Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Are Mobile phones bad for geochemistry?

ResearchBlogging.orgThe trace elemental analysis of mineralogical materials is of course what all the cool people are doing these days. A subset of this research is the trace elemental composition of biologically precipitated minerals, such as forams, clams, corals, and teeth. In a recent paper, O. Adiguzel et al. show that by rats exposed to mobile phone type radiotransmissions have different Mg and Zn contents in their teeth than rats with conservative, land-line only parents. They do not propose a mechanism, but they do control against other environmental factors by having a control group subjected to the same conditions, but with a transmitter that isn’t plugged in.

Unfortunately, the analytical side of the paper isn’t terribly strong. They don’t actually present their data, and they describe some results as being statistically significant (Mg, Zn) or not (P, Ca) without showing the variance in the populations or the numbers from which their graphs are derived. In addition, their analytical method was not terribly sophisticated, and did not show when or where in the tooth the compositional changes occurred. And of course, a mechanism would be nice.

Still, it makes you wonder. If biomineral deposition is sensitive to radio frequencies, could paleoclimate reconstructions based on foram Mg/Ca ratios show a false el Nino every time the planktons spent all night on the phone? Could changes in the Great Barrier Reef attributed to agricultural run-off be caused by lite FM? More detailed analysis is required.

O. Adiguzel, S. Dasdag, M. Z. Akdag, S. Erdogan, S. Kaya, I. Yavuz, F. A. Kaya (2008). Effect of Mobile Phones on Trace Elements Content in Rat
Teth Biotechnology& Biotechnology Equipment, 22 (4), 998-1001


Anonymous said...

Your statement comparing to the landline-only situation is only correct if both groups were exposed to telephone handsets - one from a mobile phone and the other from a landline phone. Having a radio transmitter in the room is not the same as having a microphone and speaker nearby.

C W Magee said...

Huh? Mobile phones have a radio transmitter in them. Land lines* have a curly cord and a dial instead of buttons.

* I've heard rumors that they plan to allow push button phones in homes soon, but I'm not holding my breath...