A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

Leeka Kheifets: 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.

September 25, 2013

"Now it is enough!" claims Maria Feychting of Sweden's Karolinska Institute. Feychting wants to stop wasting money on any more epidemiological studies of breast cancer risks from power-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF EMFs).

"We can be confident that exposure to ELF magnetic fields does not cause breast cancer," she writes in an invited commentary published last week in the influential American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE). Feychting's call to stop research was prompted by a new study of breast cancer among Chinese textile workers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which found no association with ELF magnetic field exposures. Feychting's confidence is based in large part on the exposure assessment used in the textile study, which, she believes, was "better than in previous studies."

If Feychting's call to halt research is heeded, she will have shattered a key driver for EMF–cancer research that has held sway for the last 25 years: the melatonin hypothesis.

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,...

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...

February 6, 2010

Assessing health risks is a tricky business. Teaching others how to do it is no easier. To see this, you need to look no further than a recent report from the Geneva-based International Risk Governance Council (IRGC), a self-described "independent" group run by a group of government, industry and academic leaders. The title of the report is a mouthful: Risk Governance Deficits: An Analysis and Illustration of the Most Common Deficits in Risk Governance. A better title would have been, Common Pitfalls in Risk Analysis, or perhaps, Risk: A Guide to Better Decision Making.

December 7, 2009

Bioelectromagnetics has posted “Comments” by Louis Slesin, the editor of Microwave News on the call to stop research on power-frequency electric fields by Leeka Kheifets and John Swanson (see “The Real Junk Science of EMFs”). The two electric utility insiders declined the journal's offer to respond. The comments are now on the journal's Web site and will be published in its February 2010 issue.

November 23, 2009

A decade after some of the world's leading epidemiologists agreed that exposure to power line EMFs could lead to childhood leukemia, the denial continues. Some people still believe that the studies that link EMFs to cancer are nothing more than junk science. Even those who should know better refuse to acknowledge the risks. The World Health Organization (WHO) says the association is so weak that it can be pretty much ignored, and the leading radiation protection group, ICNIRP, has refused to endorse precaution. Here in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scarcely acknowledges that EMFs are even a health issue.

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:

February 23, 2009

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD), campus is in an uproar over a cluster of cancer cases among those working in the university's Literature Building. Eight women who worked there developed breast cancer between 2000 and 2006, which is significantly more than would have been expected by chance, according to an analysis by Cedric Garland, a UCSD epidemiologist.

In his June 2008 report to UCSD Chancellor Marye Ann Fox, Garland devotes a lot of attention to the possible role played by EMFs, especially transients from the motors of the building's elevators. Garland recommends a strategy of "prudent avoidance," which he calls a "special case of the precautionary principle":

September 5, 2008

In an unprecedented move, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the research arm of the utility industry, will sponsor a public information booklet on EMFs for a unit of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is working out an arrangement whereby EPRI would pay for the writing and printing of a new edition of the NIEHS booklet, EMFs: Questions & Answers.

June 2, 2008

Editors and reviewers at Epidemiology thought long and hard before publishing the new paper suggesting that a child's behavioral problems can be traced, at least in part, to the mother's use of a cell phone use during pregnancy (see our May 14 post). This comes across in an editorial by David Savitz that appears the same issue (July) as the paper.

The study is "a nearly perfect recipe for 'inflammatory epidemiology'," acknowledged Savitz, an editor at the journal who has long been involved with EMF research. But, he went on, "reviewers and editors believe that these findings are worth consideration by the scientific community.

May 14, 2008

It's certainly a provocative and surprising finding —almost to the point of being unbelievable. A joint U.S.–Danish team has reported that young children born to mothers who had used cell phones during pregnancy were more likely to have behavioral disorders, such as hyperactivity and emotional problems.

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.

January 17, 2008

The NAS-NRC report, released today (see our January 15 post), presents a laundry list of research needs to better understand the possible health effects of RF radiation. What's missing is any sense of priorities. The NAS-NRC committee that prepared the report fails to indicate whether characterizing a child's exposure from a cell phone is more important than doing an epidemiological study of children who use them; or whether mechanistic studies are more important than laboratory toxicology experiments.

May 24, 2007

Rick Jostes at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has announced his picks for the members of the committee that will review the current state of cell phone health research and identify future needs. Frank Barnes of the University of Colorado, Boulder, will chair the panel. Of the other six members, three are with ICNIRP: Finland's Maila Hietanen, Germany's Rüdiger Matthes and France's Bernard Veyret. The other members are Om Gandhi of the University of Utah, Leeka Kheifets of UCLA and EPRI and David McCormick of IITRI in Chicago. Kheifets, who serves on ICNIRP's epidemiology panel, used to be Mike Repacholi's sidekick at the WHO EMF project in Geneva. McCormick is planning some large-scale RF-animal experiments for the National Toxicology Program. The FDA requested these studies back in 1999.

October 1, 2005

As members of the WHO Task Group make their way to Geneva for next week’s meeting to complete its Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) document on power-frequency EMFs, new information has emerged showing that the electric utility industry has played a major role at every stage of developing the review document.

Microwave News has learned that Mike Repacholi, the head of the WHO EMF project, recruited utility representatives to help write the original draft of the document and later asked them to review the completed draft. Then, as we reported last week, Repacholi invited eight utility representatives to attend next week’s task group meeting —the only observers who were invited (see our September 22 post). The task group and the industry observers will assemble at a WHO conference room in Geneva on Monday, October 3 to recommend exposure limits.

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.

August 9, 2005

UCLA School of Public Health and Leeka Khefiets received $50,000 from EPRI for her work on the WHO workshop on EMF risks to children. UCLA calls it a “ joint WHO/EPRI” workshop.

That’s a lot money for a review paper (250 hours @$200/hour). Or is this another way for Mike Repacholi’s EMF project to skirt WHO rules prohibiting direct industry funding?

August 8, 2005

EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, the research arm of the electric utility industry, has lots of money and is not shy about using it to push its agenda.

Today, EPRI is the only source of research funds on power line EMFs in the U.S. In recent times, practically all of EPRI’s money has been devoted to pushing the idea, championed by staffer Rob Kavet, that contact currents —not EMFs— are responsible for the oft-observed increase in childhood leukemia. Kavet may be on to something, but at the moment only Kavet himself and his contractors embrace this hypothesis.

July 5, 2005

Now we know what Mike Repacholi has been doing since the infamous Mike-and-Leeka flip-flop of 2003. Back then Repacholi and his assistant Leeka Kheifets decided that there was no need to apply the precautionary principle to EMFs—soon after telling everyone that the time for action had finally arrived.

It appears that for the last two-and-a-half years, when not shuttling from one meeting to another, Mike has been cataloguing ways the WHO can avoid taking precautionary steps to reduce EMF exposures.

Mike’s apologia will be presented next week at a three-day workshop in Ottawa, July 11-13. He calls it a policy framework. We call it a sham. Mike has assembled a list of reasons for doing nothing. Electric utilities and telecom companies could have written the WHO plan. They may well have played a leading role.

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