A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

2011 Short Takes

June 17, 2011

You can now get free copies of IEEE EMF and RF safety standards —thanks to the U.S. military. The Naval Surface Warfare Center is sponsoring downloads of five IEEE standards, including those specifying exposure limits for RF/MW radiation (C95.1–2005) and those for power-line frequencies (C95.6–2002). The other three cover how to do measurements and set up a safety program.

The free downloads will continue for at least five years. Click here for more details

June 16, 2011

Who wouldn't be confused? Here's a headline from today's U.K. Daily Mail: "Mobile Phones May NOT Increase Cancer Risk as Most Brain Tumours 'Not Within Radiation Range'." Yet, just two days earlier, it gave its readers a very different message: "Number of People with Brain Cancer Could Soar 20-Fold in 20 Years Because of Mobile Phones, Experts Warn." These opposing stories stem from the two tumor location papers from the warring factions within the Interphone study group: One says there is a tumor risk, the other says everything is just fine (see "Dueling Tumor Location Papers".) By the late afternoon in London, the editors at the Mail must have realized that they looked a bit silly; they reworked today's headline to: "Can Your Mobile Give You  a Brain Tumor? Yes (and No) Say a Battery of Scientists and Experts as Health Controversy Continues." You can still see the old headline in the URL of the updated story.

June 10, 2011

Anders Ahlbom has resigned as the chairman of the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority’s expert group on EMFs and RF radiation.

The group issues an annual review of new research. Ahlbom had served as the chairman ever since the group was established close to a decade ago.

Now that he has stepped down, the Authority has closed its investigation into whether Ahlbom's connection to his brother's telecom consulting firm might have constituted a conflict with his advisory role at the Authority. As is now widely known, that potential conflict prompted IARC to remove him from its RF working group.

No word yet as to who will replace Ahlbom.

June 9, 2011

The Interphone RF–brain tumor location paper from Elisabeth Cardis's group was posted today on the Web site of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (OEM). This is the paper that was given to the IARC RF group just in time for the meeting.

Here's the key conclusion: "Our results suggest that there may be an increase in risk of glioma in the most exposed area of the brain among long-term and heavy users of mobile phones." It goes on to caution that these results are "uncertain" and need to be replicated. The authors come from five of the 13 countries participating in the Interphone project. Another paper from seven of the Interphone countries has also just appeared —it finds no suggestion of a brain tumor risk.

OEM also released a second paper from the Cardis group today. This latter work details the factors that influence total RF dose at the location of the brain tumor. They are: the communication system and frequency band of the phone, tumor location and, of course, the amount of actual use. Interestingly, other factors that have long been thought as being important, for instance differences between urban and rural as well as between indoor and outdoor use were found to have "a relatively minor influence."

June 7, 2011

"No one should overreact to the word 'possible'," Jonathan Samet said in an interview with the New York Times on the IARC decision to label radiation from cell phones and other RF sources as "possible human carcinogens." Samet, who chaired the panel, said that the discussion among the committee members about cellphone safety was "at times contentious," but that the group eventually reached consensus on "possible." And David McCormick, who chaired the subgroup on animal studies, told WTTW, Chicago's public TV station, that his "entire" animal panel was "right on the border" of categories "2B" and "3," that is between "limited evidence"  that RF is a possible carcinogen and "insufficient evidence" to make a call. As for himself, McCormick said that he was just over the line into the limited category.

June 5, 2011

Here are some statistics on how the public sees the IARC warning that cell phone radiation may cause brain cancer. A break down of 19,000 posts on Twitter and Facebook, between May 30 and June 3, found that 22% expressed skepticism ("This is crazy and whoever believes this is crazy too."); 32% made jokes ("Cell phones cause that kind of cancer that makes you drive like a spaz."); and 46% indicated concern ("I'm getting a landline."). The analysis was cone by an outfit called Crimson Hexagon and was reported in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal.

May 29, 2011

The May 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has three letters critical of Nora Volkow's study showing changes in glucose metabolism due to cell phone radiation, together with a reply from Volkow and associates.

One of the letters is from two well-known members of the EMF community, Chris Davis and Q. Balzano. "We believe this study is flawed, as there is no mechanism other than heating by which [cell phone RF radiation] could affect human tissue," they write. Balzano is a former senior executive at Motorola and Davis was an expert witness for the defense in the Newman
 brain tumor lawsuit (see MWN, M/A02, p.8).

May 27, 2011

Alasdair Philips, a founder of Powerwatch, the U.K. activist group, is calling for "urgent action" to protect children from an epidemic of brain and other tumors in 10-30 years. He says that it's now "morally irresponsible" to allow youngsters to use mobile phones. Philips's call to arms follows word that two new Interphone studies point to a significant tumor risk, as well as
his own analysis of U.K. data that show a general increase in temporal and frontal lobe tumors. A few months ago, a British group reported that they could see a rise in these tumors but then dismissed the trend as being of no importance. Philips also decries the fact that the U.K. researchers did not share their Interphone data with Elisabeth Cardis, the project leader, for the analysis of tumor location relative to a phone's radiation plume. Philips's appeal has already been translated into French by Teslabel, a partner group in Belgium.

May 27, 2011

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe today called on European governments to "take all reasonable measures" to reduce exposure to EMFs, especially for RF from mobile phones and particularly for children "who seem to be most at risk from head tumors." The adopted text also calls for ICNIRP to "reconsider" its exposure standards, which, it notes, have "serious limitations." The Council advises ICNIRP to follow an ALARA approach to reduce exposures. Two years ago, the European Parliament adopted its own resolution, which, among many other recommendations, called on ICNIRP and the WHO to be "more transparent."

May 26, 2011

Niels Kuster may not have realized just how right he was when he warned that the Bioelectromagnetics Society (BEMS)  was "threatened" by its "biased scientific culture." It's threatened no more. BEMS has succumbed. In an interview today following IARC's decision to classify cell phone radiation as possibly carcinogenic,  New Zealand's David Black, BEMS' president-elect  told a New Zealand reporter that he believed the question of radiation exposure risks from handsets had been settled. "There was never a good reason to think there was a problem in the first place." He said that he knows what's really going on: "There's a lot of people in academic careers whose futures depend on there being a continued problem, so there's a great deal of talking up of a continued problem." We doubt that this will help drum up interest in going to BEMS' annual meeting in a couple of weeks. We hear the early registration numbers are way down.

Sources say that Black was the hand-picked candidate of the U.S. Air Force. He beat Maren Fedrowitz of the School of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Germany.

June 2
For more on Black's outlook, take a look at this news clip adapted from an upcoming New Zealand doumentary, "Is Your Cell Phone Killing You?"