Radiation pain

For awhile now (since getting wireless internet) it seems that every time I plop my laptop in my lap and start surfing, my body rebels. Specifically, and this sounds paranoid, I know, my ovaries hurt. A little. However, I realize the power of suggestion and that this is possibly all in my head — in my pre-determinedly hypochondriac, nature-loving, baby-wanting synapses. I theorize that the electromagnetic frequencies coursing through my bones and blood from surrounding cell phone towers and wireless routers can’t be good, though. I theorize that any recent rise in cancer might be from rising technology as much as depleted ozone. Suddenly, I want to head for the hills, foreswear plasma screens and globalization and become just a simple hunter-gatherer. Not that I will, mind you, but I do have a question:

Has anyone seen any credible sources documenting the dangers of this? I looked — on the Internet, of course — and found some theorizing only slightly more backed up than my own. I don’t know that the long-term effects of such mass exposure to cell phones and wireless internet can be ascertained at this point, though.

This is making my head hurt. I’m going to bed.

6 thoughts on “Radiation pain

  1. I would say it is doubtful, from a purely physics perspective, that you should be concerned. The radiation we worry about is generally high frequency, or short wavelengths. Radio waves, like those used in cell phones, are longer frequency, like the infrared in a remote control. However, don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Moulder et al. concluded in the journal Radiation research in 1999:
    “The epidemiological evidence for an association between RF radiation and cancer is found to be weak and inconsistent, the laboratory studies generally do not suggest that cell phone RF radiation has genotoxic or epigenetic activity, and a cell phone RF radiation-cancer connection is found to be physically implausible. Overall, the existing evidence for a causal relationship between RF radiation from cell phones and cancer is found to be weak to nonexistent.”(Radiat Res. 1999 May;151(5):513-31.)

    And Scarfi et al. in 2006 :
    “The results obtained provided no evidence for the existence of genotoxic or cytotoxic effects”(Radiat Res. 2006 Jun;165(6):655-63.)

    Hope that helps. If you want copies of the articles, let me know, and I’ll email them to you.

  2. Hey Nathan what were the length scales of those studies?

    Purely anecdotally, I had a wireless router that was positioned such that my head happened to coincide with the direct line of sight between my computer’s antenna, and I had a month long period of headaches that only subsided once I reoriented the setup. My roommates laughed at me, but honestly, the info’s gotta go somewhere, and it certainly isn’t going to preferentially take a detour around my big head.

    Having said that I do remember some research coming from the UK that claims the opposite. My stance on this issue right now, being fairly ignorant about biological effects of any type of radiation, is that we will have to sort of wait and see what happens over at least one lifecycle. Our children will be the first generation to experience life after widespread radiation. It’s quite analogous to long term effects of pharmacological agents – we just don’t know. (This is not to say that clever experimentation cannot tease out some hints.)

  3. P.S. depending on the orientation of the laptop on your, well, lap – the change in temp due to the laptop surface and the added pressure might be more likely culprits. Just another thought.

  4. Thanks again, guys. Nathan, if it isn’t too much trouble, and you actually have them (it sounds like you must), I’d love to see the articles.

    I don’t know where my wireless router is, because it’s an apartment-complex-wide thing. I’ll keep that in mind, though, S. Lee.

  5. The time scale on the Scarfi article was 24h, and it was done on human blood lymphocytes. The first was a review, and (confession time) I am quoting form the abstract, which is all I could find on PubMed, since my library doesn’t have back issues to that date. Another, newer review article, including one massive study which used a time scale of up to 200 days, concludes that “Among the 53 reports published during 1990–2003,
    the conclusions from 31 investigations (58%) did not identify increased cytogenetic damage after RF-radiation exposure,
    while those from 12 studies (23%) indicated a genotoxic potential of RF-radiation exposure. The observations in 10 other reports (19%) were inconclusive.”

    In the most telling passage of that reivew’s conclusion:

    “The strength of most of the
    reports that did not indicate significantly increased genotoxicity after in vivo and in vitro exposure of mammalian
    somatic cells to RF radiation comes from the following: (a)The studies were experimentally sound with adequate temperature controls and validated dosimetry. (b) The investigations were conducted by independent researchers in independent laboratories. (c) There were ‘‘replication’’ investigations
    conducted under conditions duplicating the original
    study as well as ‘‘confirmation’’ studies in which conditions similar to those original investigations were used. (d) In general, the experimental protocols were described in detail so that the observations could be verified
    by independent researchers. (e) The data were not in conflict with the other established characteristics of RF radiation. (f) These studies also included larger sample sizes than the other studies. In contrast, the reports that suggested the genotoxic potential of RF radiation had confounding factors that were described and/or commented on by the investigators.
    The interpretation of some of the data was hypothetical and was not substantiated by experimental evidence.”(Radiat Res. 2004 Nov;162(5):481-96.)

    I do have that pdf, though I haven’t read the entirety closely.

  6. that’s a lot of variation in reports, right Nathan. It’s very difficult to read isolated articles – it sounds like a review, which is good, but there’s not reason to believe that other articles don’t exist that are just as good – hard to say as a bunch of non-experts. Check out pubmed yourself and read through the abstracts. Checking citations is also a good way of getting a feel for a particular discipline.

    And by the way you’re also at the source of one of the directions of emitted signal (i.e. the computer), though the router is probably stronger than the computer’s output.

    Oh yeah and be careful on shared network connections – chances are that a shared router is bad news for safety issues, especially in the wireless domain.

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