A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

News Center: Short Takes Archive

February 11, 2011

One of the many disconnects in the EMF world is the difference in outlook between those concerned about hazards and those devising medical applications. Low-level effects, though routinely dismissed by those writing safety standards, are the bread and butter of biomedical innovators. A new paper from Japan provides a good example. Tsutomu Nishimura at the Kyoto University medical school reports in Hypertension Research that a 10-to-15-minute exposure to a 6-8 Hz magnetic field with a peak intensity of only 1 µT (10 mG) and a peak electric field of 10 V/m, once a week for four weeks, significantly lowered systolic blood pressure in human volunteers with mild-to-moderate hypertension. For comparison, the ICNIRP guidelines allow exposures that are more than a thousand times higher: up to 2500 µT (25,000 mG) and 20,000 V/m. To be sure, the Japanese results are preliminary and are based on a very small number of subjects, but the study had a randomized, double-blind design, the gold standard for these types of studies. Nishimura would like to see larger clinical trial to find out whether the effect holds up. If so, such EMF therapy could replace blood pressure-lowering drugs —and it would no doubt be safe because, as Nishimura points out, the field exposure "meets" the ICNIRP guidelines. 

February 4, 2011

Publication bias is a well-known problem —it's defined in a recent, widely read New Yorker article as "the tendency of scientists and scientific journals to prefer positive data over null results, which is what happens when no effect is found." This may be generally true, but once again, the usual rules don't apply to EMFs. Here researchers (and editors) are all too often more interested in publishing failures than successes. Actually, for EMFs, failure is success, promising financial rewards of one kind or another. This is an old story, but now Niels Kuster says enough is enough. In a broadside against the Bioelectromagnetics Society (BEMS), Kuster warns that the society is "threatened" by its "biased scientific culture." Kuster, a former president of the society and the head of IT'IS in Zurich, writes on the front page of its newsletter that "BEMS members allow their conditioned assumptions, prejudices, funding interests or lack of expertise to influence their ability to review or accept positive findings objectively." Kuster tells of how long it took Primo Schär of the University of Basel to publish a paper showing that power-frequency EMFs can lead to DNA breaks, a finding first shown by Henry Lai and N.P. Singh close to 15 years ago. Maria Scarfi in Naples, on the other hand, was able to get her failure to see a similar effect into print with, as Kuster puts it, "relative ease." Scarfi placed her paper in Radiation Research, which has long favored null results for EMFs. So much so that years ago it was nicknamed the journal of negative results. According to Kuster, BEMS is the society of negative results.

January 25, 2011

"[I]ndications of an increased risk in high- and long-term users [of cell phones] from Interphone and other studies are of concern." This is the conclusion of a commentary, published yesterday in Occupational Environmental Medicine by Elisabeth Cardis and Siegal Sadetzki. Cardis is the head of the Interphone project and Sadetzki is the leader of the Israeli Interphone group. As they have done in the past, Cardis and Sadetzki advise simple and inexpensive precautionary measures, particularly among young people, "until definitive scientific answers are available." (The commentary was open access but is no longer.) 

January 14, 2011
January 12, 2011

Smart meters are fast becoming the #1 RF health issue in the U.S., outstripping concerns over cell phones and towers —especially in California. Three new reports detail radiation exposures from the meters and the possible consequences. Yesterday, the California Council on Science and Technology issued Health Impacts of RF from Smart Meters (requested by two members of the state legislature). The CCST concludes that "there is no clear evidence" of a health risk. Sage Associates, a consulting firm based in Santa Barbara, sharply disagrees. Its report, Assessment of RF Microwave Radiation Emissions from Smart Meters, released on January 1, finds that, in some cases, people may be exposed in excess of the FCC's safety limits. And third is An Investigation of RF Fields Associated with the Itron Smart Meter by Richard Tell Associates and commissioned by EPRI, the industry research group. EPRI technical publications are usually quite pricey (rarely less than $5,000 a pop), but in this case, perhaps to reassure an anxious public, it is allowing open access to Tell's report. EPRI is also distributing an eight-page pamphlet, RF Exposure Levels from Smart Meters.

January 10, 2011

The French government has launched a new Web site to tell the public how to best use mobile phones and reduce possible health risks. The National Institute of Prevention and Health Education (known by its acronym, INPES) posted eight pieces of advice: Protect children... Use a hands-free kit... Favor text messages... Keep the phone away from electronic implants... Don't use the phone in areas with bad reception... Move the phone away right after dialing... Avoid using the phone when moving at high speeds... and... Learn about a phone's SAR. Beginning in April, SAR information must be available wherever phones are sold. Not everyone is satisfied. Robin des Toits (Robin of the Roofs), a wireless activist group, says that INPES did not go far enough. It bemoans the absence of warnings for pregnant women, teenagers and tweens

December 20, 2010

GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. That's what Dariusz Leszczynski thinks of Hardell's new reanalysis (see December 17 below). The tumor risk seen by the Hardell group may now be similar to the one in Interphone, but that doesn't mean much, says Leszczynski, because Interphone is really a bunch of garbage too. "Let us agree that both data sets are biased," he wrote in his blog over the weekend, and whatever you might do to them, the results will never be "scientifically reliable." Shouldn't we work with what we have?, we asked him. Sure, Leszczynski replied, but we shouldn't kid ourselves that we'll ever end up with anything better than what we already have. That is, more garbage. We don't agree. Hardell and Interphone are two independent data sets that point to two different types of tumor risks (glioma and acoustic neuroma) among long-term cell phone users. Plus we have the Interphone Israeli study that implicates a third type of tumor (of the parotid gland). A major branch of statistics (Bayesian) teaches us how to make the best of what we have in hand, imperfect though it may be. Since the Hardell and Interphone data represent the bulk of what we know about long-term cell phone risks, we disregard those disquieting findings at our peril. We would turn the tables on Leszczynski: To conclude that we have no evidence of a cell phone tumor problem would be garbage. We bring all this up because Leszczynski (a molecular biologist, not an epidemiologist) has been selected by IARC to be a member of its RF cancer assessment panel that will meet in May.

December 17, 2010

One of the glaring omissions of the Interphone cell phone–brain tumor paper is any serious discussion of a similar study by Lennart Hardell's group in Sweden and how they compare (see "Interphone Points to Long-Term Brain Tumor Risks"). Hardell, Michael Carlberg and Kjell Hansson Mild have now filled in the blanks. In a letter to the International Journal of Epidemiology, released today, they present a new analysis of their own data which has been restricted to be consistent with those data collected by the Interphone group. That is, they dropped cases among 20-29 year olds, and the use of cordless phones was disregarded. The bottom line is that the two sets of results are generally consistent with each other. "In conclusion both studies showed a statistically significantly doubled risk for glioma at the same side as the mobile phone had been used for 1,640 hours or more," they state in a press release

December 16, 2010

A biological effect that goes away with a small change in the experimental setup provides convincing evidence that the original observation is not an artifact. A group in Ankara gives such an example in a new paper on the effects of cell phone radiation on the brain tissue of rats. The 900 MHz phone signal caused changes in the activity of a number of enzymes, but they disappeared when the rats were fed vitamin C. Take a look, the paper is a free download from the December issue of the International Journal of Radiation Biology.Three years ago, another Turkish group, this one in Isparta, showed a similar type of change with and without vitamin C. There is a constant flow of new research papers coming out of Turkey. It has a much larger research program than does the U.S.; it's one of the strongest in the world. 

December 15, 2010

We recently wrote about the new ICEMS monograph on non-thermal effects which can be downloaded from the Internet. A printed copy of the collection of papers is now available from the publisher, Mattioli 1885 in Fidenza, Italy (not far from Parma). The 400-page paperback costs €29 (approx. US$39).