-intensity EMFs can break DNA or modulate it structurally [e.g., (1-9)].

Vini G. Khurana
Department of Neurosurgery
The Canberra Hospital
Australian National University
Canberra, ACT, Australia


1. R. J. Aitken, L. E. Bennetts, D. Sawyer, A. M. Wiklendt, B. V. King, Int. J. Androl. 28, 171 (2005).
2. W. Baohong et al., Toxicology 232, 311 (2007).
3. J. Y. Kim et al., Environ. Toxicol. 23, 319 (2008).
4. H. Lai, N. P. Singh, Int. J. Radiat. Biol. 69, 513 (1996).
5. S. Lixia et al., Mutat. Res. 602, 135 (2006).
6. R. Paulraj, J. Behari, Mutat. Res. 596, 76 (2006).
7. J. L. Phillips et al., Bioelectrochem. Bioenerget. 45, 103 (1998).
8. T. Nikolova et al., FASEB J. 19, 1686 (2005).
9. M. Mashevich et al., Bioelectromagnetics 24, 82 (2003).

My intention was not to imply that there were only two papers showing any effects of EMFs. There are many publications that show effects of EMFs on DNA, but the citations listed here do not directly contradict the quoted sentence. Some see an effect in combination with other known agents that damage DNA. One finds an effect of microwaves, but in the range of microwave ovens and wireless LANs, not cell phones. Others look at DNA damage (for example, chromosome duplications), but not breakage. Several show mixed results: One finds a decrease in DNA breaks in three sets of exposed cells and an increase in one. Since the story was published, however, I have been made aware of a paper by Yao et al. (1), which also reported single-strand DNA breaks caused by EMFs equivalent to those from cell phones. I regret any misunderstanding the sentence caused.

Gretchen Vogel


1. K. Yao et al., Mol. Vision 14, 964 (2008).

1 comment:

  1. I experienced a similar problem. When I bought my iPhone, I first checked with “Got Reception?” ( It’s a great resource for finding out where reception problems are most likely to occur BEFORE you lock yourself with a specific carrier.