Conclusion of Danish Mobile Phone Program

Kjell Hansson Mild
Umeå University, Dept of Radiation Physics
Member of the Danish program Committee for
Non-Ionizing Radiation

For the last four years the Danish government sponsored a 4 Million Euro research program devoted to mobile telephony and its possible health risk. The program was run through the Strategic Research Council of Denmark, and the program committee consisted of Professor Philippe Grandjean of Odense University, chairman; Professor Jörn Olsen of UCLA (Californai, USA), Professor Olof Breinberg of Copenhagen, and Kjell Hansson Mild of Umeå University (Sweden). On May 27, 2008, an international workshop held in Copenhagen showcased the results of the research.

Before the individual project reports, four invited speakers gave an international perspective on the state-of-the-art of mobile phone research.

Professor Mats-Olof Mattson of Örebro Univeristy discussed biological effects in experimental systems, Assistant Professor Monica Sandström reviewed the evidence from controlled exposures of human volunteers, and Professor Elisabeth Cardis reviewed the ongoing epidemiological studies on mobile phone use and risk for brain tumours, with special emphasis on the Interphone study results so far. Professor Niels Kuester, IT IS, Zurich, gave an overview of the latest in dosimetry. Following this, Professor Emilie van Deventer talked about radio frequency research priorities from the World Health Organization perspective.

Reports were then given from each of the seven sponsored research areas, including such diverse areas as studies of free radical formation, other molecular level events, risk perception, and epidemiology:

  1. PET study of cerebro-metabolic effects of non-ionizing radiation from mobile phones.

    Albert Gjedde, Århus Universitet.

    Fourteen healthy volunteer were examined in a PET scanner before and after exposure to a 900 MHz radiation from a mobile phone with SAR less than 2 W/kg. Measurements of blood flow and oxygen consumption were made, but no changes could be detected.

  2. Experimental study of mobile base station related radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation in healthy adults and adolescents.

    Søren K. Kjærgaard, Institut for Folkesundhed, Århus Universitet.

    Two groups of volunteers, 15- 16 years of age and 24 – 40 years, respectively, were exposed to UMTS radiation under controlled conditions while researchers measured cognitive functions and symptoms. No effects, except a tendency towards headaches, were reported. A paper from the project has been published:

    Riddervold IS, Pedersen GF, Andersen NT, Pedersen AD, Andersen JB, Zachariae R, Mølhave L, Sigsgaard T, Kjaergaard SK. Cognitive function and symptoms in adults and adolescents in relation to rf radiation from UMTS base stations. Bioelectromagnetics 2008 May;29(4):257-67.

  3. Risk perception and communication.

    Ivar Sønbø Kristiansen, Research Unit for General Practice, University of Southern Denmark

    Twenty families were interviewed in person and a larger group was interviewed by telephone to assess variations in risk perception. Researchers reported a wide variation in perceived risks, tending towards a larger percieved risk from new technology. By contrast, the risk of talking on a mobile phone while driving is not generally perceived as a serious risk.

    A manuscript on this work entitled ”Living with risk in everyday life – a comparative analysis on handling and reflecting risk” has been submitted to Sociology of Illness and Health.

  4. Examination of the effects of low static magnetic fields and rf-exposure on biochemical reactions by the radical pair mechanism; the only known potentially active mechanism.

    Jørgen Boiden Pedersen, Institut for Fysik, Syddansk Universitet

    This researcher, in collaboration with a Russian physicist, made theoretical calculations about the possible effects of mobile phone frequency radiation on biochemical reactions, focusing on free radical formation. The calculations showed that there is a possibility of affecting some chemical reactions. However, the researchers did not regard the biological consequences as serious.The results were presented at the 30th annual BEMS meeting in San Diego.

  5. Epidemiological investigations at the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology.

    Jørgen H. Olsen, Joachim Schüz, Christoffer Johansen, Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, Danish Cancer Society, Copenhagen.

    Three epidemiology projects are being conducted, with work continuing past the formal end of the Danish program:

    i. Extended Follow-Up of the Danish Cohort of Mobile Phone Subscribers

    The paper on the follow up for cancer was published in December 2006 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. A letter to the Journal and the authors’ reply was published in the April 18 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. A methodological investigation of the potential of misclassification has been published in Bioelectromagnetics (2007). The analyses for risk of neurodegenerative disease are completed and a scientific paper has been sent out in March 2008 for language check review before publication.

    ii. The Nordic Childhood Brain Tumor Study (now named CEFALO)

    The fieldwork for this study began in June 2006 with the sending out of the first invitation letters. The last progress report of the international study team prepared February 1, 2008, indicated a total of 280 eligible cases and 497 eligible controls, of which 203 case families and 351 control families had agreed to participate. Norway started contact procedures only this year. Overall, this project is continuing according to its original plan, and no results are available yet.

    iii. WHO International Cohort Study of Mobile Phone Use and Health (now named COSMOS)

    This program was launched in week 44 in 2007. Of 100,000 invitees, 21,770 (21.8%) have replied. Of those, 16.768 (16.7%) have filled in the questionnaire and have sent back the signed informed consent form, while 335 subjects refused to participate by so indicating on the consent form. The invitees were drawn from a sample of mobile phone subscribers stratified by gender, age group and amount of use (9 groups), reflecting the market share of the Danish mobile phone operators. The launch of the study created several questions by phone or e-mail (about 1,500 e-mails and 700 phone calls (2.2% of all invited subjects), but unfriendly reactions were rare. The first analysis will be on usage patterns and the relation of use of mobile phones to other wireless devices and new technology.

  6. Effects of non-ionizing radiation on neural development and mature brain: An experimental study employing human and rodent, organotypic brain slice cultures and neural stem cells.

    Jens Zimmer Rasmussen, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Syddansk Universitet, Odense.

    Brain slices from newborn rats were exposed to UMTS and GSM 900 MHz radiation. No changes of the function of the nerve cells after radiation were noted compared to control slices. A manuscript is under preparation.

    The workshop concluded with a panel discussion that included all projects leaders and the entire program committee.

    More information on the programme and the projects can be found on the home page: