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A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

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News Center: Short Takes Archive

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May 6, 2019

The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is circulating a report on the partial replication of the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s RF–animal study, planned by Korean and Japanese officials. It includes the proposed candidates for the project’s International Steering Committee. 

They are:
Alexander Lerchl, Jacobs University, Germany
Michael Repacholi, founder of WHO-EMF Project and ICNIRP
• Emilie van Deventer, head of WHO-EMF Project
Eric van Rongen, chair of ICNIRP
• Vijayalaxmi, University of Texas Health Science Center
Joe Wiart, Telecom Paristech, formerly France Telecom
Michael Wyde, NIEHS/NTP

The report is in Japanese and includes a two-page summary in English. For more on the project, see our write-up from last fall.

Animal Studies Prompt Calls To Upgrade Classification to “Probably Carcinogenic” or Higher

April 22, 2019
Updated April 24, 2019

An advisory committee has recommended that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reassess the cancer risks associated with RF radiation. This should be a “high priority,” according to the panel’s report, which was issued last week.

The group, with 29 members from 18 countries, suggests that the new evaluation take place between 2022 and 2024.

In May 2011, an IARC expert committee classified RF radiation as a possible human carcinogen [Group 2B]. Since then, the evidence has grown stronger. After the NTP and Ramazzini animal studies both showed higher rates of cancer among rats exposed to cell phone radiation, a number of observers argued that IARC should upgrade RF to a “probable” cancer agent [Group 2A] or simply “carcinogenic to humans” [Group 1]. (More on the IARC classifications here.)

Following the release of the Ramazzini Institute results last year, Fiorella Belpoggi, the principal investigator, called on IARC to take another look (see our story). Belpoggi is the director of the Institute’s Research Center in Bologna, Italy and was a member of the IARC priorities panel. She would not comment on their deliberations because, she said, IARC required participants to sign a confidentiality agreement. The panel met during the last week of March in Lyon, IARC’s hometown.

Paul Demers, another member of the panel, said that he was “happy with the decision.” Demers, the director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Toronto, noted that he is not sure what a new working group would decide but that there have been more studies since the last RF Monograph and the “animal studies cerainly deserve evaluation.”

“It is very good news,” Tony Miller, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto, wrote in an e-mail. He cited the substantial human epidemiology and animal evidence of carcinogenicity that has accrued since the 2011 evaluation. “If a working group were to conclude that RF is a Group 1 human carcinogen, as many of us now believe,” he said, “it would be impossible for governments and public health authorities to ignore.”

Neither Kurt Straif, the head of IARC’s Monographs section, nor Joachim Schüz, the head of its environment and radiation section, responded to a query on the likelihood that the agency would follow through and convene a new RF assessment committee. Schüz has made no secret of his skepticism of an association between RF and cancer.

Despite the confidentiality of the priority panel’s deliberations, one insider revealed that, during the extensive discussion of the RF nomination at the meeting, some argued against it. This might explain why, while RF was given a high priority, it was assigned to the second half of IARC’s five-year planning window (2020-2024).

Details, including the full membership of the priorities panel, are posted on the Lancet Oncology Web site (free access).

April 24, 2019
Correction:
Kurt Straif has retired. Kathryn Guyton is the acting head of the IARC Monograph Group, which is part of the Evidence Synthesis and Classification Section.

A Request That It Be Withdrawn

February 20, 2019

A major review of cell phone cancer risks is at the center of an ongoing controversy over whether it is biased and should be withdrawn.

The new paper by some of the most prominent members of the RF–health community contends that epidemiological studies do not show an increased risk of brain tumors or acoustic neuroma associated with the use of mobile phones. That is, cell phones are cancer safe.

Titled “Brain and Salivary Gland Tumors and Mobile Phone Use: Evaluating the Evidence from Various Epidemiological Study Designs,” the new paper is a detailed look at the literature and includes a meta-analysis of many of the studies that have been completed over the years. The lead author is Martin Röösli of the University of Basel in Switzerland.

The paper is slated to appear in the 2019 edition of the Annual Review of Public Health, which is scheduled to be published in the spring. The paper was posted online on January 11.

Röösli has four coauthors: Maria Feychting of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute; Joachim Schüz, a senior manager at IARC in Lyon, France; Italy’s Susanna Lagorio; and the U.K.’s Minouk Schoemaker. Both Röösli and Feychting are members of ICNIRP; Feychting is its vice chair.

Four of the five, all except Röösli, worked on IARC’s Interphone project, a 13-country study of cell phones and cancer. They were part of the faction that maintained the results do not show a link.

In 2011, a panel assembled by IARC —Röösli was a member— disagreed and used Interphone as part of its rationale for classifying RF radiation as a possible human carcinogen (2B).

At the close of the panel meeting, there was talk of a minority report by those who disagreed with the 2B designation. But it never happened. The Annual Review paper fills that gap, though it’s a bit late as many are now asking IARC to reclassify RF radiation as a probable human carcinogen (2A), or even as a known carcinogen (1) in light of the NTP and Ramazzini animal studies.

In December, Australia’s Rodney Croft, another member of ICNIRP, published an analysis that had the same general objective. It is less sophisticated than the new review, and many say that it is flawed.

These disputes are shining a spotlight on the workings of ICNIRP at a time it is under growing scrutiny. A team of reporters is working together on a project called “Investigate Europe: The 5G Mass Experiment,” a series of articles published across the continent on the health implications of the 5G rollout. The German affiliate coined the phrase, “The ICNIRP Cartel.”

Berkeley’s Moskowitz: A Biased Review

Michael Jerrett of UCLA, a member of the Annual Review’s editorial board, solicited the review paper. His expertise is on exposure assessment and his recent research has addressed air pollution as well as behavior and obesity.

When Röösli submitted the manuscript last August, Jerrett worried that the authors had overstated the no-risk case and asked Joel Moskowitz at UC Berkeley to take a look and offer an informal peer review. “The paper is the most biased review of this topic that I have [ever] read,” Moskowitz replied. He urged Jerrett not to publish it, telling him that doing so would be a “disservice to public health.”

Moskowitz, an epidemiologist who tracks RF and health developments on his Web site, Electromagnetic Radiation Safety, has long believed that there is sufficient evidence to adopt precautionary policies and to limit exposures. Ten years ago, he was a coauthor of a meta-analysis that found “possible evidence” linking mobile phones to cancer.

Jerrett asked for another external review of the manuscript and later sent all the comments to Röösli with a request for revisions.

Jerrett and UCLA colleague Jonathan Fielding, the editor of the Annual Review of Public Health, referred a recent query from Microwave News about the peer review process to Jennifer Jongsma, the director of production and the associate editor-in-chief of all 50 Annual Reviews, which cover assorted scientific topics from analytical chemistry to virology. She told me that the two external reviewers “well represented” the views of what she called the “counter group.” She went on to describe what happened next:

“The authors made several compelling arguments in their response to this extensive feedback to justify their causal determinations, and then they revised the manuscript to present a more nuanced interpretation of the evidence base.”

Moskowitz says that he was never sent the revised manuscript for a second review. Jongsma told me that neither of the outside reviewers was asked to take another look and that the decision to publish was made by the Editorial Committee on its own. Asked whether members of the Committee have had experience with the RF issue, Jongsma answered yes, without offering any specifics.

When Moskowitz learned a couple of weeks ago that the paper would be published after all, he was appalled. He wrote and asked Jerrett and Fielding “to consider retracting” it. Moskowitz explained:

“In my opinion, this meta-analysis and review paper does not reflect the state of the science. Furthermore, publication of the paper in this form would contribute to industry efforts to manufacture doubt about cell phone radiation risks and impair public health harm reduction efforts.”

I asked Moskowitz, How extensive were the changes made to the original draft? He declined to answer, citing the confidentiality of the peer review process, however informal it might have been. He did comment that, “The paper that is posted online is biased to minimize evidence of increased risk.”

Stung by the renewed criticism, Fielding and his two associate editors have prepared an introduction to be included in the print edition when it appears in May. They write, in part:

“[S]ome experts may still feel that the authors’ conclusions are biased toward the null. These strong differences of opinion suggest that interested readers should consult the many referenced publications to help them make up their own minds about a public health impact.”

There are 120 publications cited in the review paper.

I did what Fielding is suggesting. It is hardly reassuring. See my companion article, “The Precarious Case Against Precaution.”

Must Begin by July 16;
Government Will Not Appeal Decision

January 16, 2019

In a victory for advocates of precaution, an Italian court has ordered the government to launch a campaign to advise the public of the health risks from mobile and cordless phones.

The information campaign must begin by July 16.

The court in Rome reached its decision last November, but the announcement was only made yesterday. The decision is here.

Today, the government announced that it would not appeal the ruling, Stefano Bertone told Microwave News. Bertone is with the law firm of Ambrosio and Commodo in Turin, and is helping represent a citizens group called APPLE, which sued to force the government to act. APPLE is an acronym for the Association for the Prevention of and Fight Against Electrosmog.

In a joint press release, three different ministries —of Health, of Environment and of Education and Research— acknowledge that there is a need to raise public awareness on how to use mobile phones safely.

“This case has important implications not only in Italy, but worldwide,” Bertone said. “At the moment, health and safety information is contained —or, I should say, buried— in cell phone manuals. This is not good enough. If it was, the court would have agreed with the government that sufficient information is already available.”

In October 2012, the Italian Supreme Court affirmed a ruling granting a claim for workers compensation filed by a businessman who claimed that his use of a cell phone for 12 years had caused a tumor to develop on one of his cranial nerves (the trigeminal nerve). Gino Angelo Levis, a founder of APPLE, was an expert witness for the plaintiff.

Today’s local coverage from La Repubblica is here, and from Corriere della Sera here.
The Associated Press story was picked up by the New York Times and the Washington Post Web pages.
APPLE’s press release is here.

“Further Research Is Required”

September 4, 2018

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has determined that the two recent animal studies pointing to a cancer risk from cell phone radiation are not convincing and should not be used to revise current exposure standards. 

In a “note” published today, the 12-member group states that the studies by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the Ramazzini Institute “do not provide a consistent, reliable and generalizable body of evidence.” “Both studies have inconsistencies and limitations that affect the usefulness of their results for setting exposure guidelines,” according to ICNIRP.

In contrast, a peer review panel of toxicologists and pathologists recently found that the NTP study showed “clear evidence” of RF carcinogenicity.

The current ICNIRP limits were set 20 years ago and are based only on acute effects. Two months ago, ICNIRP issued revised draft guidelines for public comment which are largely unchanged and also discount cancer risks.

Late last year, Maria Feychting, the vice chair of ICNIRP, was reported to be attempting to discredit the NTP study. See our “The Anatomy of a Rumor.”

On the other hand, Jim Lin, the editor-in-chief of Bioelectromagnetics and a 12-year former member of ICNIRP, recently wrote that, “Perhaps the time has come to judiciously reassess, revise and update [the ICNIRP] guidelines” so that they protect against long-term RF exposures.

Here are the conclusions of ICNIRP’s eight-page note, which was released today:

ICNIRP on NTP & RI RF-Animal Studies

(L. Falcioni is the first author of the Ramazzini study.)

For more on the NTP study: go here.
And for more on the Ramazzini study, go here and here.

June 15, 2018

Martin Blank died on June 13 at the age of 85.

A retired professor at Columbia University, Blank was a long-time EMF researcher, best known for his collaboration with Columbia’s Reba Goodman.

Writing in his 2014 book, Overpowered, Blank called himself an “unlikely activist” and urged people to practice precaution.

His obituary is posted on the Web site of the EMF Safety Alliance.

Notes from the NTP Press Conference

February 2, 2018
Updated February 10, 2018

Here are four key takeaways from the NTP press conference held this afternoon, soon after the release of its two cell phone reports:

1. NTP’s bottom line on cell phone use: “This is not a high-risk situation.”

2. RF radiation has biological effects at levels previously believed to be innocuous —they may be good or bad.

3. NTP will continue to do RF health studies. A new exposure facility is being built on the NIEHS campus, which will be smaller and more flexible than the one used for the two-year exposures of the rats and mice in Chicago. It should be ready by late summer.

4. The finding that most impressed NTP was the increase of schwannoma of the heart in male rats. It was statistically significant. This was striking because of the similarity to acoustic neuroma, a tumor which has been reported in human studies. (For more on this, see our original story from May 2016.)

Of course, there is much else to delve into, notably the NTP analysis of DNA breaks, the incidence of brain tumors (glioma) among the male rats and the fact that they lived longer than the controls. The NTP attributes the significantly longer lifespan of the male rats to a lower incidence of chronic kidney disease (nephropathy). At the press conference, Dr. John Bucher, who led the project, suggested that the radiation might lessen inflamation which benefited the kidneys. (See also our previous coverage of DNA breaks in the NTP study.)

The NTP press release, “High Exposure to Radiofrequency Radiation Linked to Tumor Activity in Male Rats,” is here.

Even before the NTP released the two reports this afternoon, it posted an updated version of the “partial” report it issued on the rats in May 2016. The new report features a few tweaks and the addition of a new Appendix (B2), which responds to the criticism of NIH's Michael Lauer that have been frequently cited to counter concerns of a cell phone cancer risk.

After the release, Jeffrey Shuren, the director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health called the NTP evidence of a cancer risk “mostly equivocal or ambiguous.” The bottom line, he said, is that, “We believe the current safety limits for cell phones are acceptable for protecting the public health.” The FDA requested the NTP study back in 1999.

The NTP draft rat cell phone report runs 381 pages and the draft mouse report is 270 pages. They can both be downloaded here, where other related papers and data are also available. The NTP will hold a public peer review of the reports on March 26-28 in Research Triangle Park, NC.

An audio file of the press conference together with a transcript will be posted on the NTP Web site early next week, according to the NTP press office.
[February 6: The transcript and audio file are now available here.]

February 3

The headline in this morning’s New York Times story is “Rodent Studies Suggest Cellphones’ Risk to Humans in Minimal.” The title of the online version is “Cellphones Are Still Safe for Humans, Researchers Say.”

The Wall Street Journal took a different tack with “Why the Largest Study Ever on Cellphones and Cancer Won’t Settle the Debate.” The story included this useful graphic:

WSJ NTP.RF.GSM

The Washington Post picked up the AP feed under “Cancer from Cellphones? New Studies Say No Need to Hang Up.” (Later in the day, it was changed to: “Studies Offer No Clear Answers on Safety of Cellphone Use.”) Meanwhile, the print editon ran a story by one of the paper’s staff reporters with the headline, “Human Health Conclusions Elusive After Cellphone Radiation Studies on Rodents.”

And Bloomberg ran with “Cell Phone Radiation Tied to Rare Tumor in Rats, Study Says.”

For more of Microwave News’ coverage of the NTP RF project, go here.

Peer Review Meeting March 26-28

January 29, 2018
Updated February 2, 2018

The NTP has released two reports on the cancer risks from cell phone radiation (GSM and CDMA) on rats and mice. They are available here.

The NTP press release, “High Exposure to RF Radiation Linked to Tumor Activity in Male Rats” is here.

January 29, 12018

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) has announced that the draft reports on its $25 million animal study on the cancer risks associated with cell phone radiation will be released on February 2.

A peer review meeting is scheduled for March 26-28 in Research Triangle Park, NC.

Further details are available here. The Federal Register notice is here.

Preliminary results pointing to a cancer risk were published close to two years ago. See the Microwave News story that prompted the release here. For more of our detailed coverage, check out these links.

Highest SAR When Watch Is Held Next to the Head

September 22, 2017

Apple has released the RF exposure numbers —SARs, or specific absorption rates— for its new Series 3 Watches. These are the first wristwatches that can connect to cellular networks without being tethered to an iPhone.

The highest exposures, according to Apple, occur when the new watches are placed next to the head. The SAR measurements are based on a 10mm separation distance. The Model A1860 entails the highest exposure: 0.53 W/Kg averaged over 1g of tissue (0.52 W/Kg for the A1861).

The highest SAR on the wrist is 0.34 W/Kg for the A1861 (0.18 for the A1860). These SARs are measured without any separation from the wrist. Note that the SARs measured for the wrist are averaged over 10g of tissue.           

The basic FCC SAR limit is pegged at 1.6 WKg averaged over 1g of tissue. Many European countries follow the ICNIRP guideline of 2.0 W/Kg averaged over 10g.

Averaging over the smaller volume (1g instead of 10g) can double or triple the maximum SAR (see MWN, J/A00, p.8, S/O01, p.10, and M/J03, p.4).

Here are the preamble and the SAR numbers that Apple posted on its Web site earlier today.

Apple Watch 3: SAR intro

 Apple Wtch A1860Apple Watch A1861Apple Watch A1858Apple Watch A1859

Apple has posted the SARs for its watches, phones and other products here.

August 30, 2017

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) will release the “complete results” of its $25 million project on cell phone cancer risks early next year, according to a statement posted on its Web site yesterday.

“The complete results from all the rats and mice studies will be available for peer review and public comment by early 2018,” the NTP states. The animals were exposed to GSM or CDMA radiation for two years before they were sacrificed and evaluated for signs of cancer.

The NTP report had been expected by the end of this year.

The final report has been highly anticipated since the spring of last year when the NTP announced that cell phone radiation increased the incidence of tumors in the brain and heart of male rats. At the time, the NTP posted some partial results from the rat experiments. No details of the mice studies have yet been made public. The early release followed a story on the findings in Microwave News.

NTP’s announcement of a cell phone–cancer risk attracted worldwide attention. The NTP results led the American Cancer Society and Consumer Reports, two organizations that had long been skeptical about a cancer link, to change their positions and advise caution in the use of wireless phones. Even so, many in the media, notably reporters at the New York Times and the Washington Post, expressed skepticism and told their readers to disregard the results. “Don’t Believe the Hype” ran the headline in the Washington Post. (See our “News Media Nix NTP Cancer Study.”)

The cell phone manufacturers —Apple, Google, Nokia (Microsoft) and Samsung— have all remained largely silent.

In addition to the animal studies, the NTP will release its findings showing DNA breaks in the brains of the male rats. The original plan was to publish those results as a stand-alone paper, but they will now be part of the general report.

One of the most commonly cited reasons to discount the NTP results has been that brain cancer rates have not been increasing in the general population. This may be true for all brain tumors combined, but it does not apply to the most virulent and deadly type, glioblastoma multiforme, better known as GBM. The incidence of GBM is rising in the U.S., as well as in other countries, including The Netherlands and the U.K. (Senator John McCain was recently diagnosed as having a GBM.)

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