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Mobile Phones 'May Trigger Alzheimer's'
BBC News, February 5, 2003
phones damage key brain cells and could trigger the early onset of
Alzheimer's disease, a study suggests.
Researchers in Sweden have found that radiation from mobile phone
handsets damages areas of the brain associated with learning, memory
and movement. The study, which was carried out on rats, is the latest
twist in the long-running debate over whether mobile phones are a
health risk. Scientists have yet to find any conclusive evidence that
mobile phones damage the human brain.
This latest study was carried out by Professor Leif Salford and
colleagues at Lund University in Malmo.
They experimented on rats aged between 12 and 26 weeks. Their brains
are regarded as being in the same stage of development as teenagers.
The rats were exposed to two hours of radiation, equivalent to that
emitted by mobile phones. Their brains were examined under a microscope
50 days later.
The researchers found that rats which had been exposed to medium and
high levels of radiation had an abundance of dead brain cells.
Professor Salford said there was good reason to believe that mobile
phones could have the same effect on humans. "A rat's brain is very
much the same as a human's. They have the same blood-brain barrier and
neurons," he told BBC News Online. "We have good reason to believe that
what happens in rat's brains also happens in humans."
Professor Salford said that there was also a chance exposure to mobile phone radiation could
trigger Alzheimer's disease in some people. "What we are saying is
those neurons that are already prone to Alzheimer's disease may be
stimulated earlier in life. "However, this theory is hypothetical. We
do not have evidence yet that the human brain is affected in this way."
The study is published in Environmental Health Perspectives - the
journal of the US government's National Health Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences. Writing in the journal, the researchers
concluded: "We cannot exclude that after some decades of often daily
use, a whole generation of users may suffer negative effects maybe
already in their middle age."
Professor Salford said mobile phone users should not be alarmed by the
findings. "This is a negative finding and yes it doesn't seem to be
particularly good. "But this is one observation, in one laboratory with
a small number of animals. This study will have to be repeated before
we get alarmed. Nevertheless, it is strong enough to merit more
research into this area."
But he added: "Perhaps putting a mobile phone repeatedly to your head
is something that might not be good in the long term. "Maybe we should
think about restricting our use of mobile phones."
A UK-government funded study, published three years ago, found no
evidence to suggest mobile phones affect health. However, the report by
the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones recommended that
teenagers should only make essential calls and that these should be as
short as possible.
A spokeswoman for the Mobile Operators Association dismissed this
latest study. She said: "Independent scientific review bodies in the UK
and around the world have consistently concluded that the weight of
scientific evidence to date suggests that exposure to radio waves from
mobile phones operating within the international exposure guidelines do
not cause health problems."
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