Thursday, May 26, 2016

Government Failure to Address Wireless Radiation Risks

For more information about the NTP cell phone cancer study see:

May 26, 2016

NIH will hold a teleconference on the NTP cell phone cancer study tomorrow. A report on the study findings will be posted on the Internet. 

For partial results of the study see

May 25, 2016

$25 million study finds cell phone radiation 
causes cancer in rats

Note: The Federal government has not yet issued any statements or reports on the results of this study. I will update this post when such information is available.

Microwave News reported today that the $25 million dollar study conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) found that two years of exposure to cell phone radiation caused cancer in rats.  For more information see Microwave News and the NTP's "Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Studies" fact sheet.

In conjunction with other recently published research, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization may soon have sufficient evidence to raise the classification of radiofrequency radiation from "possibly carcinogenic" (Group 2B) to "carcinogenic" (Group 1).

The findings of this NTP laboratory study parallel the results of numerous epidemiologic studies in humans which found that long-term, heavy cell phone use increases the risk of brain cancer (or glioma), a malignant tumor in glial cells, and acoustic neuroma, a nonmalignant tumor in Schwann cells in the brain. In the rats, however, the affected Schwann cells were in the heart.

The results of this study partially replicate a 1992 study which found that exposure to low-intensity microwave radiation over 25 months significantly increased the risk of malignant lesions from 5% to 18% in 200 male rats (Chou et al., 1992).

The NTP study was proposed by the FDA in 1999. This long-awaited study is the only major research on cell phone radiation health effects that our federal government has sponsored since the 1990's. Given the importance of this research for policy decisions, the federal government should expedite the release of a report on the study.

Rats and mice were exposed to two second generation (2G) cell phone technologies which are still employed for voice transmission. Both 2G technologies caused tumors in rats, but not in mice.

2G technologies will soon be obsolete because cell phone companies in the U.S. are planning to use 4G LTE for voice transmission. However, recent research on 3G and 4G radiation suggests that this radiation, in spite of lower power densities, may be as harmful as 2G radiation.

The human epidemiologic studies showing increased risk of glioma and acoustic neuroma are listed in the references to my post, "Should Cellphones Have Warning Labels?" (Wall Street Journal).

November 30, 2015

For more than two decades, Federal health agencies have argued that we don't have conclusive evidence of harm from exposure to non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted by wireless devices, including cell phones, cordless phones, baby monitors, and wireless wearables. Yet, we do not have any compelling evidence that our everyday exposure to EMF from wireless devices is safe.

Today Microwave News published an exposé  about the failure of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to report the results of a $25+ million project to assess the cancer risk of wireless radiation in laboratory animals. The study was proposed by the National Toxicology Program in 2001. Preliminary results have been released to industry, but not to the press or the public. NIEHS has refused to release project documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In June, journalist Norm Alster published an exposé that provides insight into how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal agency that regulates wireless radiation, became a victim of regulatory capture by the industry it is supposed to regulate. He discusses the implications for our health and safety of the wireless industry's corrupting influence on the FCC.

Current national and international EMF exposure limits are based upon the belief that wireless radiation can only harm us by heating tissue (i.e., thermal exposure), but many scientists and thousands of studies have found harmful bio-effects from chronic, non-thermal exposures. Moreover, the latest human studies have found increased brain tumor risk among long-term wireless phone users and increases in brain tumor incidence in many countries including the U.S.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has not behaved responsibly as its International EMF Project relied heavily on industry funding for many years. The WHO's radio frequency guidelines are established by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. ICNIRP is a private organization composed of 14 members, many  of whom have conflicts of interest according to the Asociacion Vallisoletana de Afectados por las Antenas de Teclecomunicaciones (AVAATE).

Concerned about the WHO's recalcitrance and the widespread global adoption of wireless technology, more than 200 EMF scientists from 40 countries submitted a petition in May to the United Nations, the WHO, and world leaders requesting them to update EMF safety limits in light of the latest research and warn the public about the risks from EMF exposure. For more information about the International EMF Scientist Appealsee

What constitutes a safe level of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF)?

The U.S. has not only failed to fund the research necessary to answer this critical question, it has not participated in the international cell phone safety studies.

Earlier research in the U.S. was primarily sponsored by industry and has dubious value for answering the crucial public health questions related to current wireless technologies. 

When the industry-funded studies produced evidence of biologic harm from exposure to low intensity wireless radiation, industry funding dried up. Absent funding, there are few EMF researchers left in this country.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency that regulates wireless radiation, is not a public health agency and must rely on Federal health agencies for guidance in reviewing the government's obsolete safety standards adopted in 1996. The safety limits for wireless radiation were developed in the early 1990's by industry scientists even though the EPA warned the FCC at the time that the regulations were inadequate to protect us from the harm caused by non-thermal exposure to wireless radiation.

Congress ended the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's research on the effects of cell phone radiation in the 1990's due to lobbying from the military and defense industry. Since then, the U.S. government has provided little support for such research. Federal health agencies and other health organizations keep stating we need more research prior to taking precautionary action.

It's no wonder that, in 2013, the cities of Boston and Philadelphia accused the Federal government of a "pass-the-buck attitude" with regard to cell phone radiation and health.

In the U.S., the one ongoing, federally-sponsored study of mobile phone radiation effects has been conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP). First proposed in 2001, the laboratory studies on mice and rats examine exposure to frequencies centering around 900 megahertz and 1900 megahertz, as well as the two 2G (second generation) modulations used for voice transmission—CDMA and GSM. Unfortunately, the study is seriously behind schedule. 

At a 
Senate hearing in 2009, Dr. John Bucher, Associate Director of the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health, made the following apologetic statement regarding the aforementioned $25+ million NTP research project: 

"The pilot studies are nearly complete. Subchronic studies will begin early next year and the chronic toxicology and carcinogenicity studies will start in late 2010, finish in 2012, with peer review and reporting in the 2013-2014 time frame."
To date, not a single paper has been published. By the time the NTP results are released, it is likely that the second-generation cell phone technologies under investigation will be obsolete because cell phone companies in the U.S. are planning to adopt 4G LTE for voice transmission.

The research on 3G and 4G suggests these technologies, in spite of their lower power densities, may be even riskier for human (as well as other species') health than 2G.

In June, the City Council in Berkeley, California unanimously adopted a cell phone "right to know" ordinance. This model law which requires cell phone retailers to provide customers with simple safety information has attracted worldwide media attention

It is time for the U.S. and other governments to adopt the recommendations of the International EMF Scientist Appeal with regard to electromagnetic fields:

  1. children and pregnant women be protected;
  2. guidelines and regulatory standards be strengthened;
  3. manufacturers be encouraged to develop safer technology;
  4. utilities responsible for the generation, transmission, distribution, and monitoring of electricity maintain adequate power quality and ensure proper electrical wiring to minimize harmful ground current;
  5. the public be fully informed about the potential health risks from electromagnetic energy and taught harm reduction strategies;
  6. medical professionals be educated about the biological effects of electromagnetic energy and be provided training on treatment of patients with electromagnetic sensitivity;
  7. governments fund training and research on electromagnetic fields and health that is independent of industry and mandate industry cooperation with researchers;
  8. media disclose experts’ financial relationships with industry when citing their opinions regarding health and safety aspects of EMF-emitting technologies; and
  9. white-zones (radiation-free areas) be established.

Microwave News. "Institute of Environmental Health Secrets: NIEHS Mum on $25 Million RF Animal Project." Nov 30, 2015.

Should Cellphones Have Warning Labels? (Wall Street Journal)

On May 25, Microwave News reported that a $25 million federal government study found that cellphone radiation caused brain cancer in rats. The FDA had, in 2001, called for a government-funded study to resolve their concern that cellphone radiation is harmful. The federal government has funded one major study, the National Toxicology Program study reported on by Microwave News. Even though the study examines the effects of second-generation cellphone technology and soon most cellphones will switch to fourth-generation LTE for voice communications, these results are relevant today because we should not wait another 15 years and spend millions of dollars to research newer technology before we improve public education about precautionary measures.

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal published a debate on whether cellphones should have warning labels. I was asked to write for the “pro” side; Dr. Larry Junck, a neurology professor, was asked to write for the opposition. The two essays were published with the title, "Should Cellphones Have Warning Labels?" and appeared in print on May 23, 2016. 

Prior to publication, the Journal shared with me only four of Dr. Junck's assertions. I was not provided his entire “con” essay in advance. Below are references supporting my arguments as well as comments on the debate.

The Wall Street Journal asks …
Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2016

Post-Publication Additional References and Comments

The editors state in the debate Preface that advocates recommend that cellphones come with labels outside the devices. I would argue that cellphone users need more conspicuous precautionary information whether by means of software inside the devices, package labeling, or other forms of communication.

Pro-Warning Labels for Cellphones: Additional References

Paragraph 2. Data on the proliferation of Cellphone use in the U.S. 

Paragraph 3. Exposure to radio-frequency radiation, a major risk of cellphone use. Warnings should be obvious: legal duty. Mentions of RF radiation and safety tend to be buried if they are provided by the manufacturer.

Paragraph 4. Many consumer groups are demanding stronger warnings about RF, the Environmental Working Group, a coalition of consumer groups wrote a letter; see also Consumer Reports.

Paragraph 5. International Agency for Research on Cancer declaration on possible carcinogenicity of RF radiation.

Paragraph 6. Citations on epidemiology, brain tumor risks.

a. Scientific reviews of epidemiological research on cellphone use and brain tumor risk

Hardell, Carlberg (2013). Using the Hill viewpoints from 1965 for evaluating strengths of evidence of the risk for brain tumors associated with use of mobile and cordless phones.

Morgan, Miller, Sasco, Davis (2015). Mobile phone radiation causes brain tumors and should be classified as a probable human carcinogen (2A) (Review).

Myung, Ju, McDonnell, Lee, Kazinets, Cheng, Moskowitz (2009). Mobile phone use and risk of tumors: a meta-analysis.

World Health Organization (2013). IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. Volume 102: Non-ionizing radiation, Part 2: Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.
 b. Epidemiological studies that report evidence of increased brain tumor risk associated with long-term, heavy mobile phone use: Malignant tumors (glioma)

Carlberg and Hardell, 2012

Cardis et al, 2011

Coureau et al, 2014

Hardell et al, 2002

Hardell et al, 2004

Hardell et al, 2005

Hardell et al, 2006

Hardell et al, 2006

Hardell et al, 2009

Hardell et al, 2010

Hardell et al, 2013

Hardell et al, 2013

Hepworth et al, 2006

Interphone Study Group, 2010

Lakhola et al, 2007

Schuz et al, 2006

c. Epidemiological studies that report evidence of increased brain tumor risk associated with long-term, heavy mobile phone use: Non-malignant tumors (acoustic neuroma or meningioma)

Aydin et al, 2011 (child study; unclassified tumors)

Benson et al, 2013 (acoustic neuroma)

Cardis et al, 2011 (meningioma)

Carlberg and Hardell, 2015 (meningioma)

Coureau et al, 2014 (meningioma)

Hardell et al, 2006 (acoustic neuroma)

Hardell et al, 2009 (acoustic neuroma)

Hardell et al, 2013 (acoustic neuroma)

Hardell et al, 2013 (acoustic neuroma)

Interphone Study Group, 2011(acoustic neuroma)

Lonn et al, 2004 (acoustic neuroma)

Moon et al, 2014 (acoustic neuroma)

Schoemaker et al, 2005 (acoustic neuroma)

d. Evidence of increased brain tumor incidence in the United States: Non-malignant tumors (also see
Brain tumor increases in the 1990's that preceded widespread cellphone use may be accounted for by cordless phone use. Cordless phones were adopted before cellphones; they emit RF radiation, and Hardell's studies have found them to be associated with increased brain tumor risk. 

Dolecek et al, 2015 (meningioma in adults)

Gittleman et al, 2015 (brain/central nervous system tumors in children & adolescents)

Ostrom et al, 2016 (meningioma in adolescents and young adults)

e. Evidence of increased brain tumor incidence in the United States: Malignant tumors (also see

Gittleman et al, 2015 (brain/central nervous system tumors in children & adolescents)

Zada et al, 2012 (glioblastoma multiforme)

Zhu et al (2016). The apoptotic effect and the plausible mechanism of microwave radiation on rat myocardial cells.

Paragraph 7. Sperm damage evidence available in 2014 review. World Health Organization’s IARC committee on cellphoneradiation. International Electromagnetic Field Scientist Appeal.

Paragraph 8. How cellphones may affect cells.

f. Mechanisms that explain biologic effects of low intensity radiofrequency fields

Barnes & Greenenbaum (2016) Some effects of weak magnetic fields on biological systems: Radiofrequency fields can change radical concentrations and cancer cell growth rates. 

Behari (2010) Biological responses of mobile phone frequency exposure. 

Dasdag & Akdag (2015) The link between radiofrequencies emitted from wireless technologies and oxidative stress. 

Juutilainen et al (2011) Review of possible modulation-dependent biological effects of radiofrequency fields. 

Pall (2013) EMFs act via activation of voltage-gated calcium channels to produce beneficial or adverse effects.

Ruediger (2009) Genotoxic effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. 

Terzi et al (2016) The role of electromagnetic fields in neurological disorders. 

Volkow et al (2011) Effects of cell phone radiofrequency signal exposure on brain glucose metabolism. 

Yakymenko et al (2015) Oxidative mechanisms of biological activity of low-intensity radiofrequency radiation.

Paragraph 9. Electromagnetic fields and insurance companies’ concerns, Lloyd’s of London reportSwiss Re.

Paragraph 10. The controversy over cellphone warnings shares many similarities to cigarette labeling. There were numerous dissenters from the scientific community in 1965 when Congress passed the CigaretteLabeling and Advertising Act.

Paragraph 11. Tips for safer use of wireless technology, including cellphones.

Con-Warning Labels for Cellphones: 
Comments on Arguments by Dr. Larry Junck in WSJ Debate

Comments on Paragraphs 1-3: Malignant tumors often require decades to develop before they are detected so one would not necessarily expect to see a strong correlation between cellphone adoption rates and brain tumor incidence.

Brain tumor increases in the 1990s that preceded widespread cellphone use may be accounted for by cordless phone use. Cordless phones were adopted before cellphones; they emit RF radiation, and Hardell's research has found cordless phone use to be associated with increased brain tumor risk. 

Comments on Paragraph 4: There is peer-reviewed evidence for several mechanisms that explain how low-intensity cellphone radiation can cause oxidative stress, free radicals, and DNA damage leading to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. There are also papers that describe a mechanism for sperm damage.

The research shows that the cellphone's RF emissions are absorbed by the head and body. The young child's brain absorbs twice as much radiation as the adult brain.

Comments on Paragraph 5: It often takes decades of independently-funded research before scientific consensus is reached about a health risk. 

Much of the cell phone radiation research has been funded by the telecommunications industry. In our 2009 review of the epidemiological research, we found that studies with industry funding tended to use lower quality research methods. These studies either failed to find increased brain tumor risk or dismissed the significant evidence of risk that was observed. Dr. Henry Lai has reported that the industry-funded studies were also much less likely to report biological effects. 

The higher-quality research on long-term, heavy cell phone use among adults consistently finds increased brain tumor risk. The risk is roughly doubled after 10 years of cellphone use. Although little research has been conducted on children, a few studies suggest that the risk is greater for children and adolescents who use cellphones.

A few industry-funded scientists recommend we take precaution about cellphone use. But many argue we should wait 25 or more years until their current research studies are completed. In contrast, the 220 scientists who signed the International EMF Scientist Appeal believe that we have sufficient evidence to take precaution now. They argue for stronger regulations and better disclosure.

Regarding bias in studies that depend on patient recall, it is true that people err when they report their cellphone use in these studies. They tend to underestimate the duration of calls and overestimate the number of calls they make. These two biases cancel each other out. The net effect when the data are analyzed for the total amount of cellphone use is to underestimate the association between cellphone use and brain tumor risk.

Comments on Paragraph 6: The 13-nation Interphone Study reported in a 40% increased risk of glioma for heavy cellphone users who used cellphones 1,640 or more hours in their lifetime, which averages to about 30 minutes a day over 10 years (Table 2).This was a primary, not a secondary analysis of the data.

The Interphone Study has been criticized by many scientists for its methodological shortcomings, but most of the biases are in the direction of underestimating brain tumor risk. For example, the Interphone study presented a secondary analysis in Appendix 2 of the paper which corrected one methodology problem. This analysis found an 82% increased risk of glioma for the heavy cellphone users instead of the 40% increased risk reported in the main body of the paper.

In another paper, the Interphone Study reported a 289% increased risk of acoustic neuroma for heavy cellphone users.

The 30-member IARC expert group depended heavily on the Interphone study and research by Lennart Hardell and his colleagues when they decided to classify RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic” in 2011.

IARC classified Asian pickled vegetables and coffee as “possible carcinogens” because consumption of the first increases risk of esophageal cancer, and the second, bladder cancer. The cellphone industry has cited these findings to diminish IARC’s classification of radiofrequency radiation as a Group 2B possible carcinogen to humans, which is also the same category as DDT and lead.

Comments on Paragraph 7: The most recent meta-analysis found that cellphone radiation harms both sperm motility and viability -- two of the three effects examined.

Several mechanisms have been proposed for sperm damage (see my post, “Effects of Mobile Phones on Sperm Quality”).

Cellphones emit radiation at least once a minute whenever they are powered on. Since males often store cellphones in their pants pocket, they are exposing their genitals to this radiation. A Cleveland Clinic study of 361 men undergoing infertility examination found that the “decrease in sperm parameters was dependent on the duration of daily exposure to cell phones.”

Comments on Paragraph 8: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found evidence of genotoxicity from exposure to cellphone radiation in the 1990’s. Based upon the research, the EPA advocated for stronger regulations than the FCC adopted in 1996. Congress ended the EPA’s funding for research on RF radiation so the EPA has not conducted any research since the 1990’s.

Microwave News reported on 5/25 that a $25 million federal government study found that cellphone radiation caused brain cancer in rats.

The FCC’s cellphone radiation regulations have not changed since 1996. Although the FCC has been gathering input from scientists and the public since 2003, it has never issued a review of the evidence it has received. A recent Harvard publication reported that the FCC has been “captured” by the industries it regulates including the telecommunications industry. Perhaps we will begin to see changes in the positions of our federal agencies following release of reports from the National Toxicology Program’s major study.

Before WSJ editing, my original essay contained information about the cellphone industry – their tendency to oppose and lobby against all “Right to Know” legislation that crops up from the grass roots. I know of six states where allegations have been made that proposed regulations designed to inform citizens about potential cellphone risks have failed under industry pressure.

Comments on Paragraph 9: Insurers are probably worried about both compensating victims of actual harm associated with cellphones, as well as paying for the expense of defending lawsuits regardless of the merits.

The insurance industry has a legitimate concern that the cellphone industry will someday be held liable for cellphone radiation health effects because the scientific evidence has grown substantially over time. Moreover, the cellphone industry funded much of the early research that found evidence of harm which suggests that the industry knew the risks but failed to act responsibly. Although most cellphone companies issue safety information about how to reduce RF radiation exposure, the information is not user-friendly.

Comments on Paragraphs 10-11: Hardell and his colleagues have found a three-fold risk of brain cancer for 25 or more years of wireless (cellphone and cordless) phone use and a four-fold risk of acoustic neuroma for 20 or more years of use. Given how widespread cellphone use is these risk estimates should be of great concern to neuro-oncologists. Some research suggests that children who use cellphones may have greater long-term risk of brain tumors.

I discussed two risks for which we have the most evidence: brain tumors and sperm damage. In addition, there is scientific evidence for other health problems associated with cellphone radiation. These risks include other head and neck tumors, breast cancer, electromagnetic hypersensitivity, and reproductive health risks including miscarriage and fetal effects (e.g., ADHD).

Bottom line: There is less “harm” in warning consumers about potential risks based on what we know or suspect than in failing to do so and later on facing another tobacco or asbestos debacle.

Precautionary warnings are the least we can do at this point in time.