Background: Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) is a telecommunications system widely used by police and emergency services around the world. The Stewart Report on mobile telephony and health raised questions about possible health effects associated with TETRA signals. This study investigates possible effects of TETRA signals on the electroencephalogram and electrocardiogram in human volunteers.
Methods: Blinded randomized provocation study with a standardized TETRA signal or sham exposure. In the first of two experiments, police officers had a TETRA set placed first against the left temple and then the upper-left quadrant of the chest and the electroencephalogram was recorded during rest and active cognitive processing. In the second experiment, volunteers were subject to chest exposure of TETRA whilst their electroencephalogram and heart rate variability derived from the electrocardiogram were recorded.
Results: In the first experiment, we found that exposure to TETRA had consistent neurophysiological effects on the electroencephalogram, but only during chest exposure, in a pattern suggestive of vagal nerve stimulation. In the second experiment, we observed changes in heart rate variability during exposure to TETRA but the electroencephalogram effects were not replicated.
Conclusions: Observed effects of exposure to TETRA signals on the electroencephalogram (first experiment) and electrocardiogram are consistent with vagal nerve stimulation in the chest by TETRA. However given the small effect on heart rate variability and the lack of consistency on the electroencephalogram, it seems unlikely that this will have a significant impact on health. Long-term monitoring of the health of the police force in relation to TETRA use is on-going.
Keywords: Electromagnetic fields; Exposure; Neurophysiological effects; Occupational cohort; Radio frequency.
Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.