Does the electromagnetic field affect our brain

Low frequency electromagnetic fields damage brain cells

US scientists have found significant DNA damage in rats exposed to fields that also produce many household appliances

Whether and when which health risks can also cause weak electrical fields for humans is just as controversial as the question of which health risks emanate from the electromagnetic radiation caused by cell phones. Allegedly, German insurance companies have already excluded damage from electrosmog in their policies because of the unpredictable health risks. It is possible, however, that not only cell phones but also all electrical devices that have been placed close to the head for a long time, such as hairdryers, razors or electric blankets, could damage human brain cells.

Henry Lai, a scientist in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, is best known for his research on pulsed microwave radiation emitted from cell phones. Years ago, his research on rats had shown that the microwaves emitted by cell phones can break down DNA molecules in the brain. In other experiments with rats, he found that when they were exposed to microwaves, they produce more endorphins and stress hormones. The latter influence the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in memory functions, among other things.

In a new study published online in advance in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives under the title Magnetic Field-Induced DNA Strand Breaks in Brain Cells of the Rat, Henry Lai and Narendra Singh found evidence that at least in rats low frequency electromagnetic fields can also cause damage to DNA in brain cells. In rats that were exposed to a magnetic field of 60 Hz with a strength of 0.01 milli-Tesla for 24 hours, the researchers found, after examining their brains, a significant increase in damaged DNA, but also many dead cells. After 48 hours, the damage observed was even greater. Weak electromagnetic fields of 50 or 60 Hertz are produced by many household appliances.

If the rats were treated with Trolox (a vitamin E analog) or another substance that binds free radicals, significantly less damage to the genetic material of the cells occurred. Treatment with deferiprone, which binds iron, prevented the harmful effects of the electromagnetic fields. Both indicate that the low-frequency electromagnetic fields affect the iron particles in the cells. The resulting reaction could contribute to the formation of free radicals, which in turn would be responsible for DNA damage. There are more iron atoms in the nucleus than in the rest of the cell. In previous experiments, for example, adding melatonin to the rats before they were exposed to electromagnetic fields prevented the damage. Melatonin also binds free radicals.

However, the damage in the current study did not appear until after 24 hours, while no changes could be noticed in rats exposed to the electromagnetic field for two hours. For the scientists, this indicates that the damage depends on the intensity and is cumulative. Free radicals not only damage DNA, but can also affect other biological molecules such as proteins. Oxidative stress with an increased concentration of free radicals is responsible for aging processes as well as diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, immune deficiencies or arteriosclerosis.

According to the new studies, those cell types that have a higher iron content would be particularly affected by electromagnetic fields, for example dividing cells, those that are infected by a virus, or cells such as those in the brain that have a high metabolic rate.

Although the strength of the electromagnetic field to which the rats were exposed is quite comparable to the fields emitted by household appliances, the results do not yet say anything about whether the use of electrical devices with low-frequency electromagnetic fields is actually dangerous for humans are. If you blow-dry your hair only briefly or shave for a few minutes, the risk should be low, if there is one at all. In addition to a clock radio, you can sleep for hours, for example. "Our key finding," Lai told the BBC, "is that the damaging effect in rats accumulates over time. The big question is whether the damaging effect accumulates in humans when we use a blow dryer for five minutes a day. We don't know, but our results indicate the possibility that it might. "

So far, Lai says, people shouldn't be scared of the results, but: "People should do everything they can to minimize exposure, especially electrical devices that are used very close to the body . " (Florian Rötzer)

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