Headaches from cellular telephones: are they real and what are the implications?

Environ Health Perspect. 1998 Mar;106(3):101-3. doi: 10.1289/ehp.98106101.


There have been numerous recent reports of headaches occurring in association with the use of hand-held cellular telephones. Are these reported headaches real? Are they due to emissions from telephones? There is reason to believe that the answer is "yes" to both questions. There are several lines of evidence to support this conclusion. First, headaches as a consequence of exposure to low intensity microwaves were reported in the literature 30 years ago. These were observed during the course of microwave hearing research before there were cellular telephones. Second, the blood-brain barrier appears to be involved in headaches, and low intensity microwave energy exposure affects the barrier. Third, the dopamine-opiate systems of the brain appear to be involved in headaches, and low intensity electromagnetic energy exposure affects those systems. In all three lines of research, the microwave energy used was approximately the same--in frequencies, modulations, and incident energies--as those emitted by present day cellular telephones. Could the current reports of headaches be the canary in the coal mine, warning of biologically significant effects?

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Headache / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Opioid / physiology
  • Telephone*


  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Dopamine