Send to

Choose Destination
Bioelectromagnetics. 2003 Jan;24(1):39-48.

Biophysical limits on athermal effects of RF and microwave radiation.

Author information

Department of Physics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8121, USA.


Using biophysical criteria, I show that continuous radiofrequency (RF) and microwave radiation with intensity less than 10 mW/cm(2) are unlikely to affect physiology significantly through athermal mechanisms. Biological systems are fundamentally noisy on the molecular scale as a consequence of thermal agitation and are noisy macroscopically as a consequence of physiological functions and animal behavior. If electromagnetic fields are to significantly affect physiology, their direct physical effect must be greater than that from the ubiquitous endogenous noise. Using that criterion, I show that none of a set of interactions of weak fields, which I argue is nearly complete on dimensional grounds, can affect biology on the molecular scale. Moreover, I conclude that such weak fields are quite unlikely to generate significant effects in their interactions with larger biological elements such as cells. In the course of that analysis, I examine important special examples of electromagnetic interactions: "direct" interactions where biology is modified simply by the motion of charged elements generated by the electric field; resonance interactions; the effects of electrostrictive forces and induced dipole moments; and modifications of radical pair recombination probabilities. In each case, I show that it is unlikely that low intensity fields can generate significant physiological consequences.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center