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EMF Studies

20 February 2016

Wireless Devices: Excellent program from ABC Television, Australia

UPDATE (20 February 2016):  Pro-telecoms industry scientists have said this program should never have been aired.  It may be withdrawn.  So now industry is infringing on freedom of expression !! Watch it while you can at this link:
Click here for the program.

This is an excellent 30-minute report by Dr Maryanne Demasi presented on the program, "Catalyst", ABC television, Australia, including the transcript.

Wi-Fried?
abc.net.au, 16 February 2016

Click here for the program.

Could wifi-enabled devices be harmful to our health? You cannot see it or hear it but Wi-Fi blankets our homes, our schools and our cities. Australia's safety agency says there's no evidence of harm, but that's not the same as saying its safe. A growing number of scientists are concerned that the widespread use of Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi-enabled devices could be slowly making us sick. In this Catalyst investigation, Dr Maryanne Demasi explores whether our wireless devices could be putting our health at risk.

TRANSCRIPT



download video: mp4

Boy
Oh, my God, what the...?!

NARRATION
You can't see it or hear it, but wi-fi blankets our homes, our cities and our schools.

Dr Devra Davis
Children today are growing up in a sea of radiofrequency microwave radiation that did not exist five years ago.

NARRATION
Our safety agencies dispute that wireless devices like mobile phones cause harm.

Dr Ken Karipidis
Don't think it's good enough to say at the moment that mobile phone use does cause cancer.

Dr Devra Davis
Cell phones emit pulsed radiation...

NARRATION
But some of the world's leading scientists and industry insiders are breaking ranks to warn us of the risks.

Professor Bruce Armstrong
There is an association between heavy mobile phone use and brain tumours.

Frank Clegg
I've been in the technology industry all of my career and I've seen the tremendous benefits technology can provide. My concern is nobody can say that it's safe.

NARRATION
Do mobile phones cause brain cancer? And is wi-fi making us sick?

Dr Maryanne Demasi
In this episode, I investigate the latest research and advice about the safety of our modern wireless devices.

NARRATION
The digital revolution has transformed our lives. Phones, tablets, watches and laptops all connected to wireless networks. We use these devices to make calls, send texts, write emails, play music, take photos, and even watch TV. In fact, chances are you could be watching this on your wireless device right now.

Dr Devra Davis
We've gone from the equivalent of the horse-and-buggy to the jet in about ten years. The transformation in technology has been without precedence. The devices that are held directly next to the body, the mobile phone, the cordless phone, are the ones we're most concerned about.

NARRATION
When US cancer epidemiologist Dr Devra Davis was first told about the risks of mobile phones, her reaction was predictable disbelief.

Dr Devra Davis
I said, 'What are you talking about? There's no problem. If there were a problem, I would know about it.' 'Cause of course, I was working at the National Academy of Sciences. I was working at the Cancer Institute, a Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, and I frankly thought, 'There's nothing to this.' Then, however, I began to look and the more I looked, the more concerned I became.

NARRATION
Dr Davis has had a distinguished career as a Presidential appointee for the Clinton administration and is recognised internationally for her work on environmental health and disease prevention. She was recently in Australia holding a series of public seminars.

Dr Devra Davis
People are assuming everything's fine until we have evidence that we're in the middle of a disaster.

NARRATION
Today, there's over 6 billion phone subscriptions worldwide - many of them smartphones with apps that frequently receive and transmit electromagnetic signals. In a similar way, the human body has electromagnetic fields. Electrical currents flow through nerve fibres and muscle tissue and external interference can disrupt those signals.

Dr Devra Davis
Our heart and our brain are electric. We need to understand that exposing our electric body to mobile phone radiation for thousands of minutes a month, for hundreds of hours over a lifetime, it's going to have a biological effect on you. In fact, the Blackberry comes with a warning. It says, 'If you have a pacemaker implanted in your chest, keep the mobile device at least 20cm away. Well, your heart is a pacemaker whether you have a machine in it or not. So obviously you wanna protect your heart and the rest of your body.

NARRATION
Finnish radiation biologist Dr Dariusz Leszczynski is an internationally recognised expert in radiation safety and has been an advisor to the WHO on such matters. He says most people with a smartphone nowadays may be unwittingly breaching the safety limits of their device.

Dr Dariusz Leszczynski
Sometimes person puts cell phone in pocket which are connected to internet, then safety limits are being breached and this cell phone doesn't comply with safety regulations once it is put in pocket.

NARRATION
Phones are manufactured to ensure the radiation they emit can't overheat the body and cause thermal damage. It's called the specific absorption rate, but during testing, the phone is positioned at a distance away from the model body. Therefore when you put your smartphone in your pocket directly against your body, you may be exceeding the safety standard.

Dr Dariusz Leszczynski
In order to comply with safety standards, this cell phone has to be at some distance from body.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
So it's fair to say that sometimes people would be breaching the safety standard of their mobile phones every day.

Dr Dariusz Leszczynski
Yes.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
That's quite shocking. I don't think people are aware of this information.

Dr Dariusz Leszczynski
Because nobody's talking about it, including radiation safety authorities. They simply don't mention it.

NARRATION
Electromagnetic radiation is everywhere. We have always been exposed to natural sources like the sun, but there are some sources of radiation that are man-made. Today, with the proliferation of mobile and wireless technology and devices that emit artificial radiofrequency radiation, some claim we're exposed to levels up to a quintillion times higher than natural background levels. The spectrum of electromagnetic radiation ranges from ionising radiation like X-rays which have enough energy to knock electrons out of their orbit and cause cancer, to non-ionising radiation like microwaves which have much less energy and considered to be safer. Mobile phones, tablets, phone towers, smart meters, baby monitors and wi-fi routers are all sources of radiofrequency microwave radiation.Professor Bruce Armstrong was part of an expert panel on radiation which gathered for the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC. The panel was tasked with analysing whether radiofrequency radiation could cause cancer.

Professor Bruce Armstrong
Its decision was, essentially, that it possibly causes cancer.

NARRATION
That means radiofrequency radiation is now classified as a Class 2B possible human carcinogen.

Professor Bruce Armstrong
It was inevitably a controversial decision.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
What was your personal decision?

Professor Bruce Armstrong
I thought that IARC got it right based on the evidence.

NARRATION
Heavy users are defined as those who talk on a mobile 30 minutes a day for longer than 10 years. Journalists like myself, tradespeople, brokers, even teenagers would easily meet that definition these days. So I went to ARPANSA, our federal agency responsible for protecting us from the harmful effects of radiation. I asked one of their physicists, Dr Ken Karipidis, for his view on IARC's decision.

Dr Ken Karipidis
On a personal level, I don't think it should be a 2B. Other people say it should be higher.

NARRATION
Dr Karapidis says there's no cause for concern.

Dr Ken Karipidis
We've been doing research in this area for a very long time and our assessment of the evidence suggests that although some studies do show effects, there is no established evidence that the low levels of radiofrequency radiation from tablets and phones and wi-fi and what have you causes health effects.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
So ARPANSA's not actually saying these devices are safe.

Dr Ken Karipidis
We can only provide advice on assessment of the evidence. We do not provide guarantees of safety. I don't think a scientist can do that.

NARRATION
In Ontario is the former head of Microsoft Canada, Frank Clegg. He has gained valuable insight into the machinations of the tech industry.

Frank Clegg
I've been in the technology industry all my career and I've seen the tremendous benefits that technology can provide. My concern is nobody can say that it's safe. All my industry and all government agencies say is there is no proof of harm. To my mind, that's not the same as saying it's safe.

NARRATION
Mr Clegg points out that the safety standard only protects people from thermal damage that can occur through overheating. But scientists have demonstrated that radiation emitting devices can cause DNA damage without heating tissue. These are non-thermal effects.

Frank Clegg
Unfortunately, the safety standards in North America and Australia are based on this theory that's many decades old that if tissue doesn't get heated, then it can't cause harm. That's just out of date, and what the biologists tell us and have shown in many experiments, and again, peer-reviewed published papers, that there is damage done at the DNA level, and from a biological standpoint, non-thermal radiation can cause and does cause harm to humans.

NARRATION
For example, there is strong evidence to suggest that mobile phones can damage sperm, as might occur when a male keeps his smartphone in his pocket.

Dr Devra Davis
If you take sperm from a healthy man and you put sperm in one test tube which gets no exposure with a mobile phone and the other gets exposure, the mobile phone exposed sperm die faster, have more damage to their mitochondrial DNA which is the engine that makes the cell run, and studies around the world consistently find the heaviest cell phone users have the lowest sperm count. Those studies have not been considered recently in reviews and there are new data emerging all the time.

NARRATION
This BioInitiative Report sets out hundreds of peer reviewed papers confirming the biological changes caused by wireless transmitting devices which can occur thousands of times below the safety threshold. It's been formulated by independent doctors and scientists from over ten different countries, but ARPANSA has a different view.

Dr Ken Karipidis
There's certainly some studies that have shown effects on sperm, but there's many other studies that haven't. There is no consistent evidence that there's established biological effects other than rising temperature. The evidence is really inconsistent, and it's not good enough at the moment to say that mobile phones do affect sperm.

NARRATION
Since IARC's decision in 2011, more evidence has emerged which adds strength to the findings. The CERENAT study and Hardell's study both found a link between heavy mobile phone use and rare head tumours.

Professor Bruce Armstrong
Those studies do suggest rather more strongly than the body of evidence available to IARC at the time that there is an association between heavy mobile phone use and brain tumours.

NARRATION
These studies have sparked calls for the classification to be upgraded from 2B to 2A.

Dr Devra Davis
My colleagues and I since then, some of whom have worked at the World Health Organisation with me in the past, have just published an article saying mobile phone radiation is a probable human carcinogen with newer studies showing that people who begin to use cell phones regularly and heavily as teenagers have four to eight times more malignant glioma, that's a brain tumour, ten years later.

NARRATION
The fear about mobile phones causing brain tumours is not a new debate.

Crowd
Cell phones cause cancer!

Woman
We have the right to know!

NARRATION
Previously, industry co-funded a study hoping to settle the debate once and for all.

Dr Devra Davis
The Interphone study was carried out from 2000-2004. The results were supposed to be released in 2005. It took five years to release the results of the Interphone study, and it was not because the science wasn't clear, it was because of the intense politics that took place between members of the team, some of whom had been heavily sponsored by industry, and others of whom were more independent. The bulk of the study said the results were inconclusive. The actual findings, in technical appendix 2, showed there was a significantly increased risk of brain cancer in the heaviest users.

NARRATION
Mobile phone manufacturers themselves are aware of the potential risks which is why they recently put warnings in each device.

Dr Devra Davis
First you go to Settings then you go to General. Then you go to About at the top. Then you have to look hard, you have to go all the way down to something called Legal, and then you go to RF Exposure.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
Of course. I've never been into this part of my phone.

Dr Devra Davis
Well, there you see, it says... Yours says 'Carry iPhone at least 10mm away from your body.' Mine says at least 5mm.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
What do you think about this warning?

Dr Devra Davis
I think the warning is... I think they're being a bit hypocritical to be trying to get you to buy more and more free talk time, then telling you you should limit your exposures.

NARRATION
It's not only telco companies who are cautious about potential risks. Insurance giant Lloyd's of London excludes cover for illnesses caused by electromagnetic radiation. When it comes to microwave transmitters like mobile phone towers, several other countries around the world have maintained more stringent safety thresholds compared to Australia.

Frank Clegg
We know that in China, Italy and Switzerland and Russia have standards 100 times safer than Canada's standards, and that's the same as Australia's standards.

NARRATION
It sparked concerns that ARPANSA is out of touch with the latest evidence.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
When was the last time ARPANSA updated their safety standards?

Dr Ken Karipidis
We published the standards in 2002, but we did a review of the science that underpins the standards in 2014. The review actually found that the limits of the standards still provide adequate protection from the known health effects of radiofrequency energy.

Frank Clegg
Any government agency, in my opinion, that has done a review in the last two or three years and hasn't made a significant change to their safety standard has not done a proper thorough review of the science. If you think back to what happened in the last decade, the smartphone was launched, wi-fi was not available 12 years ago, so any government agency that claims their standards that are a decade old are current is out of date.

NARRATION
When it comes to mobile phone risk, ARPANSA quotes brain cancer rates in the Australian population which they say refutes the idea that mobile phones cause brain cancer.

Dr Ken Karipidis
We've looked at the brain tumour rates for the last 30 years. The brain tumour rates have remained quite stable.

NARRATION
I confronted Dr Davis with this data while she was here in Australia.

Dr Devra Davis
Those who say the lack of increase in brain cancer tells you cell phones are safe don't understand brain cancer. It has a long latency. When the bombs fell at the end of WWII on Japan, we followed every person who survived. 40 years is how long it took for brain cancer to develop after that exposure.

NARRATION
Since cell phone use has exponentially increased only in the last five to ten years, Dr Davis says it's far too early to rule out the possibility that mobile phones are causing a problem in the general population.

Dr Devra Davis
There is no cause of cancer in the environment that shows up in the general population in ten years. Not asbestos, not tobacco, not DES, not benzene, none of them shows up in ten years, so of course we don't see any increase in brain cancer now. There's none expected.

NARRATION
Dr Davis says if you want a more accurate picture of what's happening with brain cancer rates, you have to look more closely at specific groups rather than the general population rates.

Dr Devra Davis
When you look at specific groups, however, you are seeing an increase in younger brain cancers in certain types, in certain locations.

NARRATION
Although brain cancer is rare, the latest US figures show a statistically significant increase in malignant and non-malignant brain and spinal cord tumours in adolescents. This doesn't mean it's caused by mobile phones, but it may be a factor. Brain surgeon Charlie Teo recently attended the seminar where Dr Davis was presenting her evidence. He brought along his surgical team.

Dr Charlie Teo
As a primary care physician at the coalface of patients with brain cancer, I think it's my responsibility to try and look for some potential causes of brain cancer, and we find any at all, to make the public aware of them.

Dr Ken Karipidis
The biggest single exposure that a person gets is through their mobile or cordless phone use. There is some epidemiological evidence of a possible association between prolonged mobile phone use and certain brain tumours. That evidence is not good enough to say mobile phones do cause cancer, but the possibility remains, so there is merit for those that are concerned in reducing your exposure to mobile phone use against the head, and in fact will provide advice in doing that by using your hands-free kit or putting the phone on speaker mode or various other ways. When it comes to children, there's not enough evidence in this area, so our recommendation is slightly stronger. We do recommend that parents limit their children's mobile phone use.

NARRATION
In a statement, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Industry says there's no evidence of any additional risk to children from mobile phone technologies, but the research relating to children is limited, so the possibility of harm cannot be ruled out.

Dr Devra Davis
It increases heat-shock proteins, it increases reactive oxygen...

NARRATION
Dr Davis' campaign has provoked criticism, but she remains defiant.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
Are you cherrypicking the data to suit your argument?

Dr Devra Davis
No, I'm not cherrypicking my work. With respect to mobile phones and brain cancer, the reality is every single well-designed study ever conducted finds an increased risk of brain cancer with the heaviest users, and the range of the risk is between 50% to eightfold. That's a fact.

NARRATION
These are rare brain tumours like malignant glioma. And in children, there's virtually no data available.

Dr Devra Davis
Children today are growing up in a sea of radiofrequency microwave radiation that did not exist five years ago. A child's skull is thinner, its brain contains more fluid. Things cook in a microwave oven if they have more fluid and more fat in them, so because the skull is thinner and the brain contains more fluid, a child will absorb more radiation relative to that of an adult.

NARRATION
Scientists have been able to demonstrate this. So in an adult, what were the results?

Dr Devra Davis
You can see that the heaviest radiation here is indicated in the red and it gets just into the first part of the eye and the cheek and the ear, right? So the rest of it doesn't really get that far, that's the faintest colour. But if you look at the child, this is a three-year-old, you can see it gets all the way through the head.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
Wow, so that penetrates almost to the other side of the ear.

Dr Devra Davis
Correct.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
That's incredible. Do we know that this translates into health effects for the child?

Dr Devra Davis
No. We don't.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
So should we be concerned?

Dr Devra Davis
You wanna experiment on your children? Go ahead. I don't think we have any reason to think this is a good idea, and in fact, manufacturers are now advising, Samsung has a statement - a cell phone is not a toy.

NARRATION
When it comes to reducing risk, it's all about proximity from the device. Radiation exposure drops off exponentially with distance.

Dr Devra Davis
Distance is your friend here and children, of course, infants should never be close to any of these devices. They've been tested on this big adult guy, they've never been tested for infants and toddlers. Any parent out there that gives their child a device to play with because they're driving them crazy, put it on airplane mode. If it's on airplane mode, they can still play the game, but they're not sending and receiving microwave radiation. It's not that it should be no devices, it's just we've gotta be more careful about how we use them.

Dr Charlie Teo
Really, when it came to cigarette smoking, we had no idea of the mechanism...

NARRATION
Brain surgeon Charlie Teo limits his children's exposure.

Dr Charlie Teo
The kids didn't get them until they were older, post-pubescent. I absolutely forbid them to use it holding it up to their head. They've got to put it on speakerphone or use a device. When they go to bed at night, they have to have it at least one arm's length away from their head, not to be under the pillow, not to be on the bedside table.

NARRATION
One study involving 14 countries is currently assessing whether use of mobile phones at an early age increases the rates of early on-set brain tumours in 1,000 young people. The results will be released this year. Unlike mobile phones which can be switched off, wi-fi exposure is constant.

Kevin Rudd
This is the toolbox of the 21st century, OK?

NARRATION
The 2008 education revolution under the Rudd Government led to the roll-out of wi-fi routers in public schools across the country, but some parents are concerned about their children's exposure to wi-fi in the classroom.

Libby Laura
Basically when a child starts high school, they're at school from anywhere from four to six years, and they're sitting in radiofrequency microwave radiation, the 2B possible carcinogen, and the routers are pulsing all day, every day. On top of that, you've got mobile telephones, you've got their laptops, so you've got this whole layering of radiofrequency microwave radiation that we've never been exposed to before in the past. With regards to that layering effect, who's to say what the consequences of that will be for that child's long-term future?

Dr Maryanne Demasi
Unfortunately, we weren't granted access to measure the levels of wi-fi radiation in this school. The Department of Education didn't respond directly to our question about the risks of exposing children to wi-fi, but they did state the Australian Government is supporting research into the effects of electromagnetic energy on people's health.

NARRATION
Libby says parents should not be forced to choose between educating their children and safeguarding them.

Libby Laura
It's almost a case of involuntary consent. In a world where we sign permission slips at school for absolutely everything, no parent has given their child permission to sit in the 2B possible carcinogen, but yet they're unaware that's what they're sitting in.

Frank Clegg
Earlier in my career, we were on a campaign to get technology into schools which did include wi-fi, so yes, I was a proponent and I wish I'd known then what I know now because I hope and I believe my message would've been different. If you can't say it's safe, then you'd be cautious about how you use it.

NARRATION
The industry body acknowledges concerns about the greater vulnerability of children during development because young people will use wi-fi for most of their lives, unlike this adult generation. They also say this has already been factored in the safety threshold. While the Australian Government's position on wi-fi remains unchanged, other countries are making changes. In France, for example, legislation was passed banning wi-fi in nurseries and day care centres. The National Library of France and other libraries in Paris have removed wi-fi networks altogether.

Dr Devra Davis
We do need to create digital citizens and we want children to know how to use the internet, how to find information - that's all very important. Wherever possible, the Israeli government advises using wired as opposed to wireless. For schools, we need to go wired whenever possible. Routers right now are programmed that they're on 24-7. There's no reason for that. They ought to have an on-off switch.

NARRATION
And it's not just in schools - nowadays, many homes and offices have wi-fi as well.

Dr Devra Davis
The location of the routers, it's really important. Don't have a router in your bedroom, don't have a cordless phone next to your bed. Keep these things some distance away. You can set your router in the closet furthest away from where people regularly spend time. That's what you should do. If you can't avoid it and you're in a small apartment, get in the habit of turning it off certainly when you're sleeping.

Libby Laura
What we'll do is we'll just turn the router on with our switch. We've instituted some simple switches at the high school that would work a little bit just like a light switch and it's been trialled in several classrooms where, if the teacher needs the computer that lesson, they'll switch the switch on and the router will start up, and if it's not needed they'll turn it off. So it's quite simple.

Frank Clegg
There is no doubt that consumers are confused. There are conflicting reports, there is a lot of scientific information out there. It gets some press coverage, but then it gets countered by industry. I'm embarrassed to say that I believe my industry is on a campaign to bury the science and confuse the message on the harmful effects of wireless devices.

NARRATION
Mr Clegg is concerned there'll be a repeat of the mistakes from the past.

Television commercial
# You never had a better cigarette... #

Frank Clegg
One of the best analogies I've heard in this scenario is using the tobacco model where we know the first science came out showing smoking cigarettes caused harm back in the 1960s, and the tobacco industry was able to delay legislation, delay the message to the public for decades.

Announcer
Craven Filter, the clean cigarette!

Frank Clegg
I believe that my industry is using that same model in obfuscating the science, hiring scientists to cast doubt on the science, confusing government and causing government to be constipated and not passing the legislation that they need to pass.

NARRATION
But when we approached the industry body, they objected to the criticism, saying they have open discussions about the scientific evidence on their website and continue to fund research into the health effects of RF radiation.

Dr Devra Davis
You really wanna see proof that we've got millions of people with cancer like we did with tobacco and asbestos? Is there any question we should've acted sooner? We would really make a huge mistake if we continue to take the repeated assurances, 'Everything is alright.'

Reporter: Dr Maryanne Dermasi
Producer: Dr Maryanne Dermasi
Researcher: Claire Smith
Camera: Kevin May
Dennis Porter
Daniel Shaw
Andrew Topp

Sound: Steve Ravich
Grant Roberts
Graham Fettling
Adam Toole

Editor: Andrew Glover

STORY CONTACTS

Dr Devra Davis
Cancer epidemiologist

Dr Dariusz Leszczynski
Molecular Biologist

Prof Bruce Armstrong
Cancer epidemiologist, IARC

Dr Ken Karipidis
Physicist, ARPANSA

Assoc Prof Adam Guastella
Brain and Mind Research Institute
University of Sydney

RELATED INFO

ARPANSA

Bioinitiative Report

Mobile phone use and brain tumours in the CERENAT case-control study

Radiation from wireless technology affects the blood, the heart, and the autonomic nervous system

NON-IONIZING RADIATION, PART 2: RADIOFREQUENCY ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS

INTERPHONE Appendix 2

Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case–control study

The Potential Impact of Mobile Phone Use on Trends in Brain and CNS Tumors

Letter by Acadamy of Paediatrics to FCC calling for reassessment of wireless

International policy and advisory response regarding children’s exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF)

Captured Agency How the Federal Communications Commission Is Dominated by the Industries It Presumably Regulates

Trends in Central Nervous System Tumor Incidence Relative to Other Common Cancers in Adults, Adolescents, and Children in the United States, 2000 to 2010

United States Central Nervous System Tumor Rates 2000 to 2010

http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4407325.htm

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