With the rapidly increasing exposures to wireless technologies and other sources of EMF, many more people will be affected. I believe a precautionary approach to EMF exposures is both warranted and long overdue, and wanted to suggest a way which may help unite our global voices on this issue.
You may be familiar with the rapidly-growing global non-profit organization Avaaz (http://avaaz.org/en/); their campaigns typically address environmental issues, corruption and human rights. I've been trying to co-ordinate international efforts asking Avaaz to launch a campaign along the lines:
"Please lobby the WHO to promote a precautionary approach to public health and safety, to reject the current ICNIRP EMF guidelines, and to develop new safety standards that take into account biological effects and cumulative exposures."
I received some informal information a couple of days ago that this is now on Avaaz's radar - but in order for this campaign to move up the priority list, the international community will need to keep up the pressure.
My request to you is a simple one: Please join us by submiting a campaign suggestion to Avaaz (Email: email@example.com; Subject: EMF Campaign Suggestion Attn: Dominick). I have attached a letter outlining some of the key concerns – you can select which bullet points to include, and you might like to expand on point 6, Electrosensitivity.
To date, there are scientists and activists in the New Zealand, UK, US, Canada, Israel, Sweden, Germany and Brazil contacting Avaaz and spreading this request by email, in newsletters, through forums and blogs etc. It would be fantastic to have your support.
Subject: EMF Campaign Suggestion Attn: Dominick
Re: Campaign to Revise the WHO's EMF safety standards
Congratulations for the great results on some excellent campaigns. At last, the people have a voice to challenge and redress the balance between corporate interests and public/planetary health. Heartfelt thanks to you to all the Avaaz team.
I am writing with regard to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) current guidelines for radiofrequency exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). The number of people exposed to these EMF fields is unprecedented, and the scientific debate about safety is highly charged and very polemic. Avaaz is in a unique position of being able to harness the 'power of the people' and lobby the WHO to i) overhaul the EMF standard-setting process, and ii) develop new safety standards, under the guidance of a more representative panel of experts.
Here are some of the concerns which underpin my request for your help:
1. Public Safety Sidelined. The WHO's EMF safety standards are based on the recommendations of the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and are adopted by most of the world's governments. From its inception, there is evidence that the telecommunication sector may have sidelined public health and safety[i] [ii] [iii] [iv].
2. Industry Funding and Conflicts of Interest. So long as the general public remain largely unaware of the impact that industry funding is having on scientific debate[v] [vi] [vii] [viii], tight industry controls can and will continue to predetermine the outcome of the ICNRIP's risk assessments and recommended safety standards.[ix] [x] [xi]
3. Pressures and Sanctions. Many well respected, professionally credentialed scientists and doctors are trying to raise the alarm[xii] , but between the apparent bias in the media coverage[xiii], and pressures and sanctions for those who do speak out [xiv] [xv] [xvi] progress has been slow.
4. Biased Stakeholder Representation. There is no representation in the ICNIRP from any scientist whose work validates the existence of any biological effects from very low EMF exposures. The ICNIRP self nominates and elects its own members; in addition to the chairman and vice chairman, there are only 12 other members, many of whom have worked associated industries before and after their time with ICNIRP. There is no process for ordinary members to join and no process for non-members to participate in the nomination or election of the ICNIRP executives. The manipulation of telecommunications exposure standards for political, military and industry vested interests at the expense of public health has been well documented. [xvii] [xviii] [xix] [xx] [xxi]
5. A Precautionary Approach is needed. The global community is experienced unprecedented exposures to EMF from wireless technologies such as mobile and digital cordless (DECT) phones, WiFi (in schools, day care centres, high streets, public buildings, nursing homes, public transport and residential homes), baby monitors, entertainment systems and games, medical treatments and soon-to-be-rolled-out WiMax and 4G technologies, 24/7 health monitoring devices, smart appliances and the already controversial smart meters. Planning regulations at national and local levels must take into account public exposures to EMFs from all sources. New wireless technologies are being developed then deployed without adequate research or consultation, despite public outcry. There is widespread concern that the EMF exposures from Smart Meters carry health risks which will be forced upon people. With industry implementation plans already in place in many countries, and the scale of public risk, there is an urgent need for an international voice of reason and a precautionary approach to all EMF sources. [xxii] [xxiii] [xxiv]
6. Electrosensitive people have basic rights, and without appropriate exposure guidelines to protect them, there are growing concerns that increasing numbers of people will be denied basic rights. [xxv][xxvi]
Please include your own points here
7. Children are not adults. There is no research at all establishing safe exposure levels for children. The current standards are based entirely on adult exposures, and these are inappropriate for the immature bodies of children; separate exposure guidelines are needed to protect children and other 'at risk' groups.[xxvii] [xxviii] [xxix]. Given that mobile phones and Wi-Fi technologies emit a class 2B carcinogen, and have a known negative effect on learning and cognition, these technologies should be prohibited in all preschools, schools, educational institutes and libraries[xxx].
8. SAR calculations are inadequate. The change in the allowable exposure calculation over a 6 minutes time average from 1g tissue to 10g is likely to mask the impact of 'hot spots' – which is of particular concern for brain tissue.[xxxi]
9. Foetal Exposure. Separate guidelines are also needed for pregnant women. Depending on the foetal position, the mother's use of a mobile phone could expose the foetus to SAR levels which exceed the current safety guidelines. During the first trimester, when the foetus is so small, the current method of calculating absorption significantly underestimates the risks to a tiny foetus [xxxii]
10. Chronic exposures are different. There is no evidence at all that the current safety standards will provide adequate protection for chronic exposures[xxxiii]. The safety standards were initially developed to protect military personnel in active duty against short-term microwave exposures. [xxxiv] Environmental exposures tend to have long latency periods before the full health risks can be assessed (radioactivity, benzene, smoking, asbestos, lead [xxxv]), so developing safety standards based on short-term effects is fundamentally flawed and a correction of this historical bias is long overdue.
11. Non-thermal effects are harmful, too. The current RF electromagnetic field guidelines restrict exposure to limit the temperature rise in the body. In other words, they only protect against adverse thermal effects. The ICNRIP have conducted a number of reviews to ascertain whether biological effects are real. It is difficult to accept the ICNRIP's claim that there is insufficient evidence of non-thermal effects to warrant a change in the guidelines.
A review of 2,300 research papers in 1971 by the Naval Medical Research Institute[xxxvi] identified a wide range of bioeffects, including physiological changes, as well as central and autonomic nervous system effects. The 2007 Bioinitiative report[xxxvii] reviewed the evidence for non-thermal effects, and over 610 pages summarizes the research linking non-thermal exposures to childhood leukemia and adult cancers, changes in the nervous system and brain function, effects on DNA, stress proteins and the immune system. In 2009, the journal of Pathophysiology published a special edition[xxxviii] devoted to EMF which referenced hundreds of studies reporting significant results. A review of the research published in 2009 provides even more evidence biological effects from EMF exposures at thresholds below the current safety limits. [xxxix] Older reviews present evidence going back to the 19060s and 70s[xl].
While it is true that some studies find no evidence for non-thermal effects, the sheer volume of non-thermal effects reported over the years is difficult to reconcile with the ICNIRP's claim that they don't exist and safety guidelines don't need to take them into account.
12. The type of exposure matters. The current safety standards set by the ICNIRP do not take a number of important characteristics into account in their risk assessments[xli]. There are numerous reports of biological effects that show intensity "windows", that is, regions of intensity that cause changes surrounded by higher and lower intensities that show no effects from exposure. Other ccharacteristics reported to influence biological processes include modulation, frequency, pulse width, intensity, rise and fall time, and the frequency, if any, within the pulse ON time i.e. intermittent effect [xlii] [xliii]
13. Issues with Replication Studies. There are concerns that industry-funded replication studies which report negative findings are being used to invalidate the original work[xliv]. In order to qualify as a replication study, there should be no differences in experimental design or methodology.
· Given that many effects are non-linear[xlv] [xlvi] [xlvii], higher exposures may sometimes have smaller or no effects. It is possible to manipulate the results by altering exposures in a counter-intuitive way.
· The results of in vitro studies are likely to be influenced by the specific choice of cell line. For example, some cell lines have a synchronised cell cycle, so exposure during a synchronised resting phase would be likely to yield different results from exposures to non-synchronised cells, where cells will be distributed throughout the different phases.
· The results of in vivo studies are likely to be affected by the design of the exposure chamber (including orientation and plane of the EMF source relative to the animal, the thickness of the Plexiglas cage or container, the presence and depth of water and sawdust between the source and the animals;
· The inclusion of control animals in the exposure environment could result in 'second-hand' exposures.
· The results of In vivo studies looking at DNA damage is influenced by the assay techniwue: "Different versions of the assay have been developed. These versions have different detection sensitivities and can be used to measure different aspects of DNA strand breaks. A comparison of data from experiments using different versions of the assay could be misleading"[xlviii]
If the risk assessment from studies reporting significant results can be negated by replication studies finding no significance results, we must be confident that reviewers and risk assessors validate the integrity of the replication adhering to strict codes of practice.
14. The non-linear or 'window effects' have important implications for setting safety standards. When the dose and size of effect have a linear relationship, it is reasonable to define a safe threshold. However, if the relationship is non-linear, it cannot be assumed that because no effects are observed at a particular threshold, lower thresholds will be safe.
15. Not Just Cancer. Much of the industry-sourced research funding and media reporting has been directed towards the controversy between a possible link between mobile phone use and cancer. While these risks relating to cancer are very important, and should not be underestimated, the public should be equally aware of the full spectrum of other risks. The studies showing statistically significant biological effects from EMF exposures below the current safety limit, include:
- Genotoxic effects (DNA damage, chromatid breaks, fragmentation and condensation, micronucleation, Mitrochondrial DNA damage), gene expression (transcription and translation), inhibition of DNA repair foci, free radical promotion and oxidative stress, microtubule production, retinal differentiation), damage to cell membranes, pathological leakage of the blood–brain barrier, altered immune function, neurogenesis, increased animal mortality rates, decreased fertility, increased rates of miscarriage, reduced number of ovarian follicles, impaired spermatozoa motility and viability, modified fructose levels, , some cardiovascular effects, insomnia, fatigue, apoptosis (cell death) and cell proliferation, circadian rhythms, facial nerve dysfunction , leukemia, alzheimer's, autism, breast cancer, tertiary structure of Haemoglobin A (HbA).
- There are also a range of effects on learning and memory (which have serious implications for the use of wireless technologies in education). The effects include effects on cognition, short-term memory, behaviour, reaction time, attention and concentration, altered brain function and morphology (altered EEG, altered oxygen consumption, decreased number of brain cells, altered glutathione reductase in the brain, neuronal c-Fos expression , cortical excitability, changes to synaptic vesicles). (See Appendix for references).
In order to loosen the ICNIRP's grip on EMF safety standards, disparate voices around the world need to unite – and who better to co-ordinate this than Avaaz? Please run a campaign to lobby the WHO to abandon their reliance on the ICNIRP as their EMF exposure standard-setting authority, and "convene a panel of experts, selected from candidates recommended by civil society groups (not only those preferred by the affected industries) to discuss precautionary technology, laws and advice in order to develop policies that reconcile public health concerns with further development of wireless communications technology" as proposed in the [xlix]
[iv] Carlo G.L. & M. Schram. (2002). Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age
[vi] Cellphones and Brain Tumors 15 Reasons for Concern ; Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone
[xvi] Karolinska Institute teaches science world a lesson in politics - shut up or get out May 2011
[xxiii]. Late lessons from early warnings: the precautionary principle 1896–2000
[xxv] Electrosensitive support groups include:
[xxxi] Blackman, C. (2009).ibid.
[xxxii] Dimbylow, Peter J.; Nagaoka, Tomoaki; Xu, X. George A (2009) Comparison of foetal SAR in three sets of pregnant female models. Physics in Medicine and Biology (54);9 2755-2767.
[xxxiii] Blackman, C. (2009).ibid..
[xxxvi] Glaser, Z.R. (1971). Bibliography Of Reported Biological Phenomena ('Effects') And Clinical Manifestations Attributed To Microwave And Radio-Frequency Radiation. Project MF12.524.015-00043, Report No. 2.
Physiological changes: Striated Muscle Contraction; Alteration of Diameter of Blood Vessels (increased vascular elasticity), Dilation; Changes in the Oxidative Processes in Tissues and Organs; Liver Enlargement; Altered Sensitivity to Drug Stimuli; Decreased Spermatogenesis (decreased fertility, to sterility.); Altered Sex Patio of Births (more girls); Altered menstrual activity; Altered Fetal Development; Decreased Lactation in nursing mothers; Reduction in sodium excretion (in urine); Altered Renal function (decreased filtration in tubules); Changes in Conditioned Reflexes; Increased Electrical Resistance of Skin; Changes in the Structure of Skin; Altered Blood Flow Rate; Alterations In the Biocurrents (EEG) of the Cerebral Cortex (in animals); Changes In the Rate of Clearance of Tagged Ions from Tissue; Reversible Structural Changes In the Cerebral Cortex and the Diencephalon; Electrocardiographic (EEG) Changes; Alterations In Sensitivity to Light, Sound, and Olfactory Stimuli; Functional and Pathological Changes in the Eyes; Myocardial Necrosis. Central Nervous System Effects: Headaches; Insomnia; Restlessness (Awake and During Sleep); Electroencephalographic (EEG) Changes; Cranial Nerve Disorders; Pyramidal Tract Lesions; Conditioned Reflex Disorders; Vagominetic Action of the Heart; Seizures, Convulsions. Autonomic Nervous System Effects: Neuro-vegetative Disorders (e.g., alteration of heart rhythm); Fatigue; Structural Alterations Lu the Synapses of the Vague Nerve; Stimulation of Parasympathetic Nervous System (Bradycardia) and lnhbition of the Sympathetic Nervous System; Peripheral Nervous System Effects; Effects on Locomotor Nerves.
[xxxix] 2009 Publications (See Appendix).reported significant bio-effects including::
Genotoxic effects (DNA damage, chromatid breaks, fragmentation and condensation, micronucleation, Mitrochondrial DNA damage), gene expression (transcription and translation), inhibition of DNA repair foci, free radical promotion and oxidative stress, microtubule production, retinal differentiation), damage to cell membranes, pathological leakage of the blood–brain barrier, altered immune function, neurogenesis, increased animal mortality rates, decreased fertility, increased rates of miscarriage, reduced number of ovarian follicles, impaired spermatozoa motility and viability, modified fructose levels, , some cardiovascular effects, insomnia, fatigue, short-term effects on cognition, memory and learning, behavior, reaction time, attention and concentration, altered brain function and morphology (altered EEG, altered oxygen consumption, decreased number of brain cells, altered glutathione reductase (GR) in the brain, neuronal c-Fos expression , cortical excitability, changes to synaptic vesicles), apoptosis (cell death) and cell proliferation, circadian rhythms, facial nerve dysfunction , leukemia, alzheimer's, autism, breast cancer, tertiary structure of Haemoglobin A (HbA).
[xlii] Blackman, C. (2009).ibid.
[xlv] C.F. Blackman, S.G. Benane, L.S. Kinney, W.T. Joines, D.E. House, Effects of elf fields on calcium-ion efflux from brain tissue in vitro,Radiation Research 92 (3) (1982) 510–520.
[xlvi] S.K. Dutta, K. Das, B. Ghosh, C.F. Blackman, Dose dependence of acetylcholinesterase activity in neuroblastoma cells exposed to modulated radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation, Bioelectromagnetics 13 (4) (1992) 317–322.
[xlviii] Phillips et al., Electromagnetic fields and DNA damage. Pathophysiology. 2009: 16(2-3):79-88