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Cell Phone Research

Any new technology is regarded with suspicion. A few years ago the then Medical Physics Research Centre constructed a realistic head from materials that simulate bone, brain, muscle, skin and eye. Our partners, the Applied Electronics Research Group at the University of Bradford and the National Physical Laboratory, then measured, as well as modelled, the electrical fields inside the head.

Separate studies looked at the effects of microwaves at cell phone levels on cognitive function. We assessed the effects of either analogue or GSM (Global System for Mobile Telecommunications) typephone transmissions on volunteers' ability to perform a number of tasks involving reaction time, spatial memory and picture and word recall. This follows a study which found that large power frequency (50Hz) fields did adversely affect the memory of volunteers. Recently, a study of GSM phone effects on children found similar effects and is now published in Bioelectromagnetics Supplement 7, 2005.

The effect of cell phone exposure was different - this time there was an enhancement of reaction times but only at the higher levels associated with analogue phones. Is this a heating effect? Certainly we have found that high levels of RF affect brain blood flow.

A third project, funded by the Department of Health found out what the public think of cell phone antennas and power lines; whether they think these are a bigger hazard than say radon (or smoking) and who they believe when given information about such sources of health problems. By and large, most people are little bothered by either although they seem to think it could be someone else's problem! Interestingly the public appear to trust the Department of Health and universities for reliable information, but not politicians or industry.

Maybe, in the future, cell phones will be clear of suspicion, but, for the moment, the arguments against them have not been clarified.

Microwave Imaging

Together with a group in Electrical Engineering under Dr Ian Craddock, the BioPhysics Group are developing a novel microwave mammography system. This uses a 16 element antenna array in contact with the breast and launches minute power leves at 4-8 Ghz in short pulses to do "radar" scans of the breast tissue.

Currently this is only used on "phantom" breasts (models) where the resolution is as much as a few millimetes. It is hoped to start some clinical trials by the end of 2005 to exploint thhe very benign non-ionishing mature of the electromagnetc radiation.

Staff involved:

Dr Ian Craddock (Researcher)

Dr R Nikavaln (Researtch Associate)

Dr J Leendertz (Senior Research Associate)

Mrs Y Johnson (Materials Technician)

Prof R Benjamin(Emeritus Profesor Engineering)

Prof A W Preece (Emerituc Professor of Medical Physics)

Article contributed by: Alan Preece (0117 928 2469)

UBHT Medical Physics Home Page Site updated 11 July, 2005


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