High Frequency Radiation - Mobile Phones / Wifi
New research from the National Toxicology Program links radio-frequency radiation to tumor formation in rats
Federal scientists released partial findings Friday from a $25-million animal study that tested the possibility of links between cancer and chronic exposure to the type of radiation emitted from cell phones and wireless devices. The findings, which chronicle an unprecedented number of rodents subjected to a lifetime of electromagnetic radiation starting in utero, present some of the strongest evidence to date that such exposure is associated with the formation of rare cancers in at least two cell types in the brains and hearts of rats. The results, which were posted on a prepublication Web site run by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, are poised to reignite controversy about how such everyday exposure might affect human health.
Researchers at the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a federal interagency group under the National Institutes of Health, led the study. They chronically exposed rodents to carefully calibrated radio-frequency (RF) radiation levels designed to roughly emulate what humans with heavy cell phone use or exposure could theoretically experience in their daily lives. The animals were placed in specially built chambers that dosed their whole bodies with varying amounts and types of this radiation for approximately nine hours per day throughout their two-year life spans. “This is by far—far and away—the most carefully done cell phone bioassay, a biological assessment. This is a classic study that is done for trying to understand cancers in humans,” says Christopher Portier, a retired head of the NTP who helped launch the study and still sometimes works for the federal government as a consultant scientist. “There will have to be a lot of work after this to assess if it causes problems in humans, but the fact that you can do it in rats will be a big issue. It actually has me concerned, and I’m an expert.”
More than 90 percent of American adults use cell phones. Relatively little is known about their safety, however, because current exposure guidelines are based largely on knowledge about acute injury from thermal effects, not long-term, low-level exposure. The International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2011 classified RF radiation as a possible human carcinogen. But data from human studies has been “inconsistent,” the NTP has said on its website. Such studies are also hampered by the realities of testing in humans, such as recall bias—meaning cancer patients have to try to remember their cell phone use from years before, and how they held their handsets. Those data gaps prompted the NTP to engage in planning these new animal studies back in 2009.
The researchers found that as the thousands of rats in the new study were exposed to greater intensities of RF radiation, more of them developed rare forms of brain and heart cancer that could not be easily explained away, exhibiting a direct dose–response relationship. Overall, the incidence of these rare tumors was still relatively low, which would be expected with rare tumors in general, but the incidence grew with greater levels of exposure to the radiation. Some of the rats had glioma—a tumor of the glial cells in the brain—or schwannoma of the heart. Furthering concern about the findings: In prior epidemiological studies of humans and cell phone exposure, both types of tumors have also cropped up as associations.
In contrast, none of the control rats—those not exposed to the radiation—developed such tumors. But complicating matters was the fact that the findings were mixed across sexes: More such lesions were found in male rats than in female rats. The tumors in the male rats “are considered likely the result of whole-body exposure” to this radiation, the study authors wrote. And the data suggests the relationship was strongest between the RF exposure and the lesions in the heart, rather than the brain: Cardiac schwannomas were observed in male rats at all exposed groups, the authors note. But no “biologically significant effects were observed in the brain or heart of female rats regardless of modulation.” Based on these findings, Portier said that this is not just an associated finding—but that the relationship between radiation exposure and cancer is clear. “I would call it a causative study, absolutely. They controlled everything in the study. It’s [the cancer] because of the exposure.”
Earlier studies had never found that this type of radiation was associated with the formation of these cancers in animals at all. But none of those studies followed as many animals, for as long or with the same larger intensity exposures, says Ron Melnick, a scientist who helped design the study and is now retired from the NTP.
The new results, published on Web site bioRXiv, involved experiments on multiple groups of 90 rats. The study was designed to give scientists a better sense of the magnitude of exposure that would be associated with cancer in rodents. In the study rats were exposed to RF at 900 megahertz. There were three test groups with each species of each sex, tested at different radiation intensities (1.5, three and six watts per kilogram, or W/kg), and one control group. (The lowest-intensity level roughly approximates the levels allowed by U.S. cell phone companies, which is 1.6 W/kg.) “There are only 90 animals per group, so because there is a trend—and this is the purpose of these assays where you do multiple doses you extrapolate downward and calculate a risk for humans from those trends—so that information is useful. Probably what caused cancer at the high doses will cause cancer at lower doses but to a lesser degree,” Portier says.
Rodents across all the test groups were chronically exposed to RF for approximately nine hours spread out over the course of the day. (Their entire bodies were exposed because people are exposed to such radiation beyond their heads, especially when they carry them or store them in their bras, says John Bucher, the associate director of the NTP.) During the study the rats were able to run around in their cages, and to eat and sleep as usual. The experiments also included both types of modulations emitted from today’s cell phones: Code Division Multiple Access and Global System for Mobile. (Modulations are the way the information is carried, so although the total radiation levels were roughly the same across both types, there were differences in how radiation is emitted from the antenna—either a higher exposure for a relatively short time or a lower exposure for a longer time.) Overall, there was no statistically significant difference between the number of tumors that developed in the animals exposed to CDMA versus GSM modulations. With both modulations and tumor types, there was also a statistically significant trend upward—meaning the incidence increased with more radiation exposure. Yet, drilling down into the data, in the male rats exposed to GSM-modulated RF radiation the number of brain tumors at all levels of exposure was not statistically different than in control males—those who had no exposure at all. “The trend here is important. The question is, ‘Should one be concerned?’ The answer is clearly ‘Yes.’ But it raises a number of questions that couldn’t be fully answered, ” says David Carpenter, a public health clinician and the director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, S.U.N.Y.
The findings are not definitive, and there were other confusing findings that scientists cannot explain—including that male rats exposed to the radiation seemed to live longer than those in the control group. “Overall we feel that the tumors are likely related to the exposures,” says Bucher, but such unanswered questions “have been the subject of very intense discussions here.”
The NTP released the partial findings on Friday after an online publication calledMicrowave News reported them earlier this week. The program will still be putting out other results about the work in rats and additional findings about similar testing conducted in mice. The NIH told Scientific American in a statement, “This study in mice and rats is under review by additional experts. It is important to note that previous human, observational data collected in earlier, large-scale population-based studies have found limited evidence of an increased risk for developing cancer from cell phone use.” Still, the NTP was clearly expecting these findings to carry some serious weight: Ahead of Friday’s publication the NTP said on its Web site that the study (and prior work leading to these experiments) would “provide critical information regarding the safety of exposure to radio-frequency radiation and strengthen the science base for determining any potential health effects in humans.”
In response to media queries, cell phone industry group CTIA–The Wireless Association issued a statement Friday saying that it and the wireless industry are still reviewing the study’s findings. “Numerous international and U.S. organizations including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization and American Cancer Society have determined that the already existing body of peer-reviewed and published studies shows that there are no established health effects from radio frequency signals used in cellphones,” the CTIA statement said.
The Federal Communications Commission, which had been briefed by NIH officials, told Scientific American in a statement, “We are aware that the National Toxicology Program is studying this important issue. Scientific evidence always informs FCC rules on this matter. We will continue to follow all recommendations from federal health and safety experts including whether the FCC should modify its current policies and RF exposure limits.”
This animal study was designed primarily to answer questions about cancer risks humans might experience when they use phones themselves, as opposed to smaller levels of exposure from wireless devices in the workplace or from living or working near cell phone towers. But it may have implications for those smaller levels as well, Portier says.
The findings shocked some scientists who had been closely tracking the study. “I was surprised because I had thought it was a waste of money to continue to do animal research in this area. There had been so many studies before that had pretty consistently not shown elevations in cancer. In retrospect the reason for that is that nobody maintained a sufficient number of animals for a sufficient period of time to get results like this,” Carpenter says.
Exposing rodents to radiation for this type of experiment is a tricky business. First, scientists need to be able to calculate exactly how much the rats should be exposed to relative to humans. Too much exposure would not be a good proxy for human use. And with finely calculated low-level exposure rates, scientists still need to be sure they are not going to heat the animals enough to kill them or to cause other health problems. (Subsequent work will be published on the animals’ temperatures.)
The fact that scientists were able to expose animals to nonionizing radiation (like that emitted by cell phones) and those animals went on to develop tumors but that exposure did not significantly raise the animals’ body temperatures was “important” to release, Bucher says.
There are safety steps individuals can take, Carpenter says. Using the speakerphone, keeping the phone on the desk instead of on the body and using a wired headset whenever possible would help limit RF exposure. “We are certainly not going to go back to a pre-wireless age,” he says. But there are a number of ways to reduce exposure, particularly among sensitive populations.”
EEG Changes Due to Experimentally Induced 3G Mobile Phone Radiation
Suzanne Roggeveen,1,* Jim van Os,1,2 Wolfgang Viechtbauer,1 and Richel Lousberg1
The aim of this study was to investigate whether a 15-minute placement of a 3G dialing mobile phone causes direct changes in EEG activity compared to the placement of a sham phone. Furthermore, it was investigated whether placement of the mobile phone on the ear or the heart would result in different outcomes. Thirty-one healthy females participated. All subjects were measured twice: on one of the two days the mobile phone was attached to the ear, the other day to the chest. In this single-blind, cross-over design, assessments in the sham phone condition were conducted directly preceding and following the mobile phone exposure. During each assessment, EEG activity and radiofrequency radiation were recorded jointly. Delta, theta, alpha, slowbeta, fastbeta, and gamma activity was computed. The association between radiation exposure and the EEG was tested using multilevel random regression analyses with radiation as predictor of main interest. Significant radiation effects were found for the alpha, slowbeta, fastbeta, and gamma bands. When analyzed separately, ear location of the phone was associated with significant results, while chest placement was not. The results support the notion that EEG alterations are associated with mobile phone usage and that the effect is dependent on site of placement. Further studies are required to demonstrate the physiological relevance of these findings.
Source : PLOSOne
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Radioprotective Potential of Nigella Sativa Extract in Swiss Albino Mice Exposed to Whole Body
Ganesh Chandra Jagetia and Ravikiran PB
The radioprotective activity of Nigella sativa extract (NSE) was ascertained by administering mice orally with 25, 50, 100, 150, 200, 400 or 500 mg/kg b. wt. of NSE, once daily for five consecutive days prior to 10 Gy γ-irradiation. One hour after the last administration of NSE on fifth day, the animals were whole body exposed to 10 Gy radiation. The exposure of animals to 10 Gy irradiation resulted in the death of all irradiated animals within 16 days post-irradiation, whereas administration of mice with different doses of NSE reduced the radiation-induced mortality and increased the animal survival significantly (p<0.05). The maximum number of survivors (60%) was observed in the group of animals treated with 150 mg/kg NSE. A further increase in the NSE dose up to 500 mg/kg did not significantly elevate the animal survival when compared to 150 mg/kg. Since maximum number of survivors was observed with 150 mg/kg of NSE, it was considered as an optimum dose for radioprotection and further experiments were performed using this dose. In another set of experiments the animals were administered with 150 mg/kg b. wt. of NSE orally once daily for five consecutive days before exposure to 7, 8, 9, 10 or 11 Gy γ-radiation, where the animals were monitored daily up to thirty days post-irradiation for the development of symptoms of radiation sickness and mortality. Treatment of mice with NSE before irradiation delayed the onset of mortality and reduced the symptoms of radiation sickness when compared with the double distilled water (DDW) treated irradiated controls. The LD50/30 was found to be 8 Gy for DDW + irradiation group, whereas the NSE treatment increased LD50/30 up to 9.6 Gy with a dose reduction factor (DRF) of 1.2. The in vitro studies in cell free system revealed that NSE inhibited the generation of various free radicals including 2,2-diphenyl-2-picryl hydrazyl (DPPH), 3-ethyl benzothiazoline-6-sulphonic acid (ABTS•+), hydroxyl (OH•) and superoxide (O2•-) in a concentration dependent manner. The radioprotective effect of NSE may be due to free radical scavenging and increased antioxidant status
Source : Journal Alternative and Integrative Medicine
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Why children absorb more microwave radiation than adults: The consequences
Children absorb more microwave radiation (MWR) than adults.
MWR is a Class 2B (possible) carcinogen.
The fetus is in greater danger than children from exposure to MWR.
The legal exposure limits have remained unchanged for decades.
Cellphone manuals warnings and the 20 cm rule for tablets/laptops violate the “normal operating position” regulation.
Computer simulation using MRI scans of children is the only possible way to determine the microwave radiation (MWR) absorbed in specific tissues in children. Children absorb more MWR than adults because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls are thinner and their relative size is smaller. MWR from wireless devices has been declared a possible human carcinogen. Children are at greater risk than adults when exposed to any carcinogen. Because the average latency time between first exposure and diagnosis of a tumor can be decades, tumors induced in children may not be diagnosed until well into adulthood. The fetus is particularly vulnerable to MWR. MWR exposure can result in degeneration of the protective myelin sheath that surrounds brain neurons. MWR-emitting toys are being sold for use by young infants and toddlers. Digital dementia has been reported in school age children. A case study has shown when cellphones are placed in teenage girls’ bras multiple primary breast cancer develop beneath where the phones are placed. MWR exposure limits have remained unchanged for 19 years. All manufacturers of smartphones have warnings which describe the minimum distance at which phone must be kept away from users in order to not exceed the present legal limits for exposure to MWR. The exposure limit for laptop computers and tablets is set when devices are tested 20 cm away from the body. Belgium, France, India and other technologically sophisticated governments are passing laws and/or issuing warnings about children's use of wireless devices.
Source : Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure
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Use of laptop computers connected to internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation
Conrado Avendano, M.S., ~ a Ariela Mata, M.S.,a Cesar A. Sanchez Sarmiento, M.D., Ph.D., a and Gustavo F. Doncel, M.D., Ph.D.b
a Nascentis Medicina Reproductiva, Cordoba, Argentina; and b CONRAD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia
Objective: To evaluate the effects of laptop computers connected to local area networks wirelessly (Wi-Fi) on human spermatozoa.
Design: Prospective in vitro study.
Setting: Center for reproductive medicine.
Patient(s): Semen samples from 29 healthy donors.
Intervention(s): Motile sperm were selected by swim up. Each sperm suspension was divided into two aliquots. One sperm aliquot (experimental) from each patient was exposed to an internet-connected laptop by Wi-Fi for 4 hours, whereas the second aliquot (unexposed) was used as control, incubated under identical conditions without being exposed to the laptop.
Main Outcome Measure(s): Evaluation of sperm motility, viability, and DNA fragmentation.
Result(s): Donor sperm samples, mostly normozoospermic, exposed ex vivo during 4 hours to a wireless internet-connected laptop showed a significant decrease in progressive sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation. Levels of dead sperm showed no significant differences between the two groups.
Conclusion(s): To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the direct impact of laptop use on human spermatozoa. Ex vivo exposure of human spermatozoa to a wireless internet-connected laptop decreased motility and induced DNA fragmentation by a nonthermal effect. We speculate that keeping a laptop connected wirelessly to the internet on the lap near the testes may result in decreased male fertility. Further in vitro and in vivo studies are needed to prove this contention.
Source : Journal Andrology
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Effect of mobile telephones on sperm quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Mobile phones are owned by most of the adult population worldwide. Radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) from these devices could potentially affect sperm development and function. Around 14% of couples in high- and middle-income countries have difficulty conceiving, and there are unexplained declines in semen quality reported in several countries. Given the ubiquity of mobile phone use, the potential role of this environmental exposure needs to be clarified. A systematic review was therefore conducted, followed by meta-analysis using random effects models, to determine whether exposure to RF-EMR emitted from mobile phones affects human sperm quality. Participants were from fertility clinic and research centres. The sperm quality outcome measures were motility, viability and concentration, which are the parameters most frequently used in clinical settings to assess fertility.
We used ten studies in the meta-analysis, including 1492 samples. Exposure to mobile phones was associated with reduced sperm motility (mean difference − 8.1% (95% CI − 13.1, − 3.2)) and viability (mean difference − 9.1% (95% CI − 18.4, 0.2)), but the effects on concentration were more equivocal. The results were consistent across experimental in vitro and observational in vivo studies. We conclude that pooled results from in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that mobile phone exposure negatively affects sperm quality. Further study is required to determine the full clinical implications for both sub-fertile men and the general population.
Source : Environmental International
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Italy court ruling links mobile phone use to tumour
Italy's supreme court has upheld a ruling that said there was a link between a business executive's brain tumour and his heavy mobile phone usage, potentially opening the door to further legal claims.
The court's decision flies in the face of much scientific opinion, which generally says there is not enough evidence to declare a link between mobile phone use and diseases such as cancer and some experts said the Italian ruling should not be used to draw wider conclusions about the subject.
"Great caution is needed before we jump to conclusions about mobile phones and brain tumours," said Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics and clinical engineering at Britain's Royal Berkshire Hospital.
The Italian case concerned company director Innocenzo Marcolini who developed a tumour in the left side of his head after using his mobile phone for 5-6 hours a day for 12 years. He normally held the phone in his left hand, while taking notes with his right hand.
Marcolini developed a so-called neurinoma affecting a cranial nerve, which was apparently not cancerous but nevertheless required surgery that badly affected his quality of life.
He initially sought financial compensation from the Italian Workers' Compensation Authority INAIL which rejected his application, saying there was no proof his illness had been caused by his work.
But a court in Brescia later ruled there was a causal link between the use of mobile and cordless telephones and tumours.
Italy's supreme court rejected an INAIL appeal against that ruling on Oct. 12 though its decision was only reported on Friday.
It said the lower court's decision was justified and that scientific evidence advanced in support of the claim was reliable. Marcolini's situation had been "different from normal, non-professional use of a mobile telephone", it said.
The evidence was based on studies conducted between 2005-2009 by a group led by Lennart Hardell, a cancer specialist at the University Hospital in Orebro in Sweden. The court said the research was independent and "unlike some others, was not co-financed by the same companies that produce mobile telephones".
Source : Reuters
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Warning - High Frequency
Consider this story: It’s January 1990, during the pioneer build-out of mobile phone service. A cell tower goes up 800 feet from the house of Alison Rall, in Mansfield, Ohio, where she and her husband run a 160-acre dairy farm. The first thing the Rall family notices is that the ducks on their land lay eggs that don’t hatch. That spring there are no ducklings.
By the fall of 1990, the cattle herd that pastures near the tower is sick. The animals are thin, their ribs are showing, their coats growing rough, and their behavior is weird – they’re agitated, nervous. Soon the cows are miscarrying, and so are the goats. Many of the animals that gestate are born deformed. There are goats with webbed necks, goats with front legs shorter than their rear legs. One calf in the womb has a tumor the size of a basketball, another carries a tumor three feet in diameter, big enough that he won’t pass through the birth canal. Rall and the local veterinarian finally cut open the mother to get the creature out alive. The vet records the nightmare in her log: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire practice… All of [this] I feel was a result of the cellular tower.”
Within six months, Rall’s three young children begin suffering bizarre skin rashes, raised red “hot spots.” The kids are hit with waves of hyperactivity; the youngest child sometimes spins in circles, whirling madly. The girls lose hair. Rall is soon pregnant with a fourth child, but she can’t gain weight. Her son is born with birth defects – brittle bones, neurological problems – that fit no specific syndrome. Her other children, conceived prior to the arrival of the tower, had been born healthy.
Desperate to understand what is happening to her family and her farm, Rall contacts the Environmental Protection Agency. She ends up talking to an EPA scientist named Carl Blackman, an expert on the biological effects of radiation from electromagnetic fields (EMFs) – the kind of radiofrequency EMFs (RF-EMFs) by which all wireless technology operates, including not just cell towers and cell phones but wi-fi hubs and wi-fi-capable computers, “smart” utility meters, and even cordless home phones. “With my government cap on, I’m supposed to tell you you’re perfectly safe,” Blackman tells her. “With my civilian cap on, I have to tell you to consider leaving.”
Blackman’s warning casts a pall on the family. When Rall contacts the cell phone company operating the tower, they tell her there is “no possibility whatsoever” that the tower is the source of her ills. “You’re probably in the safest place in America,” the company representative tells her.
The Ralls abandoned the farm on Christmas Day of 1992 and never re-sold it, unwilling to subject others to the horrors they had experienced. Within weeks of fleeing to land they owned in Michigan, the children recovered their health, and so did the herd.
We are now exposed to electromagnetic radio frequencies 24 hours a day. Welcome to the largest human experiment ever.
Not a single one of the half-dozen scientists I spoke to could explain what had happened on the Rall farm. Why the sickened animals? Why the skin rashes, the hyperactivity? Why the birth defects? If the radiofrequency radiation from the cell tower was the cause, then what was the mechanism? And why today, with millions of cell towers dotting the planet and billions of cell phones placed next to billions of heads every day, aren’t we all getting sick?
In fact, the great majority of us appear to be just fine. We all live in range of cell towers now, and we are all wireless operators. More than wireless operators, we’re nuts about the technology. Who doesn’t keep at their side at all times the electro-plastic appendage for the suckling of information?
The mobile phone as a technology was developed in the 1970s, commercialized in the mid-80s, miniaturized in the ‘90s. When the first mobile phone companies launched in the United Kingdom in 1985, the expectation was that perhaps 10,000 phones would sell. Worldwide shipments of mobile phones topped the one billion mark in 2006. As of October 2010 there were 5.2 billion cell phones operating on the planet. “Penetration,” in the marketing-speak of the companies, often tops 100 percent in many countries, meaning there is more than one connection per person. The mobile phone in its various manifestations – the iPhone, the Android, the Blackberry – has been called the “most prolific consumer device” ever proffered.
I don’t have an Internet connection at my home in Brooklyn, and, like a dinosaur, I still keep a landline. But if I stand on my roof, I see a hundred feet away, attached to the bricks of the neighboring parking garage, a panel of cell phone antennae – pointed straight at me. They produce wonderful reception on my cell phone. My neighbors in the apartment below have a wireless fidelity connection – better known as wi-fi – which I tap into when I have to argue with magazine editors. This is very convenient. I use it. I abuse it.
Yet even though I have, in a fashion, opted out, here I am, on a rooftop in Brooklyn, standing bathed in the radiation from the cell phone panels on the parking garage next door. I am also bathed in the radiation from the neighbors’ wi-fi downstairs. The waves are everywhere, from public libraries to Amtrak trains to restaurants and bars and even public squares like Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan, where the Wall Street occupiers relentlessly tweet.
It is unprecedented because of the complexity of the modulated frequencies that carry the increasingly complex information we transmit on our cell phones, smart phones and wi-fi systems. These EMFs are largely untested in their effects on human beings. Swedish neuroscientist Olle Johansson, who teaches at the world-renowned Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, tells me the mass saturation in electromagnetic fields raises terrible questions. Humanity, he says, has embarked on the equivalent of “the largest full-scale experiment ever. What happens when, 24 hours around the clock, we allow ourselves and our children to be whole-body-irradiated by new, man-made electromagnetic fields for the entirety of our lives?”
We have a few answers. Last May, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, a branch of the World Health Organization), in Lyon, France, issued a statement that the electromagnetic frequencies from cell phones would henceforth be classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The determination was based in part on data from a 13-country study, called Interphone, which reported in 2008 that after a decade of cell phone use, the risk of getting a brain tumor – specifically on the side of the head where the phone is placed – goes up as much as 40 percent for adults. Israeli researchers, using study methods similar to the Interphone investigation, have found that heavy cell phone users were more likely to suffer malignant tumors of the salivary gland in the cheek, while an independent study by scientists in Sweden concluded that people who started using a cell phone before the age of 20 were five times as likely to develop a brain tumor. According to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer Prevention, people living for more than a decade within 350 meters of a cell phone tower experience a four-fold increase in cancer rates.
The IARC decision followed in the wake of multiple warnings, mostly from European regulators, about the possible health risks of RF-EMFs. In September 2007, Europe’s top environmental watchdog, the EU’s European Environment Agency, suggested that the mass unregulated exposure of human beings to widespread radiofrequency radiation “could lead to a health crisis similar to those caused by asbestos, smoking and lead in petrol.” That same year, Germany’s environmental ministry singled out the dangers of RF-EMFs used in wi-fi systems, noting that people should keep wi-fi exposure “as low as possible” and instead choose “conventional wired connections.” In 2008, France issued a generalized national cell phone health warning against excessive cell phone use, and then, a year later, announced a ban on cell phone advertising for children under the age of 12.
In 2009, following a meeting in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, more than 50 concerned scientists from 16 countries – public health officials, biologists, neuroscientists, medical doctors – signed what became known as the Porto Alegre Resolution. The signatories described it as an “urgent call” for more research based on “the body of evidence that indicates that exposure to electromagnetic fields interferes with basic human biology.”
That evidence is mounting. “Radiofrequency radiation has a number of biological effects which can be reproducibly found in animals and cellular systems,” says David O. Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York (SUNY). “We really cannot say for certain what the adverse effects are in humans,” Carpenter tells me. “But the indications are that there may be – and I use the words ‘may be’ – very serious effects in humans.” He notes that in exposure tests with animal and human cells, RF-EMF radiation causes genes to be activated. “We also know that RF-EMF causes generation of free radicals, increases production of things called heat shock proteins, and alters calcium ion regulation. These are all common mechanisms behind many kinds of tissue damage.”
Double-strand breaks in DNA – one of the undisputed causes of cancer – have been reported in similar tests with animal cells. Swedish neuro-oncologist Leif Salford, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Lund University, has found that cell phone radiation damages neurons in rats, particularly those cells associated with memory and learning. The damage occurred after an exposure of just two hours. Salford also found that cell phone EMFs cause holes to appear in the barrier between the circulatory system and the brain in rats. Punching holes in the blood-brain-barrier is not a good thing. It allows toxic molecules from the blood to leach into the ultra-stable environment of the brain. One of the potential outcomes, Salford notes, is dementia.
Other effects from cell phone radiofrequencies have been reported using human subjects. At Loughborough University in England, sleep specialists in 2008 found that after 30 minutes of cell phone use, their subjects required twice the time to fall asleep as they did when the phone was avoided before bedtime. EEGs (electroencephalograms) showed a disturbance of the brain waves that regulate sleep. Neuroscientists at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia discovered in 2009 a “power boost” in brain waves when volunteers were exposed to cell phone radiofrequencies. Researchers strapped Nokia phones to their subjects’ heads, then turned the phones on and off. On: brain went into defense mode. Off: brain settled. The brain, one of the lead researchers speculated, was “concentrating to overcome the electrical interference.”
Yet for all this, there is no scientific consensus on the risks of RF-EMFs to human beings.
The major public-health watchdogs, in the US and worldwide, have dismissed concerns about it. “Current evidence,” the World Health Organization (WHO) says, “does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.” (The WHO thus contradicts the findings of one of its own research units.) The US Federal Communications Commission has made similar statements. The American Cancer Society reports that “most studies published so far have not found a link between cell phone use and the development of tumors.” The cell phone industry’s lobbying organization, CTIA-The Wireless Association, assures the public that cell phone radiation is safe, citing studies – many of them funded by the telecom industry – that show no risk.
Published meta-reviews of hundreds of such studies suggest that industry funding tends to skew results. According to a survey by Henry Lai, a research professor at University of Washington, only 28 percent of studies funded by the wireless industry showed some type of biological effect from cell phone radiation. Meanwhile, independently funded studies produce an altogether different set of data: 67 percent of those studies showed a bioeffect. The Safe Wireless Initiative, a research group in Washington, DC that has since closed down, unpacked the data in hundreds of studies on wireless health risks, arraying them in terms of funding source. “Our data show that mobile phone industry funded/influenced work is six times more likely to find ‘no problem’ than independently funded work,” the group noted. “The industry thus has significantly contaminated the scientific evidence pool.”
The evidence about the long-term public health risks of exposure to RF-EMFs may be contradictory. Yet it is clear that some people are getting sick when heavily exposed to the new radiofrequencies. And we are not listening to their complaints.
Take the story of Michele Hertz. When a local utility company installed a wireless digital meter – better known as a “smart” meter – on her house in upstate New York in the summer of 2009, Hertz thought little of it. Then she began to feel odd. She was a practiced sculptor, but now she could not sculpt. “I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even finish sentences,” she told me. Hertz experienced “incredible memory loss,” and, at the age of 51, feared she had come down with Alzheimer’s.
One night during a snowstorm in 2010 her house lost power, and when it came back on her head exploded with a ringing sound – “a terrible piercing.” A buzzing in her head persisted. She took to sleeping on the floor of her kitchen that winter, where the refrigerator drowned out the keening. There were other symptoms: headaches and nausea and dizziness, persistent and always worsening. “Sometimes I’d wake up with my heart pounding uncontrollably,” she told me. “I thought I would have a heart attack. I had nightmares that people were killing me.”
Roughly one year after the installation of the wireless meters, with the help of an electrician, Hertz thought she had figured out the source of the trouble: It had to be something electrical in the house. On a hunch, she told the utility company, Con Edison of New York, to remove the wireless meter. She told them: “I will die if you do not install an analog meter.” Within days, the worst symptoms disappeared. “People look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about this,” Hertz says.
Her exposure to the meters has super-sensitized Hertz to all kinds of other EMF sources. “The smart meters threw me over the electronic edge,” she says. A cell phone switched on in the same room now gives her a headache. Stepping into a house with wi-fi is intolerable. Passing a cell tower on the street hurts. “Sometimes if the radiation is very strong my fingers curl up,” she says. “I can now hear cell phones ringing on silent. Life,” she says, “has dramatically changed.”
Hertz soon discovered there were other people like her: “Electrosensitives,” they call themselves. To be sure, they comprise a tortured minority, often misunderstood and isolated. They share their stories at online forums like Smartmeters.org, the EMF Safety Network, and the Electrosensitive Society. “Some are getting sick from cell phones, some from smart meters, some from cell towers,” Hertz tells me. “Some can no longer work and have had to flee their homes. Some are losing their eyesight, some can’t stop shaking, most cannot sleep.”
In recent years, I’ve gotten to know dozens of electrosensitives. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, I met a woman who had taken to wearing an aluminum foil hat. (This works – wrap a cell phone in foil and it will kill the signal.) I met a former world record-holding marathoner, a 54-year-old woman who had lived out of her car for eight years before settling down at a house ringed by mountains that she said protected the place from cell frequencies. I met people who said they no longer wanted to live because of their condition. Many of the people I talked to were accomplished professionals – writers, television producers, entrepreneurs. I met a scientist from Los Alamos National Laboratories named Bill Bruno whose employer had tried to fire him after he asked for protection from EMFs at the lab. I met a local librarian named Rebekah Azen who quit her job after being sickened by a newly installed wi-fi system at the library. I met a brilliant activist named Arthur Firstenberg, who had for several years published a newsletter, “No Place to Hide,” but who was now homeless, living out of the back of his car, sleeping in wilderness outside the city where he could escape the signals.
In New York City, I got to know a longtime member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) who said he was electrosensitive. I’ll call him Jake, because he is embarrassed by his condition and he doesn’t want to jeopardize his job or his membership in the IEEE (which happens to have for its purpose the promulgation of electrical technology, including cell phones). Jake told me how one day, a few years ago, he started to get sick whenever he went into the bedroom of his apartment to sleep. He had headaches, suffered fatigue and nausea, nightsweats and heart palpitations, had blurred vision and difficulty breathing and was blasted by a ringing in the ears – the typical symptoms of the electrosensitive. He discovered that his neighbor in the apartment building kept a wi-fi transmitter next door, on the other side of the wall to his bedroom. When Jake asked the neighbor to shut it down, his symptoms disappeared.
The government of Sweden reports that the disorder known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS, afflicts an estimated 3 percent of the population. A study by the California Department of Health found that, based on self-reports, as many as 770,000 Californians, or 3 percent of the state’s population, would ascribe some form of illness to EMFs. A study in Switzerland recently found a 5 percent prevalence of electrosensitivity. In Germany, there is reportedly a 6 percent prevalence. Even the former prime minister of Norway, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, until 2003 the director general of the World Health Organization, has admitted that she suffers headaches and “strong discomfort” when exposed to cell phones. “My hypersensitivity,” she told a Norwegian newspaper in 2002, “has gone so far that I react to mobile phones closer to me than about four meters.” She added in the same interview: “People have been in my office with their mobile hidden in their pocket or bag. Without knowing if it was on or off, we have tested my reactions. I have always reacted when the phone has been on – never when it’s off.”
Yet the World Health Organization – the same agency that Brundtland once headed – reports “there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure.” WHO’s findings are corroborated by a 2008 study at the University of Bern in Switzerland which found “no evidence that EHS individuals could detect [the] presence or absence” of frequencies that allegedly make them sick. A study conducted in 2006 at the Mobile Phone Research Unit at King’s College in London came to a similar conclusion. “No evidence was found to indicate that people with self-reported sensitivity to mobile phone signals are able to detect such signals or that they react to them with increased symptom severity,” the report said. “As sham exposure was sufficient to trigger severe symptoms in some participants, psychological factors may have an important role in causing this condition.” The King’s College researchers in 2010 concluded it was a “medically unexplained illness.”
“The scientific data so far just doesn’t help the electrosensitives,” says Louis Slesin, editor and publisher of Microwave News, a newsletter and website that covers the potential impacts of RF-EMFs. “The design of some of these studies, however, is questionable.” He adds: “Frankly, I’d be surprised if the condition did not exist. We’re electromagnetic beings. You wouldn’t have a thought in your head without electromagnetic signals. There is electrical signaling going on in your body all the time, and the idea that external electromagnetic fields can’t affect us just doesn’t make sense. We’re biological and chemical beings too, and we know that we can develop allergies to certain biological and chemical compounds. Why wouldn’t we also find there are allergies to EM fields? Shouldn’t every chemical be tested for its effects on human beings? Well, the same could be said for each frequency of RF radiation.”
Dr. David Carpenter of SUNY, who has also looked into electrosensitivity, tells me he’s “not totally convinced that electrosensitivity is real.” Still, he says, “there are just too many people with reports of illness when chronically near to EMF devices, with their symptoms being relieved when they are away from them. Like multiple chemical sensitivity and Gulf War Syndrome, there is something here, but we just don’t understand it all yet.”
Science reporter B. Blake Levitt, author of Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer’s Guide to the Issues, says the studies she has reviewed on EHS are “contradictory and nowhere near definitive.” Flaws in test design stand out, she says. Many with EHS may be simply “too sensitized,” she believes, to endure research exposure protocols, possibly skewing results from the start by inadvertently studying a less sensitive group. Levitt recently compiled some of the most damning studies of the health effects from cell towers in a report for the International Commission on Electromagnetic Safety in Italy. “Some populations are reacting poorly when living or working within 1,500 feet of a cell tower,” Levitt tells me. Several studies she cited found an increase in headaches, rashes, tremors, sleep disturbances, dizziness, concentration problems, and memory changes.
“EHS may be one of those problems that can never be well defined – we may just have to believe what people report,” Levitt says. “And people are reporting these symptoms all over the globe now when new technologies are introduced or infrastructure like cell towers go into neighborhoods. It’s not likely a transcultural mass hallucination. The immune system is an exquisite warning mechanism. These are our canaries in the coal mine.”
Swedish neuroscientist Olle Johansson was one of the first researchers to take the claims of electrosensitivity seriously. He found, for example, that persons with EHS had changes in skin mast cells – markers of allergic reaction – when exposed to specific EM fields. Other studies have found that radiofrequency EMFs can increase serum histamine levels – the hallmark of an allergic reaction. Johansson has hypothesized that electrosensitivity arises exactly as any common allergy would arise – due to excessive exposure, as the immune system fails. And just as only some people develop allergies to cats or pollen or dust, only some of us fall prey to EM fields. Johansson admits that his hypothesis has yet to be proven in laboratory study.
One afternoon not long ago, a nurse named Maria Gonzalez, who lives in Queens, New York, took me to see the cell phone masts that irradiate her daughter’s school. The masts were the usual flat-paneled, alien-looking things nested together, festooned with wires, high on a rooftop across from Public School 122 in Astoria. They emitted a fine signal – five bars on my phone. The operator of the masts, Sprint-Nextel, had built a wall of fake brick to hide them from view, but Maria was unimpressed with the subterfuge. She was terrified of the masts. When, in 2005, the panels went up, soon to be turned on, she was working at the intensive care unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital. She’d heard bizarre stories about cell phones from her cancer-ward colleagues. Some of the doctors at St. Vincent’s told her they had doubts about the safety of their own cellphones and pagers. This was disturbing enough. She went online, culling studies. When she read a report published in 2002 about children in Spain who developed leukemia shortly after a cell phone tower was erected next to their school, she went into a quiet panic.
Sprint-Nextel was unsympathetic when she telephoned the company in the summer of 2005 to express her concerns. The company granted her a single meeting that autumn, with a Sprint-Nextel technician, an attorney, and a self-described “radiation expert” under contract with the company. “They kept saying, ‘we’re one hundred percent sure the antennas are safe,’” Maria told me as we stared at the masts. “‘One hundred percent sure! These are children! We would never hurt children.’” She called the office of Hillary Clinton and pestered the senator once a week for six months – but got nowhere. A year later, Gonzalez sued the US government, charging that the Federal Communications Commission had failed to fully evaluate the risks from cell phone frequencies. The suit was thrown out. The judge concluded that if regulators for the government said the radiation was safe, then it was safe. The message, as Gonzalez puts it, was that she was “crazy … and making a big to-do about nothing.”
I’d venture, rather, that she was applying a commonsense principle in environmental science: the precautionary principle, which states that when an action or policy – or technology – cannot be proven with certainty to be safe, then it should be assumed to be harmful. In a society thrilled with the magic of digital wireless, we have junked this principle. And we try to dismiss as fools those who uphold it – people like Gonzalez. We have accepted without question that we will have wi-fi hotspots in our homes, and at libraries, and in cafes and bookstores; that we will have wireless alarm systems and wireless baby monitors and wireless utility meters and wireless video games that children play; that we will carry on our persons wireless iPads and iPods and smart phones. We are mesmerized by the efficiency and convenience of the infotainment appendage, the words and sounds and pictures it carries. We are, in other words, thoughtless in our embrace of the technology.
Because of our thoughtlessness, we have not demanded to know the full consequences of this technology.
Perhaps the gadgets are slowly killing us – we do not know. Perhaps they are perfectly safe – we do not know. Perhaps they are making us sick in ways we barely understand – we do not know. What we do know, without a doubt, is that the electromagnetic fields are all around us, and that to live in modern civilization implies always and everywhere that we cannot escape their touch.
Source : Earth Island Journal
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