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Effects of chronic exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on energy balance in developing rats

Abstract

The effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) on the control of body energy balance in developing organisms have not been studied, despite the involvement of energy status in vital physiological functions. We examined the effects of chronic RF-EMF exposure (900 MHz, 1 V m−1) on the main functions involved in body energy homeostasis (feeding behaviour, sleep and thermoregulatory processes). Thirteen juvenile male Wistar rats were exposed to continuous RF-EMF for 5 weeks at 24 °C of air temperature (T a) and compared with 11 non-exposed animals. Hence, at the beginning of the 6th week of exposure, the functions were recorded at T a of 24 °C and then at 31 °C. We showed that the frequency of rapid eye movement sleep episodes was greater in the RF-EMF-exposed group, independently of T a (+42.1 % at 24 °C and +31.6 % at 31 °C). The other effects of RF-EMF exposure on several sleep parameters were dependent on T a. At 31 °C, RF-EMF-exposed animals had a significantly lower subcutaneous tail temperature (−1.21 °C) than controls at all sleep stages; this suggested peripheral vasoconstriction, which was confirmed in an experiment with the vasodilatator prazosin. Exposure to RF-EMF also increased daytime food intake (+0.22 g h−1). Most of the observed effects of RF-EMF exposure were dependent on T a. Exposure to RF-EMF appears to modify the functioning of vasomotor tone by acting peripherally through α-adrenoceptors. The elicited vasoconstriction may restrict body cooling, whereas energy intake increases. Our results show that RF-EMF exposure can induce energy-saving processes without strongly disturbing the overall sleep pattern.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by grants from the French Ministry of Research and a “Post-Grenelle” from the French Ministry of Ecology, as part of the “Pôle applicatif en Toxicologie et Ecotoxicologie” programme coordinated by the French National Institute of Environment and Industrial Risks (INERIS). We thank Patrice Cagnon for his technical assistance with RF-EMF dosimetry.

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Correspondence to Nathalie Loos.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Pelletier, A., Delanaud, S., Décima, P. et al. Effects of chronic exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on energy balance in developing rats. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 2735–2746 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-012-1266-5

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Keywords

  • Radiofrequency electromagnetic field
  • Sleep
  • Feeding behaviour
  • Thermoregulation
  • Young rat