BioEM2013: The Health Council of The Netherlands evaluation of epidemiology of RF & cancer

In the afternoon of Thursday, June 13th, Eric van Rongen presented evaluation of the epidemiological evidence done by The Health Council of The Netherlands. The process has begun before the 2011 IARC evaluation of the carcinogenicity of RF.  However, the literature search was performed up to July 10th 2012 and therefore included a study that was not reviewed by IARC.

The Health Council of The Netherlands evaluation process had some interesting feature – numerical evaluation of the studies. It means that each study was assigned a value number based on several properties of the study.

Each study was evaluated for:

  • Selection bias
  • Misclassification of outcome
  • Misclassification of exposure
  • Confounding
  • Conflicts of interest

The weighing was done according to the following scoring:

4 (selection bias.) : 1 (diagnosis) : 4 (exposure) : 1 (confounding) : 0 (conflict of interest)

The weighing was then converted to score 0-10 for each study.

The glioma studies received the following quality scores:


Study type


Reason for exclusion

Frei et al (2011)

Cohort (Danish)


included in evaluation

Muscat et al (2000)



Low # cases, follow up times pooled

Inskip et al (2001)



Low # cases, short follow up

Auvinen et al (2002)



Low # cases, short follow up

Gousias et al (2009)



No exposure data

Spinelli et al (2010)



Low # cases, call time subscriptions




included in evaluation

Hardell et al (2011)



included in evaluation

Ali Kahn et al (2003)



No exposure data

Only three studies with the highest score were used for evaluation of the glioma risk.

What I find controversial in this table is that Study by Ali Khan et al (2003) was excluded because it had no exposure data.

The Frei et al (2011), the infamous Danish Cohort update study, has also no exposure data but it was highly scored. Why? Just because it is so large? Or are there other reasons that are not spoken about?

Especially disturbing in this context is that The Health Council of The Netherlands evaluators, in detailed evaluation of the Danish Cohort study, pointed out that Danish Cohort had:

  • No exposure assessment
  • Misclassification, increasing with time
  • Only in ‘non-exposed’ group – minimal effect on risk estimate

And in spite of it, the evaluators decided to include Danish Cohort in evaluation. It is entirely wrong attitude. It is as the evaluators honestly say that the study’s quality is bad but then dishonestly decide to include it in evaluation.

I think that such preferential treatment of the Danish Cohort is a scientific dishonesty scandal.

There was also a very needed and very positive signal from The Health Council of The Netherlands. Namely, the evaluators said that:

  • for glioma there is weak, though inconsistent evidence what is in line with the IARC evaluation
  • current guidelines are OK, but this is no reason not to apply ALARA

Indication of The Health Council of The Netherlands readiness to apply ALARA could/should open the way for the Precautionary Principle.

At least for me this presentation by Eric van Rongen indicated some move in a more realistic direction. What I especially liked was exclusion of some studies from the final evaluation. This is the known problem in EMF research. There are very many poor quality studies, scientists know them but “stubbornly” they use them time and again in evaluations. Such procedure most likely distorts the full picture. As it was done by The Health Council of The Netherlands, not that I agree with all scorings, the low score studies were excluded and there were given exact reasons for exclusion. It means that the studies were not just omitted. The studies were cited and justification for exclusion presented.

Just it is a shame that The Health Council of The Netherlands did not stick to own “rules” and instead of disregarding it, used Danish Cohort. Why they have done so? It goes beyond my logic – but about this and my interesting conversation, bordering with the “twilight zone”, on Danish Cohort with a prominent epidemiologist in my next blog!

The full report of The Health Council of The Netherlands report is available here:  report page  


Unfortunately, due to travel arrangements, I was not able to participate in the last day of the BioEM2013 and this is my last blog directly from the conference.


7 thoughts on “BioEM2013: The Health Council of The Netherlands evaluation of epidemiology of RF & cancer

  1. I thank you for the work you are doing here, Dariusz, in trying to get the word out and to get a discussion started. I hope more of your colleagues will soon join in.

    What do you believe is the role of scientists in activism, if any. What is the role of the scientist in advocating for public policy change.

    1973–how did we get here from there?

    “How are the electric and magnetic fields related to a specific non-thermal effect and what sort of interaction on a molecular or macroscopic level takes place? A number of theories have appeared in recent years proposing mechanisms whereby low intensity MW fields can affect biological systems, particularly in regard to effects on the central nervous system (CNS) .

    “In view of the expected proliferation of MW devices in many different applications, a substantial increase in MW background activity is feared that may endanger human health. On this basis strict control of the use of these devices must be introduced while present safety standards are revised and extensive research is conducted into long term effects of exposure to low intensity MW radiation. In particular, a study of possible accumulative effects of MW radiation (directly or indirectly) through sensitization must be conducted.

  2. The health agencies and FCC disqualify studies for too short a follow-up time while they follow up on nothing for no time–nothing that might connect the microwave deployment to health effects. In truth they discourage follow up and dissemination of information to the public. One has to wonder why.

    Along the lines of what Dr.Eduardo Balanovski said above, I don’t understand how it is scientifically sound for the this deployment to ever have happened. So much was already known since the 1970’s about the nonthermal bioeffects. I believe there is evidence of harm dating back to the late 1920’s, work done by Muth.

    So here is the take in the 1970’s:

    ” In general, however, evidence is increasing that low-level bioeffects do exist. These effects include nervous system and behavioral effects, 76 including a reduction in learning facility;77 desadaptive effects; 78 damage to the chemical barrier that prevents blood toxins from entering the brain;79 inhibition of lymphocyte development (part of the immunological system)8″; and, possibly, genetic defects, birth defects8″ and general effects on growth and aging processes.8 2
    “In addition, Soviet surveys of occupationally exposed persons have
    identified a chronic exposure syndrome based on subjective evidence workers’ complaints.83 This syndrome includes headache, eyestrain
    and tearing, fatigue and weakness, vertigo, sleeplessness at night and
    drowsiness during the day, moodiness, irritability, hypochondria, paranoia, either nervous tension or mental depression and memory impairment. After longer periods of exposure, additional complaints may include sluggishness, inability to make decisions, loss of hair, pain in muscles and in the heart region, breathlessness, sexual problems and even a decrease in lactation in nursing mothers.
    “Clinically observed effects in persons voicing these complaints include trembling of the eyelids, fingers and tongue, increased perspiration of the extremities, rash,84 and, at exposures in the 1 to 10 mW/cm2 range, changes in electroencephalogram (EEG) patterns.8
    ” Researchers also have noted a more specific response-preconvulsive discharges and convulsions or shock-upon intravenous administration of a drug 6 that produces no effect in a normal adult male.87 Regenerative processes seem to cause most of these subjective and objective effects to disappear within several weeks after radiation exposure ends. 8″

    Really, almost 40 years later and with massive, massive proliferation, these words written in 1979 could be read in an article written today, despite ever increasing evidence of such.

    “(b) Low-level (5onthermal’) effects. Currently the most basic question is whether or not there are “nonthermal” or “athermal ”69 mechanisms that produce adverse health effects in persons chronically exposed to NEMR of 10 mW/cm2 or less. If such effects do exist, then it must be determined what they are and how they are produced. ”

    In the meantime, we just need to stop exposing ourselves and being forced to be exposed without our full knowledge and individual consent. What exactly are we waiting for–the definitive explanation for how this is impairing and killing us? Immediately, the public needs to be informed of what is already known, what was known before they were sold that cell phone, Wii, and router, before their children’s schools deployed wifi, before their daughter got a job at a fast food restaurant where she would wear a wireless headset for 6 hours a shift…..

  3. From 1980 untl 1987 I published several papers that referred to frequency-dependent non thermal effects that exist on DNA. The first one is in Phys Rev A and the next 2 in Phys Lett B, the last one in Int J Theor Phys. Please refer to these.
    Many thanks

  4. All of the above points to the fact that “a solution of the problem is far away”…

  5. The Health Counsil of the Netherlands has, untill now on, a doubtfull interpretation and have given doubtful advice about this issue . This also is seen by Dr David Gee, (Senior Advisor on Science, Policy, and Emerging Issues at the European Environment Agency) who spoke out that the citizens in the Netherlands have a problem with there Health Counsil.

    That the Health Counsil says that the current guidelines are Ok has probably some connection with the fact that Eric van Rongen is in the ICNIRP commission. ..

    In this time looking for health problems like cancer is probably difficult to see because there are mostly no significant elevated figures. But reports like the Bioinitiave Report concluding major biological effects occur, resulting in health problems like brain damage, alzheimer, sleepnessness, dizziness, tumours (and so on) are an important first stage for the development for the last stage of the disease: cancer.

    Isn’t it so that when biological effects occur in levels within the ICNIRP guideline that this guideline is inappropriate? And isn’t it so that ICNIRP only gives advice for exposures no longer than 30 minutes? Maybe that can be applicable for cell phone issues but this is totally not applicable for cell towers, wifi, dect… etc.

    In the meantime when you are arguing over this issue the whole country is filled up with wireless equipment. Millions of schoolkids sitting day in, day out next to wireless routers and i-pads, Millions of patients lying in hospitals where its filled up with wireless technologies. Millions of people living next to a cell phone tower.

    I see more and more people with biological illnesses, people early aging (20/30-ers getting grey hair..) people getting more and more sick.

    Aren’t this people trusting on health authorities who, when there is just a little doubt, act pragmatically and prevent health damage to occur?

    Guess what? They rely only on a guideline that is totally inappropriate, they don’t look at short- term serious effects. But when there are clear signs that there are enough people in the endstage of cancer then you probably get a warning of us…

    Health Counsil do you’re job and start when it isn’t too late !

  6. Pingback: Commentary on the BioEm conference, Thessaloniki, Greece by Dariusz Leszczynski | EMFacts Consultancy

  7. D,
    The reason why the Ali Khan study was excluded was that it does not contain any data on any exposure metric. The Danish cohort at least has data on years of subscription – not much, but something. Because of that it was not put aside. It did not carry much weight in the final evaluation, but was used as additional or supporting information.

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