Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Health

UC San Diego Professor Offers Theory On What Affected Diplomats In Cuba, China

In this Aug. 14, 2015, file photo, a U.S. flag flies at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba. U.S. investigators are chasing many theories about what’s harming American diplomats in Cuba, including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon or flawed spying device.
AP Photo/Desmond Boylan
In this Aug. 14, 2015, file photo, a U.S. flag flies at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba. U.S. investigators are chasing many theories about what’s harming American diplomats in Cuba, including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon or flawed spying device.

A UC San Diego professor of medicine suggested Wednesday that American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba and China may have been exposed to pulsed radiofrequency/microwave electromagnetic radiation.

Employees of the U.S. embassy in Havana began reporting hearing loss, nausea and cognitive issues in 2016, leading some U.S. officials to attribute the events to a sonic attack of some kind. Canadian diplomats in Havana reported similar issues the following year, and the Canadian government removed the families of diplomats in Cuba this April.

RELATED: What Harmed U.S. Diplomats In Cuba? The Mystery Continues

U.S. consulate workers in Guangzhou, China began experiencing more of the same physical and cognitive issues in May and June and described hearing clicking and buzzing noises. The State Department subsequently evacuated two Americans who reported the unattributed symptoms.

New conclusions by UCSD's Dr. Beatrice Golomb could aid government officials in determining what afflicted American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba and China, according to the university. The symptoms fit with the symptoms of pulsed RF/MW radiation, Golomb writes in a paper set to be published Sept. 15 in the journal "Neural Computation."

"Everything fits. The specifics of the varied sounds that the diplomats reported hearing during the apparent inciting episodes, such as chirping, ringing and buzzing, cohere in detail with known properties of so- called 'microwave hearing,' also known as the Frey effect," Golumb said.

Golumb cited a 2012 study of reported symptoms by people affected by electromagnetic radiation in Japan. The cited symptoms, according to Golumb, occurred at similar rates among those affected in Japan and embassy workers in Cuba and China.

Whether the exposure to RF/MW radiation is harmful remains unclear. Government agencies like the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute publicly maintain that such radiation exposure is generally harmless.

Other researchers, including Golumb, dispute the claim that RF/MW radiation is harmless, noting that certain studies have shown effects like inflammation, autoimmune activation and mitochondrial injury.

More research is necessary, Golumb said. She compared the group of people affected by RF/MW radiation to people who are allergic to peanuts; exposure can be harmful and life-threatening to those vulnerable to a reaction.

"Such research is needed not only to explain and address the symptoms in diplomats, but also for the benefit of the small fraction — but large number — of persons outside the diplomatic corps, who are beset by similar

problems," Golumb said.