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Cellphones, Cell Towers and Wildlife - Part 1

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An Electronicsilent Spring
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Wireless Devices & Wildlife

The effects of EMR from wireless devices on wildlife
Excerpts and Resources from An Electronic Silent Spring by Katie Singer

The radiofrequency (RF) signals that cellular antennas, mobile devices and "smart" utility meters require to function are now ubiquitously and continuously emitted.

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How do these signals affect wildlife?

Scientists report that RF fields emitted by cellular antennas alone potentially cause the decline of animal populations, reduction of some species' useful territory, and deterioration of plant health. Some species may experience reduction of their natural defenses, problems in reproduction and aversive behavioral responses. (1)

Here are summaries of studies about the effects of RF signals on trees, insects and birds:


In a 2010 paper published in the International Journal of Forestry Research, researcher Katie Haggerty explained that the Earth's natural radiofrequency environment has remained about the same within the lifespan of modern trees. "Before 1800," Haggerty wrote, "the major components of this environment were broadband radio noise from space (galactic noise), from lightning (atmospheric noise), and a smaller RF component from the sun. (2) "Plants may have evolved" to use these environmental signals, along with visible light in order to regulate their periodic functions. Therefore, they may be sensitive to man-made RF fields. "The background of RF pollution," Haggerty continued, "is now many times stronger than the naturally occurring RF environment. From the perspective of evolutionary time, the change can be considered sudden and dramatic. (3,4) "Growth rates of plants (5) and fungi (6) can be increased or decreased by RF exposure. Exposure to RF signals can induce plants to produce more meristems, (7) affect root cell structure, (8,9) and induce stress response"causing biochemical changes."(10)

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Ms. Haggerty went on to describe her study of the influence of RF signals on trembling aspen seedlings. Seedlings that were shielded in a Faraday cage (a metal container that prevents RF radiation from entering) thrived. Seedlings that were exposed to RF signals showed necrotic lesions and abnormal coloring in their leaves. (11)

According to British biologist Dr. Andrew Goldsworthy, "Trees are now dying mysteriously from a variety of diseases in urban areas all over Europe. They also show abnormal photoperiodic responses. Many have cancer-like growths under the bark (phloem nodules). The bark may also split so that the underlying tissues become infected. All of these can be explained as a result of exposure to weak RF fields from mobile phones, their base stations, Wi-Fi and similar sources of weak non-ionizing radiation." (12)

Other scientists have found that trees in areas with high Wi-Fi activity suffer from bleeding fissures in their bark, the death of parts of leaves, and abnormal growth. In 2010, in the Netherlands, 70% of urban ash trees suffered from radiation sickness, including a "lead-like shine" on their leaves, indicating the leaves' oncoming death. In 2005, only 10% of ash trees suffered radiation sickness. (13)


Perhaps the first study to demonstrate that insects have an electrical sense came out in 1992. Biologist William MacKay and his colleagues showed that several kinds of ants were attracted to electrical fields. Indeed, ants can damage equipment that produces "attractive" electrical fields. (14)

In 2013, Belgian biologist Marie-Claire Cammaerts and Swedish neuroscientist Olle Johansson exposed ants to common wireless devices. The scientists placed a mobile phone under a tray, then placed ants on the tray. When the phone was off or on standby-mode, the ants' angular speed increased. Within two to three seconds of the scientists' turning the phone on (able to receive or send calls), the ants' angular speed increased and their linear speed decreased.

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Exposed to a smartphone, the linear speed of "fresh" ants decreased; their angular speed increased. The ants' speed changed similarly but more strongly when exposed to a DECT (cordless landline) phone. They had difficulty moving their legs and did not move toward their nest or their food site as usual. The ants were exposed to each of these two phones for three minutes, and took two to four hours to resume their normal behavior.

When Cammaerts and Johansson put a mobile phone on standby mode under the ants' nest, the ants left their nest immediately, taking their eggs, larvae and nymphs with them. They relocated far from the phone. Once the phone was removed, the ants returned to their original location.

After thirty minutes of exposure to a Wi-Fi router, the ants' speed changed again, as did their foraging behavior. It took them six to eight hours to resume normal foraging. Several ants never recovered and were found dead a few days later.

When the scientists placed an ACER Aspire 2920 about twenty-five centimeters away, the insects appeared disturbed as soon as the computer was switched on. When the PC was switched on with its Wi-Fi function de-activated, the ants appeared undisturbed.

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Katie Singer works on public policy with the Electromagnetic Radiation Policy Institute. A medical journalist, her books include The Garden of Fertility; Honoring Our Cycles, and An Electronic Silent Spring: Facing the Dangers and Creating Safe Limits. 

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