Is radiation from pylons and electronics dangerous?
We are constantly surrounded by electronics and telecom masts that emit radiation. While all of these comply with the authorities’ rules for exposure levels, many people are nevertheless concerned. What does the expert think?
Can you understand that people are worried?
Yes, certainly. Some people live near a high-voltage pylon, and at the end of the day, we all want more powerful and faster computers and mobile phones. We are gradually being exposed to increasingly powerful radiation. For instance, the 5G network will be rolled out soon. This affects everyone. I would like to be able to give a clear-cut scientific answer as to whether it is dangerous or not, but the jury’s still out on that issue. I think we owe it to people to investigate it – both us as researchers and society.
What kind of radiation are we dealing with?
It is called electromagnetic radiation. It is found naturally all around us, and in its natural form, it is part of life on Earth and not harmful. In fact, without it, life on Earth would not even exist. However, the electromagnetic radiation from pylons, microwaves, computers and Wi-Fi is man-made and thus not a natural part of life on Earth.
What do you know for sure?
The basis of all biological systems, from heads of lettuce to elephants, rests on the interaction between atoms and molecules. We know that these interactions may be dependent on, perhaps even driven by, electromagnetic radiation – hence my remark about many forms of life not being able to exist without the naturally occurring electromagnetic radiation.
Quite recently, researchers conducted a truly ground-breaking experiment: By irradiating living cells, they were able to observe directly under the microscope that the radiation changed some of the properties of the cells. This shows beyond doubt that something does occur in living cells when irradiated.
What do you not know?
From that experiment, we only know THAT something does occur, but not WHAT is happening. Is it harmful, irrelevant or even beneficial for organisms to be irradiated? To gain more knowledge about how electromagnetic radiation possibly affects biological processes, we intend to develop a number of highly advanced computer models that can simulate the interaction between radiation and biological material. Insight into this process will hopefully uncover any adverse health effects.
Are you the kind of person who puts your mobile phone away at night and wraps your children’s routers in tin foil?
No, I’m not that worried. However, I do believe we are facing something that we need to investigate.
Professor Jacob Kongsted is an expert at using supercomputers and quantum mathematics to simulate how molecules, proteins, atoms and other extremely tiny elements affect each other in living biological systems, such as human cells. He is Head of Research and a lecturer at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy.