A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

2021 Short Takes

Runs over 200 Pages and Includes More Than 1,000 References

September 27, 2021

A detailed examination —likely the most exhaustive ever attempted— of the environmental effects of non-ionizing radiation has been published in Reviews on Environmental Health.

“Effects of Non-Ionizing Electromagnetic Fields on Flora and Fauna” is in three parts, the last of which was posted today. They are:

Taken together, the three papers run over 200 pages in the journal and include more than 1,000 references.

The authors are Blake Levitt, Henry Lai and Albert Manville. Levitt is a science journalist, based in Connecticut, and the author of Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer's Guide to the Issues and How To Protect Ourselves, first published in 1995. Lai is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, Seattle. In the 1990s, he and N.P. Singh were the first to show that  ELF (60 Hz) EMFs and RF radiation could lead to DNA breaks. Manville is a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and, formerly, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We approached it from the biology/environmental ecosystem level, rather than the typical physics and/or human physiology side,” Levitt told Microwave News.

She added that they are planning to publish a book on the topic for the lay reader.

Strict Standard Seen as Barrier to 5G Development

May 3, 2021
Updated May 5, 2021

Italy’s 6 V/m RF exposure standard, one of the strictest in the world, may soon fall victim to 5G.

The Italian limit, adopted more than 20 years ago, is widely perceived as standing in the way of the build-out of 5G infrastructure, which will require the installation of many more RF antennas. The proposed solution is to make the standard ten times weaker and bring it in line with ICNIRP’s 61 V/m guideline.*

The standard is a target of Italy’s post-pandemic national recovery plan (known as the Next Generation Italia or PNRR). The plan allocates over €40 billion (~US$48 billion) to advance the digitization of the country, including promoting 5G technology and increasing broadband speeds nationwide, currently among the slowest in Europe.

All the major political parties, except one, favor loosening the 6 V/m limit, according to La Repubblica, the second most widely read (non-sport) newspaper in Italy. The one holdout is the Fratelli d’Italia party (Brothers of Italy), a far-right, neo-fascist group —and even it is on record as wanting to make the siting of antennas easier for telecom operators.

The proposal has galvanized a coalition of Italian environmental researchers and activists, as well as members of the international RF research community. They have appealed to the government to save the 6 V/m limit. (See Tweets below.)

One appeal, sent to Mario Draghi, the recently installed prime minister, on April 26, had been signed by more than 8,700 supporters within a couple of days, according to Fiorella Belpoggi. She is the scientific director of the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna and is helping coordinate the campaign.

Italy has long been a hotbed of anti-5G activism. A petition calling for a moratorium on 5G, launched two years ago, has garnered more than 63,000 signatures. The Italian Stop 5G Alliance has been a major force in promoting this petition.

The protests —including a hunger strike by over 150 people— appears to have softened the government’s approach. When the lower house of the Parliament approved the recovery plan at the end of April, the proposal to eliminate the 6 V/m limit had been dropped and replaced by a call to review the standard. But, Belpoggi told Microwave News, “the door for a change remains open.”

All Eyes on Vittorio Colao

Much of the public furor at the potential weakening of the exposure limit has been directed at Vittorio Colao, the Harvard-educated minister for innovation, technology and digitization in the new Draghi government.

Colao was the chief executive of Vodafone, the largest telecommunications company in Europe, for ten years, ending in late 2018. The following year he became a director of Verizon, the second biggest telecom in the world (after AT&T) and, like Colao himself, a major promoter of 5G technology. Colao has now stepped down from the Verizon board. He has been praised as a “strategic visionary.”

Colao played a major role in designing the PNRR. He was commissioned by the previous Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, to devise a post-COVID recovery strategy, which became known as the Colao plan. It included investments in infrastructure.

That plan, delivered to Conte last June, proposed raising Italy’s exposure limits to those recommended by the EC (that is, the ICNIRP limits), according to Livio Giuliani, the former director of research at Italy’s National Institute for Prevention and Occupational Safety (ISPESL, now INAIL). The 2020 plan also favored giving national authorities the right to veto local ordinances that block antennas.§ (This would be similar to the federal preemption of local laws in the U.S.)

The new digitization initiative, which Colao would most likely implement, accounts for about 20% of the total outlays under the €200 billion PNRR.

In a meeting with legislators in April, Colao acknowledged that a weakening of the 6 V/m limit is “unpopular.” He committed to striking a balance between the number of antennas and the health and welfare of the citizenry, pledging that, “the scientific evidence would be evaluated,” according to La Repubblica.

When the 6 V/m standard took effect in 1999, Italy had the most restrictive standard in Europe. A year later, Switzerland adopted a 4 V/m limit for cell tower radiation and a 3 V/m limit for radio and TV transmitters (details here).

The 6 V/m limit is approximately the same as the Soviet/Russian exposure standard of 10 μW/cm2.

It is not clear what impact the Italian standard may have had on the build-out of the mobile phone network or would have on 5G antennas.

The April 26 appeal to Draghi concludes:

“Italy has led the world for the last 20 years in demonstrating that their lower and more health protective exposure limits for RFR can be reached by the Italian Telecommunications industry without significant economic or technical barriers to their expansion into 4 and 5G systems.”

 ___________________

Here’s a thread of Microwave News Tweets, posted last week as some of this story played out:

Microwave News Tweet on Italy 6 V/m Limit, Pt1Link to press release

Microwave News Tweet on Italy 6 V/m Limit, Pt2
Link
to letter

Microwave News Tweet on Italy 6 V/m Limit, Pt3
Link to letter

Microwave News Tweet on Italy 6 V/m Limit, Pt4

______________________

* How much weaker is the ICNIRP standard than Italy’s 6 V/m limit? It depends on whether you are looking at the electric field or power density. The 6 V/m electric field standard is approximately ten times stricter than ICNIRP’s 61 V/m. In terms of power density, the Italian limit is about a hundred times stricter than ICNIRP (10 μW/cm2 v. 1 mW/cm2). The reason: Power density is proportional to the square of the electric field strength.

† In 1999, the EC recommended that member states follow the ICNIRP guidelines. From the Italian Parliament on March 24, 2021: “Consider adjusting the current Italian limits on electromagnetic emissions to the European ones.” (Item #15 on p.76.)

‡ See also the July 2020 report on 5G from a committee of the Italian Parliament.

§ See item #27 on p.22 of the June 2020 Colao plan. Some 500 municipalities have policies that make it hard to site antennas, La Repubblica reported last year.

Alexander Lerchl Has Received $5 Million in Research Grants from German Government

February 8, 2021

Alexander Lerchl’s bogus campaign against the REFLEX project and members of Hugo Rüdiger’s lab did nothing to harm his career. Just the opposite, Lerchl thrived as he gained stature and a succession of rich research grants from the German government.

Over the last 20 years, Germany’s Federal Office of Radiation Protection —the Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, or BfS for short— has given Lerchl $5 million in contracts. Lerchl has been the best-funded RF lab researcher in Germany, Europe, and, most likely, the world (see Table below).

“Invalidating the REFLEX study and showing that mobile phone radiation is harmless are in the interest of his patrons —the BfS and the mobile communication industry,” Franz Adlkofer told Microwave News. “Both have embraced him.” Adlkofer ran the REFLEX project and supported Elisabeth Kratochvil’s lawsuit against Lerchl that led to his censure in a December court decision (see accompanying story).

BfS Grants to Alaxander Lerchl, 2002-2019

The BfS is also the principal sponsor and institutional home of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). In each of the last three years, it has contributed 70-80% of ICNIRP’s annual income. Like Lerchl, ICNIRP has refused to recognize, and has often dismissed, the cancer risks associated with mobile phones.

In 2008, as he was waging his campaign against the Rüdiger lab, Lerchl was appointed to a two-year term as chairman of the Non-Ionizing Radiation Committee of the German Radiation Protection Commission, known as the SSK, and was reappointed in 2011. For four years, 2009-2012, Lerchl was, effectively, the most senior advisor on EMFs and RF radiation to the German government. (The SSK advises the BfS.)

As early as May 2013, the directors of Diagnose Funk, a German-Swiss environmental and consumer protection group, issued a public statement calling for Lerchl to be disavowed by the BfS management and other scientific, governmental and academic officials. They asked:

“For how long is this man still to be tolerated by the scientific community as a research project leader, by the Jacobs University Bremen as a tenured professor, and by politicians as an advisor?”

In an interview with Diagnose Funk, posted online on February 4, Adlkofer echoed those same eight-year-old sentiments. Politicians “must ask themselves whether they can afford to continue working with a man who has been exposed as an unscrupulous slanderer,” Adlkofer stated.

Lerchl Silent on BfS’ Two Failed REFLEX Follow-Ups

In 2005, the BfS sponsored two projects to test the REFLEX findings. Both were beset with missteps and delays.

The first was a million-dollar (€832,000) contract to a young researcher, Petra Waldmann, at the College of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt. It appeared to be an obvious attempt to engineer a negative finding. Waldmann was tasked with using a cell type that Rüdiger and Kratochvil had already shown to be unresponsive to mobile phone radiation. At the time, Adlkofer had warned the BfS that “you won’t see an effect” with those cells. She didn’t. Inexplicably, Waldmann took seven years to publish her negative results in Radiation Research.

To save face the BfS soon commissioned a second project, also in Darmstadt, at a cost of $700,000 (€566,000) which called for exposing the same type of cells in which Rüdiger had seen DNA breaks. No effects were found. These results are not easily accessible. They were never published in a peer-reviewed journal and the final report was not released for six years —not until 2014, eight years after the first Rüdiger paper. The report runs 268 pages and is available in German only, with a one-page abstract in English.

Amid his never-ending criticism of REFLEX, Lerchl came to see himself in the role of policing the EMF/RF literature to weed out what he saw as bad science and misconduct. Yet, he never once called out either group of Darmstadt researchers, or his benefactors at the BfS when they decided to use an inactive cell type, or when the Darmstadt group failed to publish its findings.

Importantly, Lerchl never acknowledged that a 15-minute walk from the Rüdiger lab, across the MUV campus, Wilhelm Mosgöller’s group was exposing the same cells to the same radiation and seeing changes in DNA repair. That is, Mosgöller was showing independent evidence of the claim at the heart of the Vienna controversy: RF radiation can affect DNA (more here).

Lerchl is a professor of biology at Jacobs University. He also has an appointment as a professor of ethics of science and technology.

Slow-Walking Cancer Studies

In 2011, while Lerchl was still chairman of the SSK NIR committee, the BfS awarded him over $500,000 (€458,000) for an animal experiment to repeat a German study which showed that 3G radiation can promote cancer. To just about everyone’s surprise, in 2015, Lerchl announced that he had confirmed the earlier finding.

A replication study has always been held as the sine qua non for regulatory action. Yet, BfS remained silent. It called for no reevaluation of the RF–cancer risk. Nor is there any indication that the BfS asked ICNIRP to investigate.

The BfS followed up with another contract, this time for $200,000 (€164,000), to allow Lerchl to see if he could better understand how RF promotes tumors. Though it ended in May 2017, Lerchl only published his findings late last year.

By then, the BfS had given Lerchl yet another contract, this time for close to $1.5 million (€1.2 million) for work on 5G radiation. News of this award was not without irony. Lerchl, who was known as an animal researcher, would now be following up Rüdiger’s cell culture studies. He would be doing the experiments that Adlkofer had lost due to the fallout of the Vienna Affair.

In a statement following the Bremen decision, Diagnose Funk urged the BfS to cancel Lerchl’s 5G contract.

Others have called on Japanese and Korean officials to remove Lerchl from the advisory panel for the partial repeat of the U.S. NTP animal-cancer study.

See also: German Court Moves To Silence Relentless Critic of RF DNA Studies
and Lerchl’s Unattainable Prize: The IARC RF Panel

Cited Theory To Reject Low-Level EMF Effects

January 6, 2021
Updated January 7, 2021

Robert K. Adair, the former chairman of the physics department at Yale University and a leading critic of any and all claims that weak EMFs can have biological effects, died on September 28. He was 96.

A particle physicist, Adair held one of Yale’s prestigious Sterling professorships. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. To the public, Adair is best known as the author of The Physics of Baseball.

During the 1990s, after retiring from teaching, he took a professional interest in the work of his wife, Eleanor Adair, who studied the physiological effects associated with microwave heating at the John B. Pierce Laboratory, also in New Haven (and later at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas). Over the next decade, Robert Adair published a series of scientific papers and commentaries, in which he maintained that, as he wrote in a 1992 letter to Science magazine, health risks associated with exposure to weak EMFs are an “imaginary problem.”

One of Adair's central arguments was that low-level fields could not affect biological systems because they are so much weaker than the natural thermal fluctuations in living systems (this is known as the “kT problem”). He once compared worrying about EMF health effects with being concerned that a cat will damage a tree by breathing on it during a howling wind storm.

In a letter to Physics Today in 1991, he wrote that “good scientists” consider very weak 60 Hz fields harmless “because their effects on the cellular level are very, very much smaller than thermal noise.” Earlier that same year, he presented his argument in a 10-page paper in the Physical Review under the title, “Constraints on Biological Effects of Weak Extremely-Low-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields.” He also published his views on EMFs in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See, for instance, this 1994 paper on interactions with magnetite.

Adair had influential allies within the Yale physics community, notably Allan Bromley, who was also a Sterling professor and a chairman of its physics department. Bromley was the science advisor to President George H.W. Bush. In 1990, Bromley delayed the public release of an EPA report that classified power-frequency EMFs as a probable human carcinogen and microwave radiation as a possible carcinogen. Those cancer classifications were removed from the report prior to release and never officially acknowledged or acted on.

Frank Barnes, for one, has publicly disagreed with Adair. In an interview with Microwave News in 2016, Barnes said: “Bob Adair’s calculations are not wrong — they just don’t deal with the situations we are dealing with,” referring to the potential for RF radiation to promote cancer. Barnes is a distinguished professor emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder and a long-time member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Eleanor Adair died in 2013 at the age of 86.

The Yale Department of Physics has posted an obituary for Robert Adair, under the title, “Explorer of Strange Particles —and Baseballs.” A shorter obit appeared in the New Haven Register.