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Biophys J. Oct 1970; 10(10): 970–979.
PMCID: PMC1367973

On the Possibility of Nonthermal Biological Effects of Pulsed Electromagnetic Radiation


Two mechanisms for the interaction of alternating electrical fields with biological tissue are the development of heat, via i2R losses, and field-induced force effects, via differences in passive electrical properties. It has been shown that for continuous wave (CW) fields in media of physiologic electrical conductivity, the development of heat (>1°C) always precedes the possible appearance of a field-induced force effect. Using pearl-chain formation as a model effect and experimentally demonstrating that its time constant varies inversely as the square of the electrical field strength, we show that a pulsed field has no greater ability than a CW field of equal rms field strength to produce a field-induced force effect. Thus, the statement above for CW fields can be broadened to include pulsed fields of any description. By relating incident power density to electric field strength in tissue, we show that the American National Standards Institute's radiation protection guide obviates the production of genetic effects in man, if they exist, via field-induced force effects.

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Selected References

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  • Saito M, Schwan HP, Schwarz G. Response of nonspherical biological particles to alternating electric fields. Biophys J. 1966 May;6(3):313–327. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • HELLER JH, TEIXEIRA-PINTO AA. A new physical method of creating chromosomal aberrations. Nature. 1959 Mar 28;183(4665):905–906. [PubMed]

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