Van der waals to the power of ten

Limits radically questioned – New model for the effects of mobile phone radiation allowed to boost doubters about the safety of this technology

Who is female? Maybe talking on a cell phone will soon be a thing of the past – if what Swedish physicist Bo Sernelius suspects is true. He presents a new mechanism for the impact of high-frequency radio waves on body tissue, which could radically challenge the limits previously considered to be safe.

Van der waals to the power of ten

Electrosmog, the exposure of human health to electromagnetic fields, is unfortunately an elusive phenomenon. The effects are strongly frequency dependent, and we live with alternating fields of 50Hz (alternating current), several hundred kHz (medium wave), several hundred MHz (TV transmitters), 900 MHz (D-network), a few GHz (Bluetooth, microwave in the kitchen), several hundred THz (infrared, visible light, UV) etc. And of course, the evaluation of the effects depends on transmission power, distance and shielding – think of Icarus and the sun!

In general, we expect that the effect of electromagnetic radiation is based on the resonance of antenna and field. If the natural frequency of the antenna and the frequency of the alternating field coincide, energy is absorbed by the antenna – whether a photochemical reaction is triggered as in the skin pigments in the brown in the sun, whether an electrical voltage is built up as in the solar cell, whether a mechanical oscillation is caused as in water molecules in the microwave oven or whether currents are induced in electrical circuits as in the devices of communication and entertainment electronics. Away from resonance, on the other hand, absorption is as good as zero.

This expectation is also the basis for the protective measures, in particular the definition of the limits for the radiation power and for the minimum distances of transmitters by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection . As for the human body, the tissue should not be warmed locally by more than 1 degree Celsius due to radiation absorption. But are there no other effects that should be considered?

This is precisely the question that theoretical physicist Bo Sernelius at the University of Linkoping, Sweden, answers in a fundamentally new way.

In this context, he considers the forces of attraction and repulsion between molecules in aqueous media, namely the van der Waals and Casimir forces (note: we are not talking about electrostatic attraction or attraction between permanent dipoles, as in the case of the water molecule, for example). Van der Waals attraction also occurs between uncharged, non-polar molecules. It is based on temporary charge shifts in the electron shell and is responsible, for example, for gases condensing into liquids when they cool down. The Casimir effect describes the change of field energy through electrical conductors and can lead to both attraction and repulsion.). Both interactions can be strongly influenced by external electromagnetic fields.

Sernelius presents in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (2004, Vol. 6, S. 1363-8) presented a model for the forces between two red blood corpuscles and revised the assumption that the otherwise negligible van der Waals force of attraction between them could be increased by ten orders of magnitude, i.E. Ten billion times, under the influence of microwave radiation (frequency 840 MHz, which is also used for mobile phone networks)! In particular, he realistically assumes that the transmitted power is emitted in a narrow frequency range. Sernelius’ estimation results in an attractive force in the micronewton range (for comparison: the weight force of a red blood corpuscle is about one hundredth of a nanonewton, i.E. Many thousands of times smaller).

It is therefore conceivable that the blood circulation of capillary vessels is disturbed by mobile phone radiation. Another possible effect would be the increase of breakdowns or. Deposits in tissues. The quantitative estimation, however, encounters major difficulties, as Sernelius himself points out:

This work should not be taken as proof that cell phone use is harmful. It shows that there may be effects that have not been considered so far. The weaknesses of the model lie in the incompleteness of the initial data with respect to the dielectric properties of the body tissue and in the description of the radiation field.

The following is the opinion of Camelia Gabriel, founding director of the private research institute Microwave Consultants Ltd. (MCL) , as reported in the journal New Scientist :

An alternative mechanism of action [besides absorption, d. Red.] would be like discovering the Holy Grail, at least for those who consider electromagnetic radiation dangerous. But there is no evidence for such a mechanism.

Gabriel considers the new approach plausible, but the model is based on very simple assumptions, and a hypothesis concerning two cells does not necessarily apply to whole tissues.

"We have to test these assumptions in experiments", says Gabriel.

In the United Kingdom, the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme, which is funded by industry and government to the tune of £7 million, is investigating the health effects of mobile phone radiation on the human body. Gabriel will investigate the dielectric properties of animal and human tissues under microwave irradiation.Bo Sernelius’ theory was allowed to be no small incentive to look even closer!

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