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Katie Haggerty   (Source: Kira Horvath)

Aspen Trees  (Source:

Honey Bee  (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica's Advocacy for Animals)
Cell phone and other electronic use has depleted aspen seedlings and honey bees

Katie Haggerty is a woman with no academic degree from Lyons, Colorado, but she has published an environmental research paper in the International Journal of Forestry Research about the harmful effects radio waves have on aspen seedlings.

Haggerty started studying electromagnetic fields 20 years ago. She had heard of a preliminary

experiment conducted near her home north of Steamboat Mountain that aspen seedlings were healthier when shielded from radio waves.  

Sometime in 2005, she saw that her geraniums were stunted and had an inkling that it may have had to do with radio frequencies, since she placed her plants in a Faraday cage, which is covered by a metal screen that prevents radio frequency energy from "hitting" the plants. Haggerty's inkling was correct, since her geraniums were suddenly growing at a faster rate with larger leaves.

She first planted the aspen seedlings in 2007, where one group was in a Faraday cage, another was wrapped in fiberglass that didn't protect the plants from radio waves and the third group was completely unprotected. The procedure began in spring, and by the end of July, there were noticeable differences in growth. Once October approached, even the colors varied.

"I found that the shielded seedlings produced more growth, longer shoots, bigger leaves and more total leaf area," said Haggerty. "The shielded group produced 60 percent more leaf area and 74 percent more shoot length than the mock-shielded group.

"The leaves in the shielded group produced striking fall colors, while the two exposed groups stayed light green or yellow and were affected by areas of dead leaf tissue. The shielded leaves turned red, which was a good sign. The unshielded leaves in both exposed groups had extensive decay, and some leaves fell off while they were still green."

According to the U.S. Forest Service researchers, drought conditions are likely the cause of death for thousands of acres of aspen trees in Colorado. While Haggerty recognizes that her study is only a preliminary experiment, she argues that the surrounding area is "saturated" with radio waves from televisions, radios, microwave ovens, weather radar and cell phones that are contributing to the demise of these forests. 

"It appears that there may be negative effects on the health and growth of aspens from the radio frequency background," said Haggerty.

But trees are not the only victims falling dead to radio waves. According to researchers at Chandigarh's Panjab University in India, radiation from mobile phones is a key factor in the decline of honey bees throughout Europe and the United States. The experiment was conducted by putting two cell phones that were powered on for a total of one half hour per day inside one bee hive while putting dummy models of cell phones in another. Three months later, researchers found a severe decline in honey bees in the active cell phone infested hive. In addition, the queen bee in the powered cell phone hive produced less eggs.

Whether it's plants or bees, researchers and everyday citizens like Haggerty alike have proven that radio waves have an adverse effect on the surrounding environment and hope that it will change the point of views of doubters and help find ways to protect the environment.

Haggerty's paper sparked interest in Wayne Shepperd of the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station, and he had Haggerty present her data at the regional conference on forest decline in Fort Collins in 2008. From there, the paper was accepted at the North American Forest Ecology Workshop at Utah State University and is now published in the scientific journal. 

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RE: Not really a controlled environment
By psychmike on 7/11/2010 9:41:50 AM , Rating: 3
It's nice that Daily Tech has such a scientifically literate readership but I wonder why so many people are questioning the research rather than thinking of ways to replicate the study and then identify the possible mechanisms of action that may be responsible.

The study is NOT a bad one. No, it's not an ideal design. Not every possible independent variable has been accounted for but this person has taken a decent stab at preliminary research.

Someone earlier critisized having 3 comparison groups. The point of having 3 groups was to plausibly account for the effect of creating a shelter which did not reduce EM radiation. If both the bamboo and EM sheltered plants did better than the unsheltered group, this would be evidence AGAINST EM radiation having a casual effect on plant growth. It's thoughtful to say that a metal cage might have affected local soil moisture content but let's not be cynical and throw the whole study out. The fact that this researcher thought to try to DISconfirm her own hypothesis shows good scientific rigor.

As for sample size, exactly what is your concern with N =30? You might rightfully be concerned about the external validity of the experiment. That is, 30 plants in one study might not represent plants in general but this is NOT the same as statistical significance. The fact that she was able to show statistically significant effects with such a small sample suggests that the effects were quite large. I think you're mixing up 2 different concepts. In my opinion, this experiment was more thought-provoking than you give credit for. Scientific skepticism is not the same thing as cynicism.

By mcnabney on 7/11/2010 1:10:04 PM , Rating: 3
A Faraday cage, in addition to insulating against EM, will also insulate in other ways as well. It would act as both an insulator and as a heat sink. The metal will also interact with the local atmoshere. I can think of a lot of better ways of testing EM radiation impact (think direct radiation and selective shielding panels to adjust for exposure).

I would also suspect that if EM was impacting the environment we would have noticed something near all of the high-power VHF broadcasting antennas in the past 50 years. VHF is highly penetrating and has been broadcast at considerable power for decades now. Haven't seen any cancer clusters, vegetation patterns, or animal behavior impacts near this highly exposed areas.
So I am pretty sure a .5w cell phone that broadcasts at 700mhz and 1.5ghz (higher frequencies penetrate less) isn't going to come close to 800,000w at 700mhz which have been providing us with TV since the 50's.

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