Funding Source, Quality of Publications and Outcome in Genetic Damage in Mammalian Cells Exposed to Non-Ionizing Radiofrequency Fields

Radiat Res. 2019 Oct;192(4):353-362. doi: 10.1667/RR15364.1. Epub 2019 Aug 7.


There has been ongoing debate and discussion concerning whether the funding source influenced the outcome of research on human health effects from exposure to radiofrequency fields (RF, electromagnetic waves that carry energy as they propagate in air and dense media). In a study of 225 publications, in which we sought to determine a possible association between the funding source(s), quality and outcome in a total of 2,160 genetic damage assessment tests of mammalian cells exposed to RF energy, we made several observations. One finding was that a great majority of researchers had acknowledged government agencies as the funding source (53%, 120 of 225 publications), while a small number of scientists mentioned mobile phone industry as the financial source (9%, 20 of 225 publications). Numerous investigators did not mention the funding source (26%, 58 of 225 publications). Secondly, industry-funded investigations were of better quality and utilized quality control measures, i.e., blind evaluation, adequate description of dosimetry, positive controls and/or sham-exposed controls, compared to those funded by the government. Another observation was that in industry-funded studies, the d values (effect size or standardized mean difference between the cells exposed to RF energy and sham-exposed controls) were consistently lower than in government-funded studies. In addition, compared to government-funded studies, a higher percentage of industry-funded studies reported no difference in genetic damage between RF- and sham-exposed cells (80% for industry-funded studies versus 49% for government-funded studies). Finally, we observed that industry-funded studies were less likely to report an increase in genetic damage in cells exposed to RF energy (10%) compared to government-funded studies (23%). In view of the large difference between the percentage of publications funded by government and industry (53% or 122 of 225 publications for government, compared to 9% or 29 of 225 publications for industry), caution should be used when debating and discussing the above observations. Overall, it is important to include the quality control measures in the investigations, and also mention the funding source in published studies.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mammals*
  • Publications / economics*
  • Publications / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality Control
  • Radiation Injuries / genetics*
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Radiobiology / economics*