NHMRC grants for EME research - grant summaries

Centre for Population Health Research on Electromagnetic Energy

Grant ID: 1060205
CIA name: Prof Michael Abramson
Administering institution: Monash University
Grant type: Centres of Research Excellence
Total funding: $2,499,157
Start year: 2013
End year: 2018

Institution(s) where research will be located:

  • Monash University, Department of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine
  • The University of Wollongong, School of Psychology
  • The University of Queensland, Department of Biomedical Engineering

Lay description (as included in the grant application)

This Centre of Research Excellence brings together leading population health researchers to investigate the health effects of mobile phones and magnetic resonance imaging.  It will address high priority research questions identified by the World Health Organization.  It will generate new knowledge that leads to improved health outcomes through a 5 year research program.  The outcomes will be translated into health policy and practice through international and national organisations.

Research objectives (as provided by the applicant)

To generate new knowledge that leads to improved health outcomes through a research program including:

  • International studies of brain tumours in young people, cancer and neurological outcomes in older adults;
  • Prospective cohort studies of neurocognitive function in children and adolescents;
  • Radiofrequency provocation studies on children;
  • Human studies to identify processes underlying effects on brain function;
  • Quantifying personal exposures from radiofrequency sources in the community;
  • Monitoring personal exposure of RF and MRI workers; and
  • Risk perception and communication.

Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research

Grant ID: 1042464
CIA name: Prof Rodney Croft
Administering institution:  University of Wollongong
Grant type: Centres of Research Excellence
Total funding: $2,498,842
Start year: 2012
End year: 2017

Institution(s) where research will be located: 

  • The University of Wollongong, School of Psychology
  • Swinburne University of Technology, Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre
  • IMVS Pathology
  • RMIT University, Health Innovations Research Institute
  • Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Molecular Cardiology and Biophysics Division

Lay description (as included in the grant application)    

With over 5 billion mobile phone subscriptions world-wide, the electromagnetic energy (EME) that powers this technology is now ubiquitous, as is community concern about the possibility of associated health effects. Responding to this concern, the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research will embark on a 5-year research program to promote Australia’s EME health both in the immediate future, and through the development of human research capacity in this field, into the future.    

Research objectives (as provided by the applicant)  

  • Determine the magnitude and type of electromagnetic emission that affects the general public and occupationally-exposed  individuals, from current and emerging technologies;
  • Explore the mechanisms by which radiofrequency emissions could affect basic biological structures and processes, through both theoretical modelling and in vitro research;
  • Determine whether the effect of low-power radiofrequency emissions on the human electroencephalogram is thermally mediated;
  • Determine whether a mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease is affected by low-power radiofrequency emissions;
  • Determine whether there is a relation between brain cancer trends and mobile phone usage patterns within Australia.

Risk of brain cancer from exposure to radiofrequency fields in childhood and adolescence

Grant ID: 546130
CIA name: Prof Malcolm R Sim
Administering institution:  Monash University
Grant type: Australia - EU Collaborative Research Grant
Total funding: $701,040
Start year: 2009
End year: 2013

Institution(s) where research will be located:

  • Monash University, Department of Epidemiology & Preventative Medicine
  • The University of Sydney, School of Public Health
  • The University of Western Australia, Institute for Child Health Research

Lay description (as included in the grant application)                                                                      

Mobile phone use is increasing worldwide and is beginning at earlier ages. This study is an international multi-centre study involving 14 research groups, which will investigate radiofrequency radiation exposure from mobile phone use during childhood adolescence and later onset of brain tumours. There is considerable community concern about possible health effects from mobile phone exposure, especially in young people, and this has been identified as a high priority research need by the World Health Organisation.

Research objectives (as included in the grant application)            

  • To conduct a multinational epidemiological case-control study of brain tumours diagnosed in young people in relation to EMF exposure from mobile telephones and other sources of RF in 11 countries;
  • To develop and validate improved indices of RF and extremely low frequency (ELF) exposure, and assess related uncertainties, for all of the subjects in the study;
  • To analyse the relation between the risk of brain tumours and exposures to RF and ELF from mobile phones and other relevant and important sources of exposure in the general environment of young people.

Does mobile phone radiation affect brain processes?

Grant ID: 559309
CIA name: Prof Andrew W Wood
Administering institution:  Swinburne University of Technology
Grant type: NHMRC Project Grant
Total funding: $244,336
Start year: 2009
End year: 2011

Institution(s) where research will be located:

  • Swinburne University of Technology, Brain Sciences Institute
  • Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, Veterinary Pathology
  • Central Research Institute for the Electrical Power Industry (Tokyo, Japan)

Lay description (as included in the grant application)                                                                                  

There are ongoing concerns over the possible harm from the prolonged use of mobile phone handsets. The WHO have issued a research agenda to address these concerns. This study aims to study possible mechanisms at the cellular level that was identified as a high priority research need. It aims to find out whether cellular changes that could be harmful follow as a result of slight heating effects within tissue, or whether some other, non-thermal, mechanisms may be involved.

Research objectives (as included in the grant application)            

Using a well-characterised radiofrequency radiation exposure system to investigate:

  • The regional variations and temperature rise and its relationship to Specific Absorption Rate;
  • The patterns of Heat Shock Protein expression in brain slices and cell cultures in response to RF exposure, with and without temperature rise;
  • Possible changes in cell growth patterns of neurons, support cells and neural lines in response to RF exposure.

Research Outcomes

This study has developed a novel method, based on dye fluorescence, of directly measuring temperature change in biological tissue samples. Temperature changes have been validated by mathematical modelling and the direct measurement of temperature change using sensitive probes (but using RF power much greater than relevant to mobile phones). This validation ensures that there is less uncertainty in the estimates of weaker heating effects (Specific Absorption Rate, or SAR)  in biological tissue. The effects of RF on Heat Shock protein expression in brain tissue (with and without temperature rise caused by conventional heating) and on cultured nerve cells (neurons) were studied using these estimates. There do not appear to be significant changes due to RF exposure in cultured neurons, but further refinement of the biological assay methods are needed to further elucidate heat shock protein expression in brain tissue. Modelling software has continued to be used to estimate SAR in experimental animals and isolated tissue samples during exposure to RF.

Large-scale computer modelling tools coupled with dye fluorescence and other methods for validation will be developed as part of the NHMRC Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bio effects Research Centre of Research Excellence program.

Publications

Chen, Y.Y., Wood, A.W. (2009) Application of a temperature-dependent fluorescent dye (Rhodamine B) to the measurement of radiofrequency radiation-induced temperature changes in biological samples.  Bioelectromagnetics 30(7) p583-590.

McIntosh RL, Deppeler L, Oliva M, Parente J, Tambuwala F, Turner S, Winship D, Wood AW (2010).  Comparison of radiofrequency exposure of a mouse dam and foetuses at 900 MHz.
Phys Med Biol 55 p N111-122

Kumar, G., Wood, A.W., Anderson, V., McIntosh, R.L., Chen, Y. Y., McKenzie, R. L. (2011)
Evaluation of hematopoietic system effects after in vitro radiofrequency radiation exposure in rats Int J Radiat Biol 87 p 231-240

Wood, A.W. (2012) Handbook of Research on Biomedical Engineering Education and Advanced Bioengineering Learning. Bioelectromagnetism p157-197

Bermingham, J.F., Chen, Y.Y., McIntosh, R.L. Wood, A.W. (2014) A measurement and modelling study of temperature in living and fixed tissue during and after radiofrequency exposure. Bioelectromagnetics 35: 181-191.

Do mobile phones affect cognitive development in children?

Grant ID: 545927
CIA name: Prof Michael J Abramson
Administering institution: Monash University
Grant type: NHMRC Project Grant
Total funding: $548,616
Start year: 2009
End year: 2011

Institution(s) where research will be located:

  • Monash University, Epidemiology & Preventative Medicine
  • Swinburne University of Technology, Brain Sciences Institute

Lay description (as included in the grant application)                                                                      

Increasingly widespread exposure to radiofrequency fields from mobile telephones has raised concern about potential adverse health effects. The WHO has called for further research in children. We will conduct a 3 year study of 600 primary school students focussing on their exposure to mobile phones and cognitive development.

Research objectives (as included in the grant application)            

  • To assess current use of mobile telephones and other RF communication technologies in a representative sample of primary school children;
  • To determine whether there is any association between the use of mobile telephones and cognitive development in primary school children.

Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research (ACRBR)

Grant ID: 264439
CIA name: A/ Prof Irena Cosic
Administering institution: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
Grant type: Centres of Research Excellence in Clinical Research       
Total funding: $2,653,680
Start year: 2004
End year: 2009

Institution(s) where research was located:

  • Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Lay description (as included in the grant application)                                                                                 

The Australian Centre for Bioeffects Research (ACRBR) will be the centre for research into the health effects of exposure to radio fields, such as those from mobile phones. The centre will address the most urgent research questions drawing on the extensive skills, knowledge and experience of its scientists and their collaborators overseas. It will train new scientists and guide them to become independent researchers, with the new knowledge utilised to inform the public and help the development of government policies in return for this significant investment.

Research outcomes

Information about the Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research can be found on their website at http://acrbr.org.au/About.aspx.
 

A case-control study of brain and other tumours in adults and exposure to RF EME in the use of mobile phones

Grant ID: 219129
CIA name: Prof Bruce Armstrong
Administering institution: The University of Sydney
Grant type: Electromagnetic Energy Research Program
Total funding: $1,200,000
Start year: 2001
End year: 2005

Institution(s) where research was located: The University of Sydney

Lay description (as provided by the applicant)   

Part of the 13 country Interphone Study, this study investigated whether mobile phone use causes brain, acoustic nerve or parotid gland tumours. 690 people with recently diagnosed tumours and 669 control participants answered questions about their behaviour, including mobile phone use. They also permitted access to medical and mobile phone billing records. Participants from Australian and other Interphone centres – 6,420 people with tumours and 7,658 control participants – have been analysed together. There was weak evidence that mobile phone use caused gliomas and acoustic nerve tumours. This evidence contributed to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s conclusion that radio waves possibly cause cancer.

Publications related to this grant

Vrijheid M, Cardis E, Armstrong BK, Auvinen A, Berg G, Blaasaas KG, Brown J, Carroll M, Chetrit A,

                Christensen HC, Deltour I, Feychting M, Giles GG, Hepworth SJ, Hours M, Iavarone I, Johansen C,

                Klæboe L, Kurttio P, Lagorio S, Lönn S, McKinney PA, Montestrucq L, Parslow RC, Richardson L,

                Sadetzki S, Salminen T, Schüz J, Tynes T, Woodward A, for the Interphone Study Group (2006).

                Validation of short term recall of mobile phone use for the Interphone study. Occupational and

                Environmental Medicine. 63: 237-43.

Cardis E, Richardson L, Deltour I, Armstrong B, Feychting M, Johansen C, Kilkenny M, McKinney P,

                Modan B, Sadetzki S, Schüz J, Swerdlow A, Vrijheid M, Auvinen A, Berg G, Blettner M, Bowman J,

                Brown J, Chetrit A, Christensen HC, Cook A, Hepworth S, Giles G, Hours M, Iavarone I,

                Jarus‑Hakak A, Klaeboe L, Krewski D, Lagorio S, Lönn S, Mann S, McBride M, Muir K, Nadon L,

                Parent ME, Pearce N, Salminen T, Schoemaker M, Schlehofer B, Siemiatycki J, Taki M,

                Takebayashi T, Tynes T, van Tongeren M, Vecchia P, Wiart J, Woodward A, Yamaguchi N. (2007).

                The INTERPHONE study: design, epidemiological methods, and description of the study

                population. European Journal of Epidemiology. 22 : 647-64.

Vrijheid, M., Armstrong, B., Bédard, D., Brown, J., Deltour, I., Iavarone, I., Krewski, D., Lagorio, S., Moore,

                S., Richardson, L., Giles, G., McBride, M., Parent, M., Siemiatycki, J., Cardis, E. (2009). Recall bias in

                the assessment of exposure to mobile phones. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental

                Epidemiology. 19: 369-81.

Vrijheid M, Mann S, Vecchia P, Wiart J, Taki M, Ardoino L, Armstrong BK, Auvinen A, Bédard D,

                Berg‑Beckhoff G, Brown J, Colatz-Christenen H, Combalot E, Cook A, Deltour I, Feychting M,

                Giles GG, Hepworth S, Hours M, Iavarone I, Johansen C, Krewski D, Kurttio P, Lagorio S, Lönn S,

                McBride M, Montestruq L, Parslow RC, Sadetzki S, Schüz J, Tynes T, Woodward A, Cardis E. (2009).

                Determinants of mobile phone output power in a multinational study – implications for exposure

                assessment. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 66; 664-671.

Vrijheid M, Richardson L, Armstrong BK, Auvinen A, Berg G, Carroll M, Chetrit A, Deltour I, Feychting M,

                Giles GG, Hours M, Iavarone I, Lagorio1 S, Lönn S, McBride M, Parent M-E, Sadetzki S, Salminen T,

                Sanchez M, Schlehofer B, Schüz J, Siemiatycki J, Tynes T, Woodward A, Yamaguchi N, Cardis E.

                (2009). Quantifying the impact of selection bias caused by non-participation in a case-control

                study of mobile phone use. Annals of Epidemiology. 19: 33-41.

INTERPHONE Study Group (2010). Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the

                INTERPHONE international case-control study. International Journal of Epidemiology 39: 675-94.

Cardis E, Armstrong BK, Bowman JD, Giles GG, Hours M, Krewski D, McBride M, Parent ME, Sadetzki S,

                Woodward A, Brown J, Chetrit A, Figuerola J, Hoffmann C, Jarus-Hakak A, Montestruq L, Nadon L,

                Richardson L, Villegas R, Vrijheid M. (2011). Risk of brain tumours in relation to estimated RF dose

                from mobile phones: results from five Interphone countries. Occupational and Environmental

                Medicine 68: 631-40.

INTERPHONE Study Group (2011). Acoustic neuroma risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of

                the INTERPHONE international case-control study. Cancer Epidemiology 35: 453-64.

Effects of long-term mobile phone use on vision and hearing

Grant ID: 163627
CIA name: Prof Paul Mitchell
Administering institution: The University of Sydney
Grant type: Electromagnetic Energy Research Program
Total funding: $309,006
Start year: 2001
End year: 2005

Institution(s) where research was located:

  • Westmead Hospital, Department of Ophthalmology
  • The University of Sydney, School of Applied Vision Science
  • Blue Mountains District Hospital

Lay description (as included in the grant application)                                                                              

The effects on brain function of radiation associated with mobile phone use are of public concern. This project will build on the large scale Blue Mountains Eye Study to examine consequences of long-term mobile phone use in standard measures of vision, eye disease (and hearing). The project will also test for subtle changes in sensory function using non-linear systems techniques recently developed and validated.

Research outcomes

(More information on the research outcomes has been requested from the CIA)

Does mobile phone radiation affect brain reactions, sleeping patterns or the biological clock?

Grant ID: 154905
CIA name: Prof Andrew Wood
Administering institution: Swinburne University of Technology
Grant type: Electromagnetic Energy Research Program
Total funding: $213,570
Start year: 2001
End year: 2005

Institution(s) where research was located:

  • Swinburne University of Technology, School of Biophysical Sciences and Electrical Engineering

Lay description (as provided by the applicant)                                                                                   

In this project human volunteers will be exposed to radiation similar to that received during a mobile phone call. Their ability to respond to visual and auditory stimuli will be assessed by measuring brain electrical activity. The quality of their sleep during the subsequent night will be measured. From this research it may be possible to identify and immediate effects mobile phone use may have on human performance.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether electromagnetic energy (EME) emitted by mobile phone handsets alters:

a) the way human volunteers respond to visual or aural stimuli; or

b) their patterns of sleep following a simulated 30-minute phone call.

The principal way of testing was to measure brain electrical activity via electrodes attached to the scalp. For the sleep studies, the output of a specific hormone, melatonin, was also monitored. Although most of the measures showed no statistically significant changes associated with EME, some subtle changes in sleep patterns, brain electrical activity and melatonin output were reported.

Publications related to this grant

Hamblin, D.L., Wood, A.W. (2002). Effects of mobile phone emissions on human brain activity and

                sleep variables. Int J Radiat Biol 78: 659-669

Wood, A.W., Hamblin, D.L., Croft, R.J. (2003). The use of a ‘phantom head’ to assess the possible

                direct pickup of mobile phone handset emissions by EEG electrode leads. Med Biol Engng

Comput 41: 470-472

Hamblin, D.L., Wood, A.W., Croft, R.J., Stough, C. (2004). Examining the effects of

                electromagnetic fields emitted by GSM phones on human event-related potentials and

                performance during an auditory task. Clin Neurophysiol 115: 171-178

Loughran, S.P., Wood, A.W., Barton, J.M., Croft, R.J., Thompson, B., Stough, C. (2005). The effect

                of electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones on human sleep. Neuroreport 16: 1973-1976

Wood, A.W., Loughran, S.P., Stough, C. (2006). Does early evening exposure to mobile phone

                radiation affect subsequent melatonin production? Int J Radiat Biol 82: 69-76

Hamblin, D.L., Croft, R.J., Wood, A.W., Stough, C., Spong, J. (2006). The sensitivity of human

                event-related potentials to mobile phone emitted electromagnetic fields.

                Bioelectromagnetics: 27:265-273

Hamblin, D.L., Anderson, V., McIntosh, R.L., McKenzie, R.J., Wood, A.W, Iskra, S., Croft R.J.

(2007). EEG electrode caps can reduce SAR induced in the head by GSM900 mobile phones.
IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. ;54:914-20.

Croft, R.J., Hamblin, D.L., Spong, J.,Wood, A.W., McKenzie, R.J., Stough, C. (2008). The effect

of mobile phone electromagnetic fields on the alpha rhythm of human electroencephalogram. Bioelectromagnetics. 29:1-10

Does exposure to radiofrequency fields cause an increase in cancer rates in mice?

Grant ID: 983722
CIA name: Prof Barrie Vernon-Roberts
Administering institution: The University of Adelaide
Grant type: Electromagnetic Energy Research Program
Total funding: $1,122,103
Start year: 1998
End year: 2001

Institution(s) where research was located:

  • The University of Adelaide

Research outcomes

(More information on the research outcomes has been requested from the CIA)

Do mobile phones affect human memory, attention, problem solving or plasma melatonin?

Grant ID: 983718  
CIA name: Prof Con Stough 
Administering institution: Swinburne University of Technology 
Grant type: Electromagnetic Energy Research Program                        
Total funding:
$73,000                                                                                            
Start year:
1998
End year: 2001

Institution(s) where research was located:

  • Swinburne University of Technology, Brain Sciences Institute
  • Swinburne University of Technology, School of Biophysical Sciences and Electrical Engineering

Lay description (as included in the grant application)       

The proposed study seeks for the first time to scientifically evaluate these community concerns by systematically examining the effects, in human volunteers, of electromagnetic energy emissions from mobile telephones on concentration, attention, problem-solving and memory. Blood levels of the hormone melatonin, which is a marker for biological rhythms and has been linked to pro-immune and anti-cancer function will also be studied, both components to the study use double-blind placebo-controlled methodology.

Research outcomes

(More information on the research outcomes has been requested from the CIA)

A case-control study of brain and other tumours in adults and exposure to RF EME in the use of mobile phones (PILOT STUDY)

Grant ID: 983702                                                                                                 
CIA name: Prof Bruce Armstrong
Administering institution: NSW Cancer Council 
Grant type: Electromagnetic Energy Research Program                        
Total funding: $97,670                                                                 
Start year: 1998
End year: 2000

NOTE:

This grant funded a pilot study that went on to form the Australian component of the international ‘INTERPHONE study’ that includes participants from 13 countries.

See Grant 219129 “A case-control study of brain and other tumours in adults and exposure to RF EME in the use of mobile phones” for the lay description, research outcomes and list of publications related to this grant.

Effect of radiofrequency exposure in mutation and cancer

Grant ID: 983719    
CIA name: Prof Pamela Sykes         
Administering institution: Flinders University   
Grant type: Electromagnetic Energy Research Program                        
Total funding:
$95,000                                                                                
Start year:
1998                                                           
End year:
1999

Institution(s) where research was located:

  • Flinders University

Lay description (as included in the grant application)                                                                      

There is concern that radiofrequency electromagnetic energy causes mutations in DNA and may therefore be a potential carcinogen. Studies to date have not shown any clear evidence of DNA damage. This project will try to establish if there is a direct link between radiofrequency exposure in mice, and a biological mechanism known to be involved in carcinogenesis.