• We need to continue research on the effects of mobile phone radiation

On January 8th, 2010, the major Finnish newspaper, “Helsingin sanomat“, has published as a “front page” guest editorial (vieraskyna/pääkirjoitus) my text concerning the need for further research on the effects of the mobile phone radiation. The original text (in Finnish) can be found here:

http://www.hs.fi/paakirjoitus/artikkeli/Matkapuhelinten+s%C3%A4teily+vaatii+lis%C3%A4tutkimuksia/HS20100108SI1MA01vh0

Below is my translation of the text of this editorial.

International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are assuring that there is no reason to be concerned about the effects of mobile phone radiation and that the current safety standards protect all users. At the same time scientists are calling for more research. Why? 

When evaluating scientific evidence we not only need to determine what we know. We should also consider what kind of important health effects were not yet examined at all. Only by combining the information on what we know and on what we did not examine yet, we can reliably evaluate the validity of the current safety standards. 

The majority of research on the biological effects of mobile phone radiation has been done using cells grown in laboratory. In such studies it is possible to determine the biochemical mechanisms of the effect, what provides background information for designing further animal and human studies. However, the evidence gathered in such studies can not be used to estimate health risk or to set safety standards. 

Animal studies are used to determine whether examined agent might potentially have any effect on humans. In toxicological studies animals are exposed to an overdose of the agent and examined whether it has any effects on their health. Unfortunately, such study approach can not be fully used in studies of mobile phone radiation because the overdose of microwaves would warm-up the animal and the interpretation of the results would become very difficult. What are we left with, are studies where animals are exposed for a long periods of time to similar levels of mobile phone radiation as these that mobile phone users are exposed to. However, because mobile phone radiation is only a weak stimulus, it might be very difficult to detect its effects. At the same time is necessary to remember that the lack of observable effects in animals does not automatically mean that there will be no effects in humans. That is why the animal experiments using mobile phone radiation have only limited use in evaluation of the safety of mobile phones. 

Studies of human volunteers have focused on cognitive effects, blood pressure, headaches, allergy-like symptoms, quality of sleep and whether person can recognize when mobile phone is emitting radiation and when it is switched off. Unfortunately, experimental conditions of such experiments can psychologically affect volunteers causing that their responses might become subjective and unreliable. 

More objective information about the effects of mobile phone radiation on human body is possible to obtain using methods of molecular biology. Using this approach it would be possible to find out whether human body reacts to mobile phone radiation at all. In spite of years of research we do not have yet this information. 

When evaluating human health risk the most important evidence is provided by epidemiological studies. However, epidemiological methods are not very sensitive and because of it, it is unlikely that epidemiology alone would ever be able to determine whether mobile phone radiation might be a health risk factor and cause brain cancer. An additional difficulty is the long latency period for brain cancer development. Therefore, we need to wait for additional 5-10 years for more reliable answers from epidemiologists. 

One of the important questions is the possible effect of mobile phone radiation on children. According to ICNIRP and WHO current safety standards protect also children. For ethical reasons these assurances are based only on experiments with animals. 

Contradictory opinions about the possibility of health risk associated with mobile phone radiation is easy to understand when we consider that we still do not have the answer to the basic question: does human body react to mobile phone radiation? If the answer is yes, then we need to determine whether children are more sensitive than adults and what will be the consequences of the life-time exposure. At this point it is good to remember that the mobile phone radiation is a man-made non-physiological agent for which our brains have not been prepared throughout the evolutionary development. 

Before we know the answers to the above mentioned questions, the statements claiming that the mobile phones are safe are premature. 

To find answers to these questions there are ongoing epidemiological research projects COSMOS, MOBI-KIDS in Europe and the NTP animal study in USA. In addition to such studies we need to conduct molecular biology studies on human volunteers exposed to mobile phone radiation. When results from these new epidemiological, animal, and human volunteer molecular biology studies will be available, then we will be able to better evaluate the reliability of our safety standards.

Because the current safety standards can be considered as unreliable, there is a need for both, further research and for the use of precautionary measures when dealing with mobile phones.

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6 thoughts on “• We need to continue research on the effects of mobile phone radiation

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review « Between A Rock and A Hard Place Blog

  2. Is more research necessary, you could bet on it.
    Between a rock and a hard place, for over six years and many hours of researching the subject of the microwave auditory effect and now with the 3G neurological side effects that aggravate my nervous system from the cranial nerves down to the bottom of my feet.
    Doctors have no idea, most think it is tinnitus.
    It is not tinnitus it is a completely different perception.
    Science thinks that it the same as ordinary sound as if heard thru the outer ear to the cochlea, it’s not.
    It is not only aggravating, it causes lapses in balance, confusion, and it aggravates the facial nerve and auditory nerve.
    As far as I can find thier isn’t a cure.
    I guess all of us that are suffering are suppose to just stay quiet and suffer.
    If something funny isn’t going on why has the Microwave Auditory Effect been covered up, why can’t we go to the doctor for a diagnoses.
    Pulsed electromagnetics does effect neural synapses and I believe they are effecting everyones brains whether they can hear them or not.
    Living between a rock and a hard place.
    Patty

  3. Hello all,

    I am working with a small cell service provider in the US, and we are wondering if the SAR shield or any of the “shields” that are provided out there, truly are effective at reducing radiation? We believe in being proactive and addressing now the possible long-term risks associated with the radiation from cellphones. We have tried to pick the phones that have very low SAR levels and are providing headsets/handsfree accessories for free with all of our phones, but thought going the extra mile and providing a shield automatically with the phone would be a good idea as well. However, we do not want to make that investment if these shields are ineffective. Thank you for your opinion!
    Best,
    Anne Bowman

  4. Objective research with human volunteers is welcome. We do not need industry funded provocation tests with foreseen results. That kind of studies have been very popular in Finland lately and funding them is not a problem at all. For example, the University of Turku just published its provocation tests with healthy volunteers (not EHS as they claimed in the Finnish
    media). As a result, the participants could not recognize whether the mobile signals were present in the test lab or not. Nokia and operators were involved in funding of the project, in the study design and in the steering group of the project. The study design involved severe flaws e.g. other equipment and EMR in the test room. (Nokia did not want to do tests in a Faraday gage.)

    In Finland industry is a partner in every single mobile research project. Researchers close to industry and ICNIRP get grants for their projects easily.

    In my opinion, we need an opinion poll on safety standards. At present, Finland is adopting ICNIRP guidelines. Thanks for Leszczynski´s colleague at STUK, professor Kari Jokela. He has been a member of ICNIRP for years. Jokela was also the only participant in the EU-seminar of 1999 who objected to the suggestion for adopting the precautionary principle recommended by EU Parliament. However, as a country of high technology, Finland should have obligations to take precautions under radiation safety issues.

    It is a pity that Dariusz Leszczynski´s opinions, which he brings forth here in this blog, have to be expressed ”privately”. Opinions demanding precaution should represent the official policy of STUK.

    There is still hope for a better radiation policy. Professor Franz Adlkofer and many other independent scientists attended the Stavanger conference (http://www.EMF2009.no) in Norway in early November last year. One of the topics was precautionary principle and especially the vulnerability of children. The proposal for a better standard formulated by professors Franz Adlkofer & co. should be available soon, and hopefully the Finnish Parliament will act by introducing a new bill to protect humans.

    (Many of you remember that the Nordic safety authorities – like the Finnish STUK- were extremely worried about the consequences of the Stavanger meeting for the wireless industry. The Nordic safety authorities gave a common press release during the conference, stating that wireless technology is safe under the current safety limits.)

  5. Several years ago I undertook expansive research on this topic for a thesis I was writing. The amount of dissonance among the scientific community into the efficacy of ICNIRP seems in itself justification for large scale coordinated research into the ICNIRP safety standard and its potential failings.
    ICNIRP provides guidelines for EMR exposure based on thermal response of dielectric material (such as living tissue)induced by the electromagnetic field.
    There is increasing doubt among research scientists that this thermal measurement is in itself enough to safely guide EMR exposure as it fails to address the non-thermal (biological) effects on living tissue caused by exposure to EMR.
    German biophysicist Roland Glaser has conducted research that indicates EMR can trigger cell changes even when the thermal effects are so small as to be undetectable. It is time ICNIRP (1998) is revised to reflect the research work carried out in the past 12 years since its last revision. Since the first standards on wireless safety were introduced in the 1960s, the exposure levels have continued to be revised downwards as new research and evidence suggest more causal effects than previously accounted for. This research and evidence has continued and it’s time for ICNIRP to follow suit and actively revise it’s 1998 standard based upon the latest available research. Mobile telephony has evolved so much faster than we could possibly evaluate all the potential health consequences. It is also clear we do not have a consummate understanding of the potential health effects (non-thermal) caused by EMR and phone masts, therefore it would be prudent for ICNIRP to be revised with the Precautionary Principle in mind. It is much better that our exposure guidelines are overly safe, than overly ineffective.
    Neil McGonigle, Ireland

  6. What is happening to the long awaited Interphone study? Rumours are dripped from it and speculation is rife, but surely after so much of our money and resources (either through EU taxes or phone bills) has been sunk into this, that the world is owed a statement on the research outcomes. This would go a long way to resolving whether concern is reasonable.

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