Key proteins in the human body are completely unaffected by the magnetic fields of mobile phones, scientists have found
The magnetic fields created by mobile phones and power lines are not harmful to human health, the University of Manchester has found.
Several studies have suggested that electromagnetic fields emitted from mobile devices and power cables could cause infertility and cancer, including research in the 1970s which suggested they could be linked to childhood leukaemia.
Consequently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has categorised low frequency magnetic fields as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ while the NHS advises against using mobiles for long periods, and warns against children using them for non-essential calls.
It was thought that magnetic fields could harm key proteins in the human body. But the University of Manchester has now found that they have no detectable impact at all.
Researchers looked about how weak magnetic fields (WMFs) affected flavoproteins, which are crucial to health and control the nervous system and DNA repair.
If these proteins go wrong then there are serious knock-on effects for human health.
But after subjecting them to WMFs in the lab it became clear that they were completely unaffected.
Dr Alex Jones, research fellow at the School of Chemistry at The University of Manchester, and co-lead author of the paper, said: “There is still some concern among the public about this potential link, which has been found in some studies into cases of childhood leukaemia, but without any clear mechanism for why.
“Flavoproteins transfer electrons from one place to another. Along the path the electrons take, very short lived chemical species known as radical pairs are often created.
“Biochemical reactions involving radical pairs are considered the most plausible candidates for sensitivity to WMFs, but for them to be so the reaction conditions have to be right.
“This research suggests that the correct conditions for biochemical effects of WMFs are likely to be rare in human biology.”
Professor Nigel Scrutton, co-lead author of the paper, from the Faculty of Life Sciences, added: “More work on other possible links will need to be done but this study definitely takes us nearer to the point where we can say that power-lines, mobile phones and other similar devices are likely to be safe for humans.”
A study in 2010, by a Health Protection Agency group set up to examine the safety of mobile phones, transmitter masts and wi-fi, found “no convincing evidence” they caused any adverse effects on human health.
However members of the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) said they could not be sure of the long term effects of mobiles, as there was currently “little information beyond 15 years from first exposure”. The study is continuing.
The research was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.