A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

News Center: Short Takes Archive

June 28, 2011

Birds do it, butterflies do it, and now we learn that people may do it too. A group at the University of Massachusetts Medical School led by neurobiologist Steven Reppert reports that humans can sense the Earth's magnetic field. The finding prompts the team to suggest "a reassessment of human magnetosensivitiy may be in order." Check out the story in today's New York Times based on an open access paper posted last week by Nature Communications.

June 24, 2011

The WHO EMF project in Geneva has updated its fact sheet on mobile phones (#193) in light of the IARC decision. WHO continues to maintain, as it did last year following the release of the Interphone study, that, "no adverse health effects [due to mobile phones] have been established."

Beyond that, the fact sheet doesn't say much other than that the jury is still out and that more research is needed. What's most notable is what's not included. There's nothing about precaution or about discouraging use by children. When the fact sheet was first revised back in 2000 (it was originally issued back in 1998), it paid at least lip service to precaution: "If individuals are concerned..." We asked Emilie van Deventer, the leader of the EMF project, why the health agency has nothing to say about precaution for exposures to an IARC-designated possible human carcinogen. No word back yet.

June 21, 2011

The attendance list for last week's Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting in Nova Scotia paints a sorry picture of EMF and RF research in the U.S. Of the fewer than 250 who registered (already a small number), only about 50 were Americans, half as many as who came from Europe. Of the 50, maybe just ten do any research at all. If you eliminate those who either collect or qualify for Social Security, there's practically no one left.

When the old timers stop showing up, only the industry reps and their hirelings will be in the room.

June 17, 2011

You can now get free copies of IEEE EMF and RF safety standards —thanks to the U.S. military. The Naval Surface Warfare Center is sponsoring downloads of five IEEE standards, including those specifying exposure limits for RF/MW radiation (C95.1–2005) and those for power-line frequencies (C95.6–2002). The other three cover how to do measurements and set up a safety program.

The free downloads will continue for at least five years. Click here for more details

June 16, 2011

Who wouldn't be confused? Here's a headline from today's U.K. Daily Mail: "Mobile Phones May NOT Increase Cancer Risk as Most Brain Tumours 'Not Within Radiation Range'." Yet, just two days earlier, it gave its readers a very different message: "Number of People with Brain Cancer Could Soar 20-Fold in 20 Years Because of Mobile Phones, Experts Warn." These opposing stories stem from the two tumor location papers from the warring factions within the Interphone study group: One says there is a tumor risk, the other says everything is just fine (see "Dueling Tumor Location Papers".) By the late afternoon in London, the editors at the Mail must have realized that they looked a bit silly; they reworked today's headline to: "Can Your Mobile Give You  a Brain Tumor? Yes (and No) Say a Battery of Scientists and Experts as Health Controversy Continues." You can still see the old headline in the URL of the updated story.

June 10, 2011

Anders Ahlbom has resigned as the chairman of the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority’s expert group on EMFs and RF radiation.

The group issues an annual review of new research. Ahlbom had served as the chairman ever since the group was established close to a decade ago.

Now that he has stepped down, the Authority has closed its investigation into whether Ahlbom's connection to his brother's telecom consulting firm might have constituted a conflict with his advisory role at the Authority. As is now widely known, that potential conflict prompted IARC to remove him from its RF working group.

No word yet as to who will replace Ahlbom.

June 9, 2011

The Interphone RF–brain tumor location paper from Elisabeth Cardis's group was posted today on the Web site of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (OEM). 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 the brain among long-term and heavy users of mobile phones." It goes on to caution that these results are "uncertain" and need to be replicated. The authors come from five of the 13 countries participating in the Interphone project. Another paper from seven of the Interphone countries has also just appeared —it finds no suggestion of a brain tumor risk.

OEM also released a second paper from the Cardis group today. This latter work details the factors that influence total RF dose at the location of the brain tumor. They are: the communication system and frequency band of the phone, tumor location and, of course, the amount of actual use. Interestingly, other factors that have long been thought as being important, for instance differences between urban and rural as well as between indoor and outdoor use were found to have "a relatively minor influence."

June 7, 2011

"No one should overreact to the word 'possible'," Jonathan Samet said in an interview with the New York Times on the IARC decision to label radiation from cell phones and other RF sources as "possible human carcinogens." Samet, who chaired the panel, said that the discussion among the committee members about cellphone safety was "at times contentious," but that the group eventually reached consensus on "possible." And David McCormick, who chaired the subgroup on animal studies, told WTTW, Chicago's public TV station, that his "entire" animal panel was "right on the border" of categories "2B" and "3," that is between "limited evidence"  that RF is a possible carcinogen and "insufficient evidence" to make a call. As for himself, McCormick said that he was just over the line into the limited category.

June 5, 2011

Here are some statistics on how the public sees the IARC warning that cell phone radiation may cause brain cancer. A break down of 19,000 posts on Twitter and Facebook, between May 30 and June 3, found that 22% expressed skepticism ("This is crazy and whoever believes this is crazy too."); 32% made jokes ("Cell phones cause that kind of cancer that makes you drive like a spaz."); and 46% indicated concern ("I'm getting a landline."). The analysis was cone by an outfit called Crimson Hexagon and was reported in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal.

May 29, 2011

The May 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has three letters critical of Nora Volkow's study showing changes in glucose metabolism due to cell phone radiation, together with a reply from Volkow and associates.

One of the letters is from two well-known members of the EMF community, Chris Davis and Q. Balzano. "We believe this study is flawed, as there is no mechanism other than heating by which [cell phone RF radiation] could affect human tissue," they write. Balzano is a former senior executive at Motorola and Davis was an expert witness for the defense in the Newman
 brain tumor lawsuit (see MWN, M/A02, p.8).