What do rats and ants tell us?

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For many years, scientists have been studying the deleterious effects of electromagnetic radiation on living beings. We wanted to take stock of the situation with two of them, whose work has received some media attention in Belgium.


Marie-Claire Cammaerts-Tricot has worked, within the Department of Organismal Biology of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), on the effects of electromagnetic radiation from mobile telephony on ant colonies. His study was published in June 2012 in the American journal « Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. » Since the publication of this study, we are waiting for the initiatives of the different ministries of environment and health, in view of the lessons to be learned from its results.

Could you briefly present your professional and scientific background?

Marie-Claire Cammaerts-Tricot. I have a doctorate in biology and a degree from the Faculty of Science. For 43 years I taught in medical school, in first candidacy. During this period I also did research, in the faculty of science, on the physiology, ethology and ecology of ant societies.

What motivated you to work on the effects of electromagnetic waves on ants?

In the context of my research, I have worked extensively on conditioning, classical conditioning, described by Pavlov and operant conditioning developed by Skinner. These packages are easy to apply to ants. They learn to do something (recognize an object, respond to a stimulus) by being rewarded each time they give the « right » answer. Finally, they respond to the stimulus without the reward: they have learned and are conditioned.

I was very concerned by the « Colony Collapse Disorder » of bees, a phenomenon that is taking on a global scale. The bees were found dead in the morning, a situation that led to the gradual decline of the hive. Studies have shown the effect of pesticides, ingested by bees drinking the morning dew. However, in many cases, we can’t see anything! There is less and less honey made, but also less and less bees in the hive, they don’t come in! I then hypothesized that bees lose the memory of their path when in contact with artificial electromagnetic radiation generated by humans. So I decided to analyze the possible effects of these radiations on ants in my laboratory.

I had a generator of electromagnetic waves on loan, and very quickly I found that my hypothesis was correct! I was able to demonstrate that under radiation, on the one hand, ants cannot be conditioned, and on the other hand, if they are conditioned, they lose their conditioning in a few seconds. I continued the behavioral analysis by borrowing the generator again, and showed that under radiation ants respond very poorly to their own alarm, track, and marking pheromones. Their behavior is no longer normal. In both sets of experiments, the societies declined exactly like the bee societies. The queen died and the larval development did not take place anymore. This larval development depends on the brain, so I wanted to progress in the analysis of the effects of radiation acting on the brain, but I could not then have the generator. However, the scientific services of the ULB have several unused generators. Obviously, it is difficult today to work on the effects of electromagnetic radiation on the brain.

Did you continue your research anyway?

For the next step, I used a cell phone, placed near the companies. The ants do not know how to move anymore, they have muscular ataxias, they curl up their antennas, they do not know how to return to the nest, they do not know how to feed, they do not know how to communicate, and they do not know how to develop larvae.

There are many works showing the effects of these radiations on plants and on all insects, bumblebees, bees,… If we place a cell phone in a beehive, it is a real cataclysm, nothing works anymore! It acts on drosophila, on embryonic development, on amphibians, on birds, on rats, on everything. And therefore also on human beings. It works all the more if the animal has magnetite, for example pigeons, an element that allows them to perceive the earth’s magnetic field. Nowadays, crossing intense artificial magnetic fields near communication antennas, they sometimes get confused. Homing pigeons are found in cities, where they find food to survive, but they can no longer return home (1).

In order to continue, I asked the dean of the faculty for a small hive, in order to parallel the observations on ants and bees, but this was refused. The reason? I was told without laughing that bees sting. If we stop at a bee sting for scientific research, we will never get very far!

What do you think are the reasons?

I don’t know. Some people consciously lobby and do not want the inevitable results, but most people bury their heads in the sand, do not want to see the danger. You know, the proportions must be more or less similar in the scientific world and in society in general, people want to continue as before.

Could we project the lessons from your study on ants in the wild?

Absolutely. Besides, ants are a model, valid for all insects, as well as for vertebrates, birds for example, and of course also for human beings. It is fundamental to remember that the ants are used as a ‘biological model’, it is a bio-indicator, showing the impact of the radiations of the telephony on any living being.

We all know by now the sensitivity of some individuals, who feel the effects of radiation in their bodies. They are tired and have headaches since it acts on the nervous functions, they are irritable since it acts on the behavior. The symptoms described by the so-called ‘electrosensitive’ people are similar to the effects on ant colonies. These people suffer enormously, but on the other hand we can say that they are in a way ‘advantaged’, because they will protect themselves to the maximum. Even if it is not totally possible, they will avoid radiation as long as they can, especially by not using wireless technologies anymore, while people who are ‘not sensitive’ experience the same physical attack! It is a bit like a person who does not feel the arrival of a sunburn, but in the end the skin is still burned.

Finally, could you address the issue of the official publication of these studies?

Publications are not always easy, and the path is sometimes marked by dishonesty. The procedure is clear and identical for all scientific publications. I presented my work to the « Belgian Journal of Zoology », the referees made a series of criticisms, which I answered, leading to their acceptance. The editor then presented my work to a so-called ‘airwaves specialist’, an approach that did not comply with the rules in force. I was dragged out for years, and then the publisher refused to publish my work for no reason. After this event, I tried the European level, with ‘Biologia’. It was refused, but at least more frankly: « because it concerns the airwaves, we don’t want to publish anything about it ». As is! I then sent my work to the American journal ‘Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine’, where the article was accepted.

Images of the effects on ant societies in the lab can be seen on the Teslabel website, dated July 12, 2012:



In the course of 2008, a doctoral thesis made a lot of headlines in the media, exposing the effects of cell phone radiation on rats exposed in the laboratory. Here again, since the publication of this study we have been waiting for initiatives from the different ministries, which would aim at ensuring public health. Meeting with Professor André Vander Vorst, supervisor of the thesis and former member of the Superior Council of Health (2).

Could you briefly introduce yourself?

André Vander Vorst. I am professor emeritus at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), I have worked all my career on microwaves. In 1966, I created a microwave laboratory, which I ran until my emeritus in 2001. My first interest in the biological aspects was realized in the late 1960s, through heating measurements on cow aortas. And in the 2000s, I supervised the work of Dirk Adang’s thesis on the effect of microwaves on the body and health of rats.

How did you do it?

We worked with rats from a laboratory in the United States, rats that were « special » because they were kept free of other diseases and outside influences, and all from the same genetic family. We were therefore assured that only the « exhibition » aspect could play a role.

These rats have a lifespan of about thirty months. If we consider a human being — let’s exaggerate this ratio a bit — with a life span of 90 years, we have three years of human life for one month of rat life. The rats were exposed from the age of four months, 12 years old for a human being, and for 21 months, equivalent to 63 years for a human being. We therefore consider a very long term exposure, of a duration impossible for a human being at the present time with regard to GSM. Exposure was stopped at the age of 25 months, the equivalent of 75 human years.

The exposure level used corresponds to the limit designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) for humans, if it had been calculated in the same way for rats, taking into account the average length of 16cm for a rat and 1m60 for a human being. So we have made a 10 in frequency report and adopted a level, criticized by our critics but objective, and linked to a standard approved — rightly or wrongly — by the WHO about human beings.

We divided 124 rats into 4 groups of 31, 3 of which were exposed to two different frequencies and different signal modalities. A fourth group, the control group, was treated in exactly the same way in terms of noise, food, etc., except that we never turned on the switch for radiation exposure.

What were the most significant findings?

First of all, I have noticed that these results have strongly displeased some people. But everything is always open to criticism after the fact.

The results are most striking on two levels. First level of result: the mortality rate of the exposed rats is twice as high! I say twice, a very surprising rate indeed. Concerning the reason for this mortality, the question arose of premature aging following exposure. This level of result had never been highlighted by previous theses.

The second level of result, which this time represents a confirmation, is that when live animals are subjected to this type of exposure, memory loss occurs. These are behavioral phenomena, related to cognitive functions. We used a group of 31 unexposed rats, and a group of 31 rats exposed for 15 months, the equivalent of 45 years. Each rat went through the experiment individually, repeating the process 5 times. We found that all the rats — and I mean all of them — in the unexposed group had the same type of behavior. All rats in the exposed group also had the same type of behavior with each other, different from the other group.

We put the rat in a cage facing unknown objects. He turns around one, then the other, and when he knows them he goes to play in the corners. The rat is removed and put back 15 minutes later, having replaced one object by another. The unexposed rat will no longer see the known object, it has it in memory and will turn around the unknown object, then play in the corners. We have observed an identical behavior for the rats exposed during 2 months, that is to say 6 years for the human being. But when the rats are exposed for 15 months, it is not the same at all, they will be as interested in the first object that they know and should have in their memory.

These results were widely reported in the newspapers. Years later, what effect do you think they have had on society?

In my opinion, not much, except in individuals. At the level of decision makers, there seems to be no effect, nothing. In addition to the political world, another area of concern is the medical profession as a whole, which, to put it simply, knows nothing about this. Some people just don’t want to hear about it for various reasons that are confusing to me. The Dutch health board appointed a college, most of whose members were physicians, biologists, with only one engineer in the dozen, to lead a discussion based on our results. This council has sent us a draft report for our opinion. Subsequently, the Council issued an opinion to the Minister, explaining that a change in standards was not necessary because a series of elements in the thesis would not allow the statistics to be considered reliable. Personally, it does not make me hot or cold, when we do not want to say something, we find a way not to say it…

Do you consider that there is a clear desire to discredit the results?

Yes. Of course. The calculation, in my opinion, is to let things go long enough to make it seem impossible to go back. People, especially young people, will be so ‘hooked’ that, even if a lack of caution is admitted later, no one will take it into account.

Your descriptions of the cognitive and memory effects of the rats are similar to those of the victims of cell phone operators: concentration problems, memory loss or the impression that events experienced the day before seem so far away…

Yes, it’s really not new, we’ve simply provided confirmation. We heard in response, « What are you proving? » But we don’t prove anything! We simply present results, consistent with previous ones, showing that this type of exposure to high frequency radiation on living animals is likely to affect memory.

Interview by Sarah Fautré.

Notes et références
  1. NDLR. Notons que la présence de magnétite dans le cerveau humain a été mise en évidence par Joseph Kirschvink.
  2. Cet entretien est la retranscription partielle d’une rencontre effectuée en vue d’un reportage radiophonique, réalisé par Sarah Fautré, «Ondes sensibles», produit par le GSARA (Groupe Socialiste d’Action et de Réflexion sur l’Audiovisuel). Il est disponible à l’écoute à cette adresse: http://gsara.tv/outils/?p=161

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