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A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

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News Center: Short Takes Archive

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October 25, 2011
Updated November 10, 2011

Last year, sensing that the upcoming IARC assessment might undercut his legacy at both the WHO and ICNIRP, Mike Repacholi assembled a team to prepare its own assessment of the possible tumor risks from RF radiation: That review has just been released by the journal Bioelectromagnetics.

No surprise: In contrast to the IARC decision to classify RF radiation as a possible human cancer agent, Repacholi and his 14 coauthors could not identify any hazard beyond overheating. What is surprising is that no one from the WHO EMF project and only one member of ICNIRP, Paolo Vecchia, joined his study team. On the other hand, two who served on the IARC panel did sign up: David McCormick of the U.S. Martin Röösli of Switzerland. Repacholi's second author is Alex Lerchl, who has long sought to discredit studies showing that RF can lead to DNA breaks. Here again no surprise: the paper finds that "studies do not support the conclusion that RF exposure causes genotoxic effects."

As we long ago documented, Repacholi's EMF project at WHO received substantial support from the cell phone industry. Did the industry subsidize this new review? The published paper provides no information on possible conflicts. We have asked for clarification from Repacholi and Jim Lin, the editor of Bioelectromagnetics.

Later: Mike Repacholi replied that "there were no sponsors for this review." He expressed surprise that the conflict-of-interest statement had been left out of the published paper. Some days after we raised the issue with Lin, a new version of the paper was posted with a detailed, two-paragraph statement covering two of the 15 authors. All the others "reported no conflicts of interest." The conflict-free include Repacholi and Lerchl. We have yet to be told how the two paragraphs were omitted from the originally posted paper. That pdf is now a collectors' item.

October 19, 2011
Updated October 20, 2011

Cornell biologists may have made a breakthrough in understanding why some people are electrosensitive. They report in Nature Communications that humans as well as many other species descended from a type of fish that lived some 500 million years ago which had a "well developed electroreceptive system." A possible implication is that some of us, like sharks and rays, may be able to detect very weak electric fields and perhaps a subset has an electroreceptive system that has gone awry.

The editors at the New York Times offer a sympathetic viewpoint: "One thing is certain. If we had the electrical sensitivity of that ancient aquatic ancestor or the paddlefish, we would find the world we live in now, which roars with electrical current, deeply inhospitable."

See also the Cornell University press release.

October 18, 2011

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is raising objections to a draft EC directive on EM safety standards for workers. The ETUC does not agree with the directive's reliance on the ICNIRP exposure limits because they cover only short-term effects and do not take into account cancer risk, thereby diregarding IARC's recent decision to designate RF radiation as a possible human carcinogen.

October 17, 2011

The Bangor Daily News reports on a meeting held today in Maine: "Scientists at Portland Seminar Liken Cellphones to Smoking."

September 30, 2011

The incidence of acoustic neuroma is not increasing in the Nordic countries, according to researchers from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The team —made up of members of Interphone that don't believe that cell phones lead to tumors looked at cancer registry records from 1987 to 2007.

Their paper appears in the September 27 issue of the British Journal of Cancer. These results argue against the conclusion of the entire Interphone group which reported last month that there appears to be an elevated risk of acoustic neuroma among heavy users.

September 21, 2011

The FDA will hold a workshop on MRI safety in Silver Spring, MD, October 25-26. One of the main topics to be addressed is the potential problem posed by metal implants. In its announcement, issued today, the FDA makes no mention of exposures to RF radiation as a safety concern. A transcript of the workshop will be available, as will a Webcast.

September 7, 2011

Another reason to call economics the "dismal science": Last week's Economist ran the following in the opening paragraph of a piece titled "Worrying About Wireless": "Let it be said, once and for all, that no matter how powerful a radio transmitter —whether an over-the-horizon radar station or a microwave tower— radio waves simply cannot produce ionizing radiation." 

August 18, 2011

At the end of last month, the French National Cancer Institute updated its advisory on "Mobile Phones and Cancer Risks." The istitute's Web site on "Electromagnetic Waves" has links to numerous government reports and other documents.

August 17, 2011

After we ran our story on De-Kun Li's study showing a higher risk of asthma among children whose mothers were exposed to we heard from Ivan Beale in Australia. Beale reminded us of a paper he published ten years ago, which points to an asthma risk among adults living near power lines.

At the time, Beale was a psychology professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. In the survey of 560 adults living near high-voltage power lines, he found that those who were more highly exposed to magnetic fields had over three times the rate of asthma than those less exposed. The numbers were small, yet the elevated risk was statistically significant. Beale did advise that this finding be interpreted with caution. We passed the paper on to Li at Kaiser Permanente. "This finding and our finding are consistent and support each other," Li said, "providing further confidence in our results."

August 11, 2011

UNC's David Richardson was a member of the IARC Working Group in May. He and Australia's Malcolm Sim offer insights into IARC's decision to classify RF as a possible carcinogen in an editorial that accompanies two papers from the Interphone project. For instance: The IARC panel took notice of an animal experiment —the "Guy study"— which showed a significant increase in RF-induced tumors, especially in the endocrine system. That finding was first announced back in 1984, and finally published in 1992. And now, 20 years later, it comes into play for the first time!

The working group also downplayed the Danish cohort study —often cited to show there are no tumor risks— due to its "considerable potential for exposure misclassification." Sim and Richardson close with a call for cell phone research to continue. The editorial and the two Interphone papers (both open accees) are in the September issue of Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

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