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23 April 2013

"Business Bias As Usual: The Case of Electromagnetic Pollution" - Parts 7 and 9

Part 7:  Recent Precautionary Positions on Health Risks of EMF Exposures
Part 8:  How to Promote Protection Against the Health Effects of Exposure to EMF (already posted)
Part 9:  Conclusions 

Following are Parts 7 and 9 from “Business Bias as Usual: The Case of Electromagnetic Pollution”, written by Prof. Angelo Levis, Valerio Gennaro, and Spiridione Garbisa. (The text is without the footnotes, tables, and reference list contained in the original version. The full paper is available here.) This completes the paper.

Professor A. Levis, is an oncologist and professor of Environmental Mutagenesis at the University of Padua (Italy) and member of the National Toxicology (1977-1985) and National Oncology (2008-2010) Commissions. He is also a founder and former president of the Association for the Prevention and Fight against Electrosmog, known as APPLE. www.applelettrosmog.it . Valerio Gennaro is from the National Cancer Research Institute, Genoa, Italy, and Spiridione Garbisa, is a member of the Scientific Committee, International Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE), Italy.

“Business bias as usual: the case of electromagnetic pollution” is a chapter published in Elsner W, Frigato P, Ramazzotti P eds: “Social Costs Today. Institutional Analyses of the Present Crises”. Routledge (Taylor&Francis Group), London and New York 2012: 225-68 (www.routledge.com).

7: Recent Precautionary Positions on Health Risks of EMF Exposures

Alongside the strongly cautionary stance regarding the risks due to EMF exposure put forward by D. Gee, "project manager of the emerging programs" of the EEA (set out in his chapter in BioInitiative Report on the applications of the Precautionary Principle (see footnotes 2 and 5), an appeal has been made in September 2007 and reiterated in January 2008 by the EEA's Executive Director, J. McGlade, calling for EU governments to lower the EMF exposure limits, especially for wifi emission, mobile telephony and their radio-base stations. In McGlade's words “There are many examples of the failure to use the Precautionary Principle in the past, which have resulted in serious and often irreversible damage to health and environments. Appropriate, precautionary and proportionate actions taken now to avoid plausible and potentially serious threats to health from EMF are likely to be seen as prudent and wise from future perspectives. We must remember that precaution is one of the principles of EU environmental policy”. Mc Glade is convinced that: “Over the last two years the epidemiological evidence of possible cancer risk amongst the 10 year plus mobile phone user group, has got stronger. It is now also supported by preliminary scientific reports on the damaging effect to cells of RF and ELF EMF exposures. This is a cause for concern, given the widespread and generally rising exposure of the public to RF from mobile phone technology… For example, the French part of the WHO coordinated International Interphone study reported that the risk of head tumours is particularly evident in those mobile phone users who have had RF exposures at and above 460 hours per year for over 15 years. This evidence is supported by several other epidemiological studies carried out in Sweden, UK, Germany, and Israel, all of which find some evidence of increased risks of head tumours in the 10 year plus exposure groups”.

Furthermore, she underlines that: “ The evidence, though necessarily limited at this point in time, is sufficient for health authorities to consider advising the reduction of RF exposures, where feasible. I note that such advice was issued by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (July 2007), and the French Ministry of Health (January 2008). It would also be prudent to reconsider the adequacy of the ICNIRP guidelines on exposure limits of 1998 to protect public health, especially of vulnerable groups”.

Even stronger positions supporting the need for a cautionary approach to EMF exposure and more critical of the failure of the ICNIRP, WHO and EC to act are set out in two important documents, again from the EEA: one article by D. Gee (28), and one report by the EEA ("Radiofrequency EMF: EEA Commentary on the Evaluation of the Evidence") from 2008, (http://report.eea.europa.eu/environment_issue_report). These two documents re-examine the history of the errors made in science and by public health in tackling the problems arising in the past by 15 chemical and physical agents found to be harmful to the human health, and underline what these “past lessons” can teach in terms of prevention of risks from EMF, in particular RF (mobile telephony). Furthermore, they also provide vital keys for a proper understanding of the status of knowledge and criteria for assessing the risks to human health from EMF exposure, and for drawing up the consequent, pressing cautionary measures.

On 19.12.2008, the Commission on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of the EP announced (www.next-up.org) a “Preliminary Report on Preoccupations Concerning the Effects on Human Health of Electromagnetic Fields”. Among other statements, the report:

1) “reiterates its demand to the Council to update its recommendation 1999/519/CE in favor of more stringent exposure limits for all devices that emit electromagnetic radiation in the frequencies between 0.1 MHz and 300 GHz, taking into account the best available technology on the market”;

2) “asks the Commission to find a way to accelerate the enactment of the directive 2004/40/CE and thus to ensure that workers are protected effectively from EMFs”;

3) “draws attention to the appeal for prudence made by the coordinator of the Interphone study, E. Cardis, who, on the basis of current knowledge, recommends that children should not make unreasonable use of a mobile phone and should preferably use a landline phone”;

4) “suggests also to the Commission, prompted by concern for political and budgetary efficiency, a re-routing of the Community funding devoted to the study of EMFs towards a farreaching campaign to educate young Europeans in the best ways to use a mobile phone, such as using a “hands-free” kit, making only short calls and using a phone in the areas where the reception is good”;

5) “proposes an addition to the mandate of the European group for Ethics in Science and New Technologies: the task of evaluating scientific integrity in order to help the Commission forestall possible situations of risk, conflicts of interests or even the frauds which tend to arise in a context of heightened competition among researchers”17;

6) “condemns certain marketing campaigns by the phone operators, which are particularly strident in the year-end holiday period, such as the sale of mobile phones designed exclusively for children, or the “free minutes” deals aimed at adolescents”;

7) “proposes that the Union includes in its policy regarding the quality of indoor air the study of wireless devices used in the home, such as wi-fi for internet access and cordless phones, which have multiplied these last few years in public places and in homes, exposing people to continuous microwave emission”;

8) “calls on the Council and the Commission, in coordination with member States and the Committee for the Regions, to work towards putting in place a single standard in order to minimize the exposure of those living nearby if there is an extension to the network of high-voltage power lines”;

9) “is very struck by the fact that the insurance companies tend to exclude cover for risks linked with EM fields from their policies of public liability, which means evidently that European insurers are already acting on the principle of precaution”18;

10) “charges the President to transmit the present resolution to the Council, to the Commission, to the governments and parliaments of member States, to the Committee for the Regions and to the WHO”.

The Commission also states that: “This is the approach chosen by the EEA which in September 2007 courageously advised the public authorities of the 27 member States to take measures to provide better protection for the public, measures that are appropriate and in proportion in order to avoid serious dangers in the future. This represents a significant move forward on this issue, a call for action that contrasts with the status quo favoured by the WHO. In fact the WHO seems to want to play for time, offering us an appointment in 2015 for a full estimate of the impact of electromagnetic radiation of human beings” (see Section 2.2 and 5.2)!

On 4 September 2009, the EP approved in plenary session and with wide majority the text proposed by the Commission noted above (www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P6-TA-2009- 0216&language=IT&ring=A6-2009-0089), and at the same time issued a press release that, bearing the logos of the then-imminent European elections (www.elezioni2009.eu-1/3) assumed the sense of a real and proper program for the future parliamentary mandate.

9:  Conclusions

Disguising or playing down the evidence of harm to health is quite simple to do, but in turn can often be discovered with relative ease. To do so requires use of a few elements that can be found almost systematically in the formal studies of many corporations and government agencies. Studies often show an exposed population to be at lower incidence and/or mortality risk for all diseases than the control population (at least for the very few times the results are actually examined). But how is this reassuring although paradoxical conclusion possible?

Authors usually try to argue that there has been no exposure at all, while the “healthy worker effect”19 is unintentionally produced. Once the ways and means underlying the biases in scientific studies on public health have been identified, attempts can also be made to discover whether these limitations and errors are structurally inevitable, accidental or intentional. It is possible, however, that there is a lucrative approach in certain research areas, for example industrial chemicals, asbestos, vinyl chloride, beryllium, alcohol, cigarette tobacco smoke, diagnostics, some pharmaceuticals, and as we see here, electromagnetic fields. A recent communication (36) laid the groundwork for an initial, systematic identification of the criteria needed for a fast, transparent and shared assessment of voluntary counterfeit through the integrated evaluation of three elements: quantity and direction of errors (or bias), and size of the incorrect estimations present in each epidemiological study. We believe that evaluating these three elements may help clarify many aspects: the deliberate manipulation and deviation of public health scientific studies in favour of economic and career interests, avoidance of the undesirable “a priori” mistrust of all epidemiological research, production of sound, evidence-based opinion, awareness of intrinsic methodological difficulties, and appreciation of the vital contribution epidemiology makes to a healthy society.

In conclusion, today we have evidence that the image of scientific/technical innovations are being enhanced, such that these appear to actually improve human health, and that this inevitable covering up of the true picture can have serious consequences. Indeed, in many countries over the past two decades (data for Italy are available only up to 2008) the reported trend of improvement in healthy life expectancy - for many years showing an increased number of disease-free years of life (over six months) - came to an abrupt halt and reversed (37). Can we postulate [o “put forward”] other causes of the situation described in this chapter apart from the business bias?

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