A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

RF Health Review, Paris in November

Is This a Substitute for IARC’s RF Cancer Reassessment?

October 19, 2022
Last updated 
October 31, 2022

Two influential health agencies, both based in France, will host a one-day meeting on RF–health research, November 23 in Paris. The public is invited to attend in person or online. Registration is free.

The conference, organized by ANSES, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, and IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, will focus on potential effects of RF radiation on the brain and on cancer risks. The theme is “Research in a Fast-Moving Environment.”

Among the scheduled speakers are: Giuseppe Curcio of the University of L'Aquila (Italy), Isabelle Deltour and Joachim Schüz of IARC in Lyon, Emilie van Deventer of the WHO in Geneva, Joe Wiart formerly of France Telecom (now Orange) and Wout Joseph of Ghent University (Belgium).

The provisional agenda is here.

IARC Skeptical of RF–Brain Tumor Link

The two sponsors do not necessarily share a common outlook on RF health risks.

In 2011, a panel assembled by IARC classified RF radiation as a possible human (2B) carcinogen. That decision was based on epidemiological studies which found more brain tumors among long-term phone users. But, for now many years, Deltour and Schüz have been openly skeptical that those links are real. Schüz is the head of IARC’s Environment and Lifestyle Epidemiology Branch.

Their latest effort comes in an open access paper published in August by Environment International. There they argue that the increased risks are “implausible” —in effect, challenging the legitimacy of the 2B designation.

Among their coauthors are Sweden’s Maria Feychting and Denmark’s Christoffer Johansen. They too have long doubted the cancer risk.

For more on how this has been playing out, see “IARC and RF: What’s Next?”

ANSES Favors Precaution

ANSES, on the other hand, appears to be far more cautious about discounting risks.

The agency has published numerous health reports on RF radiation over the last 20 years. In 2019, for instance, it recommended precautionary steps to limit radiation exposures from mobile phones. ANSES advised not carrying mobile phones in shirt or trouser pockets, where they would be flush to the body, that is with no separation distance allowing greater radiation absorption.

Most recently —in the spring of last year— ANSES issued an “Opinion” stating that 5G systems in the 3.5 GHz frequency band were “unlikely” to pose any new health risks. It cautioned, however, that there were not enough data on the 26 GHz band (millimeter waves) to allow drawing any conclusions.

More on ANSES’ RF reports, released 2003-2016, here.

Will IARC Reassess the RF Cancer Risk?

In 2019, following the release of the NTP and Ramazzini RF–animal studies showing increased tumor counts after long-term exposure, IARC was urged by one of its own advisory committees to convene a new panel to reassess that “2B” classification. More than a few interpreted this as a call for an upgrade to “2A”, that is, RF would become a probable human carcinogen. 

The committee asked that this second look be done sometime between 2022 and 2024.

IARC itself has been silent on whether it is acting on that recommendation.

A new evaluation has not been scheduled, Véronique Terrasse, a communication aide to Elisabete Weiderpass, the Director of IARC, told Microwave News earlier this month. Weiderpass will give opening remarks at the November RF conference.

The question, some people are now asking, is whether the November conference is a substitute —temporary or otherwise— for an indepedent IARC reassessment of RF cancer risks.