Tuesday, May 31, 2011

WHO: Radiofrequency radiation from cell phones and other sources a possible carcinogen

From the Washington Post:
“After a weeklong meeting on the type of electromagnetic radiation found in cellphones, microwaves and radar, the expert panel said there was limited evidence cellphone use was linked to two types of brain tumors and inadequate evidence to draw conclusions for other cancers.”
This whole issue is totally gummed up by conflicts of interest.  The telecoms industry has sponsored much of the research. But several weeks a go a paper out of China provided powerful epidemiologic evidence for cell phone use and parotid gland tumors.  (This salivary gland is located just below and in front of the ear.)  Other tumors that have been linked to cell phone use include acoustic neuroma (a common, benign tumor of the cranial nerve to the inner ear), glioblastoma multiforme (a very malignant brain tumor seen most often in older ages) and meningioma (usually benign tumors of the brain and spinal cord lining).  Although benign, these tumors still require very delicate brain surgery, and may still kill the patient.

The Interphone study, a multicountry many year study of the effects of cellphones has suffered from hidden data and other issues.  Louis Slesin's well-regarded Microwave News has detailed the backstory of this very expensive project.

Another important, recently published piece of this puzzle is an NIH paper that showed exposure to radiofrequency radiation similar to that from a phone antenna significantly increased brain glucose metabolism in areas experiencing highest signal strength.

It appears the tide has turned on this contentious issue.

On May 27 the Council of Europe adopted Resolution 1815 (2011):
The potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment
-- whose text can be read here.

What to do?  Luckily, there are easy fixes.  Keep the phone away from your body, with an earpiece/headset or bluetooth device, since exposure is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from your tissues.  (Even the package inserts tell you to keep the phone away; do you still have the information that came with your cell phone?)  Use landlines (even better if they are not wireless).  Or texting.  Or email.

A peculiarity of US law:  citizens are not allowed to reject the siting of cell phone towers on the basis of health risk for anything other than thermal effects.*  Let me restate that.  The law is a pre-emptive strike against the kinds of scientific research that now point to adverse effects of radiofrequency radiation (including microwaves) in addition to, and different from, the effect of heating up tissue.  The law basically assumes such effects cannot exist, and prevents citizens from using such effects to fight cell tower installations.

With this law in mind, the local school superintendent recently announced that a cell tower would be placed at our high school, currently a dead zone for cell phones.  If it doesn't cook you, the US Government has made it safe, by decree.

Unlimited service may give us new freedoms, but it has its own price.

UPDATE:  The August 18, 2011 NY Times carried an article from San Francisco on the paradoxical warnings required by federal regulation in areas where radiofrequency antennae are installed as cell towers, while federal law prohibits any consideration of health effects in local decisions about siting of the towers. 

*  1. Federal law prohibits state and local agencies, including zoning boards, from basing tower/antenna
siting and construction permits on the harmful environmental effects of radiofrequency (RF) radiation
emissions “to the extent that facilities comply with” the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC)
regulations.  [47 USC Sec. 332( c)(7)(iv)].  Courts and the FCC have interpreted this law to apply to
“human health.”
     2. FCC RF safety standards are based on protection of humans against thermal effects from high
power levels of RF radiation.  The FCC radiation limits do not protect people from adverse
biological effects of long term RF exposure or take into account the impact on children
or other especially vulnerable citizens.   
     3. Legal advocates argue that FCC RF safety standards do not extend to harmful effects on animals or
wildlife. Test cases to determine this are pending in the courts.


John M. said...

As far as I can tell, the alleged dangers from electromagnetic fields comes from basic ignorance of the physics, and making things up. The past alleged dangers from high voltage lines were pseudoscience, and as far as I can tell, the same is true for alleged cellphone dangers.

The difference between radiation capable of breaking chemical bonds (high visible, ultraviolet, etc.) and microwave radiation is the same as the difference between a bullet and numerous gauze balls. Each photon has an energy proportional to its frequency, and microwaves have far lower frequency.

Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize about 90 years ago, for this principle, the photoelectric effect.

Someone described microwaves from the cellphone as cooking the brain, the way microwave ovens cook food. That was nonsense. There is a huge difference in intensity. That would be like visible light reflected from surfaces cooking the same as conventional ovens.

Anonymous said...

hmm, I have a problem with portable household phones. I get a stinging burning, shock type feeling in the head, somewhat akin to touching your wet tongue to a 9-volt battery.

I am so glad this subject came up as I have been intensely studying the effects of electromagnetic radiation and the thermal effects as well. Having been burnt deeply throughout my abdominal tissues from an ultrasound, and having experienced severe pain during the procedure, I started with a call to a radiologist...who was ignorant for the most part. Then to the professor who taught my ultrasound tech. Then with the information I learned, searched the Internet. Boy have we been lied to about the safety and risks of such devices and procedures. At the same time I have been researching MRI's since I need one (or do I ?) and have had a terrible experience with this device in the past. What I have learned is incredible. The public has been lied to for far too long regarding electromagnetic radiation/fields, and not fully told about the risks of "thermal effects". (Thermal effects will vary according to the amount of exposure, and an individuals capacity to dissipate heat)

Interestingly, the MRI tech at the facility I was going to, didn't even know the power level I would be subjected to. Nor was he trained at adjusting the machine, but relied on the machine to make all determinations for what exposure level a patient would have to EMR (government documents speak against relying solely on the machine's decision for CT's so I imagine the opinion would be the same for MRI's)
Basically, by the calculations I would be exposed to 500 watts of Microwave radiation for 25 minutes for the cervical spine, 40 minutes the thoracic, and 25 minutes for the lumbar. Now your average microwaves run 700 watts for the small ones, and the larger ones average 1100 watts. So take a raw egg out of it's shell and subject it to 1/2 power for 1 minute and see how it turns out. Now then, imagine that is your blood plasma, blood cells, brain tissue, delicate nerves, internal organs etc. So should the small thinner neck area which contains your thyroid glands receive the same exposure as the thicker areas of your body ? Add to that a coil to intensify and concentrate the EMR to a specific area.

Now some persons dissipate heat better than others, so exposure to such types of radiation will affect some more than other people. But we have radio frequency to deal with too. Since the brain also operates on frequencies we must consider possible effects. Remember, your nerves operate with electro-chemical signaling.

I will not dismiss cell phone or portable home phones as totally harmless. Just keep the conversation short and use the landline.