Guest Blog “Phonegate: The Health and Industrial Issues of a Global Scandal” by Marc Arazi
Between a Rock and a Hard Place (blog of Dariusz Leszczynski), 8 December 2017
Below is the next in a series of Guest Blogs on BRHP. The opinions expressed in this Guest Blog are of Marc Arazi himself. Publication of these opinions in BRHP does not imply that BRHP automatically agrees with or endorses these opinions. Publication of this, and other guest blogs, facilitates an open debate and free exchange of opinions on wireless technology and health.
Marc Arazi can be found on his website
Phonegate: The Health and Industrial Issues of a Global Scandal
We are more than six billion persons in the world using a mobile phone. It has become an indispensable object of our daily life. Who is interested in the health risks from cell phones? Who has thoroughly read the user manual of their cell phone? Who has studied the regulations that control phones being placed on the market?
Not many of us! Most of us are seduced into trusting manufacturers and national and international organizations which ensure that mobile phones respect our health and safety.
The failure of national and international regulatory agencies
Unfortunately, our confidence has been violated. Our international system of control and regulation has completely failed. This new health and industrial scandal has been called “Phonegate”, echoing the similar scandal of “Dieselgate”, affecting the Volkswagen Group and other world auto manufacturers.
In simple terms, the world is divided into two camps when it comes to cell phone radiation limits. There are two limits in use in the world. The 150 countries, including Europe, use the limits set by “ICNIRP” (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection).The 19 countries, including the United States and Canada, use the “FCC1996” standards (Federal Communications Commission).
In order to place a mobile phone on sale in one of these countries, the manufacturer must respect the ICNIRP or FCC regulatory standards. The country must ensure that the amount of radiation emitted by the phone in contact with the body (Specific Absorption Rate or SAR) does not exceed the specific threshold.
In Europe, the ICNIRP SAR limits are as follows. For the head and trunk, the SAR limit is 2.0 watts per kilogram averaged over 10 grams of human tissue. For extremities such as the wrists, ankles, hands, and feet, the SAR limit is 4.0 W/kg averaged over 10 grams of tissue.
In the United States and Canada, the SAR limits are as follows. The FCC and Health Canada limit for public exposure from cellular telephones is a SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over 1 gram of tissue. For extremities such as the wrists, ankles, hands, ears, and feet, the allowable SAR limit is much higher and is 4.0 W/kg averaged over 10 grams of tissue.
The thermal effects of waves on health are known and proven
The SAR value only measures the thermal effect of radiofrequency waves. There is scientific consensus that thermal effects are “known and proven health effects” (Opinion of ANSES, p.15/17 of 8 July 2016), contrary to non-thermal effects on which there is fierce debate.
As a physician concerned for nearly 15 years by this scientific controversy, I am more and more convinced that the World Health Organization (WHO) in the coming years will need to review its classification regarding the non-thermal effects of radiofrequency radiation. I believe they will change the carcinogenic classification from Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic) determined in 2011 to 2A (probably carcinogenic), and likely to Group 1 (a human carcinogen), an opinion expressed by the epidemiologist, Dr. Anthony Miller, at the Jackson Hole (USA) conference in July 2017 and by Dr. Lennart Hardell in multiple publications after a review of the scientific evidence.
Specific Absorption Rate
The SAR value is a measure of radiofrequency radiation absorption into the body from a cell phone or wireless device. SAR tests are performed with the device transmitting at full power in various positions against a model of an adult male.
The SAR unit is watts per kilogram
Frequency 10 MHz – 10 GHz
Whole body SAR (W/kg) 0.08
Local SAR head and trunk (W/kg) 2
Local SAR limbs (W/kg) 4
The global use of unrealistic standards
Since June 2016[*], in France and all of Europe, a manufacturer could measure SAR values by placing the cell phone at a distance of 15 to 25 millimeters from the skin of the trunk and limbs. Under these quite unrealistic conditions, all cell phones obtained an authorization to be placed on the market.
Mobile phones, however, are not held in the air, but rather, they are in our hands, in our pockets, often for hours at a time, in direct contact with the skin.
Is the public aware that even when a cell phone is in our pocket, the phone continues to emit waves? A recent New Zealand study showed that 20% of young teenagers keep their mobile phones in their pants pockets more than 10 consecutive hours a day. Rare are those cell phone users today who know a cell phone in the pocket is an untested user position.
The public authorities are largely remiss in informing the population. For example, the French State was content merely to communicate the risks of holding a mobile phone against the ear, by recommending the use of a hands-free kit. The French legislation only requires manufacturers to make public the SAR head value at the point of sale as well as in advertisements, but they do not require this for SAR body. Why?
The manufacturers are protected from possible legal actions
The manufacturers are already several steps ahead in protecting themselves from liability. They state in their manuals that a specific distance of several millimeters must be kept between the phone and the body, particularly for children and teenagers. Who has read these manuals? How many people who have read them, consider the health risk? Almost no one. I confess to be one of those persons attracted by the new and fabulous functions of phones rather than by these technical details.
But, « the devil is in the details » !
And the details were revealed in July 2016 in a scientific report published by the French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES), entitled, “Exposure to Radiofrequencies and Child Health”. The ANSES Report highlighted the results of the French National Frequencies Agency (ANFR) 2015 measurement tests of 95 mobile phones tested in body contact positions – meaning with no separation distance. ANSES announced that 9 out of 10 mobile phones tested in contact with the skin exceeded the regulatory threshold of 2 W/kg, some of them more than three times. No one paid attention to this information.
The ambivalent role of ANFR and the omerta on the test results
Having learned of this report in July 2016, I immediately wrote to ANFR and ANSES to obtain the results of these tests. I found myself up against a wall, with a total lack of response from ANSES and an embarrassed refusal from ANFR. What were these tests hiding and why the omerta on their publication?
After months of difficult and restrictive legal and media actions, on June 1, 2017, I finally obtained the ANFR publication of the partial results of the SAR values of 379 mobile phones tested, including the individual makes and models concerned. This initial victory of transparency permitted us to learn that this issue concerned nearly all mobile phones sold in France and in Europe.
Not only did most mobile phones exceed regulatory values, but we discovered that there was a tenfold difference between the SAR value proudly displayed in the manuals and advertisements of some manufacturers and the SAR value found in the ANFR tests. 10 times what was stated on the package! For example, my mobile phone which I had deliberately chosen for its low SAR value of 0.3 W/kg was found to be above 3W/kg, exceeding by 50% the regulatory threshold in the European standard and reaching nearly 9 W/kg in the US FCC standard. As a consumer, I was more deceived by my choice than informed. This is the case for millions of consumers.
ANFR has had this critically important consumer data since 2012, but preferred to keep them secret. The agency continues to withhold information despite it being committed, following my action, to publishing during the month of September 2017 the complete reports of measurements of the 379 mobile phones tested between 2012 and 2016. At the time of writing this, I have still received nothing from the agency. This total lack of transparency speaks volumes about the legal issues not only for the manufacturers but also for all those who have known for over twenty years that these particularly lax standards are endangering the health of hundreds of millions of users around the world.
These findings are especially alarming when you compare them to US FCC standards.
The 150 countries, including Europe, apply the ICNIRP standards, compared to the American “FCC1996” standards. In fact, the use of a parameter of 10 grams of tissue instead of one gram, and the choice of a phone communication time of 6 minutes instead of 30 minutes have resulted in making all our mobile phones a risk.
If you convert the ANFR SAR values to US FCC equivalents, almost ALL of the cell phones France tested would exceed US/Canada safety radiation limits by a far greater amount. That is because the ICNIRP SAR standard of 2.0 w/kg averages over 10 grams of tissue and the FCC standard of 1.6 w/kg averages over 1 gram of tissue. Averaging over a larger volume—such as the 10 gram volume—allows much higher peak radiation values, such as are at the tissue locations closest to the cell phone.
Research indicates that if you were to convert the ICNIRP 10 gram average to an FCC 1 gram average, you would at least double the ICNIRP SAR. The FCC SAR can be 2 to 3 times the ICNIRP SAR. For example, a cell phone tested by ANFR that had a SAR of 6W/kg would have an FCC equivalent SAR multiplied by a factor of 2 to 3, that is, between 12 and 18 W/kg. If you consider that the US FCC limit is 1.6 w/kg, then the mobile phone is at 6 to 9 times the regulatory limit. I was able to discuss this issue with Prof. Om Ghandi and Dr. Devra Davis, President of the Environmental Health Trust, during my participation in the scientific conference in Jackson Hole.
The urgent question for the international health authorities is: What are the consequences for the health of hundreds of millions of users around the world, particularly of the most vulnerable population, young persons and children, of largely exceeding radiofrequency radiation standards for over twenty years?
New results from the study of the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) carried out on rats and mice were published in September 2017. The animals were exposed to SAR values at a maximum of 6 W/kg from two types of two mobile phone technology CDMA and GSM.
The exposed male rats demonstrated significantly increased incidences of two types of cancer: glioma (brain) and schwannoma (heart). In addition, researchers found DNA damage. The full technical report of the NTP study will be available in 2018 and we will have more details on the effects of long term exposures to these SAR values.
But what is the mechanism – thermal, non-thermal effects – and at which radiation thresholds?
The serious faults of the new European Directive
It is in this context that the new European Directive RED 2014/53/EU came into effect recently on June 13, 2017. Reading this directive says a lot about the serious dysfunction in progress. In article 5, the European Commission decided to continue to keep secret, from June 2018, all the information of the manufacturers on phones at risk to the health and safety of users. Worse, its article 42 introduces a chapter on “Compliant radio equipment which presents a risk”. Everything is written in black and white!
It is easy to understand why under these conditions ANFR has considered as « compliant » the hundreds of mobile phones that have SAR values well above the thresholds.
The recommendations of ANSES are totally ignored by the French Government
To conclude, I cite the recommendations of ANSES from July 2016 which have not received the attention of the French Government, any more than the letter I sent on June 19, 2017 to the two French Ministers, Nicolas Hulot, for the Ecological Transition, and Agnès Buzyn, for Health.
-“Ensure in all circumstances the respect of regulatory limit values of exposure, no matter what type of emitting devices are used and their conditions of use (positioning in contact with the body)”
-“Re-evaluate the pertinence of the specific absorption rate (SAR) used in the establishment of limit values of exposure of people for means of protection against known and proven health effects (thermal effects) of radiofrequencies.”
-“And develop a measurement representative of the actual exposure of users of mobile phones, no matter what the conditions of use: signal used, good or bad reception, type of use (calls, loading of data, etc.)
The distance from your mobile phone is your best friend
My purpose in this action as a whistle-blower is not to cause anxiety or create panic. It seems essential to me as a physician that we have the most transparent information on the actual threshold values of radiation to which for over twenty years all mobile phone users have been exposed and the consequences for our health. It seems to me absolutely necessary in accordance with the recommendation of ANSES that the SAR standards be reviewed and that a harmonization of the international standards is established as soon as possible, hoping that the reaction of the mobile phone manufacturers would be up to the challenges of global public health. They have been particularly silent on the subject up to now.
In the meantime, to easily protect yourself, remember that keeping a distance from your mobile phone is your best friend.
[*Should read: "Before June 2016"]