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A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

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News Center: Short Takes Archive

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November 23, 2011

ICNIRP has announced the results of its most recent elections. Rüdiger Matthes and Maria Feychting are the new chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the commission. They will take over in May 2012. Three new members were also elected to ICNIRP and will take their seats in May: Rodney Croft, Carmela Marino and Soichi Watanabe.

Last summer, ICNIRP began posting a "declaration of personal interest" for each member of the commission. At the time, one declaration was noticeably missing: Mike Repacholi's. Since then, ICNIRP has added an explanation: Because Repacholi is chairman emeritus and has no "voting rights," he is not required to out fill out a declaration.

ICNIRP is also not asking its consulting experts and members of its advisory committees to make full disclosures. We think we know why. A number of industry consultants advise ICNIRP —Leeka Kheifets and David Black come right to mind. If such ties were openly acknowledged, they would make a mockery of ICNIRP's claims of being free of corporate influence.

November 19, 2011

Is it possible that a senior scientist at NIH, a former White House advisor, could be clueless about epigenetics (the study of how changes in the expression of genes can occur without changes in the underlying DNA)? Seems so. We're talking about Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist at NIH. His brother Rahm Emanuel is the mayor of Chicago and the former chief of staff to President Obama.

Earlier this month, Franz Adlkofer gave an invited lecture at Harvard Law School on how institutional corruption stands in the way of research on the effects of cell phone radiation. (A video of his lecture was posted online yesterday.)

In the Q&A session that followed, an unseen member of the audience stated that she had been at NIH last spring when she and her coworkers received an e-mail from Ezekiel Emanuel "bashing" the news —presumably— that IARC had found that RF/microwaves are a possible human carcinogen because it "would require a really deep radical alteration of our views in basic physics." In other words, Emanuel was espousing the opinion that cell phones cannot lead to cancer because microwaves cannot break human DNA. Emanuel appears to have been reading too much of the unscientific musings doled out each week by Robert Park. This is nothing new for Emanuel. In 2008, he said essentially the same thing about cell phones and DNA breaks in The New Republic. It also means that Emanuel has had the last three years to take Epigenetics 101 and still has an incomplete.

Happily, there are people who have done their homework and who are making sense. Richard Stein, a postdoc in molecular biology at Princeton, is one of them. In a just published essay in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Stein writes: "For a long time, it was assumed that chemicals are able to cause cancer only by mutating the DNA. However, a growing body of scientific evidence reveals that this 'carcinogenesis equals mutagenesis' paradigm is not accurate." (This applies equally to radiation  as well as chemicals.) Another is Melinda Wenner Moyer, a science writer and blogger, who recently posted a piece, "The Epigenetics of Cancer," which concludes: "cancer is about far more than just mutations." (See also her earlier piece: "Cell Phones, Cancer, and Scientific Oversimplification.") Want to know more about epigenetics? Check out this paper in Nature.

November 12, 2011

The list of organizers and supporters of the EC protest on November 16 has grown and now includes groups from all over Europe, according to a press release we just received. The European Electrosmog Protest is backed by, among others: Teslabel (Belgium), Robin des Toits(France), Bürgerwelle (Germany), AMICA (Italy), Stop UMTS (The Netherlands & Belgium), Diagnose-Funk (Switzerland & Germany), Mobilewise (U.K.). The groups are collecting signatures for their petition, "Less Electrosmog!", which, at this writing, has been signed by more than 70 professors and medical doctors, according to Steven Boone, its coordinator.

November 9, 2011

The European Commission is holding a conference on EMFs and Health in Brussels next week. Teslabel, a local activist group, is planning a demonstration outside the meeting, in part because only one side of the research community was invited to speak. Check out the program: no surprises, all the usual names and faces —those who don't think there's much risk— with only a few exceptions.

Two Americans are on the agenda: Leeka Kheifets, the peripatetic industry consultant, Chris Portier, who was on the IARC RF panel last May.

Those who understand French might want to watch the Belge TV coverage of the Danish cohort study, under the refreshingly accurate headline: "Dishonest Study" (scroll down to "Une nouvelle étude danoise dément la nocivité du GSM"). In an unusual reversal, the TV reporters do a better job at pointing out the serious flaws of the study than did the Karolinska group, which wrote the accompanying editorial in the British Medical Journal.

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.

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