Safety Advice for Electromagnetic Fields (PDF)
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The EMF Controversy - Common Misconceptions

Jump to: Conflict of Interest | Deception | Misconceptions
           
See also: Science Overview | Detailed Report

Below are some common misunderstandings which lead people to believe in the false dogma that nonionizing nonthermal radiation is safe. It is NOT a myth that EMF can have health effects. The World Health Organization has declared both powerline magnetic fields and radiofrequency fields to be a Group 2B possible carcinogen in the same category as lead and DDT. There are thousands of scientific studies on the biological effects of EMF.

Conflicts of Interest in Science, Media, Government, and Health Advisory Committees

FundingEffectNo Effect
Industry27(32%)57(68%)
Non-Industry96(70%)41(30%)
Total123(56%)98(44%)

Source: Prof. Henry Lai, Univ. Washington
(Table from Dr. Martin Blank on Electromagnetic Fields).

An analysis of the scientific studies found that the majority of industry-funded studies found no effects, whereas the majority of independent studies did find effects. This is the same thing that had happened for the tobacco and lung cancer studies. It is important, therefore, not only to consider the conclusions of a study, but also its sources of funding.

The media typically presents an undecided viewpoint, one moment raising concerns, and the next moment saying that those concerns are unfounded. Stories are sometimes altered to soften the blow to the wireless industry. When Fortune magazine first reported on electromagnetic hypersensitivity in 1993, Motorola stopped advertising with Fortune magazine for a long time, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost income, according to Microwave News. The media can also have a conflict of interest.

Similarly, the government suffers from a conflict of interest. The wireless industry is reported to be the government's #2 source of revenue, and has reportedly spent $2.3 billion in political lobbying. (Public Health SOS, The Shadow Side of the Wireless Revolution). Billions of dollars are paid for the allocation of the wireless spectrum.

Even health organizations like the World Health Organization suffer from conflicts of interest. See Don Maisch's article, Conflict of Interest & Bias in Health Advisory Committees. Conflicts of interest can prevent health advisory bodies from sounding the alarm on health hazards.

Scientists Challenged

There are many scientists who have had their funding or positions threatened because they found or spoke out on harmful effects from wireless radiation. These scientists include Henry Lai of University of Washington, Allan Frey, Robert Santini, Carl Blackman of the EPA, Ross Adey, Olle Johansson, Gerald Hyland, Olle Johansson, Annie Sasco, Dimitris J. Panagopoulos, and others. Although their credibility has been challenged, their findings have in many cases been reproduced by other scientists.

For example, Henry Lai, who found DNA effects in response to microwaves, was challenged and threatened. However, similar effects on DNA were later observed by the 7-nation European REFLEX study and by the University of Vienna. There is another interesting story shared by Devra Davis that the Adlkofer study was called a fraud in Science magazine, but that this story of fraud was later ruled to be a fraud itself. There are now approximately 11 studies now pointing towards DNA breaks.

Similarly, Allan Frey discovered blood-brain barrier leakage as a result of microwave radiation, which was challenged. However, Leif Salford expanded upon the work, and also showed that rodents' brain cells were dying as a result of microwave radiation.

Common Misconceptions

Myth:There is no consistent evidence that wireless radiation is harmful.. Misleading: The weight of the evidence points towards no harm.

Fact: While the majority of industry-funded studies do not find health effects, the majority of independent studies do. The same thing had happened for the Tobacco industry. Anyone studying the research must be careful to "follow the money trail." Read more below.

Many of the adverse biological effects of wireless technologies have been confirmed by more than one scientific group, including DNA breaks, the increase of free radicals, and the opening of the blood brain barrier. These studies include high profile studies like the 7-nation European REFLEX study. Oftentimes, such findings are followed with an attempt to discredit the scientists involved. However, other scientists later confirm the findings.

When we talk about the "weight of the evidence", we cannot just compare the number of studies finding an effect versus the number of studies not finding an effect. It's very easy in principle to design a study so that it does not find an effect, e.g., by limiting the time period of exposure and follow-up in the study, but this does not "balance out" the studies that do find an effect. See Study Design Variables which may be Manipulated by Science.

Myth: Being classified as a Group 2B possible carcinogen is no reason for concern, because coffee is also a Group 2B carcinogen.

Fact: While those concerned about EMF emphasize that radiofrequency radiation (RF-EMF) and extremely low frequency EMF (ELF-EMF) have been categorized by the World Health Organization/IARC as a Group 2B possible carcinogens, in the same category as lead, DDT, and chloroform, industry advocates on the other hand downplay the classification of EMF as a Group 2B possible carcinogen by reminding us that coffee is also a Group 2B carcinogen.

In June 2016, that changed when the IARC removed coffee from the list of Group 2B carcinogens. Meanwhile, there are scientists who now believe EMF's should be considered a Group 2A probable carcinogen.

Myth: Only ionizing radiation and thermal levels of microwaves can cause damage.

Fact: There are now many studies showing biological effects from nonionizing nonthermal radiation. Recently, it became known that a large $25 Million NIH Cell Phone Radiation study found increased brain and heart tumors in rats after only 2 years of exposure to nonionizing radiation at nonthermal levels of exposure. See also a list of studies by power level. It is time to listen to the science, rather than sticking to outdated dogmas. There are thousands of studies.
Multiple scientific studies have confirmed that wireless radiation can damage DNA (at least 11), and one possible mechanism is by increasing free radicals, which was also found in at least 24 scientific papers on wireless radiation. For more scientific mechanisms, refer to Genotoxic Effects and Cancer. Graham Philips explains that even for ionizing radiation, 25% of DNA breaks are caused by direct damage, but another 75% is caused by ionizing radiation's ability to form free radicals.

Myth: Since cell towers, Wi-Fi, and cell phones are many times weaker than international safety standards, there is no reason for concern.

Fact: International safety standards are still based upon the outdated dogma that only ionizing or thermal levels of radiation are dangerous. Because of that, they are in fact, at least 9000 times higher than levels at which science has demonstrated non-ionizing, nonthermal effects. Because cell towers, Wi-Fi, and cell phones exceed the radiation levels that science has demonstrated to cause biological effects, there is indeed reason for concern.

Myth: Despite the rise of wireless technologies, brain cancer has not been on the increase..

Fact: Studies that look at 10 or more years of use, such as the Leonnart Hardell studies and the Interphone study, do in fact show an increased risk of brain cancer. It has been reported that the heavy use category in the Interphone study included usage as little as 30 minutes a day.

Studies that look at less than ten years are not looking long enough. Cancer from environmental causes often has latencies that take several decades. Dr. Devra Davis explains that it can take decades before cancer becomes apparent in the population. Compare an average of 2 decades for smoking and lung cancer. The worst is yet to come. She explains that widespread heavy use only began a few years ago. All the same, brain cancers are happening to people at much younger ages than before, and have been increasing in the last 10 years for young adults, in particular 20-29 year-olds. According to Leonnart Hardell's studies, children may have a risk that is much greater than adults. British neurosurgeon Kevin O'Neill, MD reports in April 2009 that brain tumours are increasing at approximately 2% per year (and in particular have doubled for his unit in the last year). See also what other neurosurgeons are saying. The Danish Cancer Registry indicates an increase in brain tumors between 2001 and 2010.

Dr. Devra Davis also points out that there are other cancers besides brain cancer that may be related to cell phone use, such as salivary gland tumors, since the salivary gland is close to where the cell phone is held. Some women who keep their cell phones under their bras are finding breast tumors in precisely the spot where they put their cell phone. For more information, see the Environmental Working Group's Executive Summary.

Myth: We've had TV and radio towers broadcast microwaves for years, and they have been safe..

Fact: Epidemiological and survey studies find cancer & other health issues near TV and radio broadcasting towers in addition to cell towers. One of the latest high profile cases is the court-ordered epidemiological study for the Vatican radio tower and cancer. Increased risks of cancer were reported within a 5.5 mile radius. This large radius can be explained by the higher output power of radio/TV towers. In contrast, the critical range for a cell tower is usually within 400 meters. See calculations of power reduction with distance.

Myth: We get more radiation from cosmic radiation than from wireless technologies..

Fact: Cosmic microwave radiation is relatively negligible, (<0.000001 μW/m2, MAES 2000) since the sources are so distant. Our exposures to manmade microwave radiation is thousands of times greater than the natural background levels. Even for ionizing radiation, radon in homes is said to be a greater source of ionizing radiation than cosmic radiation. Even at the EPA limit for radon of 4pCi/L, it has been compared to the equivalent of 200 chest X-rays a year. Local sources are usually a more significant concern than cosmic sources, which by the inverse square law, become less of a threat over distance.

Myth: The wattage of a cell tower is not more than a light bulb, so it must be safe..

Fact: Even though light and EMF are both frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum, they have different characteristics, so we cannot use the safety standards that apply to light and apply them to EMF. For example, even though both water H2O and hydrogen peroxide H2O2 are made of the same elements, they have completely different characteristics and thus different safety levels for ingestion.

How is the light of an incandescent light bulb different from the EMF of wireless communications? Microwaves can penetrate walls that are opaque to light, and go right through our clothes and skin. Microwaves have also been shown to damage DNA, a fractal antenna, and increase free radical activity, but an incandescent lightbulb has no such effect. Therefore, we cannot use the wattage of a safe incandescent lightbulb to determine the level of safety of microwave EMF. They are simply different.

There is also a recent study on electrosensitivity that suggests the on/off and off/on transitions may be responsible for biological effects. This pulsing signal, may also differentiate pulsed wireless radiation from a regular light bulb. It is interesting to note, however, that some people do in fact respond to light which flashes at a certain frequency, in a condition known as Photosensitive Epilepsy. This might also be why modulated wireless radiation may be more biologically active than umodulated wireless radiation. Devra Davis compares pulsing radiation to a car that lurches to a halt and then continues again, and then lurches to a halt again. This on-off-on-off sequence may be more disruptive than steady radiation, just as it is more disruptive to sit on a car that continually starts and lurches to a halt than one that is driving non-stop.

Myth: The authorities say there is no known health effect at this time..

Myth: If it were dangerous, people would have known a long time ago..

Fact: While not all authorities say there are health effects from wireless technologies, an increasing number of government health organizations are now calling for precautions in light of the growing scientific concerns. This is remarkable given the conflicts of interest.

Industry-funded scientists have had their funding taken away when they found biological health effects, and industry has lobbied to reverse judgments on electromagnetic fields' danger. In the media, management sometimes intervenes because of advertisement money that is at stake. See Conflicts of Interest.

Nevertheless, the truth is making its way into official government recommendations despite all the efforts to the contrary. In the last 5 years, many countries' governments have made wireless health recommendations calling for precautions.

Myth: Double-blind studies show that people who claim to be sensitive, cannot tell whether the signal is on or off.. Therefore, it must be a psychological "nocebo" effect -- Otherwise, it is a real, but unrelated health problem.

Fact: In one study funded by industry, some of the most sensitive people in the double-blinded studies, were extremely accurate, but had to drop out of the study before its conclusion because of severe health issues. Many design flaws have also been pointed out in industry-funded double-blind studies.

We are now beginning to see independent double-blind studies showing objective effects from EMF like arrhythmia and high blood pressure. Even animals, plants, and microbes are reacting to the radiation, and more than one in vitro study has found an increase in DNA double-strand breaks, which can lead eventually to cancer. Studies show that microwaves can open the blood-brain barrier and trigger arrhythmia in animals. These findings are not satisfactorily explained by psychology alone.

Deceptions in Science

Study design is often manipulated in a way such that effects are not found. For example, children and heavy business users may be omitted from a study due to their increased vulnerability, or the study length is sometimes shortened, knowing that the average time lag can be over 10 years before cancer occurs. (For reference, the approximate time lag for lung cancer with respect to cigarette smoking is 20 years.) For more examples of study design flaws, see:

For examples of deceptions in science, listen to an interview with Magda Havas, "Deceptions with Science", where she discusses deception through study design, interpretation, and presentation.

Study Design Variables Which May Be Manipulated By Science

The following are some ways in which science can be manipulated:

Common Deficiencies of Double-blind Studies on Electrosensitivity

Studies trying to disprove electrosensitivity often suffer from the following deficiencies:

More Information

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