Serum-thyroxine levels in microwave-exposed rats

Radiat Res. 1985 Mar;101(3):413-23.


The nature of the response of the thyroid gland in animals exposed to microwave irradiation is controversial. An enlarged thyroid and an increase of radioiodine uptake in microwave workers have been reported. Absence of thyroid disorders has also been reported in other exposed populations. Animal experimentation has contributed to the controversy because both increased and decreased thyroid functions have been reported. The thyroxine concentration in rats as representative of thyroid function in animals exposed to 2.45-GHz, 120-Hz amplitude-modulated microwaves has been studied. Comparison was made between thyroxine concentrations in microwave- and sham-exposed rats by Student's t test. After a 1-hr exposure, an increased thyroxine concentration was found in rats exposed at 40 and 70 mW/cm2, but not at 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, or 60 mW/cm2. After a 2-hr exposure, increased thyroxine concentration was noted in rats exposed at 25, 30, and 40 mW/cm2, but not at 1, 5, 10, and 20 mW/cm2. After a 4-hr exposure, thyroxine concentration increased in rats exposed at 1 mW/cm2 and decreased in rats exposed at 20 mW/cm2; but changes were not noted at 5 or 10 mW/cm2. Other experiments included animals that were exposed once for 4 hr (0.1, 1, 10, 25, and 40 mW/cm2), sampled 24 hr after a 4-hr exposure (0.1, 1, 10, 25, and 40 mW/cm2), or exposed for 4 hr 3 times (1, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 55 mW/cm2) and 10 times (1, 10, 20, 25, 30, and 40 mW/cm2), to evaluate the consistency of the thyroxine response. None of the rats in these experiments displayed any alteration of thyroxine concentration, except that decreased thyroxine was noted in rats exposed at 40 mW/cm2 for the third time. These studies covered a long time span; rats from two commercial sources (BS and CR) were used and subjected to different numbers of exposures, and therefore these data were evaluated for their stability. Two factors could influence the result significantly, i.e., source of animal and number of sham exposures. Rats used in the 2-hr exposures were from two different commercial sources; rats from CR had a higher (but normal) thyroxine concentration than did rats from BS. Therefore the data of these animals were separated by commercial source for reevaluation. Instead of increased thyroxine concentration in rats exposed at 25, 30, and 40 mW/cm2, changes were not noted in any microwave-exposed rats. The influence of sham exposure revealed that appropriate concurrent control and specification of animal source are needed in longitudinal studies.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Male
  • Microwaves / adverse effects*
  • Rats
  • Thyroxine / blood*
  • Time Factors


  • Thyroxine