During a ministry trip to Hong Kong several years ago I witnessed an example of smartphone addiction. Four young women were walking together down a street. They were less than 18 inches apart from one another and engaged in animated conversation. However, they never turned to one another and talked to each other entirely through their phones, stopping occasionally to send texts. Wireless devices certainly have enriched our lives, but the scene I witnessed illustrated that, like all good human inventions, wireless devices can be misused. Scientists have discovered a possible link between wireless overuse and sleep disorders.
Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) in the twenty-first century has exponentially increased in the environment. Wi-Fi, operating at frequencies of 2.4 and 5.0 gigahertz (GHz), permeates most homes and businesses in cities and towns around the world. Cell phones, Bluetooth, and microwave ovens also operate at low GHz frequencies. Cell phone usage has especially increased over the past two decades. People all around the world have largely abandoned their personal landline telephones in favor of cell phones.
Meanwhile, Wi-Fi and cell phone networks have proliferated and network coverage has become more comprehensive. During the last five years, wireless equipment in major cities around the world has doubled.1 A total of 22.2 billion wireless devices are connected via wireless local area networks (WLAN). Consequently, the possible effects of exposure to GHz electromagnetic radiation on humans and animals have drawn attention from research scientists.
Past Physiological EMR Experiments
The effects of EMR on animals have been poorly or ambiguously determined. Nevertheless, many scientists have speculated that such effects likely exist. The reason why is that the rise of EMR in the environment appears to be correlated with a worldwide rise in sleep disorders,2 psychiatric disorders,3 infertility,4 and cancer.5 However, scientific experiments designed to confirm these correlations—with rare exceptions—have proven either inconclusive or disputed.
The exceptions are sleep disorders and learning/memory impairment. Exposure to mobile phone radiation during sleep altered the sleep patterns of 27 out of 30 healthy men aged 18 to 30, but in widely different ways, showing improvements for some individuals and deteriorations for others.6 Exposure of adult mice to low-level 2.45 GHz radiation for 2 hours/day for 15, 30, and 60 days consistently suppressed hippocampal memory formation.7
New Physiological EMR Experiment
A team of nine biologists led by Lingyu Liu surveyed the published scientific literature on the effects of wireless EMR exposure on human sleep patterns. However, they noted that human volunteers had difficulty accounting for environmental factors.8 Possible complicating factors that may explain the wide range of observed effects on human sleep patterns include the consumption of caffeinated drinks and foods, alcohol and/or medications, cigarette smoking, video and television viewing, and mobile phone and computer usage. Furthermore, human volunteers cannot always be trusted to truthfully report on such complicating factors. Liu’s team needed a reliable proxy.
The proxy Liu’s team chose were mice. Among nonhuman animals, mice and rats come the closest to matching human brain molecular pathways and the brain chemistry related to memory.9
Liu’s team designed a chamber with EMR antennae on top and a mouse cage at the bottom. They planted four cranial electrodes in the skulls of four different mice. They recorded electroencephalograms of 12 different cohorts of mice (48 mice total) during several days each of wake-sleep cycles. Their experiments demonstrated “a causal relationship between 2.4 GHz EMR modulated by 100-Hz square pulses and increased wakefulness in mice.”10
Previous studies had established that increased wakefulness diminishes cognition, attention, and memory.11 Consequently, Liu and her colleagues concluded that exposure to excessive wireless signals alters sleep patterns in mice and likely in humans as well. They also suggested that their experiments may explain why sleep disorders have recently become a worldwide health challenge.12
In their paper, Liu and her colleagues offered no philosophical comments other than to state that the most responsible and ethical response to their experimental results would be to conduct follow-up experiments where the frequency, intensity, and duration of the wireless signals are varied. I would add that varying the conditions and environment of the mice also is important to determine if health, diet, age, and/or environmental factors affect the impact of wireless EMR exposure. I agree that such experiments are essential to establish safe limits for wireless use and wireless EMR exposure.
Experiments like these show that part of God’s great wisdom (Psalm 104:24; Genesis 1:25) was to design mice and rats with characteristic features that mimic many features of the human body. These creatures are also easy to care for and they enjoy the company of humans. Thanks to all these designs, mice and rats have played and continue to play crucial roles in the development of medical advances and treatments for humans.
In Genesis and Job, God explains how he charged humans with the responsibility to manage all Earth’s resources for our benefit and the benefit of all life. Part of that responsibility is to manage any technology we develop for the mutual benefit of humanity and all of Earth’s life. Hence, understanding the benefits and dangers of wireless technology is part of our divinely assigned role.
- Thomas Alsop, “WLAN Connected Devices Worldwide 2016–2021,” July 17, 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/802706/world-wlan-connected-devices.
- Desana Kocevska et al., “Sleep Characteristics across the Lifespan of 1.1 Million People from the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Nature Human Behaviour 5, no. 1 (January 2021): 113–22, doi:10.1038/s41562-020-00965-x.
- A. J. Baxter et al., “Global Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression,” Psychological Medicine 43, no. 5 (May 2013): 897–910, doi:10.1017/S003329171200147X.
- Mélodie Vander Borght and Christine Wyns, “Fertility and Infertility: Definition and Epidemiology,” Clinical Biochemistry 62 (December 2018): 2–10, doi:10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2018.03.012.
- Lindsey A. Torre et al., “Global Cancer Incidence and Mortality Rates and Trends—An Update,” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 25, no. 1 (January 2016): 16–27, doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0578.
- Heidi Danker-Hopfe et al., “Effects of Mobile Phone Exposure (GSM 900 and WCDMA/UMTS) on Polysomnography Based Sleep Quality: An Intra- and Inter-Individual Perspective,” Environmental Research 145 (February 2016): 50–60, doi:10.1016/j.envres.2015.11.011.
- Saba Shahin et al., “From the Cover: 2.45-GHz Microwave Radiation Impairs Hippocampal Learning and Spatial Memory: Involvement of Local Stress Mechanism-Induced Suppression of iGluR/ERK/CREB Signaling,” Toxicological Sciences 161, no. 2 (February 2018); 349–74, doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfx221.
- Lingyu Liu et al., “Specific Electromagnetic Radiation in the Wireless Signal Range Increases Wakefulness in Mice,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118, no. 31 (August 3, 2021): e2105838118, doi:10.1073/pnas.2105838118.
- Hugh Ross, “Save the Rats, Stave Off Dementia,” Reasons to Believe, June 1, 2013, https://reasons.org/explore/publications/nrtb-e-zine/save-the-rats-stave-off-dementia.
- Liu et al., “Specific Electromagnetic Radiation,” 1.
- William D. S. Killgore, “Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Cognition,” Progress in Brain Research 185 (2010): 105–129, doi:10.1016/B978-0-444-53702-7.00007-5; John G. McCoy and Robert E. Strecker, “The Cognitive Cost of Sleep Lost,” Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 96, no. 4 (November 2011): 564–82, doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2011.07.004; Franz Weber and Yang Dan, “Circuit-Based Interrogation of Sleep Control,” Nature 538 (October 6, 2016): 51–59, doi:10.1038/nature19773.
- Eus J. W. Van Someren et al., “Disrupted Sleep: From Molecules to Cognition,” Journal of Neuroscience 35 (October 14, 2015): 13889–95, doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2592-15.2015.