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Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(2):99-116. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2015-0001.

Scientific evidence contradicts findings and assumptions of Canadian Safety Panel 6: microwaves act through voltage-gated calcium channel activation to induce biological impacts at non-thermal levels, supporting a paradigm shift for microwave/lower frequency electromagnetic field action.


This review considers a paradigm shift on microwave electromagnetic field (EMF) action from only thermal effects to action via voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) activation. Microwave/lower frequency EMFs were shown in two dozen studies to act via VGCC activation because all effects studied were blocked by calcium channel blockers. This mode of action was further supported by hundreds of studies showing microwave changes in calcium fluxes and intracellular calcium [Ca2+]i signaling. The biophysical properties of VGCCs/similar channels make them particularly sensitive to low intensity, non-thermal EMF exposures. Non-thermal studies have shown that in most cases pulsed fields are more active than are non-pulsed fields and that exposures within certain intensity windows have much large biological effects than do either lower or higher intensity exposures; these are both consistent with a VGCC role but inconsistent with only a heating/thermal role. Downstream effects of VGCC activation include calcium signaling, elevated nitric oxide (NO), NO signaling, peroxynitrite, free radical formation, and oxidative stress. Downstream effects explain repeatedly reported biological responses to non-thermal exposures: oxidative stress; single and double strand breaks in cellular DNA; cancer; male and female infertility; lowered melatonin/sleep disruption; cardiac changes including tachycardia, arrhythmia, and sudden cardiac death; diverse neuropsychiatric effects including depression; and therapeutic effects. Non-VGCC non-thermal mechanisms may occur, but none have been shown to have effects in mammals. Biologically relevant safety standards can be developed through studies of cell lines/cell cultures with high levels of different VGCCs, measuring their responses to different EMF exposures. The 2014 Canadian Report by a panel of experts only recognizes thermal effects regarding safety standards for non-ionizing radiation exposures. Its position is therefore contradicted by each of the observations above. The Report is assessed here in several ways including through Karl Popper's assessment of strength of evidence. Popper argues that the strongest type of evidence is evidence that falsifies a theory; second strongest is a test of "risky prediction"; the weakest confirms a prediction that the theory could be correct but in no way rules out alternative theories. All of the evidence supporting the Report's conclusion that only thermal effects need be considered are of the weakest type, confirming prediction but not ruling out alternatives. In contrast, there are thousands of studies apparently falsifying their position. The Report argues that there are no biophysically viable mechanisms for non-thermal effects (shown to be false, see above). It claims that there are many "inconsistencies" in the literature causing them to throw out large numbers of studies; however, the one area where it apparently documents this claim, that of genotoxicity, shows no inconsistencies; rather it shows that various cell types, fields and end points produce different responses, as should be expected. The Report claims that cataract formation is produced by thermal effects but ignores studies falsifying this claim and also studies showing [Ca2+]i and VGCC roles. It is time for a paradigm shift away from only thermal effects toward VGCC activation and consequent downstream effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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