July 1, 2020 | Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D. | University of California, Berkeley |Director, Center for Family and Community Health School of Public Health saferemr.com |
What does research tell us about the biologic and health effects of millimeter waves?
“Millimeter waves (MMWs) are mostly absorbed within 1 to 2 millimeters of human skin and in the surface layers of the cornea. Thus, the skin or near-surface zones of tissues are the primary targets of the radiation. Since skin contains capillaries and nerve endings, MMW bio-effects may be transmitted through molecular mechanisms by the skin or through the nervous system.”
Early Russian research on millimeter radiation
“Russian scientists conducted much of the early research on the effects of exposure to millimeter radiation. The U.S.Central Intelligence Agency collected and translated the published research but did not declassify it until decades later.
In 1977, N.P. Zalyubovskaya published a study, “Biological effects of millimeter waves,” in a Russian-language journal, “Vracheboyne Delo.” The CIA declassified this paper in 2012.
The study examined the effects of exposing mice to millimeter radiation (37-60 GHz; 1 milliwatt per square centimeter) for 15 minutes daily for 60 days. The animal results were compared to a sample of people working with millimeter generators.”
“Biological Effect of Millimeter Radiowaves”
Following are summaries of research reviews of the effects of MMW exposure and a list of recently published studies.
Millimeter Wave Research Reviews
(Updated May 20, 2019)
Belyaev IY, Shcheglov VS, Alipov ED, Ushakov VD. Nonthermal effects of extremely high-frequency microwaves on chromatin conformation in cells in vitro—Dependence on physical, physiological, and genetic factors. IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques. 2000; 48(11):2172-2179.
There is a substantial number of studies showing biological effects of microwaves of extremely high-frequency range [i.e., millimeter waves (MMWs)] at nonthermal intensities, but poor reproducibility was reported in few replication studies. One possible explanation could be the dependence of the MMW effects on some parameters, which were not controlled in replications. The authors studied MMW effects on chromatin conformation in Escherichia coli (E. coli) cells and rat thymocytes. Strong dependence of MMW effects on frequency and polarization was observed at nonthermal power densities. Several other factors were important, such as the genotype of a strain under study, growth stage of the bacterial cultures, and time between exposure to microwaves and recording of the effect. MMW effects were dependent on cell density during exposure. This finding suggested an interaction of microwaves with cell-to-cell communication. Such dependence on several genetic, physiological, and physical variables might be a reason why, in some studies, the authors failed to reproduce the original data of others.
Le Drean Y, Mahamoud YS, Le Page Y, Habauzit D, Le Quement C, Zhadobov M, Sauleau R. State of knowledge on biological effects at 40–60 GHz. Comptes Rendus Physique. 2013; 14(5):402-411.
Millimetre waves correspond to the range of frequencies located between 30 and 300 GHz. Many applications exist and are emerging in this band, including wireless telecommunications, imaging and monitoring systems. In addition, some of these frequencies are used in therapy in Eastern Europe, suggesting that interactions with the human body are possible. This review aims to summarise current knowledge on interactions between millimetre waves and living matter. Several representative examples from the scientific literature are presented. Then, possible mechanisms of interactions between millimetre waves and biological systems are discussed.
Pakhomov AG, Akyel Y, Pakhomova ON, Stuck BE, Murphy MR. Current state and implications of research on biological effects of millimeter waves: a review of the literature. Bioelectromagnetics. 1998; 19(7):393-413.
In recent years, research into biological and medical effects of millimeter waves (MMW) has expanded greatly. This paper analyzes general trends in the area and briefly reviews the most significant publications, proceeding from cell-free systems, dosimetry, and spectroscopy issues through cultured cells and isolated organs to animals and humans. The studies reviewed demonstrate effects of low-intensity MMW (10 mW/cm2 and less) on cell growth and proliferation, activity of enzymes, state of cell genetic apparatus, function of excitable membranes, peripheral receptors, and other biological systems. In animals and humans, local MMW exposure stimulated tissue repair and regeneration, alleviated stress reactions, and facilitated recovery in a wide range of diseases (MMW therapy). Many reported MMW effects could not be readily explained by temperature changes during irradiation. The paper outlines some problems and uncertainties in the MMW research area, identifies tasks for future studies, and discusses possible implications for development of exposure safety criteria and guidelines.
Ramundo-Orlando A. Effects of millimeter waves radiation on cell membrane – A brief review. Journal of Infrared, Millimeter, and Terahertz Waves. 2010; 31(12):1400–1411.
The millimeter waves (MMW) region of the electromagnetic spectrum, extending from 30 to 300 GHz in terms of frequency (corresponding to wavelengths from 10 mm to 1 mm), is officially used in non-invasive complementary medicine in many Eastern European countries against a variety of diseases such gastro duodenal ulcers, cardiovascular disorders, traumatism and tumor. On the other hand, besides technological applications in traffic and military systems, in the near future MMW will also find applications in high resolution and high-speed wireless communication technology. This has led to restoring interest in research on MMW induced biological effects. In this review emphasis has been given to the MMW-induced effects on cell membranes that are considered the major target for the interaction between MMW and biological systems.
Ryan KL, D’Andrea JA, Jauchem JR, Mason PA. Radio frequency radiation of millimeter wave length: potential occupational safety issues relating to surface heating. Health Phys. 2000; 78(2):170-81.
Currently, technology is being developed that makes use of the millimeter wave (MMW) range (30-300 GHz) of the radio frequency region of the electromagnetic spectrum. As more and more systems come on line and are used in everyday applications, the possibility of inadvertent exposure of personnel to MMWs increases. To date, there has been no published discussion regarding the health effects of MMWs; this review attempts to fill that void. Because of the shallow depth of penetration, the energy and, therefore, heat associated with MMWs will be deposited within the first 1-2 mm of human skin. MMWs have been used in states of the former Soviet Union to provide therapeutic benefit in a number of diverse disease states, including skin disorders, gastric ulcers, heart disease and cancer. Conversely, the possibility exists that hazards might be associated with accidental overexposure to MMWs. This review attempts to critically analyze the likelihood of such acute effects as burn and eye damage, as well as potential long-term effects, including cancer.
Soghomonyan D, Trchounian K, Trchounian A. Millimeter waves or extremely high frequency electromagnetic fields in the environment: what are their effects on bacteria? Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2016; 100(11):4761-71. doi: 10.1007/s00253-016-7538-0.
Millimeter waves (MMW) or electromagnetic fields of extremely high frequencies at low intensity is a new environmental factor, the level of which is increased as technology advance. It is of interest that bacteria and other cells might communicate with each other by electromagnetic field of sub-extremely high frequency range. These MMW affected Escherichia coli and many other bacteria, mainly depressing their growth and changing properties and activity. These effects were non-thermal and depended on different factors. The significant cellular targets for MMW effects could be water, cell plasma membrane, and genome. The model for the MMW interaction with bacteria is suggested; a role of the membrane-associated proton FOF1-ATPase, key enzyme of bioenergetic relevance, is proposed. The consequences of MMW interaction with bacteria are the changes in their sensitivity to different biologically active chemicals, including antibiotics. Novel data on MMW effects on bacteria and their sensitivity to different antibiotics are presented and discussed; the combined action of MMW and antibiotics resulted with more strong effects. These effects are of significance for understanding changed metabolic pathways and distinguish role of bacteria in environment; they might be leading to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The effects might have applications in the development of technique, therapeutic practices, and food protection technology.
Torgomyan H, Trchounian A. Bactericidal effects of low-intensity extremely high frequency electromagnetic field: an overview with phenomenon, mechanisms, targets and consequences. Crit Rev Microbiol. 2013; 39(1):102-11.
Low-intensity electromagnetic field (EMF) of extremely high frequencies is a widespread environmental factor. This field is used in telecommunication systems, therapeutic practices and food protection. Particularly, in medicine and food industries EMF is used for its bactericidal effects. The significant targets of cellular mechanisms for EMF effects at resonant frequencies in bacteria could be water (H2O), cell membrane and genome. The changes in H2O cluster structure and properties might be leading to increase of chemical activity or hydration of proteins and other cellular structures. These effects are likely to be specific and long-term. Moreover, cell membrane with its surface characteristics, substance transport and energy-conversing processes is also altered. Then, the genome is affected because the conformational changes in DNA and the transition of bacterial pro-phages from lysogenic to lytic state have been detected. The consequences for EMF interaction with bacteria are the changes in their sensitivity to different chemicals, including antibiotics. These effects are important to understand distinguishing role of bacteria in environment, leading to changed metabolic pathways in bacteria and their antibiotic resistance. This EMF may also affect the cell-to-cell interactions in bacterial populations, since bacteria might interact with each other through EMF of sub-extremely high frequency range.
Betskii OV , Devyatkov ND, Kislov VV. Low intensity millimeter waves in medicine and biology. Crit Rev Biomed Eng. 2000;28(1-2):247-68.
This paper provides evidence on the interaction of objects. Basic regularities of that interaction are discussed.
Summarizing the results of the 30-year study of biological effects of low-intensity MM waves, we may ascertain the following. As it often happens, applied research and commercialization have outdistanced fundamental investigations. The wide application of MM waves in medicine, biotechnology, animal husbandry, and plant cultivation has taken a giant step forward. By this time, Russia has manufactured more than 10,000 MM-wave therapy devices, organized more than 2,500 MM-wave therapy rooms, and treated over 2,500,000 patients….
Open access version of paper: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d0f5/d75d92b7fb8f4d13ae5461e26afa62e87e60.pdf
May EC, Faith LV. The effects of electromagnetic radiation on biological systems: Current status in the former Soviet Union. Science Applications International Corporation. Presented to US Government, Feb 26, 1993. Approved for release by US Central Intelligence Agency, Aug 10, 2000. https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP96-00792R000100070001-9.pdf
Recent Millimeter Wave Studies
(Updated: July 1, 2020)
Bantysh BB, Krylov AY, Subbotina TI, et al. Peculiar effects of electromagnetic millimeter waves on tumor development in BALB/c mice. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2018 Sep;165(5):692-694. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30225701
Christ A, Samaras T, Neufeld E, Kuster N. RF-induced temperature increase in a stratified model of the skin for plane-wave exposure at 6-100 GHz. Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2020 Jan 16. pii: ncz293. doi: 10.1093/rpd/ncz293. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31950182
Foster KR, Ziskin MC, Balzano Q. Thermal response of human skin to microwave energy: A critical review. Health Phys. 2016; 111(6):528-541. (Note: This work was sponsored by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum. The authors state that MMF had no control over the contents.) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27798477
Gajda GB, Lemay E, Paradis J. Model of Steady-state Temperature Rise in Multilayer Tissues Due to Narrow-beam Millimeter-wave Radiofrequency Field Exposure. Health Phys. 2019 Feb 15. doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000001036. https://insights.ovid.com/pubmed?pmid=31125321
Gandhi OP, Riazi A. Absorption of millimeter waves by human beings and its biological implications. IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques. MTT-34(2):228-235. 1986. http://bit.ly/2oS3rKD
Haas AJ, Le Page Y, Zhadobov M, et al. Effects of 60-GHz millimeter waves on neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells using high-content screening. Neurosci Lett. 2016 Apr 8;618:58-65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26921450
Haas AJ, Le Page Y, Zhadobov M, et al. Effect of acute millimeter wave exposure on dopamine metabolism of NGF-treated PC12 cells. J Radiat Res. 2017 Feb 24:1-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28339776
Hovnanyan K, Kalantaryan V, Trchounian A. The distinguishing effects of low intensity electromagnetic radiation of different extremely high frequences on Enterococcus hirae: growth rate inhibition and scanning electron microscopy analysis. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28609553
Kojima M, Tsai C-Y, Suzuki Y, et al. Ocular response to millimeter wave exposure under different humidity levels. J Infrared Millimeter Terahertz Waves. 40(5):474-484. 2019. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10762-019-00586-0
Koyama S, Narita E, Shimizu Y, et al. Effects of long-term exposure to 60 GHz millimeter-wavelength radiation on the genotoxicity and heat shock protein (Hsp) expression of cells derived from human eye. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Aug 8;13(8). pii: E802. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27509516
Le Pogam P, Le Page Y, Habauzit D, et al. Untargeted metabolomics unveil alterations of biomembranes permeability in human HaCaT keratinocytes upon 60 GHz millimeter-wave exposure. Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 27;9(1):9343. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-45662-6. Open access paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-45662-6
Parker JE, Beason CW, Sturgeon SP, Voorhees WB, Johnson SS, et al. Revisiting 35 and 94 GHZ Millimeter Wave Exposure to the Non-human Primate Eye. Health Phys. 2020 Jun 3. doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000001216. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32501817/https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32501817/
Romanenko S, Harvey AR, Hool L, Fan S, Wallace VP. Millimeter wave radiation activates leech nociceptors via TRPV1-like receptor sensitization. Biophys J. 2019 Apr 25. pii: S0006-3495(19)30340-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2019.04.021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31103236
Sivachenko IB, Medvedev DS, Molodtsova ID, et al. Effects of millimeter-wave electromagnetic radiation on the experimental model of migraine. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2016 Feb;160(4):425-8. doi: 10.1007/s10517-016-3187-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26899844
Wang Q, Zhao X, Li S, et al. Attenuation by a human body and trees as well as material penetration loss in 26 and 39 GHz millimeter wave bands. International Journal of Antennas and Propagation. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2961090.
Wu T, Rappaport TS, Collins CM. The human body and millimeter-wave wireless communication systems: Interactions and implications. IEEE International Conference on Communications (ICC), Jun 2015. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7248688