Long-term, low-level microwave irradiation of rats

Bioelectromagnetics. 1992;13(6):469-96. doi: 10.1002/bem.2250130605.


Our goal was to investigate effects of long-term exposure to pulsed microwave radiation. The major emphasis was to expose a large sample of experimental animals throughout their lifetimes and to monitor them for effects on general health and longevity. An exposure facility was developed that enabled 200 rats to be maintained under specific-pathogen-free (SPF) conditions while housed individually in circularly-polarized waveguides. The exposure facility consisted of two rooms, each containing 50 active waveguides and 50 waveguides for sham (control) exposures. The experimental rats were exposed to 2,450-MHz pulsed microwaves at 800 pps with a 10-microseconds pulse width. The pulsed microwaves were square-wave modulated at 8-Hz. Whole body calorimetry, thermographic analysis, and power-meter analysis indicated that microwaves delivered at 0.144 W to each exposure waveguide resulted in an average specific absorption rate (SAR) that ranged from 0.4 W/kg for a 200-g rat to 0.15 W/kg for an 800-g rat. Two hundred male, Sprague-Dawley rats were assigned in equal numbers to radiation-exposure and sham-exposure conditions. Exposure began at 8 weeks of age and continued daily, 21.5 h/day, for 25 months. Animals were bled at regular intervals and blood samples were analyzed for serum chemistries, hematological values, protein electrophoretic patterns, thyroxine, and plasma corticosterone levels. In addition to daily measures of body mass, food and water consumption by all animals, O2 consumption and CO2 production were periodically measured in a sub-sample (N = 18) of each group. Activity was assessed in an open-field apparatus at regular intervals throughout the study. After 13 months, 10 rats from each group were euthanatized to test for immunological competence and to permit whole-body analysis, as well as gross and histopathological examinations. At the end of 25 months, the survivors (11 sham-exposed and 12 radiation-exposed rats) were euthanatized for similar analyses. The other 157 animals were examined histopathologically when they died spontaneously or were terminated in extremis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / radiation effects
  • Blood Chemical Analysis
  • Body Weight / radiation effects
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Immunity / radiation effects
  • Longevity / radiation effects
  • Male
  • Microwaves*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Time Factors


  • Corticosterone