I will be giving a lecture at a meeting in Belgrade, Serbia in October and a key-note presentation at a meeting in Turkey in November. Slides of the presentations will be uploaded in due time on SlideShare. For now, for those interested, abstract of my presentations:
Wireless Communication and Health: Future of the Research and the Precautionary Principle
Adjunct Professor, Department of Biosciences, Division of Biochemistry & Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Finland; firstname.lastname@example.org
Physiological functions of the human body are regulated by electric currents. Therefore, it is not surprising that placing a human body within an electromagnetic field, of sufficient strength, may cause interference with normal physiologic processes. The present ICNIRP and IEEE safety guidelines claim to protect the whole of the human population from the effects of exposures to electromagnetic fields (EMF). However, research studies on humans and animals suggest that exposures at levels permitted by the safety guide-lines can affect health. There certainly are among us people who are more sensitive to electromagnetic fields than the general population. We, the scientists, need to find out who these, potentially affected, individuals are.
The vast majority of the biological research examining the effects of EMF has focused on the possibility of affecting genes, causing brain cancer or impairment of embryonic development. At the same time, debate continues whether EMF induces effects that, although not life-threatening, could be detrimental to the quality of life. The symptoms experienced by the self-diagnosed EMF sensitive persons, calling themselves electromagnetic-hyper-sensitive (EHS), fall into this category of symptoms detrimental to the quality of life.
Epidemiological studies are often expected to provide the answer, whether EMF exposure might be hazardous to human population. However, validation of any potential health hazard using epidemiology alone is useless. This, because the low sensitivity of epidemiologic methodology is insufficient for reliable detection of health impact of the weak biological effects induced by low energy EMF. The to date executed epidemiological studies, although not providing any conclusive evidence, have shown that it is likely that long-term exposure to cell phone radiation (30 minutes/day for 10 years or longer period) increases the risk of developing brain cancer – glioma.
Because of the limitations of epidemiology, we need human volunteer studies of EMF effects to determine whether EMF exposures cause biochemical changes in exposed tissues and organs, linkable with any health hazard. Such information can be used to support, or dismiss, observations from the epidemiological studies as well as to improve the design of the future epidemiological research.
Modern molecular biology screening techniques of transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics can provide such much needed information. This approach is particularly suited for studying biological and health effects of EMF because it will reveal effects impossible to predict based on the presently available knowledge. Systematic screening of the transcriptome (gene expression), proteome (protein expression), phospho-proteome (protein activity), metabolome (small molecular metabolites) will generate data necessary for conclusive proof of health effects, including, among others, carcinogenicity and EHS.
Meanwhile, awaiting the conclusive scientific evidence, process that will take still tens of years, we need to take an action to protect users of the wireless communication devices. There is an ongoing debate, whether the Precautionary Principle (PP), as defined by the European Union in 2000, should be implemented to mitigate the suspected health risks of exposure to EMF. In order to consider the use of the PP, the first necessary step is the evaluation of the scientific evidence. In respect to cell phone radiation, this first step was executed in 2011 when the Working Group of 30 experts met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, and classified cell phone radiation as a possible human carcinogen (Group 2B).
After completion of evaluation of the scientific evidence, there are several pre-conditions that need to be fulfilled before debating the implementation of the PP, in accordance with the EU PP document of 2000. All of these preconditions are fulfilled:
Pre-condition: PP can be implemented when the scientific information is insufficient, inconclusive, or uncertain
• IARC classification of cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen has clearly shown that the information on health effects of cell phone radiation is “insufficient, inconclusive, or uncertain”
Pre-condition: PP can be implemented when there are indications that the possible effects on human health may be potentially dangerous
• IARC classification of cell phone radiation, based on the evidence from epidemiological case-control studies, has pointed out that avid long-term cell phone users are at an increased brain cancer risk – this is a potential danger to over 7 billion of cell phone users
Pre-condition: PP can be implemented when the current situation is inconsistent with the chosen level of protection
• IARC classification pointing out to an increased brain cancer risk is based on epidemiological studies where subjects used regular cell phones meeting current safety standards; this means that the current safety standards are insufficient to protect users.
Implementation of the Precautionary Principle does not equal prevention of the use of wireless technologies. This policy can help in curbing the current rampant and uncontrolled deployment of wireless networks anywhere and everywhere. The claims that the implementation of the Precautionary Principle will cause economic harm are not justified. Implementation of the Precautionary Principle will create new knowledge through research aimed at resolving the issue of health risk and developing communication technologies with lower radiation emissions. It will, in turn, create new jobs and new economic opportunities in research and technology.
In conclusion, IARC review of the scientific evidence and obtained classification of possible carcinogenicity of cell phone radiation, permit implementation of the Precautionary Principle measures, in order to protect the population from the potentially hazardous effects of exposure to radiation emitted by the wireless communication devices. Concomitantly, with the implementation of the protective measures, aimed at reduction of exposures of human population, scientific research should continue to resolve the contradictions of the scientific evidence. Modern molecular biology methods of transcriptomics and proteomics must be finally used to determine the scope and the size of the impact of EMF exposures on human tissues and organs.