How cell phones may damage tissue

May 2, 2011

A way that cell-phone radio-frequency radiation could damage biological tissue has been identified by Bill Bruno, a theoretical biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

He says that the traditional argument for cell phone and cell phone tower microwave safety only applies when the number of photons of radio-frequency energy is less than one in a volume of space equivalent to a cubic wavelength. When the density of photons is higher than this, other effects can come into play.

Bruno points to the example of “optical tweezers,” in which coherent photons combine to push, pull, and rotate small objects such as cells, because a force is generated when dielectric objects sit in an electric field gradient associated with the photons.

The damage that optical tweezers can do to structures in cells is well reported, he says. That’s because of the large change in refractive index at the edge of cellular structures such as vesicles and myelin sheaths, and the high density of photons.

Optical tweezers generally work at infrared frequencies. The question that Bruno poses is whether a similar effect could also work for microwave frequencies. Is there a high enough density of microwave photons from cellphones to generate a force capable of damaging biological tissues, and are there structures in the body with the required dielectric properties to be susceptible?

He points out that the density of microwave photons from cell phones and cell phone towers is many orders of magnitude higher than one per cubic wavelength, and urges caution in the way that safe dosage limits are determined.

Ref: William J. Bruno, What Does Photon Energy Tell Us About Cell Phone Safety?