A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

Anders Ahlbom: Microwave News Article Archive (2004 - )

February 25, 2014

Five years ago we reported on what we thought was an important clue in the search for understanding the well-documented association between childhood leukemia and EMF exposure. A team based in Shanghai presented evidence that children carrying a genetic variation linked to DNA repair were four times more likely to develop leukemia than those without that genetic marker. We called the finding a “major breakthrough” and predicted, “It simply cannot be ignored.”

We were wrong. So wrong.

What happened next —or rather, what did not happen— sheds light on why EMF research treads water and never moves forward.

November 3, 2011

The latest update of the Danish cell phone-cancer study is being touted as the biggest and best ever. It shows "no link between mobile phone use and [brain] tumors," according to the press release.

Don't believe a word of it.

On October 20, the British Medical Journal released the third installment of the Danish Cancer Society's cohort study, which has been tracking some 400,000 mobile phones subscribers since the 1980s. The whole enterprise has been dogged by controversy and political suspicions since the first results were published ten years ago.

June 10, 2011

The Interphone RF–brain tumor location paper from Elisabeth Cardis's group was posted today on the Web site of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 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...

June 3, 2011

It's not easy to reach unanimous agreement on anything to do with cell phone radiation. And when it comes to cell phones and cancer, forget about it. But the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) nearly pulled it off. On Tuesday, May 31, more than two dozen scientists and doctors from 14 countries —a group IARC Director Christopher Wild called “the world’s leading experts”— issued a joint statement that cell phone and other types of radiofrequency (RF) and microwave radiation might cause cancer.

May 31, 2011

A day-by-day blog of the IARC RF–Cancer Review, May 23-30.

May 22, 2011

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has removed Anders Ahlbom of the Karolinska Institute from its panel of experts which is set to evaluate the cancer risks posed by mobile phones. The committee will meet in Lyon, France, for a week beginning this coming Tuesday, May 24. In an e-mail sent out earlier today, Ahlbom wrote, "IARC has excluded me from the RF Working Group because of 'possible perception of conflict of interest'."

November 15, 2010

If you want to see just how misguided the ICNIRP enterprise really is, take a look at its new EMF exposure guidelines in the December issue of Health Physics. [See also our November 10 post.]

Start at the end with the footnote that discloses the composition of its five-member ELF Task Group (p.830...

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:

May 11, 2009

The stalemate over Interphone is coming to an end. A project of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on the possible links between mobile phones and tumors, Interphone has been bogged down for over three years while its members feuded over how to interpret their results. Now, Microwave News has learned, a paper on brain tumor risks is about to be submitted for publication. Christopher Wild, the director of IARC, forced a compromise to resolve what had become a major embarrassment for the agency.

April 10, 2009

Shows on cell phone radiation are all over the TV news —at least in Australia and Europe, if not the U.S.

One theme that runs through many of these programs is impatience over the delays in the publication of the Interphone results. In a Swiss documentary, aired on March 31, Christopher Wild, the new head of IARC, expresses his concern over the reputation of IARC and says that he looks forward to its completion "in the coming months." Elisabeth Cardis, the head of Interphone, concedes to that same Swiss TV reporter that Interphone is indeed taking a long time to finish (see "Interphone Project: The Cracks Begin To Show"). A few days earlier in an unrelated e-mail, Cardis stated that the results would be submitted for publication "in the coming weeks."

June 4, 2008

It was a "mistake," says Anders Ahlbom. That's how he explains why his "expert group" left out the Lahkola study from its report on important EMF developments in 2007 for SSI, the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (see our March 14 post).

The Lahkola study points to a significant increased risk of brain tumors among long-term cell phone users in five countries participating in the Interphone project. This was a curious omission since two of the Lahkola coauthors helped prepare the SSI report. In a comment that has now been appended to the report, here's what Ahlbom, the chairman of the panel, wrote: "the paper was discussed by the group and was part of the basis for the conclusions. However, it was by mistake overlooked when preparing the report. The Expert Group regrets this accidental omission."

What's missing is any mention at to why two other Interphone studies (from France and Israel), which showed elevated tumor risks, were also omitted from this same report.

March 14, 2008

The Interphone saga gets weirder and weirder. The latest chapter comes with the release, earlier this week, of a status report on EMFs and health by the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI).

Recent Research on EMF Health Risks, the fifth annual report by an independent expert group, covers what was learned about various types of EMFs, from ELF to RF, in 2007. Here we address only what it says about the latest Interphone results —or more precisely, what it does not say.

October 9, 2007

Why is the Interphone study not finished yet? "The interpretation is not straightforward," Elisabeth Cardis told Microwave News in an interview from her office at IARC in Lyon, France. The data are "very difficult to interpret because of the potential problems of recall and selection bias," she explained.

September 24, 2007

The Swiss National Research Program on Non-Ionizing Radiation (NRP57) will hold a one-day wokshop, Dosimetry Meets Epidemiology, on January 11 in Zurich. The focus will be on exposure assessment in EMF epidemiology. Anders Ahlbom, Jørgen Bach Andersen, Alexander Borbély, Elisabeth Cardis and Yngve Hamnerius, all members of NRP57's steering committee, will chair the three sessions. Among those on the program are Joe Bowman of U.S. NIOSH, Niels Kuster of IT'IS, Mike Kelsh of Exponent and Martin Röösli of the University of Bern. There is only room for 60 attendees and we are told that half the spots are already taken. For more information, contact Christian Mottas at the Swiss National Science Foundation.

May 21, 2007

It's the murky disconnect that undermines public confidence in EMF exposure standards: While epidemiological studies point to an increased risk of childhood leukemia at exposures as low as 3-4 mG, the ICNIRP exposure standard is over 200 times higher. That is, ICNIRP sees nothing wrong with exposing kids to 999 mG, 24/7. One reason this disparity is baffling is that Anders Ahlbom of Sweden's Karolinska Institute is both the chair of ICNIRP's committee on epidemiology and the person whose work —more than anyone else's other than Nancy Wertheimer's— has established the plausibility of the 3-4 mG threshold. The IEEE standard is even more out of sync: At over 9,000 mG: it's more than nine times higher than the ICNIRP limit.

May 9, 2007

More health research is needed for all EMF frequency bands, according to the newly-released report by the EC's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). (See also the press release and news item.) Anders Ahlbom of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm is the chair of the committee.

March 23, 2007

The government of Ireland released a report yesterday that generally dismisses health concerns over RF radiation from mobile phones and base stations, as well as concerns over EMFs from power lines. The report, Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields, was prepared by a four-member panel chaired by Mike Repacholi, the former head of the WHO EMF project. The panel concluded that, "So far no adverse short or long-term health effects have been found from exposure to the RF signals produced by mobile phones and base station transmitters" and that "there are no data available to suggest that the use of mobile phones by children is a health hazard."

September 22, 2006

The European Commission is seeking public comment on a draft opinion on the Possible Effects of EMF on Human Health. The draft was written by a working group chaired by Anders Ahlbom of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Submissions are due by November 3.

September 22, 2005

The week of October 3 in Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) will set its recommendations for public exposures to power-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

A 20-member task group from 17 countries, assembled by Michael Repacholi, the head of the WHO EMF project, will finalize an Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) document, which is designed to guide the development of standards for extremely low frequency (ELF) EMFs all over the world. It will likely represent WHO’s official position on EMF health risks for years to come.

March 10, 2005

The Karolinska group’s paper showing no increased risk of brain tumors among those who used a cell phone for ten or more years appears in the March 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. We first reported this result in December based on a brief announcement from Stockholm, but the published paper offers many more details.

One interesting item is the finding of a somewhat elevated risk of developing a glioma (a 60-80% increase) on the same side of the head as the phone was used. But, the Karolinska researchers also saw a lower than expected glioma risk on the opposite side of the head.

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