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EMF Study
(Database last updated on Jul 5, 2020)

ID Number 1535
Study Type In Vitro
Model 1 GHz (CW) exposure to cow lenses in culture and analysis of ocular effects including cataract formation.

Calf lenses (obtained from a local slaughterhouse) were exposed to 1 GHz (CW) RF at 1.4 W/kg for 9 days and analyzed for lens opacity (cataract formation). The authors report RF exposure resulted in bubbles in the lenses similar to positive heat control (39 degrees), although the pattern of bubble formation was different than in the heat control. The authors interpret this as suggesting a different and non-thermal mechanism. AUTHORS' ABSTRACT: Bormusov et al. 2008 (IEEE #6079): High frequency microwave electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones and other modern devices has the potential to damage eye tissues, but its effect on the lens epithelium is unknown at present. The objective of this study was to investigate the non-thermal effects of high frequency microwave electromagnetic radiation (1.1GHz, 2.22 mW) on the eye lens epithelium in situ. Bovine lenses were incubated in organ culture at 35°C for 10-15 days. A novel computer-controlled microwave source was used to investigate the effects of microwave radiation on the lenses. 58 lenses were used in this study. The lenses were divided into four groups: (1) Control lenses incubated in organ culture for 10 to15 days. (2) Electromagnetic radiation exposure group treated with 1.1 GHz, 2.22 mW microwave radiation for 90 cycles of 50 minutes irradiation followed by 10 minutes pause and cultured up to 10 days. (3) Electromagnetic radiation exposure group treated as group 2 with 192 cycles of radiation and cultured for 15 days. (4) Lenses exposed to 39.5°C for 2 hours 3 times with 24 hours interval after each treatment beginning on the second day of the culture and cultured for 11 days. During the culture period, lens optical quality was followed daily by a computer-operated scanning laser beam. At the end of the culture period, control and treated lenses were analyzed morphologically and by assessment of the lens epithelial ATPase activity. Exposure to 1.1 GHz, 2.22 mW microwaves caused a reversible decrease in lens optical quality accompanied by irreversible morphological and biochemical damage to the lens epithelial cell layer. The effect of the electromagnetic radiation on the lens epithelium was remarkably different from those of conductive heat. The results of this investigation showed that electromagnetic fields from microwave radiation have a negative impact on the eye lens. The lens damage by electromagnetic fields was distinctly different from that caused by conductive heat.

Findings Effects
Status Completed With Publication
Principal Investigator Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel
Funding Agency Private/Instit.
Country ISRAEL
  • Dovrat, A et al. Bioelectromagnetics, (2005) 26:398-405
  • Bormusov, E et al. Open Ophthalmol J., (2008) 2:102-106
  • Comments

    The authors estimated an SAR of 1.4 W/kg (assuming an incident power of 2.2 mwatts and a 1.6 gram lens), but I did not see how they accounted for energy absorbed by the culture media (no volume provided, just that it was M199, Earls balanced salt solution, 3% fetal calf serum). They did report thermal tests using a probe with a 5 mm thick tip, but did not say how many locations within the culture dish were measured. Although microthermal mechanisms were hypothesized to account for the effects, several theoretical studies that suggest microthermal effects are not possible were not addressed [Weaver: Bioelectromagnetics (2005) 26:305-322; Foster et al: J. Biological Physics (2000) 26:255-260; IEEE Trans Plasma Sci (2000) 28:15-23; IEEE Trans Biomed Eng (1999) 46:911-917; Bioelectromagnetics (1999) 20:52-63; Bioelectromagnetics (1999) 20:112-116; Bioelectromagnetics (1998) 19:420-428; Bioelectromagnetics (1998) 19:420-428; Balzano and Sheppard: Bioelectromagnetics (2003) 24:473-482; Bioelectromagnetics (2003) 24:483-488; Bioelectromagnetics (2002) 23:278-287; Radiat. Prot. Dosim (1999) 83:165-169]. As calves in slaughterhouses are often beaten over the head until submissive, then shot with a shotgun between the eyes, mechanical injury to the lens might be expected. Further, the paper states that ~ 30% of control animals had similar "bubbles" "suggesting they had been exposed to RF" - that seems like a lot of cataracts in control animals. Finally, in looking up various types of cataracts, it seems they can be caused by a number of things including age, heredity, metabolic disorders (hypocalcaemia, hyperglycemia) concussion, X-ray damage, glaucoma, cytomegalovirus infection, diabetes mellitus, and of course, heat. Cataracts forming due to heat seem to be similar to certain age-related cataracts, with accumulation of high molecular weight protein / aggregation protein denaturation / increased insoluble protein in the older and deeper fibers of the lens (cortical and nuclear layers), but I did not see where this was associated with "bubbles".