A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

2009 Articles

August 18, 2009

Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) will hold a hearing on cell phones and health on September 14. So says Devra Davis, an activist scientist at the University of Pittsburgh. If Specter follows through, it would be the centerpiece of a conference she is organizing that week in Washington, as well as a triumph for Davis herself. She is on a mission to make cell phones a more visible public health issue in the U.S. and to secure funding for a major research program. It would be the first time in more than 30 years that the U.S. Senate has addressed RF/microwave health risks.

Once Again, Australia’s Aitken Sees DNA Damage

August 16, 2009

It's the strongest warning yet. John Aitken, a well-known fertility researcher, is advising men who want to have children not to keep active mobile phones below their waists. This issue, he says, "deserves our immediate attention."

July 29, 2009

A consensus has emerged in France that the national RF research program should cut its ties to the mobile phone industry. Manufacturers and operators would however continue to help pay for health and environmental research. This new outlook emerged from a month-long (April 23–May 25) review (round table) of government policies on RF radiation with the participation of no fewer than three cabinet ministers —for health, environment and the digital economy.

July 22, 2009

In a just-released commentary, Ken Rothman, one of the best-known names in epidemiology, explores two of the most contentious issues related to mobile phone health risks: (1) If cell phones do lead to an increased incidence of brain tumors, when would we expect to begin to see it? And (2) How do we explain the differences between the findings of the Interphone project and those of Lennart Hardell's research group?

Rothman's commentary accompanies ICNIRP's review of the mobile phone epidemiological literature (see July 14, below). Both will appear in the September issue of Epidemiology. Advance copies have been posted on the journal's Web site. Rothman's commentary is a free download.

July 14, 2009

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has released two new reviews on RF radiation: (1) Exposure to High-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields, Biological Effects and Health Consequences (100 kHz-300 GHz), and (2) Epidemiologic Evidence on Mobile Phones and Tumor Risk: A Review."

The first is a 372-page review that addresses all aspects of RF interactions, from dosimetry to in vitro and in vivo experiments to epidemiological studies. It was prepared by the full commission and its advisory committees. The full text of the report is available at no charge from the ICNIRP Web site. Here is the conclusion on the plausibility of non-thermal effects:

July 7, 2009

Last month, Margaret Hamburg, the new commissioner of the FDA, and Joshua Sharfstein, her principal deputy commissioner, published a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine under the title, "The FDA as a Public Health Agency." Here is a short excerpt:

"[O]ne of the greatest challenges facing any public health agency is that of risk communication. … The FDA's job is to minimize risks through education, regulation, and enforcement. To be credible in all these tasks, the agency must communicate frequently and clearly about risks and benefits —and about what organizations and individuals can do to minimize risk. When, like the FDA, Americans must make choices about medication, devices, foods, or nutrition in the absence of perfect information, the FDA cannot delay in providing reasonable guidance —guidance that informs rather than causes unnecessary anxiety. For these communications to have credibility, the public must trust the agency to base its decisions on science."

The full article is open access —that is, it's available at no charge.

July 6, 2009

The FDA has closed down its Web site, Cell Phone Facts: Consumer Information on Wireless Phones. In its place, the agency has posted a few Web pages to assure the public that RF radiation from mobile phones is safe.

The new text on the Health Issues page is limited to just 330 words. It opens: "Many people are concerned that cell phone radiation will cause cancer or other serious health hazards. The weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems." Even in the small amount of space devoted to the topic, the FDA reiterates this no-risk message over and over again. In the second paragraph, the agency advises: "The majority of studies published have failed to show an association between exposure to RF from a cell phone and health problems." And, does it once more in the next paragraph: "Whereas high levels of RF can produce health effects (by heating tissue), exposure to low-level RF that does not produce heating effects causes no known adverse health effects."

June 15, 2009

EMFs are hot. People are interested again and things are happening, at least for the moment. Here's some of what's going on:

• The French government is stepping up its efforts to limit the use of cell phones by children. It's not just talk. Ministers of State are now involved. Legislation and regulation are in play. Public interest in France has never been greater. An example: Sciences et Avenir, a major French science magazine, devoted a special "dossier" on EMFs: What You Really Need To Know in the May issue. It runs 21 pages, in color.

June 11, 2009

At a time when there are calls for tightening EMF power-frequency exposure standards to address cancer risks, Australia is moving in the opposite direction. In mid-May, a committee working under ARPANSA, the national radiation protection agency, distributed a draft proposal that would triple the permissible exposure levels for the general public. If these rules are adopted, children could be exposed to up 3,000 mG, 24/7 —that’s one thousand times higher than the 3 mG threshold for childhood leukemia indicated by epidemiological studies, and three times higher than the ICNIRP recommended limit of 1,000 mG.

June 3, 2009

In the mid-1970s, the U.S. EPA sent a van around the country to survey RF levels in various cities, as well as from high-power sources such as radio and TV broadcast antennas, radars and satellite uplinks. The agency generated a trove of reports which describe the electromagnetic environment before the wireless revolution took hold. Some members of EPA's RF group continue to work on health issues —Norb Hankin is still at the EPA, Ed Mantiply moved over to the FCC some years ago — but the EPA van is long gone. No one in the U.S. is doing these types of radiation surveys anymore.