The current literature on the effects of radiofrequency radiation on prenatal development was reviewed. Radiofrequency radiation induced birth defects were apparently the result of the direct effect of heat on the embryo, rather than maternal toxicity. Teratogenic and embryolethal effects were usually produced when the core body temperature of maternal animals was raised to 41 degrees-C or higher. Hyperthermia induced by immersion in a hot water bath produced the same incidence and type of fetal malformations and the same incidence of prenatal death in rats as hyperthermia induced by exposure to radiofrequency radiation. Lowering the body temperature by anesthesia prior to radiation exposure was found to protect against these teratogenic and embryolethal effects. Radiofrequency radiation exposures that caused increased core temperatures of pregnant animals to between 39 and 41 degrees-C resulted in increased incidences of prenatal mortality, lowered body weight, or histological, physiological or behavioral alterations in offspring rather than gross structural malformations. Significant physiological and behavioral changes were also reported by some investigators to occur in animals prenatally exposed to radiofrequency fields at levels which caused little or no increase in body temperature. Other investigators found no significant effects at these levels. Literature on the possible adverse effects of radiofrequency exposure on human development were sparse. Premature birth and congenital malformations have been reported following radiofrequency diathermy treatment during early pregnancy. The authors conclude that there is little evidence at present to suggest that exposure to common sources of radiofrequency radiation is teratogenic or embryotoxic in human beings. However, exposure to radiofrequency diathermy or magnetic resonance imaging equipment may be teratogenic or embryotoxic and it is advisable that women avoid exposure to such high intensity radiofrequency sources when pregnancy is suspected.
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