I consider myself expert in biological effects of cell phone radiation. I have two doctorates and docentship in biochemistry. I worked at STUK for nearly 22 years, including as Head of Radiation Biology Laboratory and most recently, for 13 years, as Research Professor. I do research on cell phone radiation and health since 1996. My expertise in this area was recognized by my peers when e.g. I was invited to testify before a committee of the US Senate, Finland’s Eduskunta, Canadian Parliament or Health Minister of India. I was member of the group of 30 scientists who, at invitation of IARC, classified in 2011 cell phone radiation as a possible human carcinogen (group 2B in IARC scale). For those interested my full experience is available from this link.
I read carefully recent interview with Professor Tapio Ala-Nissilä published in ‘Voi hyvin‘ journal and in ‘Turun sanomat’ newspaper and I got very confused. Professor of physics at the Aalto University in Helsinki is serving very strong, partly false and misleading, one-sided opinions on biological effects of cell phone radiation.
The interview with Ala-Nissilä is full of false statements, misleading claims and omission of evidence disagreeing with the views of Ala-Nissilä.
The list of the false and misleading claims committed by Professor Tapio Ala-Nissilä in a short interview published in ‘Voi hyvin’ journal is long, as seen from the quotes below (Finnish quotes are taken directly from ‘Voi hyvin’ journal’s interview; translation to English by DL) :
- Radio-frequency microwaves do not affect at all biological tissue (“…Radiotaajuiset aallot eivät vaikuta biologiseen kudokseen juuri mitenkään…”)
- Cell phone does not warm up human tissues at all. Furthermore, human temperature control mechanisms is exact and efficient (“…Matkapuhelin ei lämmitä kudosta juuri lainkaan. Lisäksi ihmisen lämmönsäätely on erittäin tarkka ja tehokas…”)
- Place where cell phone is kept does not matter: warmth of cell phone does not affect human (”…Kännykän paikalla ei ole väliä: sen lämpö ei vaikuta ihmiseen…”)
- Human itself emits microwaves, meaning it warms up environment with 100 Wat, meaning with power of electric radiator (“…Ihminen itse säteilee mikroaaltoja eli lämmittää ympäristöään noin 100 watin, siis sähköpatterin, teholla…”)
- From hugging another person you get much more radiation exposure than from cell phone (”…Toisen ihmisen kyljessä saat siis paljon enemmän säteilyä kuin puhelimesta, vaikka se olisi ihossa kiinni…”)
- [IARC] classification is baseless. It is based on research done in 1990-ties, research that was later was repealed. In next meeting of the classification committee current classification will be changed (“…Luokittelu on perusteeton. Taustalla on 1990-luvulla tehty tutkimus, joka kumottiin jälkikäteen. Seuraavassa luokituksia tekevän komitean kokouksessa luokittelu tullaan muuttamaan…”)
- Cell phones are used already by 5.5 billon people. However, especially brain cancer, is in decline in 21st century (“…Kännykkää käyttää jo 5.5 miljardia ihmistä. Silti etenkin aivosyöpä on vähentynyt koko 2000-luvun ajan…”)
- EHS was thoroughly examined with tests of which double blind test is most reliable. […] All tests have shown that in reality people are unable to sense electromagnetic field. (“…Sähköallergiasta on tehty perusteelliset testit, joista luotettavin on kaksoissokkotesti. […] Kaikki testit ovat osoittaneet, etteivät ihmiset pysty todellisuudessa havaitsemaan sähkökenttiä…”)
- Currently cell phone radiation is baselessly classified as possibly carcionogenic group 2B, similarly as coffee and pickled vegetables. (“…Tällä hetkellä matkapuhelimen säteily kuuluu perusteettomasti syöpäriskiluokkaan 2B samoin kuin kahvi ja säilykevihannekset...”)
- If it would happen that one person out of 100 millions of people would get cancer because of cell phone radiation the ris is negligable compared with everything else in life. (“…Jos jokin tutkimus paljastaisi, että yksi ihminen sadasta miljoonasta on saanut syövän kännykänsäteilystä, riski ei ole mitään verrattuna kaikkeen muuhun elämässä…”)
There are several hundreds of studies showing biological effect of radiation emitted by cell phones. To claim that all these studies are false it is to claim that all scientists who made them are incompetent – I think there is no any basis for such claim.
Some of the studies showing biological effects were replicated (e.g. effects on brain electric activity, on sleep, on cellular stress response, on blood-brain barier, on increasing glioma risk), some of them were not. The problem with replications is that scientists always improve the original set up of experiments and, in the end, the new study is not really replication the original one. This might cause differences in outcomes. Also, a large number of studies showing effects were, for unknown reasons, never attempted to be replicated.
Some of the observed effects are clearly non-thermal, caused by something else but the heating of the tissues exposed to cell phone radiation (e.g. effects on brain electric activity, on sleep, on cellular stress response, on blood-brain barier, on increasing glioma risk).
As physicist, Professor Tapio Ala-Nissilä should know that, what he calls microwaves emitted by humans, are very different from microwaves emitted by cell phones. So, being physically close with another person is completely different from having a cell phone close to the body. The difference is in frequency and in modulation of the microwaves emitted by cell phone. It is Ala-Nissilä’s misleading claim that only small temperature increase happens and it does not matter. Saying that human body heat and radio-frequency modulated microwaves emitted by cell phone ate the same is absolutely wrong. It is as if saying that cows and horses are the same because all have four legs.
Classification of cell phone radiation as possible carcinogen was predominantly based on epidemiological studies and had supporting evidence from animal studies, especially studies where animals were co-exposed to cell phone radiation and to another chemical or physical agent.
Tapio Ala-Nissilä falsely claims that these studies were repealed by newer studies, published after 2011 IARC classification.
Just the opposite happened.
Results of epidemiological studies from Interphone group and from Lennart Hardell group, showing small but increased glioma risk were re-confirmed by recent Cerenat group study from France. Animal studies showing increased risk of cancer in animals exposed simultaneously to cell phone radiation and other carcinogens were re-confirmed in recent study from Alexander Lerchl in Germany.
Claim by Tapio Ala-Nissilä that the classification will be reversed in next meeting of IARC is absolutely baseless at this point. It sounds as, completely baseless, “wishful thinking”.
Furthermore, looking at cancer statistics in different countries it is evident that glioma prevalence is on small but steady increase. To what extent it is caused by cell phone radiation – we do not know yet because epidemiology cannot be used to conclusively demonstrate it.
Tapio Ala-Nissilä is also out of date on cancer classification of coffee. It was recently re-classified by IARC from the possible carcinogen group (group 2B) to the non-classifiable group (group 3) because the new science has shown that it is not the coffee that causes throat cancer. It is the habit of drinking scalding hot coffee or mate, in some parts of the world that leads to throat cancer (Carcinogenicity of drinking coffee, mate, and very hot beverages).
It is false to claim that to date executed studies on EHS prove lack of causality between EMF and EHS. These studies were performed by psychologists using EHS persons. These persons were afraid and concerned when participating in experiments they considered to be harmful to their health. This setting has certainly caused and additional stress that most likely interfered with experimental outcome of such studies. Fact that in the studies of small groups of EHS persons it was not proven that EHS person recognizes when is exposed to EMF is absolutely insufficient as a proof of non-existence of EHS. People cannot recognize when they are exposed to e.g. X rays or to ultraviolet radiation.
The lack of the ability of human senses to detect (feel) low-level EMF exposure is not surprising. It is absolutely false, and scientifically naïve, to use such evidence as proof of non-existence of EHS. It is wrong to claim that person who does not feel EMF will not be affected by EMF.
People are different and differently respond to environment. Some are e.g. allergic to pollen but the majority is not. To all known environmental stressors there is always known a small sub-group of persons who are more sensitive, including sensitivity to X-rays and ultraviolet radiation.
Why EMF would be the one and the only environmental factor that would not have more sensitive sup-population of people?
EHS persons certainly are among us. Problem is that, because the current science is inadequate, we do not know yet what level of radiation exposure triggers their symptoms. This can be found only by the future biochemical studies, not by to date executed psychological studies.
Statement by Ala-Nissilä where he mentions one brain cancer per 100 million people, to say the risk is negligible, is simply a rubbish talk. The 100 million number has been plucked out of thin air by Ala-Nissilä. There is no science behind it. Just a “populist” rubbish.
Currently, it is clear that cell phone radiation causes biological effects. What is still unclear is whether these biological effects, when repeated over tens of years, will lead to health effects or not. This is still unclear.
Claiming, as Ala-Nissilä does, that the current lack of knowledge of biological mechanism that would explain these effects is very naïve. The biological effects occur and the mechanism will be discovered, sooner or later. Let’s remember that there are many biological phenomena where the mechanism is unknown. For example, we still do not know the biological mechanism causing glioma.