Dr Dariusz Leszczynski, Adjunct Professor, Division of Biochemistry and Biotechnology at the University of Helsinki and a member of a working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries constituted by World Health Organization (WHO) that classified cellphone radiation as possibly carcinogenic, in conversation with MaitriPorecha, reveals how leading cell phone operators and manufacturers are withdrawing funding for research, leading to closing down of laboratories studying effects of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields as emitted by cellphones and cell towers. Excerpts -
1. How was cell phone radiation categorized as group 2B carcinogen, based on increasing risk of Glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and WHO?
The number of mobile phone subscriptions is estimated at 5 billion globally. With rising concerns over adverse health effects, in 2010, IARC invited thirty one experts to evaluate evidence involving carcinogenicity of cell phone radiation. The experts assembled at IARC headquarters in Lyon, France, in a meeting that lasted for twelve days in 2011. Experts shared the complex task of tackling the exposure data, the studies of cancer in humans, the studies of cancer in experimental animals, and the mechanistic and other relevant data. Groups worked separately and together sifting through many hundred research studies. After intense deliberations, we agreed upon the group 2B classification.
2. On one hand, cell tower operators and industry stake holders say that cell phone radiation does not cause cancer, on the other hand the residents or activists posit a precautionary stand point by saying that it may cause cancer. Why there is no clarity?
The IARC-WHO classification of cell phone radiation is misrepresented by the industry. Classification of cell phone radiation as 'a possible carcinogen to humans’ means that there are enough studies indicating that it might cause cancer and that we urgently need more research to clarify this issue. The strongest evidence that it might be causing cancer comes from three epidemiological studies. In 2011, two sets of studies were available – EU's Interphone study and a series of studies from LennartHardell’s group in Sweden. Recently, CERENAT study from France published in 2014, similarly indicated that persons using cell phones for more than ten years and for half hour per day are at a higher risk for developing brain cancer. In fact now the evidence is sufficient to consider cell phone radiation as a probable carcinogen – Group 2A in IARC’s scale of carcinogenicity.
3. Could you describe your work on cell phone radiation? Did you discover that it has ill effects on human health and if yes, in what way?
Our research has shown that human cells exposed in laboratory to cell phone radiation activated series of biochemical reactions in them known as 'stress response,' which means that the living cells recognize cell phone radiation as a potentially harmful agent. Stress responses are signals that intend to protect the living cell from any potential damage. In the 2008 study conducted by us, a small area of human forearm's skin in ten volunteers was exposed to GSM signal for one hour. After that, pieces of the radiation exposed skin and unexposed skin were collected and used for 'proteomic analysis.' In it, all proteins from the skin samples were extracted and amounts of different kinds of proteins in exposed and unexposed skin samples were compared. After the analysis of nearly 580 proteins, we identified eight proteins which were statistically significantly affected. We determined that the amounts of several proteins were changing after the exposure. After acquiring this result in the pilot ten-volunteer-study, we intended to conduct a larger study with 100 volunteers from 2009 onwards. This study did not start due to lack of funding and opposition from the telecom industry stakeholders.
4. Why did the government did not sanction funds? What happened?
My laboratory studies on effects of cell phone radiation to human health began in 1999. My lab, which was government-run, was closed down in 2013 due to lack of funding as certain cell phone manufacturers and network operators in Finland were opposing the large scale human studies. We receive grants from government to conduct studies but in spite of making positive headway on research our funding was stopped. We were cut off from funding as the telecom industry was against it.
While majority of the funding for such research projects consists of tax payers money and industry pumps in only a part of the money, the advice of industry is highly valued during sanctioning of funds by the government.
5. How much funding was expended during the last 15 years and how much more funding would be required to require to bring your studies to a proper conclusion?
I was working on cell phone radiation effects for the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. My research group has expended over the 15 years period well over one million euros. Some persons in the Finnish bureaucracy decided that basic research should be done in universities and thus basic research labs in government-run institutes were closed in a bid to save money in 2013. The 2009 study was planned to last about three years and entailed enrolling 100 human volunteers. There was a very real possibility of securing such funding from the EU research program but my research group was not permitted to do it. In order to continue the abruptly stopped study on humans, we would require some quarter million euros in funding. Industry provides jobs for people and therefore research policy decisions are taken by the government are influenced by it. The industry denied funding. To conduct that kind of human volunteer study, qualified personnel, laboratory space and sufficient funding is needed, of which I have none currently.
6. Do you believe that the standards set by the Indian Telecommunications Ministry in September 2012 at 450 milliwatts/square meter (900MHz) for Electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation which is one tenth of what is prescribed by International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) enough when the government admitted in September 2012 that 95% of the mobile tower antennae were below the revised norms of 450 milliwatts/square meter radiation? Also, when most towers are well below those permissible limits, what is the logic behind Telecom ministry's bringing down the levels from 4500 mW/sq m to 450 mW/sq m?
ICNIRP is an organization of scientists, claiming that they are independent in their scientific opinions. However, there is a major problem – ICNIRP selects members in fashion resembling “private club” practices. The current members of ICNIRP select new members. This model leads to situation where all ICNIRP members have the same opinion on the dangers of cell phone radiation. When all ICNIRP scientists have the same opinion there is no need for scientific debate – there is a prior, existing consensus. This was not the case in the WHO’s IARC evaluation, where scientists with diverse, often opposing opinions were invited.
ICNIRP safety standards for radiation emissions from cell phones and cell towers may not be sufficient to protect people. The IARC classification of cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen invalidates the protective claims of the current ICNIRP safety standards. In epidemiological case-control studies evaluated by IARC (Interphone and Hardell) and published after IARC evaluation (CERENAT), adult participants used regular, off-the-shelf, cell phones. These cell phones were built to fulfill ICNIRP safety standards. However, avid use of such "ICNIRP-safe phones," for period of over 10 years, led to an increased risk of brain cancer. This means that the current safety standards do not protect sufficiently users of cell phones and this also casts a doubt over the validity of safety standards set for cell towers.
Of what I have seen from the pictures of India, as also what I have seen while visiting India, there are numerous situations where there are too many antennas located en masse, in huge clusters. Whether such clusters fulfill the current Indian safety standards should be examined. It is up to the local politicians and government to make sure that safety standards are met and to determine if present safety standards are questionable.
7. Certain Australian schools are banning Wi-Fi, what is the rationale behind taking such steps?
There is a discussion in Australia, Canada, US, Europe about the possibility of harm caused by Wi-Fi. Some school principals are banning Wi-Fi, due to pressure from parents of the children. Grass root movements of parents concerned with Wi-Fi in schools is, in some cases, very strong. Wi-Fi radiation is similar to that emitted by cell phones and cell towers, which have been classified as a ‘possible’ carcinogen.
We can be legitimately concerned about what might happen to children, who are very young and spend seven to eight hours continuously exposed to Wi-Fi radiation. It is a responsible precautionary measure to ban Wi-Fi in schools. There are places where providing wired internet is not possible, like in railway stations or airports, but in schools wired internet is possible to install. There is no real need for Wi-Fi for schools.
In other places, where the wired internet is not feasible, is also possible to introduce precautionary measures. In airports or railway stations, there are enclosed spaces where people can gather and smoke tobacco. Others are not exposed to smoke.
A similar thing can be done for providing Wi-Fi connectivity. There could be provided enclosed areas, with walls built of materials not allowing Wi-Fi radiation to go outside, where Wi-Fi access would be provided without unnecessary exposing everyone.
8. WHO is working on a new report summarizing the health risks of radio-frequency fields, to be published next year? What is the researchers' fraternity expecting out of the report? As also, do you think there is now evidence enough after the release of French epidemiological study in 2014 that classification of cell phone radiation should be shifted from Group 2B to Group 2A or Group 1?
The yet to be released WHO report has been delayed for ten years. They were waiting for the results to see if the Interphone project was finalized and, later, for the IARC evaluation of carcinogenicity. The WHO report will analyze all effects of radiation possibly fertility in humans and other health issues, not only cancer.
ICNIRP scientists are involved in the WHO report and, therefore, one cannot expect that it will substantially differ from what ICNIRP is saying.
The recent French CERENAT epidemiological study provides, together with Interphone and Hardell studies, is an evidence sufficient to consider cell phone radiation as a probable carcinogen – Group 2A in IARC’s scale of carcinogenicity.
9. Recently the industry has started a campaign stating that radiation from mobile towers and mobile phones is not hazardous. They have brought in researchers like Dr Mike Repacholi, the ex co-ordinator of the radiation and environment health unit of WHO, who has claimed there are no health hazards from mobile towers/phone radiation. Do you agree with his statements?
The industry likes to call on scientists who will endorse their product and say that it is safe. Hence, Dr Repacholi visited India and spoke publicly about the safety of cell phones as well as cell towers. I disagree with Dr Repacholi. He says that we don't have and we will not have in the future health problems due to cell phone and cell tower radiation. In my opinion the scientific evidence is still insufficient to say that cell phone radiation is harmless. We need both better research and, for the time being, implementation of the European Union’s Precautionary Principle until there is further clarity.
We are surrounded by insidious smog of radiation from Wifi, telecommunication and electronic devices 24/7. These have extremely harmful effects upon sleep patterns, cellular DNA and the power generating capacity of the human body cells.
A recent study published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology confirms that the microwave radiation given off by mobile phones is capable of transforming normal cells into cancerous ones. Realistically, most people reading this article will not be decommissioning their iPhones or Androids any time soon.
Using a mobile phone has now become as important as breathing and the genius invention does deserve most of the attention it gets. The only solution to this issue is a find a way to stop the radiation from reaching you even though it is being emitted all around you.
Save your cells, Save yourself. Try RadBlok on your devices and take a step towards a healthier life.
In 1996, mobile radiation exposure guidelines where created by the FCC with the help of the FDA, EPA, NIOSH and OSHA.
The guidelines created a measure of the rate that body tissue absorbs radiation energy during cell phone use called the specific absorption rate (SAR). The SAR for cell phone radiation was set at a maximum of 1.6 watts of energy absorbed per kilogram of body weight. The limit was set due to the thermal effects of cell phone radiation - it was not set to mitigate other biological effects cell phone radiation might have such as DNA damage or cancer. The FCC SAR limit is based upon a cell phone call that averages 30 minutes when the cell phone is held at the ear.
Holding a phone away from the body or using a wired earpiece lowers the amount of radiation absorbed, and text messaging rather than talking, further lowers that amount.
In a ranking of mobile phones that provide least and maximum radiation, Samsung seemed to have the lowest radiation levels, where as Motorola shot right to the top of the list. Apple, Blackberry and Nokia phones also seem to do more harm than Motorola.
Seeing that top brands like these are openly declared harmful, maybe we should take a closer look at what phones we’re buying.
When a popularly recognized journal says that cell phone radiation might actually be good for me, I’d buy it. I’d call more friends and talk longer to my relatives. But it turns out that this respected journal actually got it all wrong. The only time it is 100% acceptable to use your cell phone is when you have to call the doctor. Rumor had it, that cell phone vibration were protecting or even curing mankind from Alzheimer’s? Here is why you should NOT believe that. Read on.
A study was conducted using mice, exposed for cell radiations for up to 2 hours a day, regularly for nine months. The results surprised renowned researcher Dr. Gary Arendash of the University of South Florida in Tampa.
In this study, Dr. Arendash exposed both normal mice and mice that were genetically altered to develop an Alzheimer's-like syndrome to the radiation that is generated by cell phones. The astonishing result was that in both types of laboratory mice, cell phone radiation appeared to improve cognitive function. In the Alzheimer's-like strain, it even seemed to reverse the defining characteristic of the illness.
Arendash's interesting experiment still needs to be replicated by other researchers before it can be seen as a solid, demonstrable fact. A number of studies using mice and rats have found that cell phone radiation harms rather than improves learning and cognitive function. Many, though not all, studies have found that in both rats and mice chronic exposure to cell phone radiation causes deficits in learning and memory in spatial tasks.
Of course, we all want to hope Dr. Gary Arendash’s findings would relieve Alzheimer’s sufferers from the sticky amyloid protein in their brain. If using a cellphone is all it takes, doctors would recommend social media as a cure. However, until then do know that your cell phone will not protect you from developing Alzheimer's disease.
Men may want to reconsider how closely they store their mobile phone to their reproductive organs. A meta-analysis of ten past studies, led by researchers at University of Exeter, U.K., found a small but consistent drop in sperm quality if the men (or their, uh, samples) had been exposed to mobile phone radiation.
"The implications are likely to be greatest for subgroups of men with multiple exposures to different factors which act together to affect their sperm; and possibly for men who already have borderline fertility," said researcher Fiona Mathews, Ph.D
Mathews analyzed ten studies that included 1,492 total samples and ranged from experimental lab studies with sperm samples to observational studies in humans. She found that in both types of studies, exposure to the radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones was associated with an average 8.1 percent decrease in sperm motility and an average 9.1 percent decrease in sperm viability.
Studies linking cell phone exposure to harmful effects on sperm have been done in the United States, Australia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Turkey and South Africa, using diverse methodologies. In some, scientists compared sperm counts and sperm health in men who wore cell phones on the hip with those who carried them elsewhere on the body or did not use cell phones at all.
Among the findings:
Laboratory studies on the effects of cell phone radiation on rats, rabbits and other animals have found similar effects on reproductive health (Kesari 2011; Mailankot 2009).
All these studies found statistically significant correlations between cell phone radiation and sperm health, and many found that the adverse changes increased with the amount of radiation exposure. Opinions differ as to the possible mechanism by which cell phone radiation might produce these changes (Falzone 2010).
The answer by many experts is a "YES". One expert in the field Joel M. Moskowitz, Director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California at Berkeley says that “It’s looking increasingly likely that cellular phones (mostly smartphones these days) are harmful in terms of cancer risk, particularly to the head and neck.” A panel of 31 expert scientists from 14 different countries echoed this view and classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Why are the experts taking this view. The answer is "Glioma"- the most common form of brain cancer. Cell phone emissions were also strongly linked with another type of tumor, benign acoustic neuromas.
Since 2011 new independent studies , not funded by the wireless industry were conducted. 70% of the independent studies pointed out that cell phone radiation are very likely to cause brain cancer. Henry Lai, a professor at the University of Washington analyzed all available studies on cell phone radiation. He downright dismisses doubting Thomasses. “Even if you accept all the industry studies, you still end up with 50-50,” Lai says “How could 50 percent all be garbage? People always start with the statement ‘hundreds of studies have been done on this topic, and no effect has been found’ — but this is a very misleading statement.”
Another potentially telling revelation is that the industry can’t get product liability insurance for mobile devices. Some people within the insurance industry feel that there’s a real risk of a wave of lawsuits related to brain tumors and other conditions caused by cell phones over the next couple of decades. Insurance giant the Swiss Re Group included “unforeseen consequences of electromagnetic fields” in its Emerging Risk Insights report. “Governments are flying blind on this, they’re either ignorant or they’re in denial,” Moskowitz says. “In part it’s ignorance, but in part they’re getting pressure from an industry that dwarfs big tobacco. It’s just too profitable, a sizeable portion of your cell phone bill goes to governments in fees or taxes.”
A Cornell University neuroscientist, Allan Frey, conducted a fairly simple experiment on lab rats to determine the effects of radio frequency signals on the brain.
The brain contains a barrier (Blood Brain Barrier/BBB) that prevents or slows the passage of some drugs and other disease causing organisms from entering the CNS (Central Nervous System).
One such compound that this barrier can prevent - dye. Allan Frey injected florescent dye into the rats’ femoral veins. He observed that the entire body of the rat, expect for its brain, turned pink/grey.
After this, he exposed the rats to weak pulsed radio frequency signals. A few minutes later, the rat’s brain showed signs of the florescent dye entering its brain. The BBB had been breached. The rats showed similar results to radio frequency radiation.
The reasons for this research to have not progressed any further are currently unclear, but Allan Frey’s findings clearly proved that even weakly pulsed radiations cause harm to the brain.
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There are many amongst us who still say that studies on negative effects of mobile radiation on human body aren't conclusive. One way of countering those arguments is to remind them of the time it took for manufacturers, government to move from the "smoking may cause cancer" phrase to "smoking will cause cancer." Fortunately for us, mobile phone users, the SAR levels are a definitive way of addressing this vexing challenge more quickly and decisively. In this blog we are listing the 5-phones cell phones that have the highest (and therefore most dangerous) SAR (Specific Absorption Rate.) To put the findings in context, note that the highest SAR allowed by law in the United States is 1.5 watts/kg (rounded to the nearest 0.1W/KG). The cell phones listed in this blog are close to, at, or above that rate.
Topping the list is Motorola Droid Max (1.54). A huge battery capacity, high-performing premium phone that sadly tops the SAR list, making it a very poor choice health wise. Coming second and third are Motorola's Droid - SAR level 1.54, Moto E - SAR level 1.5 respectively. The Motorola Moto E is an Android phone priced at a mere $140, and boasts of water resistant capabilities. It can even be termed a good deal, if not for the fact that it exposes you to a lot of radiation. But Motorola fans needn't worry. Move up the ladder and pick a Motorola Moto G, and you'd be moving away from the danger list. Fourth on the list is Alcatel one Touch Evolve at SAR level 1.49. This device is priced at $99, clearly masks the health risks that it carries. No list of this kind will be complete without the ubiquitous Chinese makes. And here we have Huawei Vitria at a SAR level of 1.49. That's just .01 off from the highest level allowed. That's as close to as you will ever come to kissing the danger levels of radiation zone.