Last updated September 23, 2019 at 11:41 am
A Czech study claims that electromagnetic fields – like those used for WiFi – interfere with cockroaches’ body clocks. Other experts are skeptical.
Why This Matters: With most of us using these technologies daily, it’s important to get the facts right.
The researchers says the roaches’ internal clocks slowed down after they were exposed to weak magnetic and radiofrequency fields, and went on to suggest that WiFi, TV and radio signals could be affecting the natural rhythms, and therefore the navigation systems and behaviour, of a wide range of different animals.
So, with WiFi widespread and radio and TV signals all around us, should be worried about effects on the animal kingdom, or even on our own body clocks?
Other experts are a bit more skeptical.
The claims may not be applicable to humans
Ken Karipidis from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency told the AuSMC he believes there’s no need to fret about the researchers’ claims, and suggested they may have exaggerated the significance of their results, “especially related to their applicability to human health.”
“Most of the reported effects occurred at lower frequencies with no relevance to the higher frequencies employed by mobile telecommunications,” he says.
Other experts are also remaining unconvinced, calling the quality of research into question.
“Looking at their analysis results…magnetic fields appear to essentially have no effect.”
“The effect size is small and the data very noisy because…up to 50 per cent of cockroaches were excluded from analysis due to not showing any circadian rhythms in the first place. The quality of the cockroach circadian rhythms is not something the reader can assess for themselves however, as no examples of cockroach circadian rhythms under the various experimental conditions are shown,” he adds.
Previous studies have shown WiFi has no affect
Richard Findlay from the UK’s Society for Radiological Protection was equally damning: “Firstly, they are barely into the radiofrequency spectrum (they researched up to 10 MHz).
“Also, their claim is contrary to a number of previous studies that have shown no significant effects of fields on circadian rhythms…In short, it’s not great research,” he says.
We’ll leave the final word on the research to O’Neill:
“German cockroaches can feel quite relaxed that there is no compelling evidence that magnetic fields affect their circadian rhythms. Humans should be even less worried about magnetic fields affecting their circadian rhythms,” he says.
You can read the AusSMC Expert Reaction here.
You can read the UK SMC Expert Reaction here.