EMF Health-effects Research

Effects of microwave and radio frequency EMFs on lichens.

Urech M, Eicher B, Siegenthaler J

Bioelectromagnetics 17(4):327-334, 1996

The effects of electromagnetic fields on lichens were investigated. Field experiments of long duration (1-3 years) were combined with laboratory experiments and theoretical considerations.

Samples of the lichen species Parmelia tiliacea and Hypogymnia physodes were exposed to microwaves (2.45 GHz; 0.2, 5, and 50 mW/cm2; and control). Both species showed a substantially reduced growth rate at 50 mW/cm2. A differentiation between thermal and nonthermal effects was not possible.

Temperature measurements on lichens exposed to microwaves (2.45 GHz, 50 mW/cm2) showed a substantial increase in the surface temperature and an accelerated drying process. The thermal effect of microwave on lichens was verified. The exposure of lichens of both species was repeated near a short-wave broadcast transmitter (9.5 MHz, amplitude modulated; maximum field strength 235 V/m, 332 mA/m).

No visible effects on the exposed lichens were detected. At this frequency, no thermal effects were expected, and the experimental results support this hypothesis. Theoretical estimates based on climatic data and literature showed that the growth reductions in the initial experiments could very likely have been caused by drying of the lichens from the heating with microwaves.

The results of the other experiments support the hypothesis that the response of the lichens exposed to microwaves was mainly due to thermal effects and that there is a low probability of nonthermal effects.

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