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EMF Studies

24 June 2016

Connected Controversies: The NTP Cell Phone Study and Wireless Electric Meters

Connected controversies: The NTP cell phone study and wireless electric meters
by Contributor, worcestermag.com, 
23 June 2016

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program (NTP) recently announced preliminary results of a study that tested the possibility of links between cancer and chronic exposure to the type of radiation emitted from cell phones and other wireless devices, such as National Grid’s smart meters. Researchers exposed an unprecedented number of rodents to a lifetime of electromagnetic radiation.

The results provide some of the strongest evidence to date that such exposure – weak exposure that does not heat human tissue – is associated with the formation of certain cancers in rats.

The June 5 Worcester Sunday Telegram’s opinion page featured Bloomberg View columnist Faye Flam’s comments on the study. Flam claims the study “produced confusion and scary headlines, but little in the way of useful information – beyond perhaps an indication of where the science publicity machine is broken.” Whose science publicity machine is she referring to? Shouldn’t the government announce results of taxpayer-funded research? As a Bloomberg View columnist, is she not part of the Bloomberg publicity machine? What motivates Bloomberg’s interest in this study? Do industry voices like Flam’s represent the public interest?

The FCC’s rules limiting the power output of wireless devices are based on whether human flesh is measurably warmed by the devices’ emissions. Exposures weak enough to be “sub-thermal” are assumed to be safe. This assumption is at the heart of the controversy. If sub-thermal exposures were to be proven to be dangerous as the NTP study suggests, new precautionary measures would need to be taken.

Worcester’s citizens have a particular stake in the controversy, because National Grid’s Smart Energy Solutions Program exposes everyone in the city to a new 24-hour-a-day source of subthermal, high-frequency emissions punctuated by brief, sharp pulses.

Opposition to National Grid’s wireless meter pilot project in Worcester is based partly on the health risks of these pulsed radio frequency emissions. Smart metering is part of a national restructuring of the electric power system. Certain “smart” functions of electric meters are essential for incorporation of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines. However, the current pilot program, which employs grossly-overpowered wireless infrastructure, is focused on returns to the shareholders of a multinational corporation, and I suspect on the company’s undisclosed broadband service expansion plans. It is not designed as it could be to protect health, privacy and the circulation of energy dollars in the community.

Science is all about the accumulation of facts. Facts accumulate until scientists reach general agreement, but this takes time. The electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

In May, 2015, 180 respected scientists, authors of many peer-reviewed research papers on bioelectromagnetics, signed a statement saying that such electromagnetic fields should be classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” or simply “carcinogenic to humans.”

The number of scientists signing on to this statement is now 220. Keep in mind, too, that cancer is not the only issue. There are many studies that suggest that low intensity electromagnetic fields play a role in other diseases and disorders. When health is at issue, industries threatened by the facts roll out disinformation campaigns with stories like Faye Flam’s to put people’s minds at ease.

Governments are caught in the middle between citizen advocates and industry. This happens repeatedly, as we’ve seen with global warming, tobacco, DDT, lead, mercury, asbestos, and so on. Eventually, accumulation of facts reaches a tipping point at which governments establish corrective policies. The NTP study and other recent studies (i.e. Barnes and Greenebaum in the March 2016 IEEE Power Electronics journal) keep moving the U.S. closer to that tipping point.

Meanwhile, France, Belgium, Spain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Finland, Israel, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, India, Russia, the European Environment Agency, European Parliament, United Kingdom, Cypress and Taiwan have already advised or taken more serious precautions to protect people from the risks associated with low intensity high-frequency electromagnetic fields. Many U.S. states as well as schools, teacher unions, parent and teacher organizations, and doctor and scientist groups have called for more disclosure and/or more restrictions (See the Environmental Health Trust’s “International Policy Precautionary Actions on Wireless Radiation”).

There is much more to tell about the biological effects of weak magnetic fields and more to tell about what the smart grid can be and ought to be. Going forward, opponents of National Grid’s deployment of wireless meters in Worcester will continue to explain to Worcester residents why National Grid’s wireless meter program is a mistake for Worcester. We will suggest achievable goals. The issue will not go away. Worcester aims to be the healthiest city in the commonwealth. Let’s shoot for global attention as a smart and healthy city with new approaches to a truly smart and healthy smart grid.

Lance McKee resides in Worcester

http://worcestermag.com/2016/06/23/connected-controversies-ntp-cell-phone-study-wireless-electric-meters/43751

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