VGCC the main mechanism for all EMF effects? Comment on and additions to Pall's claim

maandag, 28 oktober 2019 - Categorie: Artikelen

Dr. Leendert Vriens

In his e-book from 2018 and in later publications Pall claims voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCC) to be the main target and mechanism for all biological health effects caused by the EMF from wireless communication. This claim is based on biochemical information and argumentation and on a physics calculation. Being a physicist I cannot comment on the biochemical part which is Pall’s field of expertise. I do have comments, however, on the physics part. Basically Pall’s main argument is that “the electrical forces on the VGCC voltage sensors are extraordinarily high”. In order to substantiate this statement Pall compares these forces with those on singly charged ions in the cell plasma. Indeed the forces on the VGCC voltage sensor are, according to Pall’s calculation, almost seven orders of magnitude larger than those on singly charged ions in the cell plasma. This does not tell much, however, because these latter forces are exceedingly small. Using Pall’s input numbers for the material parameters I calculated the field strength over the cell membranes caused by an externally applied field of 3 V/m and compared that with the natural field strength over the cell membranes prior to activation. For this applied field of 3 V/m, on the high end of what one finds near cell towers, the natural field strength appears to be between 3600 to 6000 times larger than the field strength caused by the external field. Direct activation of the VGCC voltage sensor by the external field thus seems to be impossible, since this requires polarity reversal. Activation involving electrical interference effects might be possible, but the statement ''that physics arguments support the claim that VGCC) are the main target and mechanism for all biological health effects'' is contradicted by the present calculation.

The model calculation
On pages 17/18 of Pall’s e-book from 2018:

and in some of his more recent publications he calculated the ratio of two electrical forces, both caused by the externally applied electromagnetic field (EMF):

(1) the force on the VGCC voltage sensors in the cell membrane, and
(2) the force on singly charged ions in the cell plasma.

According to this calculation this ratio is equal to:

20 x 120 x 3000 = 7.2 x 10^6, ………………………………………………… (1)

- 20 stands for the 20 positive charges making up the VGCC voltage sensor, which charges are located within the lipid bilayer part of the plasma membrane,
- 120 stands for the 120 times smaller dielectric constant of the cell membrane compared to that of the cell plasma,
- 3000 stands for the estimated ratio of the electrical gradient in the cell membrane compared to that in the cell plasma, caused by the high resistivity of the cell membrane and the high conductivity of the cell plasma,
- 10^6 stand for 10 to the power 6, i.e. one million.

It is not clear, however, why the force on separate singly charged ions in the cell plasma should be relevant, no one ever suggested that these should play a role in causing biological effects. Collective effects, like those caused by the force on all charged ions together in one plasma cell may be important, but that is a different story.

The extremely large ratio obtained in Eq. (1) is Pall’s physics reason to conclude that the VGCC should be the main target of the EMF of wireless communication. This ratio is in our opinion irrelevant because the reference, the force on one singly charge ion in the cell plasma, is irrelevant. Instead I will now make a comparison with the natural force over the voltage sensor (cell membrane), i.e. that without an external EMF.

Using Pall’s input numbers I make a new first order calculation. I consider one plasma cell with internal diameter dp = 10 µm and membrane thickness dm = 5 nm. The externally applied electric field strength is denoted by Ea and the field strengths over the cell membrane and the plasma cell are denoted by Em and Ep. This leads to the basic formula:

2 dm Em + dp Ep = (2 dm + dp) Ea ………………………………...…......… (2)

Inserting Em / Ep = 3000, the ratio of the resistivities of the membrane to that of the cell plasma, yields:

Ep = 0.25 Ea and Em = 750 Ea ………………………………….…….....….. (3)

Due to the large difference in resistivities of cell membrane and cell plasma one thus gets a field gradient reduction over the plasma by a factor 4 and a field gradient enhancement over the membrane by a factor 750. This accounts for the different resistivities but not for the dielectric properties. According to Eqs. (2) and (3) the externally applied field is thus subdivided over the cell plasma and the membranes on both sides of the plasma.

In order to account also for the dielectric properties of the membrane and plasma to get the field gradient reduction in the plasma and the field gradient enhancement in the membrane one must divide the values 0.25 and 750 by the respective relative permittivities (dielectric constants) εp and εm. Since relative permittivities are always larger than 1, this would reduce the field enhancement in the membrane and would reduce the field in the plasma much more.

One should note that for larger plasma conductivities, the field enhancement over the membrane can never be larger than dp / (2 dm) = 1000, since this would mean that the full externally applied field would stand over the two cell membranes.

The field of a cell tower on the membrane
For an external field coming from a nearby cell tower, a realistic high-end outdoor field strength for 3G and 4G EMF is 3 V/m, a factor of 20 lower than the 61 V/m ICNIRP and FCC exposure limit for 2 GHz radiation. Multiplying this 3 V/m with the afore mentioned field enhancement of 750 one gets a field strength over the cell membrane of 2,250 V/m. For thicker cell membranes one gets smaller and for larger cell diameters larger field strengths over the membranes.

This field strength of 2,250 V/m can be compared with the natural field strengths over the membranes prior to activation. These natural field strengths follow directly by dividing the voltages over the cell membranes - which are known to be of the order of 40 to 70 mV – by the membrane thickness, 5 nm in this example.
One thus gets field strengths from 8 x 10^6 to 14 x 10^6 V/m.
Taking the ratio to the field strength over the membrane caused by the externally applied field – the 2,250 V/m calculated above - one finds that the natural field strengths are 3600 to 6000 times larger.

The externally applied field thus disturbs the natural field over the membrane in a very minor way. The additional factor of 20 – introduced by Pall to represent the cooperative effect of the 20 positive charges in the VGCC voltage sensor - may be real, but that amplification factor applies also to the action of the natural field on the voltage sensor.

From the above one can conclude that the claim that VGCC are the main target and mechanism for all EMF effects is contradicted by the above physics calculation.

VGCC may still be one of the targets for EMF effects and possibly an important one, not by direct activation, but by electrical interference effects and by interfering with naturally occuring activation. The (signal) information in the applied EMF is then more important than the energy.

This would be analogous to the possible interference of EMF of a mobile phone with the electrical signals in intensive care apparatus or in airplanes. In these apparatus and in airplanes there are obviously no VGCC, but interference between electrical signals can still lead to a disaster.

Additional remarks
In the above first order calculation the frequency dependent temporal dielectric and conductive properties of the cell plasma and cell membrane are not included. It is in fact a low frequency approximation in which there is no time lag between the applied field and the displacement of ions and polar molecules in membrane and plasma. Apart from severely complicating the calculations, including these dependencies would have an averaging effect, which would probably diminish the relative contribution of the applied field to the natural field.

These complications would not alter the conclusion that the externally applied field only disturbs the natural field over and in the membrane in a very minor way.

Further complications are that pulsed EMF, such as used for wireless communication, are more harmful than non-pulsed sine-wave EMF. The lower frequency components in the pulsed EMF lower the threshold for damage and continuous and prolonged exposure have a further deteriorating effect. These complications are not accounted for in the above first order calculation.

In the above I have confined myself to the physics part of Pall’s claim that voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCC) are the main target and mechanism for all biological health effects caused by the EMF from wireless communication.

Other comments
Comments on the claim about the importance of VGCC also came from the biochemical side. For these see:

Not being a biochemist I cannot generally comment on these ‘cautionary words’, with exception of:

1. The animal magnetoreception. Henshaw pointed out that the sensitivity of several animals to the earth's magnetic field is directly related to either the presence of magnetic particles (magnetite, magnetosomes) in the body or to the radical pair mechanism in the retina of eyes. Both processes are well documented in literature. VGCC may play a role in these effects, but if so only in secondary processes.

2. The general critique by Firstenberg, I quote:
''Calcium is necessary for hundreds of physiological processes that are affected by EMFs. If you prevent calcium from coming into the cell by using a calcium channel blocker, you will stop all of those physiological processes and prevent the EMF effects. That does not tell you anything about the mechanism of action of EMFs. If EMFs act directly on any function that requires calcium, the calcium channel blocker will prevent it. If EMFs instead act on the calcium channel itself, the calcium channel blocker will also prevent it. There is no way to distinguish whether EMFs act directly on the end mechanism or on the supplier of calcium to the end mechanism.''
It does not look easy to find a counter argument to this more general comment.

3. The Rouleaux effect, the aggregation of red blood cells, which can be initiated by an applied EMF. A possible simple explanation of this effect is that the EMF induce polarization of red blood cells, whereupon these attract one another so that they stack together. This does not involve any action of VGCC. The aggregation of red blood cells restricts the blood flow, in particular through capillaries. Belpomme used this reduced blood flow in part of the brain as a biomarker for EHS and Havas further described the negative effects of this reduced blood flow:

First version: July 25, 2019
Revised version: October 28, 2019

Leendert Vriens
(physicist, PhD, retired Philips Research Fellow,
webmaster , )

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