EMF Health-effects Research

UMTS Base Station-like Exposure, Well-Being, and Cognitive Performance,

Regel SJ, Negovetic S, Roosli M, Berdinas V, Schuderer J, Huss A, Lott U, Kuster N, Achermann P

Environ Health Perspect, 114(8):1270-1275, 2006

Background: Radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) of mobile communication systems are widespread in the living environment, yet their effects on humans are uncertain despite a growing body of literature.

Objectives: We investigated the influence of a Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) base station-like signal on well-being and cognitive performance in subjects with and without self-reported sensitivity to RF EMF.

Methods: We performed a controlled exposure experiment (45 min at an electric field strength of 0, 1, or 10 V/m, incident with a polarization of 45 degrees from the left back side of the subject, weekly intervals) in a randomized, double-blind crossover design. A total of 117 healthy subjects (33 self-reported sensitive, 84 nonsensitive subjects) participated in the study.

We assessed well-being, perceived field strength, and cognitive performance with questionnaires and cognitive tasks and conducted statistical analyses using linear mixed models. Organ-specific and brain tissue-specific dosimetry including uncertainty and variation analysis was performed.

Results: In both groups, well-being and perceived field strength were not associated with actual exposure levels. We observed no consistent condition-induced changes in cognitive performance except for two marginal effects. At 10 V/m we observed a slight effect on speed in one of six tasks in the sensitive subjects and an effect on accuracy in another task in nonsensitive subjects. Both effects disappeared after multiple end point adjustment.

Conclusions: In contrast to a recent Dutch study, we could not confirm a short-term effect of UMTS base station-like exposure on well-being. The reported effects on brain functioning were marginal and may have occurred by chance. Peak spatial absorption in brain tissue was considerably smaller than during use of a mobile phone. No conclusions can be drawn regarding short-term effects of cell phone exposure or the effects of long-term base station-like exposure on human health.

Key words: base station, cognitive function, electromagnetic hypersensitivity, human exposure, mobile phones, RF EMF.

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