On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health published a report: “Low-level radiofrequency electromagnetic fields – an assesment of health risks and evaluation of regulatory practice” (full report; English summary).
The 204-pages long report is written in Norwegian and, therefore, I was not able to read detailed scientific evaluation of the analyzed studies. However, list of references used in this report suggest that some kind of “selectivity”. For example, yet again and similarly to HPA report published earlier this year, research from my research group at STUK does not exist – no single reference to any of our numerous studies was used.
It is deeply disturbing and it seriously undermines reliability of this and other reports when the authors omit without justification some of the well known scientific studies.
The English summary of the reports goes along the common mantra: there are no health effects, the health effects are unlikely, we are all well protected by the current safety standards and there is no need for precautionary principle.
For certain, the conclusions of the report concerning risk of cancer go strongly against the 2011 IARC classification of cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen.
Based on the English summary, one might get an impression that everything is fine. No problem at all. I certainly disagree with many scientific conclusions presented in the English summary as seen in my postings on this science blog.
But then there are “puzzling” recommendations for the industry, which are contradictory to the general notion of the report that there is no problem at all.
” 1.9.5 Recommendations for the industry’s obligations
Personal mobile phone use accounts for the relatively highest exposure to the general public. Individuals can choose to easily reduce exposure. Mobile providers could equip all phones with hands-free kits and provide information about the SAR value for exposure and the importance of using hands-free. Dealers should have information about the SAR value for all new mobile phones available to the customer…” [underlining DL]
If the authors of the report believe, as they say in the report that there is no problem at all then why to suggest to customers to reduce exposures, why to recommend to industry to provide hands-free kits and why to oblige dealers to provide SAR information on new phones to customers? If there is no problem then all such recommendations should be useless.
The other inconsistency, this time between the report and the press release is the following:
the report says:
“1.9.6 Recommendations for research and professional follow-up
The Norwegian research environments should contribute to and monitor international research about possible health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields. The authorities should take into account the need for research funding in this area. The development of cancer incidence over time should be followed in cancer registries. WHO has presented recommendations on priority areas in the field.” [underlining DL]
It means that the scientists who prepared the report agree that there is need for further research, with priorities set by the WHO, and that Norwegian authorities should fund such research.
However, one of the headlines in the press release from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health clearly states that:
“Little benefit from more research“.
Does it mean that the scientists’ recommendation for Norwegian authorities is to fund more research even when they know that it will be of “little benefit”? Or is it just a “spin” inserted into the press release?
Even WHO, ICNIRP and ICES all agree that there are gaps in the knowledge and the research should be continued. Especially, because the latency period for brain cancer is counted in tens of years and the epidemiological studies that evaluated risk of brain cancer in their results relied on only small groups of people that used cell phones for more than 10 years and well below 20 years.
It seems that the authors of the Norwegian report self-contradict and either mislead by overstating their scientific conclusions of “no problem” or mislead by overstating the recommendations for the industry. They would like to have it both ways.
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… but we have red flags that need to be checked. Just, please, remember that this statement refers to very few proteomics & transcriptomics studies that were executed so far and all of them are of very limited scope. It matters. When you do not have funding to perform studies you do not gather scientific evidence. What is the final conclusion of that review is that we need urgently more and larger proteomics and transcriptomics studies to find out targets of EMFs. Not like the “conclusion” of the Norwegian report stated in the press release that further research is of little use.
Sorry, I am not convinced by your comments here. But I do accept the conclusions from your recent review in Proteomics which stated: “As yet, there is no convincing link to any long-term or short term harmful effects of EMF from the studies performed so far…” This seems to me to be very similar to the conclusion in the Norwegian review.
Interesting enough, the Public Healt Intitute is fundet by the Norwegian authorities. At the sae time, the Norwegian Authorities has a significant ownership in Telenor with a high interest in putting up base stations throughout the country. They are a nuissance, all these priotests…
Doubting Thomas, I disagree.
Studies by Falzone et al., where I am co-author, are not studies executed at STUK – which studies I mentioned as omitted in my blog. Nadia Falzone was my PhD student in South Africa.
1. Why to suggest that consumers “can choose to easily reduce exposure” or to say that “manufacturers could equip all phones with hands-free kits” when there is no any health risk? However, what you did not refere to, the last sentence of the recommendations to the industry that I quoted says specifically that dealers should have information about the SAR available to the consumers. This recommendation is fiercely fought against by manufacturers, e.g. recent court case between CTIA and the city of San Francisco.
The above suggestions and recommendations to limit exposures, or use hands free kit or to get info about SAR of the phone are in total conflict with the sentence in the report:
p38: “On this basis the Expert committee considers that the general public is well protected against adverse health effects from RF exposure”. and later the Committee states that “Overall, the uncertainty in risk assessment is therefore small”.
So, we are well protected, there is no health hazard and the uncertainty in risk assessment is small – why bother and suggest protective measures to users?
This is a self-contradiction.
2. The report says that there is no problem, because how otherwise one can interpret the following statements in the report:
p.34: “Overall, the available data show no association between exposure to RF fields from mobile phone and fast-growing tumors, including gliomas in the brain which have short induction period.” = no problem
p37: “Based on a large number of studies, many of which are of high quality, there is no evidence that weak RF fields cause symptoms such as headache, fatigue or concentration problems.” = no problem
p37: “At present, there is little to suggest that exposure to weak RF fields causes changes in gene expression that can be linked to adverse effects in humans. ” = no problem
3. As you quoted “The large total number of studies provides no evidence that exposure to weak RF fields causes adverse health effects. Some measurable biological / physiological effects cannot be ruled out.” This two sentences clearly convey a message that there is no health risk. There might be some biological/physiological effect, but no health risk… As we all know biological/physiological effect does not equal health effect… so again – no problem.
Not to mention the title of the press release: “No evidence of health risk found”
Once again, in my opinion, besides the fact that the conclusions of the report are in disagreement with the overall published evidence, the report is self-contradictory
Thanks for good comments to the FHI report. FYI I just sent them a mail regarding the fact that tehy contradict IARC asking what more recent info they have which could support that. Browsing through the report I see on top p 96 that FHI could not completely consider the IARC classification because the monograph will not be published before later in 2012.
Can we assume FHI will issue an update once they have the full text of the monograph? I bet we will hear nothing, and if we ask, they will answer it did not warrant any changes. But why did they not await the monograph, which is the most significant evaluation to date, before they issued their own report? By the face of it, it does not look good.
You were not left out entirely; I noted that Professor Dariusz showed up at least twice in the references where Falzone was the lead author. I also saw Cardis, Havas, Hardell, Lai and Sadetski referenced. So, I’m not sure the review was all that ‘selective’; perhaps you meant to say ‘inclusive’?
1.9.5, As to your point about “suggest to customers”; it actually says “individuals can choose”, and, back in 1.9.1 the report states “does not recommend special measures to reduce exposure” In connection with providing hands-free kits and SAR information, the word ‘could’ was used – not ‘oblige’, or some other word suggesting a mandate. These are just common sense ideas that might reduce consumer concerns. The comments are entirely consistent with the report.
1.9.6, They did not conclude “no problem.” They concluded “The large total number of studies provides no evidence that exposure to weak RF fields causes adverse health effects. Some measurable biological / physiological effects cannot be ruled out.” So, continued research on these effects is needed. Again, the comments are consistent with the report.
I don’t see any self-contradiction, misleading or overstating of conclusions in the English summary of this report. Of course my Norwegian is pretty rusty and I missed a lot in the original document, so I am reserving final judgment. (missed it all, actually!)
I couldn’t agree more with you. We Norwegians are thaught to be some of the most naive people, at least in Europe, when it comes to electromagnetic radiation. I guess it’s all about business and the Public Health Institute is known to have close ties to the pharmaceutical companies. Similar ties to the mobile phone industry wouldn’t surprise me.
Keep up your good work, we’re in desperate need for real and true knowledge on this subject.
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