In Case You Missed It

Harvard Biologist Takes New Job at Alma Mater

Michael Levin, who has published several articles in the Bioelectromagnetics Journal and recently gave an invited talk at a Society Annual Meeting, was mentioned in a November 18, 2008 post on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s on-line news blog (written by Caitlin Moran): The internationally recognized biologist, who previously directed the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at the Forsyth Institute, has left his post at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine to work as a biology professor at Tufts University, his alma mater.

The opportunity for interdisciplinary research at Tufts was a key factor in the switch for Mr. Levin, who was already working with Tufts researchers in biology and biomedical engineering. He believes interdisciplinary collaboration is becoming more important to medical research.

Mr. Levin is known for his findings on tissue growth as it relates to birth defects and cancer. He graduated from Tufts in 1992 with a degree in biology and computer science, and later received a Ph.D. from the Harvard University Medical School.

NIST to Study Electroshock Safety

Electroshock weapons—such as stun guns and other similar devices that temporarily incapacitate a person by delivering a high-voltage, low-current electric shock—have helped law enforcement officers safely subdue dangerous or violent persons for years. The use of these weapons has been challenged, however, by claims that they may have contributed to more than 150 deaths in the United States since 2001. Now, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are working toward a standard method for accurately assessing the electrical output of these devices, the results of which can be used in establishing baselines for future medical and safety studies.

Groups such as Amnesty International have called for guidelines for electroshock weapons that include “threshold exposures” (the minimum charges that would incapacitate different groups of people without putting them at risk for injury or death). One obstacle to the development of such guidelines is the fact that various reports regarding the output of electroshock weapons—the current and voltage they deliver—are inconsistent.

To address this problem, scientists in NIST’s Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES) have developed methods for calibrating the high-voltage and current measurement probes used by industry so that any inherent biases in the probes are minimized. By compensating for these probe effects, voltage and current readings were obtained that reflect the energies being dispensed by the weapons.

Next steps in the characterization program for electroshock weapons include implementing a second type of high-voltage measurement to verify the probe calibration system; further refining the uncertainty analysis for the overall measurement method to better define its accuracy and reliability; and, eventually, working with government agencies and the law enforcement community to standardize the method that will facilitate establishment of use guidelines.

### Public release date: 13-Nov-2008
For more information, contact

Nicholas Paulter,
nicholas.paulter@nist.gov, (301) 975-2405
Or
Michael E. Newman,
michael.newman@nist.gov, (301) 975-3025

EMF Effects on Cardiovascular System Reviewed

The cardiovascular effects of exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields were reviewed recently by David McNamee and collegues in a recent publication in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, published online 17 February 2009. Building on an earlier conclusion by Preece et al. that the data is ‘too strong and consistent to be ignored, but if an effect exists, it is a small effect”, they conclude that “the equivocal results reported to date require clarification through further research, including both epidemiologicalepidemiological studies of cardiovascular disease and laboratory studies investigating cardiovascular parameters.” The paper makes specific recommendations for future research, and note the importance of recording the geomagnetic magnetic field parameters when performing such studies.

DA McNamee, AG Legros, DR Krewski, G Wisenberg, FS Prato, and AW Thomas. A Literature Review: the Cardiovascular Effects of Exposure to Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields. Int. Arch. Occup. Environ. Health. Springer Verlage 2009.

UMTS Effects Debated

A debate on details of research reporting possible genotoxic effects from third generation (UMTS) mobile communication devices continues in the pages of the January 2009 issue of the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. The original article by Claudia Schwarz et al. published in Vol. 81, No. 6 (May 2008) showed) in vitro genotoxic effects on human fibroblasts (but not in lymphocytes).