Annals of Case Reports (ISSN: 2574-7754)

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Case Report: The Microwave Syndrome after Installation of 5G Emphasizes the Need for Protection from Radiofrequency Radiation

Lennart Hardell1*, Mona Nilsson2

1Department of Oncology, Orebro University Hospital, Sweden (retired), The Environment and Cancer Research Foundation, Studievägen  35, SE-702 17, Örebro, Sweden 

2Swedish Radiation Protection Foundation, Gredby 14, SE-178 92 Adelsö, Sweden 

*Corresponding Author: Lennart Hardell, Department of Oncology, Orebro University Hospital, Sweden (retired), The  Environment and Cancer Research Foundation, Studievägen 35, SE-702 17, Örebro, Sweden 

Received Date: 28 December 2022

Accepted Date: 02 January 2023

Published Date: 10 January 2023

Citation: Hardell L and Nilsson M (2023) Case Report: The Microwave Syndrome after Installation of 5G Emphasizes the Need  for Protection from Radiofrequency Radiation. Ann Case Report. 8: 1112. DOI: https://doi.org/10.29011/2574-7754.101112

Abstract 

In this case, report two previously healthy persons, a man aged 63 years and a woman aged 62 years, developed  symptoms of the microwave syndrome after installation of a 5G base station for wireless communication on the roof above  their apartment. A base station for previous telecommunication generation technology (3G/4G) was present at the same spot  since several years. Very high radiofrequency (RF) radiation with maximum (highest measured peak value) levels of 354 000,  1 690 000, and >2 500 000 µW/m2 were measured at three occasions in the bedroom located only 5 meters below the new 5G  base station, compared to maximum (peak) 9 000 µW/m2 prior to the 5G deployment. The rapidly emerging symptoms after  the 5G deployment were typical for the microwave syndrome with e.g., neurological symptoms, tinnitus, fatigue, insomnia,  emotional distress, skin disorders, and blood pressure variability. The symptoms were more pronounced in the woman. Due to  the severity of symptoms, the couple left their dwelling and moved to a small office room with maximum (peak) RF radiation  3 500 µW/m2. Within a couple of days, most of their symptoms alleviated or disappeared completely. This medical history can  be regarded as a classic provocation test. The RF radiation levels in the apartment were well below the limit proposed to be  “safe” below which no health effects would occur, recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation  (ICNIRP). These now presented symptoms of the microwave syndrome were caused by non-thermal effects from RF radiation  and highlight that the ICNIRP guidelines used in most countries including Sweden do not protect human health. Guidelines  based on all biological negative effects from RF radiation are urgently needed, as well as monitoring human health, not the least  due to rapidly increasing levels of exposure.  

Keywords: Base station; 5G; Radiofrequency radiation;  Electromagnetic hypersensitivity; Microwave syndrome; Health 

Introduction

In recent years, human exposure to pulse-modulated microwave radiation [also called radiofrequency (RF) radiation] from wireless technology has increased exponentially. Microwaves are frequencies in the range of 300 MHz to 300 GHz within the radiofrequency (RF) spectrum [1]. The increase is mainly a result of the expansion of 4G+ and 5G as well as an increased amount of consumer products based on technologies that emit microwave radiation.

In parallel with this exploding RF radiation exposure, regulations and so-called safety limits applicable to the permitted RF radiation in most countries are based on a severely outdated approach from the 1950s. These ‘safety” limits (or guidelines) only protect people against harmful effects that occur as a result of acute heating, also called thermal effects. These occur when RF radiation is extremely high thereby causing an increase in tissue temperature of more than 1 °C within a very short time. The guidelines based on thermal effects also ignore the effects of particular characteristics of the exposure as the modulation and/or pulsation or simultaneous exposure to various signals. In consequence, humans are completely unprotected against a whole range of harmful effects that are caused by non-thermal RF radiation. These include cancer, DNA damage, oxidative stress, neurological, and other biological effects that may impair human health. Scientific research has repeatedly and abundantly shown such effects to occur at levels well below the thermal based limits [2-6]. In addition current guidelines for exposure to RF radiation give no protection against harmful effects on biodiversity, i.e., the variety of living species on Earth, including plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi.

Scientists have called for considerably lower maximum allowed limits for the prevention of human health. The BioInitative Report suggested already in 2012 a limit of 30-60 μW/m2, and yet lower for sensitive persons and children, 3-6 μW/m2 [2]. The EUROPAEM EMF guidelines proposed in 2016 maximum exposure to be 10-1 000 μW/m2, and lower at nighttime 1-100 μW/m2, and yet lower for sensitive persons 0.1-10 μW/m2 [7]. Comparison of guidelines proposed by different organizations are presented in Table 1. Hundreds of scientists and organizations have called for a revision of the limits for better protection of humans and the environment (www.5gappeal.eu; www.emfcall.org; www. emfscientist.org). 

Year

Power Density (μW/

m2)

Name

Description

 

 

1998

10 000 000

 

ICNIRP 1998 [15] Whole body exposure averaged over 6 min

10 000 000 for 2–300 GHz

9 000 000

9 000 000 for 1800 MHz

4 500 000

4 500 000 for 900 MHz

 

2001

1 000

 

Salzburg Resolution [52]

 

1 000 for the sum total of all pulse modulated high-frequency exposures 100 000 for the total of all high-frequency irradiation. 1

100 000

2001

100

EU Parliament STOA 2001 [53]

For chronic exposure from pulsed microwaves.1

2002

1

New     Salzburg     Precautionary Exposure Limit Indoor [54]

Indoor chronic exposure from GSM base stations.1

2012

3-6

Bioinitiative                           2012

Recommendation [2]

For chronic exposure to pulsed RF.1

 

2016

 

0.1-100

 

EUROPAEM EMF Guidelines [7]

For extended exposure at least 4 hours a day to frequencies between GSM 900 to WiFi 5.6 GHz depending on sensitivity, night time or daytime exposure. Peak maximum values.

 

 

2020

10 000 000

 

ICNIRP 2020 [16] Whole body exposure averaged over 30 min

10 000 000 for >2–300 GHz

9 000 000

9 000 000 for 1800 MHz

4 500 000

4 500 000 for 900 MHz

 

 

 

 

 

2020

10 000 000

 

 

 

 

ICNIRP 2020 [16] Local exposure averaged over 6 min

10 000 000 for 400 MHz

18 200 000

18 200 000 for 800 MHz

36 600 000

36 600 000 for 1 800 MHz

40 000 000

40 000 000 for 2 GHz

40 000 000

40 000 000 for 6 GHz

26 600 000

26 600 000 for 60 GHz

20 000 000

20 000 000 for 300 GHz

1Average or peak maximum values not specified.

Table 1: Guidelines on recommended limit exposure levels for the public by different organizations for microwave radiation in μW/m2.

Microwave sickness or illness resulting from microwave exposure at non-thermal levels, was described already in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the East European countries [8]. The RF radiation was considered to mainly affect neural, cardiovascular, and endocrine functions. Investigations of workers showed than microwave or RF exposure at non–thermal levels caused symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, headache, sleep disorders, anxiety, problems with attention and memory. These symptoms were attributed to occupational exposure [9]. In a review of Soviet and Eastern European scientific papers, including studies on animals, it was concluded “a surprisingly wide variety of neurological and physiological reactions are to be expected” because of exposure to non-thermal levels of RF radiation [10].

Other terms for the illness were radiofrequency sickness syndrome [11] or microwave syndrome [12]. Research observed that the symptoms in general declined after the exposure had ceased [9, 13]. Thus, Marha et al noted that “at a certain time after exposure had ended (sometimes as long as several weeks or more) (page 31), the organism usually returns to its original physiological state and all subjective and objective complaints vanish” [9]. It was noted that non-thermal effects depended primarily on the modulation and/or pulsation of the signal. The effects depended on both the peak and average intensity of the RF radiation. Pulsed signals and simultaneous exposure to several frequencies were found to produce more effects and were thus more hazardous. The effects increased with time of exposure [9, 14].

Fifty years ago Eastern European maximum permissible limits were based on the recognition of non-thermal effects and were very much lower than the whole body limits of 10 000 000 µW/m2 (averaged) applied in most western countries today and recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation in 1998, (ICNIRP) [15] and later recommended to be averaged over 30 minutes in 2020 [16]. The guideline for local exposure averaged over 6 minutes is 40 000 000 µW/m2 in ICNIRP 2020 for certain frequencies, i.e. those currently used for 5G [16], see Table 1 in the publication. Eastern European limits were 100 000 µW/m2 for continuous daily microwave public exposure [17].

In former Czechoslovakia yet even lower limits were applied for pulsed microwave radiation [14].

In recent decades, the microwave syndrome is also referred to as “electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS)” in the international literature [8]. Individuals suffering from EHS can react with health symptoms already at very low exposure levels [18]. The sensitivity to RF radiation varies between different persons [19]. Today the microwave syndrome is caused by microwave radiation emitted from mobile phones, base stations for wireless communication, WiFi, electric “smart” meters etc. Mostly the symptoms originate from the central nervous system and the heart, but other organs such as the skin and the hormone system are often also affected. The symptoms correspond to those described 50 years ago in studies of occupational exposure and include sleeping problems, headache, heart palpitations, balance disorders and mood swings. There is a whole range of symptoms that vary between affected persons [4]. RF radiation is not visible and does not smell. Thus, it is not easy to identify exposure using the sensory organs and attribute RF exposure to the various symptoms.

Several studies during the 21st century have shown increased risk for the microwave syndrome symptoms among those living close to base stations, although highest exposure levels were far below the limits recommended by ICNIRP [20]. For example a study from Spain reported exposure from base station associated with increased prevalence of fatigue, irritability, headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, sleeping disorder, depressive tendency, and feeling of discomfort, difficulty in concentration, loss of memory, visual disorder, dizziness and cardiovascular problems although the highest exposure group was exposed to only between 165 to 4 400 µW/m² in the bedroom [21].

A study from Austria [22] reported that headaches, cold hands or feet, difficulties in concentrating, tremor, loss of appetite, and feelings of exhaustion increased with increasing exposure to RF radiation from mobile phone masts. The highest exposure group in the study was exposed to between 500 to 4100 µW/m2 in the bedroom.

A study from Germany [23] found a significant correlation between measured RF radiation from mobile phone base stations and insomnia, depressions, cerebral symptoms, joint illnesses, infections, skin changes, heart and circulation disorders, and disorders of the optical and acoustic sensory systems, and the gastro-intestinal tract. The most exposed group was exposed on average to 3 631 µW/m² (1.17 V/m) in the bedroom.

Another German study examined the effects of a new mobile phone base station on the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, dopamine, and PEA (phenylethylamine) as well as some symptoms among 60 individuals in a small village. Urine samples from the participants were analyzed during one and a half year. RF radiation levels were measured outside the residences of each participant and the average peak value was only 76.9 μW/ m2 among all participants with the highest measured value at one participant’s home at 320 μW/m2. The number of participants with sleep problems, headache, allergy, concentration problems and dizziness increased after the activation of the GSM base station. Also adrenaline and noradrenaline levels increased during the first six months but were restored to initial levels after 18 months. Dopamine levels on the other hand decreased after the activation while the PEA levels decreased six months later and continued to decrease over the study period [24].

Further, a study from India [25] found increased frequency of micronuclei and lipid peroxidation in cultured human peripheral blood lymphocytes of people living within 80 meters from mobile phone base stations, compared to a control group living at a minimum distance of 300 meters away. The analysis of various antioxidants in the plasma revealed a significant reduction in glutathione concentration and catalase and superoxide dismutase activities. Measurements showed highest exposure between 2 800 and 7 520 µW/m² from the base station in the bedroom.

Other studies have investigated various microwave syndrome symptoms in relation to distance from base stations. Increased prevalence has been found within 500 meters [20, 26].

A study from India reported increased incidence of sleeping problems, headache, dizziness, irritability, concentration problems and increased blood pressure among individuals living in proximity to base stations [27].

Some previous studies have proposed that these symptoms related to microwave exposure from mobile phone base stations are the effect of people’s anxiety, concerns or worries over the possible impact on their health from the base stations. A recent study from France, with that aspect in focus [28], reported that exposure from mobile phone base stations was not related to self- reported non-specific or insomnia-like symptoms among the 354 individuals investigated. However an association between exposure and insomnia-like symptoms “for people with environmental concerns” was reported. Exposure varied between 2.38 µW/m² (0.03 V/m) to 33 995.76 µW/m² (3.58 V/m) in the bedroom of each participant. Multiple linear and logistic regression was performed for the assessment. The results were based on low participation rate (13 %) for the study in which home exposure measurements were performed.

Provocation studies have often yielded mixed results without unequivocal evidence on the existence of microwave syndrome or EHS. Instead, psychological problems have been postulated to cause the manifestation of the symptoms. However, most investigations have inherent methodological limitations that make the results difficult to evaluate or even erroneous, see discussion in [29].

Animal studies have in great numbers confirmed neurological and behavioral effects of microwave radiation from modern wireless technologies [30-32]. As an example, exposure to 2.45 GHz microwave radiation caused reduced learning and memory as well as expression of anxiety in rats. Exposure caused oxidative stress and reduced level of antioxidants in the brain [33]. A summary of recent literature on neurological effects of RF radiation showed that a majority of animal studies reported effects [32].

Hypothesis

No studies have yet investigated effects of radiation from 5G base stations on human health. Therefore a real life provocation study would be most valuable. We hypothesize that 5G will increase exposure to microwaves and that the radiation may cause illness described as microwave syndrome or microwave sickness.

Methods/Case history

We studied two persons, a couple, man aged 63 years and woman aged 62 years that had lived in the same apartment in a Swedish city for 10 years. The apartment was located at the top 7th floor of the building, Figure 1. Until the 5G deployment they were both rather healthy. On November 4, 2021 measurements were made of RF radiation in their apartment, i.e., before the 5G deployment which took place a couple of weeks later. The measurement was initiated by the couple as they were informed that new base station antennas for 5G were to be installed on the roof above their apartment. A base station for previous telecommunication generations (3G and 4G) was operating at the same spot already when they moved into the apartment. The couple left their apartment for another dwelling, which was the man’s office room, a few days after the deployment of the new 5G antennas. A couple of weeks later, on December 15th, 2021 the first measurement of the RF radiation from the new 5G base station was made in the bedroom of their apartment, located just below the new 5G antenna as well as in the office room where the man and the woman had moved. Additional measurements in the apartment were made on February 2 and March 18, 2022 and in April in the house on the countryside where they moved in March 2022.

All measurements were made daytime with the device Safe and Pro II with a true response detection range between 400 MHz and 7.2 GHz. It was calibrated by the manufacturer and has an accuracy of ±6 dB. (https://safelivingtechnologies. com/products/safe-and-sound-pro-ii-rf-meter.html). In Sweden in city environments, the frequencies around 3.5 GHz and below are most commonly used for 5G, i.e., frequencies covered by the exposimeter.

The man and the woman were asked to evaluate prevalence and severity of microwave syndrome symptoms experienced in the different exposure situations. The list of symptoms is adapted after Belpomme 2015 [34].

 

Figure 1: Top floor apartment adjacent to base stations. Two bedrooms close to the base station antennas, which are attached to the chimney.

Results

In Table 2 the measurement results, all in µW/m2, before and after addition of 5G on the roof of their apartment, in the office room that they moved to, and further in the house to which they later moved in 2022, are presented.

The RF radiation was relatively high before the 5G deployment, maximum (highest measured peak value) 9 000 µW/ m2, but increased with 5G to a maximum (peak) level of 354 000 measured on December 15, 2021 and later maximum (peak) 1 690 000 µW/m2 on February 2, 2022, measured above the head of one of the beds. Yet another measurement on March 18, 2022, showed a maximum (peak) level of >2 500 000 µW/m2 in the bedroom at the same place as for the February 2, 2022 measurement, which is the maximum level that the used meter can display. This increase over time may indicate increasing use of 5G after the installation. The other dwelling, the office room, to which they moved had much lower RF radiation, maximum (peak) 3 500 µW/m2 close to the bed. In the house on the countryside, where they later moved in March 2022, maximum (peak) level was measured to 33 µW/m2 in the bedroom, Table 2.

Table 3 shows the rating of symptoms by the man at two occasions in the apartment; before and with 5G, in the office room with much lower exposure, and finally in a house on the countryside where they moved in March 2022 with even lower exposure. Stronger exposure underneath the 5G antenna caused him mostly fatigue, tinnitus, headache, blood pressure disorder, skin problems and nose bleeding. As displayed in Table 3 his health improved soon after leaving the high RF radiation apartment. Still he has some arthralgia (joint pain) that seems not to be related to his RF exposure.

In Table 4 the symptoms for the woman are presented. She developed symptoms typical for the microwave syndrome, but to a higher degree than her husband. Most severe were insomnia and dizziness followed by skin disorders, concentration problems, irritability, balance problems, short-term memory deficiency, confusion, tiredness, depression tendency and symptoms from the heart and lungs. Most of these problems disappeared completely or were substantially reduced within days after movement to the dwelling with much lower RF radiation. The woman’s severe insomnia completely disappeared for instance.

Place

Apartment with

4G/3G before 5G1

Apartment after 5G deployment2

Apartment after 5G deployment3

Apartment after 5G deployment4

Office space where

the couple moved to5

New home countryside6

Bedroom

9 000 (NA)

354 000 (NA)

1 690 000      (5 000-

> 2 500 000 (9 000-

3 500  (20-105)

33

20 000)

50 000)

(2-6)

Living

2 000 (NA)

51 000 (NA)

222 000      (1 400-

183 000 (500-

NA

300

room

3 500)

5 200)

(2-6)

Hall

3 000 (NA)

154 000     (NA)

269 000         (500-

342 000       (400-

NA

NA

3 500)

10 100)

Table 2: Levels of maximum (peak) microwave radiation in apartment before 5G, with 5G, in office space and present home on countryside. Measured average levels over 2-5 min. in brackets (μW/m2).

NA= Not available.

1 Measurement made on November 4, 2021

2 Measurement made on December 15, 2021

3 Measurement made on February 2, 2022

4 Measurement made on March 18, 2022

5 Measurement made on February 4, 2022

6 Measurement made on April 8, 2022

Symptom

Before 5G November 2021

With 5G

November 2021

After 5G (office

space) January,