A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

News Center: Short Takes Archive

August 7, 2012

In its much-anticipated report, released today, the GAO told the FCC to take a fresh look at its cell phone exposure standard and the way the phones are tested for compliance with that limit. The 46-page report is available here.

Julius Knapp, the chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, responded that he and his staff had "independently arrived at the same conclusion." He added that rules that the Commission has already drafted would "address and even expand on the GAO's recommendations" (see our "What's Up at the FCC?").

Some consumer and environmental organizations appear to be happy with the report. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), for instance, thanked the three members of Congress who had requested the GAO investigation after IARC designated RF radiation as a possible human carcinogen last year (see our June 3, 2011, post).

The EWG should keep in mind the old proverb, be careful what you wish for. A close reading of the new report indicates that the most likely outcome of a FCC review would be a substantial weakening of the current cell phone standard in the name of harmonization with the IEEE and ICNIRP.

That might explain why the CTIA, the wireless trade association, also embraced the GAO report. "CTIA welcomes the Commission's continued careful oversight of this issue," stated John Walls, its VP for public affairs.

The U.S. currently has the most stringent cell phone exposure limit in the world. But perhaps not for much longer.

For more, see:
• The Washington Post's blog post;
• Bloomberg's news story;
• The EWG's press release;
• CTIA's press release;
• And this item from Ars Technica, which closes with, "Maybe, finally, we'll get to the bottom of [the mystery of cell phone radiation]." We wouldn't take that bet.

June 22, 2012

The ranks of long-time EMF/RF researchers are thinning out too quickly and much too soon. Last week, Doreen Hill of OSHA and Larry Cress of the FDA died at ages 60 and 61, respectively. Hill joined the EPA back in 1973 and the agency's Office of Radiation Programs a decade later. More recently, she worked at OSHA. Hill, a brain tumor survivor, had a doctorate in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. Her dissertation was a mortality study of members of the MIT Radiation Lab who helped develop radar during World War II. Cress, a medical doctor, began at the FDA in 1990, where he collaborated with Mays Swicord at the Center for Devices and Radiological Health on cell phone radiation risks (see MWN, J/F03 p.1). He later worked in the agency's Office of Counter-Terrorism.

June 1, 2012

The Bioelectromagnetics Society (BEMS) is trying to drum up support for its annual conference, which will be held in Brisbane, Australia, later this month. For those truly committed to advancing EM health research —the stated ethos of the society— it's a tough sell. Here's a list of the sponsors of the meeting, in descending order of their level of support: Telstra, MMF, EPRI, ENA, Powerlink, Energex, GSMA, AMTA, SPAusNet. Each and every one represents industry interests at EMF frequencies (power companies) or in the RF/MW bands (telecoms). Most are more committed to suppressing health research than encouraging it. We used to go to BEMS meetings. Those days are long gone.

May 18, 2012

We haven't posted many new items recently because we've been too busy fixing up the new Web site. In the process, we've been rereading many of our old stories. Last night, we came across an item from five years ago under the title "Cell Specific Responses to RF." It highlighted some new research from Finland, which found that cell phone radiation affected the activity of ODC, a biologically important enzyme, in primary, but not secondary, cell lines.

Primary cells are those taken from a live animal while secondary lines, or cultured cells, tend to be bought from a supplier. As the Finnish researchers pointed out, primary lines act more like cells in a live animal. That said, most people use cultured cells because they mulitply in the lab and are more likely to be uniform, and, perhaps most important, they are much easier to get.

At the time, we called the results "startling" because they could help explain why so much of cell biology on RF radiation is contradictory and hard to interpret.

In their paper, the Finns noted that the type of changes in ODC that they observed could indicate an impaired capability to "protect DNA from free radical attack." In the context of widespread concerns over cell phone-induced brain tumors and neurological disease, this, we would think, merited prompt attention.

Yesterday, we wrote to Jukka Juutilainen, a member of the Finnish team, and asked what had happened since 2007 when the paper was published in the International Journal of Radiation Biology. Not much, it turns out. "I am not aware of any attempts to follow up the findings," Juutilainen replied. "We still think the finding is interesting," he added.

The original work was funded, in part by the cell phone industry —the MMF and the GSMA.

April 12, 2012
Updated May 29, 2012

Mike Repacholi, the former head of the World Health Organization’s EMF project, is blaming his former boss, Gro Harlem Brundtland, for contributing “massively” to people’s fears of RF radiation from mobile phones.

While Brundtland was director-general of the WHO (1998 – 2003), she revealed that she was EHS or electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) (see MWN, M/A02, p.6 and M/J02, p.8). In an interview with reporter Thomas Ergo, published today in Aftenbladet, a daily newspaper, Repacholi calls Brundtland’s disclosure “unfortunate.” Repacholi does not believe that EHS is a real condition: He complains that he was barred from issuing fact sheets that said so by Brundtland's office. “If the science disagrees with the Director-General, then that was it. We could not do anything about it,” he told Ergo.

Brundtland, a medical doctor who served as the prime minister of Norway for more than ten years in the 1980s and 1990s, declined to comment. (Maybe she will address EHS when she delivers a lecture on “The Importance of Public Health to Global Wellbeing” in Canada next week at the opening of the University of Waterloo's new school of public health. Maybe not.)

Henrik Eriksson of the U.K. group Mast Victims has posted a translation of the Aftenbladet article under the headline “Repacholi Attacks Gro Harlem Brundtland on EHS Claims.” Also today, Aftenbladet, released a video of Ergo’s interview with Repacholi (both are speaking in English). The headline runs: “I Offered To Examine Gro. But She Would Not Hear of It.” (Google translation).

Ergo has also just published a 26-page article in the Norwegian magazine, Plot, titled “The Ridiculous and the Pursuit of Gro” (Google again).

April 13, 2012

In a follow-up article published today, Aftenbladet’s Thomas Ergo quotes two senior Norwegian legislators who defend Gro Harlem Brundtland against Michael Repacholi’s claims that her EHS  is a psychosocial response rather than a true medical condition. “I believe people who say they are allergic to mobile phone radiation,” said one member of the Parliament’s health committee. (Here's Henrik Eiriksson’s translation of today’s Aftenbladet story.

April 25, 2012

As it turned out, Gro Harlem Brundtland did discuss her EHS in Waterloo, Canada, on April 19 after being asked about it by Magda Havas of Trent University. This is part of what of what Brundtland said: “I have been heavily criticized as scaring people from using cell phones because I told the truth about my illness.” (See Havas's full report.)

May 3, 2011

Thomas Ergo today ran a story in Norway’s Aftenbladet based on Magda Havas’s report from Waterloo.

May 29, 2011

Henrik Eiriksson has just released a full translation of Thomas Ergo’s story in Plot, under the title “The Laughing Stock — and the Pursuit of Gro.” It runs 23 pages and is available from the Mast Victims Web site.

March 16, 2012

A paper on the effects of a mobile phone on the reproductive function of adult male rabbits, has been withdrawn by the International Journal of Andrology. In an advisory posted on March 14, the journal's editor-in-chief, Ewa Rajpert-De Meyts, states that Nader Salama, the lead author of the paper, requested its withdrawal. She cites three reasons: (1) "Lack of approval" by Salama's coauthors at the Tokushima School of Medicine in Japan; (2) "Lack of evidence to justify the accuracy of the data" in the paper: and (3) "Overlap" with two other papers by the same group. Salama is affliated with both the Tokushima medical school and the Alexandria Faculty of Medicine in Egypt.

Soon after the paper was posted by the International Journal of Andrology in December 2008, Alex Lerchl of Jacobs University and Christian Bornkessel of IMST, both in Germany, expressed "severe concerns about the validity of the exposure conditions and the reported biological effects" in a letter to the journal (open access). Though Salama and his Japanese colleagues stood by the paper in their response to Lerchl and Bornkessel (not open access), they have apparently now changed their minds.

Lerchl tells Microwave News that "other retractions will follow soon." In recent years, Lerchl has taken up the role of policing the EMF and RF literature to weed out what he believes is bad science and misconduct, with special if not exclusive attention to work that reports weak field effects. His most high-profile campaign was against Hugo Rüdiger's findings of RF-induced DNA damage, carried out in Vienna as part of the EC's REFLEX project. In this case, Lerchl failed to get Rüdiger's papers withdrawn (see "Three Cases of Alleged Scientific Misconduct").

The now retracted paper by Salama and colleagues is only a small part of the growing literature implicating mobile phone radiation in fertility problems (see "Keep That Phone Out of Your Trouser Pocket!").

March 15, 2012

A new study, out today, by a team headed by Hugh Taylor at Yale University has found that mice exposed to cell phone signals in the womb run the risk of altered neurological development and subsequent behavioral disorders. The paper is open access. For more on the new paper, see the write-ups from the Yale press office and IEEE Spectrum.

The Yale study lends support to the surprising finding, reported a couple of years ago 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. That 2008 study was repeated by the same group in 2010 with similar results.

February 3, 2012

He's back. George Carlo, that is. Though not in the cell phone game, but baseball. Carlo has reinvented himself, this time as a brain scientist. He is now working with Brian Peterson, who calls himself the "Performance Enhancement Instructor" for the Detroit Tigers, according to the Web site Fangraphs. This is Peterson on Carlo's qualifications: "He's an MD, he has a PhD in pathology, and he also has a law degree. By trade, he's a brain researcher. George is a research scientist and an expert on how the body works in conjunction with the brain." That MD degree is news to us. Peterson might have added industry fixer and con artist to Carlo's résumé. After all he used to be a pitchman for BioPro, which sold useless gizmos that promised protection against cell phone radiation. And in the 1990s, Carlo ran the biggest scam of all, WTR, the CTIA-financed industry research program on cell phone radiation risks (see "WTR and the Betrayal of the Public Trust"). Twenty years later, no one yet knows what happened to the $25 million that was supposed to have been spent on health research.

January 31, 2012

“I am the happiest man alive,” says Robert Dill-Bundi, the Swiss Olympic cycling champion. Dill-Bundi developed a glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive, usually fatal, type of brain tumor, but is still alive years after being treated with electric fields. The therapy was developed by Novocure, an Israeli company (see: “Weak Kilohertz Electric Fields Kill Tumor Cells”). Bill Doyle, Novocure’s chairman, describes how the treatment works in a lecture recently posted by TEDMED, an offshoot of TED, the technology/entertainment/design consortium. Take a look at the 16-minute video and see what might well be the future of cancer treatment.

January 18, 2012

Carl Blackman of the U.S. EPA has published an editorial comment accompanying the new Boris Pasche paper on modulating frequencies to treat cancer in the British Journal of Cancer. In "Treating Cancer with Amplitude-Modulated Electromagnetic Fields: A Potential Paradigm Shift, Again?," Blackman puts Pasche's new findings in context with the work on amplitude-modulated (AM) signals by Ross Adey and Suzanne Bawin from the mid-1970s, as well as Blackman's own studies from the same era. Blackman concludes: "The group of [Pasche's] three papers demonstrate a new, potentially important modality in the treatment of cancer that could lead to a paradigm shift in disease treatment. I hope that this medical application of AM-EMF will not be allowed languish without funding, as happened with its previous, ill-fated emergence." The editorial is open access, as is the Pasche paper.