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EMF Studies

22 June 2017

World Health Organization, Radiofrequency Radiation and Health - A Hard Nut to Crack (Review)

WHO Radiofrequency Radiation Policy
saferemr.com, 21 June 2017

World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation and health - a hard nut to crack (Review)

Today the International Journal of Oncology published a critique of the World Health Organization's pending review of the adverse health effects of wireless (i.e., radio frequency or RF) radiation. The critique was written by Dr. Lennart Hardell, the world's preeminent researcher on brain tumor risk and long-term cell phone use.

His paper provides an historical overview of WHO's EMF Project, WHO's relationship to the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), and the relationships of both organizations to the military and electric and telecom industries.

Dr. Hardell notes that the WHO has relied heavily on members of ICNIRP, a non-governmental organization "with serious conflict of interest." In their reviews of the scientific evidence for adverse health effects from wireless radiation exposure, ICNIRP dismisses the evidence for biological effects due to non-thermal exposures. By focusing only on short-term heating effects and ignoring the effects of chronic exposure to non-thermal levels of RF radiation, ICNIRP has been able to adopt RF exposure guidelines about 300,000 times more permissive than otherwise would be required. RF exposure standards in many nations including the U.S. have been heavily influenced by these guidelines.

"The ICNIRP guidelines are of huge importance to the influential telecommunications,
 military and power industries."

Dr. Hardell calls upon the public, NGOs, and the scientific community "to exert pressure on politicians to change the WHO agenda on RF radiation and health hazards and decide that WHO's purpose is to support world health instead of industry interests."

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Lennart Hardell. World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation and health - a hard nut to crack (Review). International Journal of Oncology. Published online June 21, 2017. https://doi.org/10.3892/ijo.2017.4046

Abstract

In May 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated cancer risks from radiofrequency (RF) radiation. Human epidemiological studies gave evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma. RF radiation was classified as Group 2B, a possible human carcinogen. Further epidemiological, animal and mechanistic studies have strengthened the association. In spite of this, in most countries little or nothing has been done to reduce exposure and educate people on health hazards from RF radiation. On the contrary ambient levels have increased.
In 2014 the WHO launched a draft of a Monograph on RF fields and health for public comments. It turned out that five of the six members of the Core Group in charge of the draft are affiliated with International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an industry loyal NGO, and thus have a serious conflict of interest. Just as by ICNIRP, evaluation of non-thermal biological effects from RF radiation are dismissed as scientific evidence of adverse health effects in the Monograph. This has provoked many comments sent to the WHO. However, at a meeting on March 3, 2017 at the WHO Geneva office it was stated that the WHO has no intention to change the Core Group.
Open Access Paper: http://bit.ly/WHOhardell

Excerpts

The exposure guideline used by many agencies was established in 1998 by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and was based only on established short-term thermal (heating) effects from RF radiation neglecting nonthermal biological effects (18).
Basis for limiting exposure according to ICNIRP: ‘Only established effects were used as the basis for the proposed exposure restrictions. Induction of cancer from long-term EMF exposure was not considered to be established, and so these guidelines are based on short-term, immediate health effects such as stimulation of peripheral nerves and muscles, shocks and burns caused by touching conducting objects, and elevated tissue temperatures resulting from absorption of energy during exposure to EMF. In the case of potential long-term effects of exposure, such as an increased risk of cancer, ICNIRP concluded that available data are insufficient to provide a basis for setting exposure restrictions, although epidemiological research has provided suggestive, but unconvincing, evidence of an association between possible carcinogenic effects.’

The guidelines were updated in 2009 but still do not cover cancer and other long-term or non-thermal health effects. ICNIRP gives the guideline 2 to 10 W/m2 for RF radiation depending on frequency, thus only based on a short-term immediate thermal effect (19). ICNIRP is a private organisation (NGO) based in Germany. New expert members can only be elected by members of ICNIRP. Many of ICNIRP members have ties to the industry that is dependent on the ICNIRP guidelines. The guidelines are of huge economic and strategic importance to the military, telecom/IT and power industry.

In contrast to ICNIRP, the BioInitiative Reports from 2007 and updated in 2012, based the evaluation also on non‑thermal health effects from RF radiation (20,21). The scientific benchmark for possible health risks was defined to be 30 to 60 μW/m2. Thus, using the significantly higher guideline by ICNIRP gives a ‘green card’ to roll out the wireless digital technology thereby not considering non-thermal health effects from RF radiation. Numerous health hazards are disregarded such as cancer (8), effects on neurotransmitters and neuroprotection (22,23), blood-brain-barrier (24,25), cognition (26-29), psychological addiction (30-32), sleep (33-36), behavioral problems (37-41) and sperm quality (13,42,43). No doubt the IARC decision started a world-wide spinning machine to question the evaluation. It was similar to the one launched by the tobacco industry when IARC was studying and evaluating passive smoking as a carcinogen in the 1990s (44). Sowing confusion and manufacturing doubt about scientific facts is a well-known strategy used by the tobacco and other industries (8,45-48).

The biophysicist Michael Repacholi from Australia was the first chairman of ICNIRP in 1992. His own research within this field is scanty, although a study on lymphoma incidence in mice exposed to RF radiation published in 1997 has attracted interest (49). Repacholi suggested in 1995 that WHO should start the EMF project. This was adopted by WHO in 1996 ....Repacholi was during 1996-2006 the leader of the WHO department of electromagnetic radiation, the WHOEMF project.

Michael Repacholi immediately set up a close collaboration between WHO and ICNIRP (being head of both organizations) inviting the electric, telecom and military industries to meetings. He also arranged for large part of the WHO EMF project to be financed by the telecommunication industry's lobbying organisations; GSM Association and Mobile Manufacturers Forum, now called Mobile & Wireless Forum (MWF) (51) in addition to WHO ...

Repacholi acted like a representative for the telecom industry while responsible for the EMF health effects department at the WHO.... Since he left WHO in 2006 he has been involved in industry propaganda video interviews with GSM Association and Hydro Quebec ...

Repacholi recruited Emilie van Deventer to the WHO EMF Project in 2000. She is the current project manager at WHO for the EMF project. She has been a long time member of the industry dominated organization Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). IEEE is the world's most powerful federation of engineers. The members are or have been employed in companies or organizations that are producers or users of technologies that depend on radiation frequencies, such as power companies, the telecom and the military industry. IEEE has prioritized international lobbying efforts for decades especially aimed at the WHO ..

Van Deventer is an electrical engineer. She has no formal or earlier knowledge in medicine, epidemiology or biology, so it is surprising that she was selected for such an important position at the WHO ...

WHO radio frequency fields: Environmental health criteria monograph

It must be regarded to be unusual and scientifically inadequate not to provide for review the health risk assessment and protective measures which would be most important parts of the Monograph. Furthermore, it turned out that of the six members in the WHO Core Group four are active members of ICNIRP and one is a former member. This was published in 2016 (52) and also discussed more recently (8). Only one person seems to be independent of ICNIRP, see Table I. Several persons have also affiliation(s) to other advisory groups, authorities and/or committees. Six of the 20 additional experts are affiliated with ICNIRP.

Being a member of ICNIRP is a conflict of interest in the scientific evaluation of health hazards from RF radiation through ties to military and industry. This is particularly true since the ICNIRP guidelines are of huge importance to the influential telecommunications, military and power industries. Another conflict of interest is for members officially assessing possible health effects below their own set ICNIRP guidelines, which they have already stated as beeing safe, see also discussion in (52).

It should be noted that the Ethical Board at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden concluded already in 2008 that being a member of ICNIRP may be a conflict of interest that should be stated officially whenever a member from ICNIRP makes opinions on health risks from EMF (Karolinska Institute diary number: 3753-2008-609). No statement of such conflict of interest can be found in the WHO draft of the Monograph on RF radiation.

It was stated by the WHO officials that ICNIRP is an NGO with an official relationship with WHO that ‘helps us a lot in our analyses’ and their members work as WHO's experts. Thus, in spite of five of six persons in the Core Group for the Monograph being affiliated with ICNIRP, WHO seems to have no intention to change these members. On the other hand, the Task Group is not finalized.
According to the meeting all experts are selected on individual basis and not as members of ICNIRP. Further, it was stated that the WHO guideline documents are in full WHO's responsibility. It is not known when the Monograph on RF radiation will be published. WHO still ‘keeps looking at the evidence’ and is still adding new documents to the Monograph.

In the draft of the Monograph a large bulk of peer-reviewed scientific publications on non-thermal effects are dismissed, c.f. as also by ICNIRP (19). Most remarkable is that WHO has no intention to replace the Core Group of experts affiliated with ICNIRP. Thereby ICNIRP is given full access to and exclusive possibilities to influence the Monograph. In view of the huge economic interests built into the ICNIRP guidelines, and several of its expert members' ties to industry, no doubt this is a large conflict of interest that will seriously undermine not only the credibility of the Monograph on RF radiation but also the credibility of WHO as a protector of world health. Seriously enough, the Monograph will be the hallmark for years to come on evaluation of health hazards from RF radiation and pave the way for increasing exposure to RF radiation to people and environment, e.g. the fifth generation (5G), internet of things, etc.

Children and adolescents may be more sensitive to RF radiation than adults (2). Thus as an authoritative agency, WHO has an obligation to reference all the scientific research results and call the experts from all the related fields like engineering, health and medicine to engage in the re-evaluation of all health effects including non-thermal of RF radiation. Related agencies should launch an objective and transparent project for this assessment.

Protests and comments by scientific experts and several organizations seem to be ignored. The Monograph might be political and industry supportive more than scientific and health promoting. For a definitive conclusion a more thorough review of the whole draft document would be needed. By now it is time for laymen, NGOs and scientists to exert pressure on politicians to change the WHO agenda on RF radiation and health hazards and decide that WHO's purpose is to support world health instead of industry interests. It is also time to evaluate the competence of the persons making the evaluations and decisions before publishing the Monograph. Of note, evidence has been published (52) which indicated that members of ICNIRP have written scientifically incorrect and misleading information. It is unknown if WHO has responded to this evidence of suggested scientific misconduct.

http://www.saferemr.com/2013/05/upcoming-who-meeting-on-radiofrequency.html

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