© 2002 Updated: 3/17/02


CSU Will Study Biological Effects of RF Radiation on Lookout Mountain

Department of Environmental Health researchers at Colorado State University have received a grant from the National Institutes of Health, to evaluate human responses to residential exposures of radiofrequency (RF) radiation in the vicinity of Lookout Mountain.

Photo, left to right: CARE volunteer coordinator Monnie Barrett, CARE attorney Deb Carney, CSU Assistant Professor Dr. James Burch, graduate student assistant Maggie Clark, and Professor Dr. John Reif

The principal investigators on the grant are Dr. John Reif, professor and chairman of the department and Dr. James Burch, assistant professor. They are collaborating with investigators at the School of Public Health, University of Washington in the area of exposure assessment. The grant award is for a period of three years. Results of the study are anticipated to be available in the latter part of 2004.

This study will carefully examine the effects of residential RF exposure on melatonin and other markers of human biological response to non-ionizing radiation. Melatonin is a hormone which has been shown to be suppressed in some animal and human studies in response to exposure to electromagnetic fields. The hormone has a number of properties which could provide the mechanistic basis for several reported EMF-related human risks. Melatonin is an antioxidant that protects the brain and body functions that effect the sleep/wake cycle.

Evaluation of immune function, a marker of DNA damage, and several other biological endpoints are planned. The endpoints chosen for study were selected in part based on the investigators earlier work with powerline frequency electromagnetic fields in humans and with experimental and other evidence of biological effects of non-ionizing radiation in humans.

The researchers plan to study approximately 300 persons, including 75 children. Potential participants will be randomly selected from residents expected to be exposed to RF fields who live in the vicinity of over 1000 RF transmission devices operating on an estimated 35 towers and those who live further from the towers and are expected to be unexposed.

Informed consent will be obtained from all participants according to procedures approved by Colorado State University’s Office of Regulatory Compliance. Investigators will collect urine samples from all participants and blood samples from adults. A questionnaire will be administered by trained field staff. Exposure measurements from radiofrequency and powerline frequency fields will be made in the homes of each participant.

A recently reported study of 1,606 women, led by University of Washington professor of epidemiology Scott Davis, suggests a 60% greater risk of breast cancer in nightshift working women. Exposure to light at night suppresses melatonin production and may increase women’s levels of the sex hormone estrogen. Blind women whose melatonin production does not drop upon exposure to light have lower breast cancer rates than sighted women.

Laboratory studies and experiments in animals suggest that melatonin may directly inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. A 10-year study by Harvard researchers examined the work histories of 78,562 nurses and found nightshift workers had a 36% greater risk for breast cancer.

• Many documents and details are available at www.c-a-r-e.org.