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World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation and health - a hard nut to crack (Review)

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In May 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated cancer risks from radiofrequency (RF) radiation. Human epidemiological studies gave evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma. RF radiation was classified as Group 2B, a possible human carcinogen. Further epidemiological, animal and mechanistic studies have strengthened the association. In spite of this, in most countries little or nothing has been done to reduce exposure and educate people on health hazards from RF radiation. On the contrary ambient levels have increased. In 2014 the WHO launched a draft of a Monograph on RF fields and health for public comments. It turned out that five of the six members of the Core Group in charge of the draft are affiliated with International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an industry loyal NGO, and thus have a serious conflict of interest. Just as by ICNIRP, evaluation of non-thermal biological effects from RF radiation are dismissed as scientific evidence of adverse health effects in the Monograph. This has provoked many comments sent to the WHO. However, at a meeting on March 3, 2017 at the WHO Geneva office it was stated that the WHO has no intention to change the Core Group.
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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ONCOLOGY 51: 405-413, 2017
Abstract. In May 2011 the International Agency for Research
on Cancer (IARC) evaluated cancer risks from radiofre-
quency (RF) radiation. Human epidemiological studies gave
evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma.
RF radiation was classied as Group 2B, a possible human
carcinogen. Further epidemiological, animal and mechanistic
studies have strengthened the association. In spite of this,
in most countries little or nothing has been done to reduce
exposure and educate people on health hazards from RF
radiation. On the contrary ambient levels have increased.
In 2014 the WHO launched a draft of a Monograph on RF
elds and health for public comments. It turned out that ve
of the six members of the Core Group in charge of the draft
are afliated with International Commission on Non-Ionizing
Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an industry loyal NGO, and
thus have a serious conict of interest. Just as by ICNIRP,
evaluation of non-thermal biological effects from RF radiation
are dismissed as scientic evidence of adverse health effects in
the Monograph. This has provoked many comments sent to the
WHO. However, at a meeting on March 3, 2017 at the WHO
Geneva ofce it was stated that the WHO has no intention to
change the Core Group.
Contents
1. Introduction
2. The WHO fact sheet
3. The WHO EMF project
4. WHO radio frequency elds: Environmental health criteria
monograph
5. Human Health Effects of Non-Ionizing Radiation - Informa l
meeting at WHO March 3, 2017
6. Exposure to RF radiation within the WHO building in
Geneva
7. Concluding remarks
1. Introduction
The use of wireless digital technology has grown rapidly
during the last couple of decades (http://www.itu.int/en/
ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/facts/ICTFactsFigures2016.pdf).
During use, mobile phones and cordless phones emit radio-
frequency (RF) radiation. The brain is the main target organ
for RF emissions from the handheld wireless phone (1,2).
An evaluation of the scientic evidence on the brain tumour
risk was made in May 2011 by the International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC) at the World Health Organization
(WHO). IARC is independently financed and has its own
governing and scientific councils, which WHO staff only
attend as observers (http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/
research/iarc/en/).
Epidemiological studies provided supportive evidence
of increased risk for head and brain tumours, i.e., acoustic
neuroma and glioma. The working group reached the conclu-
sion that RF radiation from devices that emit non-ionizing
RF radiation in the frequency range 30 kHz-300 GHz, is a
Group 2B, i.e. a ‘possible, human carcinogen (3,4). Later
studies have corroborated these findings and have thus
strengthened the evidence (5-8).
Several laboratory studies have indicated mechanisms of
action for RF radiation carcinogenesis such as on DNA repair,
oxidative stress, down regulation of mRNA and DNA damage
with single strand breaks (9-13). A report was released from
The National Toxicology Program (NTP) under the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) in USA on the largest ever animal
study on cell phone RF radiation and cancer (14). An increased
incidence of glioma in the brain and malignant schwannoma
in the heart was found in rats. Acoustic neuroma or vestibular
schwannoma is a similar type of tumour as the one found in
the heart, although benign. Thus, this animal study supported
human epidemiological ndings on RF radiation and brain
tumour risk (8).
The IARC cancer classification includes all sources of
RF radiation. The exposure from mobile phone base stations,
Wi-Fi access points, smart phones, laptops and tablets can be
long-term, sometimes around the clock, both at home and at
World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation
and health - a hard nut to crack (Review)
LENNART HARDELL
Department of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Örebro University, SE-701 82 Örebro, Sweden
Received April 1, 2017; Accepted June 6, 2017
DOI: 10.3892/ijo.2017.4046
Correspondence to: Dr Lennart Hardell, Department of Oncology,
Faculty of Medicine and Health, Örebro University, SE-701 82
Örebro, Sweden
E-mail: lennart.hardell@regionorebrolan.se
Key wo rds: electromagnetic fields, EMF, radiofrequency radiation,
public exposure, cancer, WHO, monograph, conflict of interest,
ICNIRP, non-thermal effects, health risks
HARDELL: WHO MONOGRAPH ICNIRP
406
school. For children this risk may be accentuated because of a
cumulative effect during a long lifetime use (15). Developing
and immature cells can also be more sensitive to exposure to
RF radiation (9).
In spite of the IARC evaluation little has happened
to reduce exposure to RF elds in most countries. On the
contrary, with new technology increasing environmental
exposure levels are found as in measurements of ambient RF
radiation at e.g. Stockholm Central Station and Stockholm
Old Town in Sweden (16,17). The exposure guideline used by
many agencies was established in 1998 by the International
Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection
(ICNIRP) and was based only on established short-term
thermal (heating) effects from RF radiation neglecting non-
thermal biological effects (18). The heating effects arise
when radiation is so high that it warms up the whole body
by 1˚C or more after 30 min exposure at 4 W/kg specic
absorption rate. The guidelines are set with a safety factor of
50 for the general public (http://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/
WhatisEMF/en/index4.html).
Basis for limiting exposure according to ICNIRP: ‘Only
established effects were used as the basis for the proposed
exposure restrictions. Induction of cancer from long-term
EMF exposure was not considered to be established, and so
these guidelines are based on short-term, immediate health
effects such as stimulation of peripheral nerves and muscles,
shocks and burns caused by touching conducting objects,
and elevated tissue temperatures resulting from absorption
of energy during exposure to EMF. In the case of potential
long-term effects of exposure, such as an increased risk of
cancer, ICNIRP concluded that available data are insuf-
ficient to provide a basis for setting exposure restrictions,
although epidemiological research has provided suggestive,
but unconvincing, evidence of an association between possible
carcinogenic effects.’ (http://www.icnirp.org/cms/upload/
publications/ICNIRPemfgdl.pdf).
This is an exceptional statement by ICNIRP, and found in
many statements of groups following the ICNIRP philosophy
like the AGNIR and on the WHO EMF Project's homepage as
well, that epidemiology found ‘suggestive, but unconvincing’
evidence. What is convincing or not is so decidedly subjective
that no scientic body will ever make th is as a basis for a deci-
sion. There might be gaps in knowledge that make it difcult
to decide about the mechanisms that underlie an observation
and even an observation could be considered unreliable but
the conviction must not enter a rational discourse about a
scientic issue.
The guidelines were updated in 2009 but still do not cover
cancer and other long-term or non-thermal health effects.
ICNIRP gives the guideline 2 to 10 W/m2 for RF radiation
depending on frequency, thus only based on a short-term
immediate thermal effect (19). ICNIRP is a private organisa-
tion (NGO) based in Germany. New expert members can only
be elected by members of ICNIRP. Many of ICNIRP members
have ties to the industry that is dependent on the ICNIRP
guidelines. The guidelines are of huge economic and strategic
importance to the military, telecom/IT and power industry.
In contrast to ICNIRP, the BioInitiative Reports from 2007
and updated in 2012, based the evaluation also on non-thermal
health effects from RF radiation (20,21). The scientific
benchmark for possible health risks was dened to be 30 to
60 µW/m2. Thus, using the signicantly higher guideline by
ICNIRP gives a ‘green card’ to roll out the wireless digital
technology thereby not considering non-thermal health effects
from RF radiation. Numerous health hazards are disregarded
such as cancer (8), effects on neurotransmitters and neuropro-
tection (22,23), blood-brain-barrier (24,25), cognition (26-29),
psychological addiction (30-32), sleep (33-36), behavioral
problems (37-41) and sperm quality (13,42,43).
No doubt the IARC decision started a world-wide spinning
machine to question the evaluation. It was similar to the one
launched by the tobacco industry when IARC was studying and
evaluating passive smoking as a carcinogen in the 1990s (44).
Sowing confusion and manufacturing doubt about scientic
facts is a well-known strategy used by the tobacco and other
industries (8,45-48).
2. The WHO fact sheet
A Fact Sheet from WHO issued in June 2011 shortly after the
IARC cancer classication in May 2011 stated that ‘To date, no
adverse health effects have been established as being caused
by mobile phone use’ (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/fact-
sheets/fs193/en/). This statement was not based on scientic
evidence at that time on a carcinogenic effect from RF radia-
tion. It was certainly a remarkable conclusion by WHO since
IARC is part of WHO although seemingly independent, see
above.
However, it is also important to note that the statement in
the Fact Sheet does not fully contradict the IARC statement. A
Group 2B carcinogen is considered by IARC as an agent where
an association with cancer has been detected that can be caus-
ally interpreted but for which chance, bias and confounding
cannot be ruled out with sufcient scientic certainty. Hence,
the statement in the Fact Sheet is in line with IARC's clas-
sication although, of course, it will rather be understood as a
full dismissal of claims of harm.
In the WHO Fact Sheet it was also stated that ‘WHO will
conduct a formal risk assessment of all studied health outcomes
from radiofrequency elds exposure by 2012.’ The pertinent
question is why WHO was so keen to make a new risk evalua-
tion shortly after the IARC evaluation. It was hardly expected
that new studies would be published in short time changing the
classication of RF radiation as a possible, Group 2B, human
carcinogen. Considering the WHO statement of ‘no adverse
health effects’ the aim might have been to undermine the
IARC decision and give the telecom industry a ‘clean bill’ of
health (8). It might, however, be argued that as a result of the
IARC classication, it was necessary for WHO to also look at
other effects, and not just tumours.
3. The WHO EMF project
The biophysicist Michael Repacholi from Australia was the
rst chairman of ICNIRP in 1992. His own research within
this eld is scanty, although a study on lymphoma incidence in
mice exposed to RF radiation published in 1997 has attracted
interest (49). Repacholi suggested in 1995 that WHO should
start the EMF project. This was adopted by WHO in 1996, see
WHO Press ofce: WHO launches new international project
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ONCOLOGY 51: 405-413, 2017 407
to assess health effects of electric and magnetic elds; 4 June
1996 (50). Repacholi was during 1996-2006 the leader of the
WHO department of electromagnetic radiation, the WHO
EMF project.
The WHO EMF project is supposed to: 1) provide infor-
mation on the management of EMF protection programs for
national and other authorities, including monographs on EMF
risk perception, communication and management; 2) provide
advice to national authorities, other institutions, the general
public and workers, about any hazards resulting from EMF
exposure and any needed mitigation measures. (http://www.
who.int/peh-emf/project/EMF_Project/en/index1.html).
Michael Repacholi immediately set up a close collaboration
between WHO and ICNIRP (being head of both organizations)
inviting the electric, telecom and military industries to meet-
ings. He also arranged for large part of the WHO EMF project
to be nanced by the telecommunication industry's lobbying
organisations; GSM Association and Mobile Manufacturers
Forum, now called Mobile & Wireless Forum (MWF) (51) in
addition to WHO, see the International EMF Project, Progress
Report June 2005-2006 (http://www.who.int/peh-emf/publi-
cations/reports/IAC_Progress_Report_2005-2006.pdf).
Repacholi acted like a representative for the telecom
industry while responsible for the EMF health effects
department at the WHO (http://microwavenews.com/news/
time-stop-who-charade). Since he left WHO in 2006 he has
been involved in industry propaganda video interviews with
GSM Association and Hydro Quebec (https://www.youtube.
com/watch?v=fDZx7MphDjQ; https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=1MI_fa5YsgY) where he clearly speaks in favor of
the telecommunications and the power industries, respectively.
Michael Repacholi is still the Chairm an emeritus at ICNIRP
(http://www.icnirp.org/en/about-icnirp/emeritus-members/
index.html) and has propagated during almost 20 years world-
wide the ‘only thermal effect’ paradigm of health risks from
RF-EMF exposure, ignoring the abundant evidence for non-
thermal effects or cancer risks.
Repacholi recruited Emilie van Deventer to the WHO
EMF Project in 2000. She is the current project manager
at WHO for the EMF project. She has been a long time
member of the industry dominated organization Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). IEEE is the
world's most powerful federation of engineers. The members
are or have been employed in companies or organizations
that are producers or users of technologies that depend on
radiation frequencies, such as power companies, the telecom
and the military industry. IEEE has prioritized international
lobbying efforts for decades especially aimed at the WHO,
for more information see (http://www.ices-emfsafety.
org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Approved-Minutes-
TC95-Jan_16.pdf ).
Van Deventer is an electrical engineer. She has no formal
or earlier knowledge in medicine, epidemiology or biology,
so it is surprising that she was selected for such an impor-
tant position at the WHO (http://www.waves.utoronto.ca/
people_vandeventer.htm) (http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/worksem/
emc-emf/201107/bios.html).
The very same year she was recruited to the WHO EMF
Project Toronto University Magazine wrote about Emilie van
Deventer's work stating that it was ‘invaluable’ to industry:
‘The software modelling done by teams like van Deventer's
is invaluable.’ ‘The industrial community is very interested in
our research capabilities,’ says van Deventer. ‘It always needs
to be working on the next generation of products, so it turns
to universities to get the research done.’ (http://www.research.
utoronto.ca/edge/fall2000/content2b.html).
The importance of this work is reected in the research
funding van Deventer and her team received from the
Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada
(NSERC), Communications & Information Technology
Ontario (CITO), and their major industrial partner, Nortel. ‘We
are fullling a very real need in the industry today, which will
only increase as technology creates more opportunity. In the
process, consumers will continue to enjoy faster computers,
lighter cell phones, smaller electronic organizers and the
vast array of other electronic gadgets the high-tech world
has to offer.(http://www.research.utoronto.ca/edge/edgenet/
fall2000/a-clear-signal/).
4. WHO radio frequency elds: Environmental health
criteria monograph
Two years after the anticipated ‘formal risk assessment’ by
WHO in 2012 a draft was launched in 2014 (http://www.
who.int/peh-emf/research/rf_ehc_page/en/). It was open for
public consultation until December 31, 2014, but is now closed
according to the WHO home page.
It was stated that: ‘The process used in developing the
chapters is described in Appendix X. Note that the chapters
1, 13 and 14 which will provide a summary, health risk
assessment and protective measures are not available for this
consultation. The drawing of conclusions from the literature
and the drafting of these chapters is the remit of a formal Task
Group that will be convened by WHO at a later stage in the
pr ocess.’
It must be regarded to be unusual and scientically inad-
equate not to provide for review the health risk assessment
and protective measures which would be most important parts
of the Monograph. Furthermore, it turned out that of the six
members in the WHO Core Group four are active members
of ICNIRP and one is a former member. This was published
in 2016 (52) and also discussed more recently (8). Only one
person seems to be independent of ICNIRP, see Table I.
Several persons have also affiliation(s) to other advisory
groups, authorities and/or committees. Six of the 20 additional
experts are afliated with ICNIRP.
Being a member of ICNIRP is a conflict of interest in
the scientic evaluation of health hazards from RF radiation
through ties to military and industry. This is particularly true
since the ICNIRP guidelines are of huge importance to the
inuential telecommunications, military and power industries.
Another conict of interest is for members ofcially assessing
possible health effects below their own set ICNIRP guidelines,
which they have already stated as beeing safe, see also discus-
sion in (52). Such persons would hardly have different opinions
than those stated by ICNIRP. Critical views are not heard and
a balanced scientic evaluation is not obtained.
It should be noted that the Ethical Board at the Karolinska
Institute in Stockholm, Sweden concluded already in 2008 that
being a member of ICNIRP may be a conict of interest that
HARDELL: WHO MONOGRAPH ICNIRP
408
should be stated ofcially whenever a member from ICNIRP
makes opinions on health risks from EMF (Karolinska Institute
diary number: 3753-2008-609). No statement of such conict
of interest can be found in the WHO draft of the Monograph
on RF radiation.
Several persons and groups have sent critical comments
to WHO on the many shortcomings in the draft of the
Monograph on RF elds. In general WHO has not responded
to these comments and it is unclear to what extent, if any,
they are considered. Due to the short time for submission our
(Lennart Hardell, Michael Carlberg) comments related only to
section 12.1 Cancer Epidemiology. Our concluding remarks
dated December 15, 2014 were: ‘In conclusion the WHO draft
is biased towards the null results. Findings on an association
between use of wireless phones (mobile phones and cordless
phones) and increased risk for brain tumours are misinter-
preted, selectively reported and/or omitted in total. The draft
cannot be used as science-based evaluation of increased risk.
It needs to be re-written in a balanced way by scientists trained
in epidemiology and oncology, not the least in medicine, and
without conicts of interest.
Moreover, after the formal closing date for comments
on the Monograph several additional submissions have been
made to WHO. Professor Michael Kundi at Center for Public
Health, Institute of Environmental Health, Vienna, Austria
stated in his summary dated January 12, 2015: ‘I was only
able to check chapter 12 about cancer and only the epide-
miological studies. While the EHC (Environmental Health
Criteria) team did a great job in allocating the relevant
literature with only few more recent papers missing, I'm not
fully satised with the assessment of the evidence. There is
a striking imbalance in the comments made on studies that
were positive in contrast to those that were negative. Only
the most obvious shortcomings of studies that didn't report
an effect of exposure are mentioned while positive ndings
are often discussed at length, sometimes with very far-fetched
assumptions about potential sources of bias. This is in marked
contrast to other EHC monographs that are discussing the
evidence in a way not to overlook a potential harmful effect.
My comments, giving reference to the lines of the draft are
detailed on the following pages.
The BioInitiative Working Group issued December 19,
2016 a ‘No Condence’ Letter to the WHO EMF Program
Manager: ‘The BioInitiative Working Group urges the World
Health Organization to make changes to the WHO RF EHC
Core Group membership to more fairly reect membership
and expertise of the 2011 IARC RF Working Group. At
present, the WHO RF EHC Core Group is indistinguishable
from ICNIRP... undermining credibility of the process and
ensuring doubt about conclusions... Even if schedule delays
occur as a result, an acceptable outcome depends on public
condence. There [are] now many thousands of high quality
scientic papers indicating possible non-thermal RF risks to
health and those experts most competent by virtue of their
research contributions are absent from this process... Both
human and animal results are now available to incorporate
in the RF EHC risk assessment. This important effort can
only be assured with a more balanced composition of core
participants in the process. As well, the membership needs
to be inclusive of under-represented countries such as Russia,
China, India, Turkey, and Iran whose research communities
have produced the majority of studies on non-thermal effects
of RF in recent years.’ (http://www.bioinitiative.org/report/
wp-content/uploads/2016/12/BIWG-final-draft-WHO-RF-
EHC-Monograph-team-composition.pdf).
This letter was followed by another from the BioInitiative
Working Group on January 24, 2017 including suggestion
of experts to replace present persons in the Core Group
and Additional Experts: ‘We have not yet received a reply
acknowledging our letter... It is important that the most
knowledgeable panel of experts be appointed to prepare
the RF EHC Monograph. At present, the EHC Core Group
members uniformly represent attitudes and scientic positions
of ICNIRP, an organization whose membership has steadfastly
refused to accept new scientic evidence of potential health
risks from non-thermal, low-intensity radiofrequency radiation
despite recent scientic advances in knowledge on the subject.
We are recommending substitutions for membership as indi-
cated on the attached page. Please note that we are suggesting
a complete replacement for those persons currently holding
positions.’ (http://www.bioinitiative.org/report/wp-content/
uploads/2017/01/BIWG-EHC-substitution-letter.pdf).
Call for Protection from Non-ionizing Electromagnetic
Field Exposure was made by the International Electromagnetic
Field Scientist Appeal, initial release date May 11, 2015,
latest version's date January 29, 2017 with 222 signatures
Table I. Members of WHO Monograph core group and their involvement in different other groups (8).
Name WHO ICNIRP UK/AGNIR SSM SCENIHR
Simon Mann X X X
Maria Feychting X X X Xa
Gunnhild Oftedal X X
Eric van Rongen X X X
Maria Rosaria Scar X Xa X X
Denis Zmirou X
aFormer. WHO, World Health Organization; ICNIRP, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection; AGNIR, Advisory
Group on Non-Ionising Radiation; SSM, Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten (Swedish Radiation Safety Authority); SCENIHR, Scientic Committee
on Emerging and Newly Identied Health Risks.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ONCOLOGY 51: 405-413, 2017 409
from 41 nations: ‘We are scientists engaged in the study of
biological and health effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic
elds (EMF)... Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular
stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages,
structural and functional changes of the reproductive system,
learning and memory decits, neurological disorders, and
negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage
goes well beyond the human race, as there is growing
evidence of harmful effects to both plant and animal life.
These ndings justify our appeal to the United Nations (UN)
and, all member States in the world, to encourage the World
Health Organization (WHO) to exert strong leadership in
fostering the development of more protective EMF guide-
lines, encouraging precautionary measures, and educating
the public about health risks, particularly risk to children
and fetal development. By not taking action, the WHO is
failing to full its role as the preeminent international public
health agency.’ (https://www.emfscientist.org/index.php/emf-
scientist-appeal).
A press release was issued on February 24, 2017 by the
European coordination of organizations for an EMF exposure
regulation which truly protects public health. The European
citizens' organizations failed, however, to include in their
letter the conict of interest associated with ICNIRP members
assessing possible effects below set ICNIRP guidelines, see
discussion above. They stated that: ‘The Conict of Interest
Scandal is repeating itself in the WHO: European citizens'
organizations uncover conicts of interest between the health
and radiofrequency WHO expert group and telecommunica-
tions or electric companies. Almost 40 organizations and
European Platforms (which in turn include many regional,
national or local social organizations), supported by the
International EMF Alliance (IEMFA), denounce the agrant
conict of interest of the Core Group of experts for drafting,
in the current year, of a WHO Environmental Health Criteria
Monograph on Radio-Frequency Fields...
The preponderant presence of members of the International
Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
reminds us that this organization (and other institutions with
the same criteria) refused to accept new scientic evidence
of potential health risks from non-thermal, low-intensity
radiofrequency radiation despite recent scientic advances
in knowledge on the subject. The ICNIRP not only does
not guarantee transparency or independence but conflicts
of interest of its members are well known and reported, due
to their relationships with telecommunications or electric
companies, thereby undermining the impartiality that should
govern the regulation of Public Exposure Standards for non-
ionizing radiation... By not taking action, the WHO is failing
to fulll its role as the preeminent international public health
agency...’ (http://www.peccem.org/DocumentacionDescarga/
Plataforma-Estatal/notasprensa/European.coordination.press.
release-february-2017.pdf).
Letter dated March 1, 2017 from Russian National
Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection to Maria
Neira, Director, Public Health and Environment with copy to
Dr. E. van Deventer, Public Health and Environment, WHO: ‘It
has just come to our attention that the WHO RF Working group
consists mainly from present and past ICNIRP members. In
general, the WG is not balanced and... the private self-elected
organization ICNIRP, similar as majority of the current
WHO RF WG members, does not recognize the non-thermal
RF effects,... Thus, the guidelines of ICNIRP are irrelevant
to present situation when majority of population over the
world is chronically exposed to non-thermal RF from mobile
communication.(http://www.radiationresearch.org/articles/
rusncnirp-letter-to-who/), letter available at (http://www.
mast-victims.org/resources/docs/RNCNIRP-letter-WHO/2017
_03_01.pdf).
5. Human Health Effects of Non-Ionizing Radiation -
Informal meeting at WHO March 3, 2017
It is quite obvious that it would be of utmost value to learn
what is on-going at WHO regarding the Monograph on RF
radiation, especially since formal responses to submissions
with comments are virtually absent. Thus, some 9 months
after initial contact Dr Maria Neira accepted to organize a
meeting, relating to the effects of electromagnetic elds on
health, in her ofce at WHO in Geneva. The request for a
meeting was made by independent researchers from different
universities. An informal meeting was organized on March 3,
2017. (http://eceri-institute.org/fichiers/1490952497_news-
letter_ECERI_5.pdf).
Dr Maria Neira is Director of the Public Health and the
Environment Department at WHO. Present at the meeting was
also Dr Emilie van Deventer, the Team Leader of the Radiation
Programme at WHO which deals with non-ionizing and
ionizing radiation topics related to human health. She has been
working at WHO since 2000 where she heads the International
EMF Project, the Ultraviolet INTERSUN Programme and
the International Radon Project. Dr van Deventer received
a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of
Michigan, USA. She was adjunct professor of Electrical and
Computer Engineering, nanced by the telecom industry, at
the University of Toronto in Canada from 1992 to 2000. She
is the WHO Observer on the Main Commission of ICNIRP,
e.g. participating in ICNIRP meetings. (http://www.itu.int/en/
ITU-T/Workshops-and-Seminars/emf/201307/Pages/vanDE-
VENTERTaheraEmilie.aspx). She is also one of 8 members of
the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM).
The allocated time at the WHO office was 1.5 h.
Dr Maria Neira opened the meeting stressing that it was not
ofcial but informal. She told that her department is very much
interested in challenging science. In addition to myself, four
additional experts were also present. The experts gave short
presentations on health effects of RF radiation, biological
effects from exposure to non-thermal RF radiation, overview
of epidemiological studies on brain tumour risk, RF radia-
tion and electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), and nally
epigenetic mechanisms by which children are especially-
vulnerable to RF radiation. Obviously the ve presentations
were very short in order to give time for discussions, the most
important part of the meeting.
The participating team of ve experts with considerable
knowledge and own research within this area offered to collab-
orate with WHO, especially to nalize the WHO Monograph
on RF radiation. Maria Neira stated clearly that no collabora-
tion with WHO is to be considered, and further that she does
not intend to have another meeting with the group. However,
HARDELL: WHO MONOGRAPH ICNIRP
410
she added that she is open to new data. She also said that there
is no conict of interest with ICNIRP since ICNIRP is a WHO
collaborative organization. The scientic group, as above, was
instead invited to send to WHO peer-reviewed publications,
especially meta-analyses that would be the ‘best gift’.
It was stated by the WHO ofcials that ICNIRP is an NGO
with an ofcial relationship with WHO that ‘helps us a lot in our
analyses’ and their members work as WHO's experts. Thus, in
spite of ve of six persons in the Core Group for the Monograph
being afliated with ICNIRP, WHO seems to have no intention
to change these members. On the other hand, the Task Group is
not nalized. According to the meeting all experts are selected
on individual basis and not as members of ICNIRP. Further,
it was stated that the WHO guideline documents are in full
WHO's responsibility. It is not known when the Monograph on
RF radiation will be published. WHO still ‘keeps looking at the
evidence’ and is still adding new documents to the Monograph.
The decision by the Ethical Board at the Karolinska
Institute in Stockholm, Sweden from 2008 that being a member
of ICNIRP may be a conict of interest that should be stated
in scientic publications was brought into attention during the
meeting. WHO was unaware of that document and promised to
‘look into it’. Obviously that conict of interest applies to almost
the whole Core Group of the Monograph, several members of
additional experts, not to say Emilie van Deventer and thus the
whole WHO EMF project and the Monograph on RF radiation.
6. Exposure to RF radiation within the WHO building in
Geneva
In our on-going project on measurements of ambient RF radia-
tion in some cities Geneva is part of the study. Results of parts
of Stockholm, Sweden have been published (16,17) and will be
used e.g. for comparison with levels in the future due to further
development of this technology. In Geneva also measurements
within the WHO building; main entrance, some corridors and
the meeting room were included. These previously unpub-
lished results have been communicated to the representatives
at WHO including that they will be published. There has been
no reaction from the WHO.
An EME Spy 200 exposimeter with a valid calibration was
used to collect the exposure data. The exposimeter measures
20 predened frequency bands that cover frequencies from
88-5,850 MHz. The sampling time was every 4th sec which is
the fastest for the given exposimeter, for further details see our
publications. For frequency modulation (FM), TV3, TETRA,
TV4&5, Wi-Fi 2G and Wi-Fi 5G, the lower detection limit is
0.01 V/m (0.27 µW/m2); for all other bands, the lower detection
limit is 0.005 V/m (0.066 µW/m2) (16, 17).
The results, presented in Table II, show low mean total
exposure level, 21.5 µW/m2, thus below the scientic benchmark
of 30 to 60 µW/m2 that has been proposed to be the lowest
observed effect level’ (LOEL) for RF radiation, see Chapter 24
Table II. World Health Organization (Geneva, Switzerland) levels of RF-radiation March 3, 2017 (µW/m2) treating values at
detection limit as 0.a
n Mean Median Min Max
FM 1,813 2.0 1.2 0.0 128.4
TV3 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7
TETRA I 1,813 0.1 0.0 0.0 136.7
TETRA II 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
TETRA III 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.2
TV4&5 1,813 0.1 0.0 0.0 11.9
LTE 800 (DL) 1,813 1.3 0.4 0.0 101.9
LTE 800 (UL) 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
GSM + UMTS 900 (UL) 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 4.7
GSM + UMTS 900 (DL) 1,813 8.6 4.9 0.3 268.2
GSM 1800 (UL) 1,813 0.3 0.0 0.0 182.1
GSM 1800 (DL) 1,813 4.2 1.7 0.3 268.2
DECT 1,813 0.3 0.1 0.0 38.2
UMTS 2100 (UL) 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4
UMTS 2100 (DL) 1,813 4.5 2.5 0.4 199.1
WIFI 2G 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.3
LTE 2600 (UL) 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
LTE 2600 (DL) 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6
WIMax 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
WIFI 5G 1,813 0.0 0.0 0.0 4.0
Total 1,813 21.5 13.3 4.8 432.3
aFrequency bands and number (n) of readings are given.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ONCOLOGY 51: 405-413, 2017 411
of the BioInitiative Report (21). Note that only for the mean
it is possible to calculate the total as the sum of means of the
individual frequency bands, mathematically this is not possible
for median, min and max in Table Ⅱ. The major sources were
GSM + UMTS 900 DL (3G), GSM 1800 DL (2G) and UMTS
2100 DL (3G), i.e. downlink (DL) of RF radiation from outside
base stations. The results for total exposure are also presented as
box plot in Fig. 1. In Fig. 2 total exposure over time is presented.
Almost all RF radiation was below 30 µW/m2, the LOEL of RF
radiation for possible health risks as shown with the horizontal
line. The highest peak level, 432.3 µW/m2, was measured
at 15:54:07. Most contribution was from GSM 1800 (DL),
268.2 µW/m2, and UMTS 2100 (DL), 110.4 µW/m2. This was
measured just inside the building at the entrance and represent
RF radiation from base stations in the vicinity.
The exposure to RF radiation within the WHO building is
very low compared to other measurements, for example our
measurements inside the Stockholm Central station where
people both are passing through but also are there for hours
each day such as security and police staff, cafe workers,
shop workers, janitors, information counter people, etc.,
see Figs 3 and 4. Here, the mean total exposure for the lowest
exposure round was 2,817 µW/m2, mostly from down loading
from GSM, 3G and 4G base stations (16). Thus, the measured
mean level in the WHO building is more than 130 times lower
than in the Stockholm Central Station.
7. Concluding remarks
The meeting at WHO was an obvious disappointment. During
the discussion the two WHO ofcials showed little interest
to collaborate with the scientists convened at the meeting
in spite of the scientic evidence on adverse health effects.
Their in-house experts seem to be members of ICNIRP,
Figure 1. World Health Organization, 20 Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Geneva 27,
Switzerland. Box plot for total exposure in µW/m2, logarithmic scale. The
median is indicated by a black line inside the box; the bottom and top of the
boxes show rst and third quartiles; the end of the whisker is calculated as
1.5xIQR (interquartile range). Points represent outliers.
Figure 2. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. Total RF eld
ex pos u re ( µW/m2, mean exposure =21.5 µW/m2, logarithmic scale) over time
of one exposure round, March 3, 2017 time 13:57:53-15:58:31. The horizontal
line represents the LOEL exposure limit of 30 µW/m2 suggested by the
Bioinitiative Report (21).
Figure 3. Box plot for total exposure in µW/m2 for the seven measurement
rounds in the Stockholm Central Railway Station (16). The median is indi-
cated by a black line inside each box; the bottom and top of the boxes show
rst and third quartiles; the end of the whiskers are calculated as 1.5xIQR
(interquar tile range). Points represent outliers.
Figure 4. Total radiofrequency eld exposure (µW/m2) of the lowest exposure
round (November 9, 2015; mean exposure 2,817.0 µW/m2) by walking across
the Stockholm Central Station (16). The line represents the exposure limit of
30 µW/ m 2 suggested by the Bioinitiative Report (21).
HARDELL: WHO MONOGRAPH ICNIRP
412
although not exclusively. This may explain why only short-
term thermal effects from RF radiation are accepted as proofs
of harm, and why non-thermal biological effects are ignored.
In the draft of the Monograph a large bulk of peer-reviewed
scientic publications on non-thermal effects are dismissed,
c.f. as also by ICNIRP (19). Most remarkable is that WHO has
no intention to replace the Core Group of experts afliated
with ICNIRP. Thereby ICNIRP is given full access to and
exclusive possibilities to inuence the Monograph. In view of
the huge economic interests built into the ICNIRP guidelines,
and several of its expert members' ties to industry, no doubt
this is a large conict of interest that will seriously undermine
not only the credibility of the Monograph on RF radiation but
also the credibility of WHO as a protector of world health.
Seriously enough, the Monograph will be the hallmark for
years to come on evaluation of health hazards from RF radia-
tion and pave the way for increasing exposure to RF radiation
to people and environment, e.g. the fifth generation (5G),
internet of things, etc.
Children and adolescents may be more sensitive to RF
radiation than adults (2). Thus as an authoritative agency,
WHO has an obligation to reference all the scientic research
resu lts and ca ll the experts from al l the related elds li ke engi-
neering, health and medicine to engage in the re-evaluation
of all health effects including non-thermal of RF radiation.
Related agencies should launch an objective and transparent
project for this assessment. The EMF project was started
many years ago and many new wireless digital technologies
are developed and new devices are popularizing with a very
fast speed.
Protests and comments by scientic experts and several
organizations seem to be ignored. The Monograph might be
political and industry supportive more than scientic and
health promoting. For a denitive conclusion a more thor-
ough review of the whole draft document would be needed.
By now it is time for laymen, NGOs and scientists to exert
pressure on politicians to change the WHO agenda on RF
radiation and health hazards and decide that WHO's purpose
is to support world health instead of industry interests.
It is also time to evaluate the competence of the persons
making the evaluations and decisions before publishing the
Monograph. Of note, evidence has been published (52) which
indicated that members of ICNIRP have written scienti-
cally incorrect and misleading information. It is unknown if
WHO has responded to this evidence of suggested scientic
misconduct.
To evaluate cancer risks it is necessary to include scien-
tists with competence in medicine, especially oncology.
Furthermore, what are the personal advantages, at least in the
short time, for those refusing to accept peer-reviewed scientic
publications on adverse effects on health and environment
from RF radiation? Ironically enough, whether knowingly or
not, the WHO staff seems to protect themselves from high
involuntary RF radiation levels at least in the measured areas
within the Geneva building.
Acknowledgments
The study was supported by grants from Mr. Brian Stein,
Cancer - och Allergifonden, Cancerhjälpen.
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... Considerable scientific evidence exists attesting to the health effects of CT radiation, although direct causal link is yet to be established (Pearce, 2020). The World Health Organization -International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC) classified radiofrequency radiation as a Group 2B Possible Human Carcinogen (Hardell, 2017). Evidence for carcinogenicity of Radio Frequency Radiation (RFR) was primarily from cell phone/brain tumor studies, but as per IARC rules, it was applicable to all RFR exposures, from all sources including household appliances and power transmission lines. ...
... In 2011, the World Health Organization -IARC, classified radiofrequency radiation as a Group 2B Possible Human Carcinogen (Hardell, 2017). ...
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Importance: Sleep is vital to children's biopsychosocial development. Inadequate sleep quantity and quality is a public health concern with an array of detrimental health outcomes. Portable mobile and media devices have become a ubiquitous part of children's lives and may affect their sleep duration and quality. Objective: To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine whether there is an association between portable screen-based media device (eg, cell phones and tablet devices) access or use in the sleep environment and sleep outcomes. Data sources: A search strategy consisting of gray literature and 24 Medical Subject Headings was developed in Ovid MEDLINE and adapted for other databases between January 1, 2011, and June 15, 2015. Searches of the published literature were conducted across 12 databases. No language restriction was applied. Study selection: The analysis included randomized clinical trials, cohort studies, and cross-sectional study designs. Inclusion criteria were studies of school-age children between 6 and 19 years. Exclusion criteria were studies of stationary exposures, such as televisions or desktop or personal computers, or studies investigating electromagnetic radiation. Data extraction and synthesis: Of 467 studies identified, 20 cross-sectional studies were assessed for methodological quality. Two reviewers independently extracted data. Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcomes were inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness, studied according to an a priori protocol. Results: Twenty studies were included, and their quality was assessed. The studies involved 125 198 children (mean [SD] age, 14.5 [2.2] years; 50.1% male). There was a strong and consistent association between bedtime media device use and inadequate sleep quantity (odds ratio [OR], 2.17; 95% CI, 1.42-3.32) (P < .001, I2 = 90%), poor sleep quality (OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.14-1.88) (P = .003, I2 = 76%), and excessive daytime sleepiness (OR, 2.72; 95% CI, 1.32-5.61) (P = .007, I2 = 50%). In addition, children who had access to (but did not use) media devices at night were more likely to have inadequate sleep quantity (OR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.39-2.31) (P < .001, I2 = 64%), poor sleep quality (OR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.11-2.10) (P = .009, I2 = 74%), and excessive daytime sleepiness (OR, 2.27; 95% CI, 1.54-3.35) (P < .001, I2 = 24%). Conclusions and relevance: To date, this study is the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the association of access to and the use of media devices with sleep outcomes. Bedtime access to and use of a media device were significantly associated with the following: inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness. An integrated approach among teachers, health care professionals, and parents is required to minimize device access at bedtime, and future research is needed to evaluate the influence of the devices on sleep hygiene and outcomes.
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The Stockholm Central Railway Station in Sweden was investigated for public radiofrequency (RF) radiation exposure. The exposimeter EME Spy 200 was used to collect the RF exposure data across the railway station. The exposimeter covers 20 different radiofrequency bands from 88 to 5,850 MHz. In total 1,669 data points were recorded. The median value for total exposure was 921 µW/m2 (or 0.092 µW/cm2; 1 µW/m2=0.0001 µW/cm2) with some outliers over 95,544 µW/m2 (6 V/m, upper detection limit). The mean total RF radiation level varied between 2,817 to 4,891 µW/m2 for each walking round. High mean measurements were obtained for GSM + UMTS 900 downlink varying between 1,165 and 2,075 µW/m2. High levels were also obtained for UMTS 2100 downlink; 442 to 1,632 µW/m2. Also LTE 800 downlink, GSM 1800 downlink, and LTE 2600 downlink were in the higher range of measurements. Hot spots were identified, for example close to a wall mounted base station yielding over 95,544 µW/m2 and thus exceeding the exposimeter's detection limit. Almost all of the total measured levels were above the precautionary target level of 3-6 µW/m2 as proposed by the BioInitiative Working Group in 2012. That target level was one-tenth of the scientific benchmark providing a safety margin either for children, or chronic exposure conditions. We compare the levels of RF radiation exposures identified in the present study to published scientific results reporting adverse biological effects and health harm at levels equivalent to, or below those measured in this Stockholm Central Railway Station project. It should be noted that these RF radiation levels give transient exposure, since people are generally passing through the areas tested, except for subsets of people who are there for hours each day of work.
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Chronic diseases and illnesses associated with non-specific symptoms are on the rise. In addition to chronic stress in social and work environments, physical and chemical exposures at home, at work, and during leisure activities are causal or contributing environmental stressors that deserve attention by the general practitioner as well as by all other members of the health care community. It seems necessary now to take "new exposures" like electromagnetic fields (EMF) into account. Physicians are increasingly confronted with health problems from unidentified causes. Studies, empirical observations, and patient reports clearly indicate interactions between EMF exposure and health problems. Individual susceptibility and environmental factors are frequently neglected. New wireless technologies and applications have been introduced without any certainty about their health effects, raising new challenges for medicine and society. For instance, the issue of so-called non-thermal effects and potential long-term effects of low-dose exposure were scarcely investigated prior to the introduction of these technologies. Common electromagnetic field or EMF sources: Radio-frequency radiation (RF) (3 MHz to 300 GHz) is emitted from radio and TV broadcast antennas, Wi-Fi access points, routers, and clients (e.g. smartphones, tablets), cordless and mobile phones including their base stations, and Bluetooth devices. Extremely low frequency electric (ELF EF) and magnetic fields (ELF MF) (3 Hz to 3 kHz) are emitted from electrical wiring, lamps, and appliances. Very low frequency electric (VLF EF) and magnetic fields (VLF MF) (3 kHz to 3 MHz) are emitted, due to harmonic voltage and current distortions, from electrical wiring, lamps (e.g. compact fluorescent lamps), and electronic devices. On the one hand, there is strong evidence that long-term exposure to certain EMFs is a risk factor for diseases such as certain cancers, Alzheimer's disease, and male infertility. On the other hand, the emerging electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is more and more recognized by health authorities, disability administrators and case workers, politicians, as well as courts of law. We recommend treating EHS clinically as part of the group of chronic multisystem illnesses (CMI), but still recognizing that the underlying cause remains the environment. In the beginning, EHS symptoms occur only occasionally, but over time they may increase in frequency and severity. Common EHS symptoms include headaches, concentration difficulties, sleep problems, depression, a lack of energy, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms. A comprehensive medical history, which should include all symptoms and their occurrences in spatial and temporal terms and in the context of EMF exposures, is the key to making the diagnosis. The EMF exposure is usually assessed by EMF measurements at home and at work. Certain types of EMF exposure can be assessed by asking about common EMF sources. It is very important to take the individual susceptibility into account. The primary method of treatment should mainly focus on the prevention or reduction of EMF exposure, that is, reducing or eliminating all sources of high EMF exposure at home and at the workplace. The reduction of EMF exposure should also be extended to public spaces such as schools, hospitals, public transport, and libraries to enable persons with EHS an unhindered use (accessibility measure). If a detrimental EMF exposure is reduced sufficiently, the body has a chance to recover and EHS symptoms will be reduced or even disappear. Many examples have shown that such measures can prove effective. To increase the effectiveness of the treatment, the broad range of other environmental factors that contribute to the total body burden should also be addressed. Anything that supports homeostasis will increase a person's resilience against disease and thus against the adverse effects of EMF exposure. There is increasing evidence that EMF exposure has a major impact on the oxidative and nitrosative regulation capacity in affected individuals. This concept also may explain why the level of susceptibility to EMF can change and why the range of symptoms reported in the context of EMF exposures is so large. Based on our current understanding, a treatment approach that minimizes the adverse effects of peroxynitrite - as has been increasingly used in the treatment of multisystem illnesses - works best. This EMF Guideline gives an overview of the current knowledge regarding EMF-related health risks and provides recommendations for the diagnosis, treatment and accessibility measures of EHS to improve and restore individual health outcomes as well as for the development of strategies for prevention.
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Children are exposed to various kind of non-ionizan radiation in their daily life involuntarily. The potential sensitivity of developing organism to the effects of radiofrequency (RF) signals, the higher estimated specific absorption rate (SAR) values of children and greater lifetime cumulative risk raised the scientific interest for children's vulnerability to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). In modern societies, children are being exposed to EMFs in very early ages. There are many researches in scientific literature investigating the alterations of biological parameters in living organisms after EMFs. Although the international guidelines did not report definite, convincing data about the causality, there are unignorable amount of studies indicating the increased risk of cancer, hematologic effects and cognitive impairment. Although they are less in amount; growing number of studies reveal the impacts on metabolism and endocrine function. Reproductive system and growth look like the most challenging fields. However there are also some concerns on detrimental effects of EMFs on thyroid functions, adrenal hormones, glucose homeostasis and melatonin levels. It is not easy to conduct a study investigating the effects of EMFs on a fetus or child due to ethical issues. Hence, the studies are usually performed on virtual models or animals. Although the results are conflicting and cannot be totally matched with humans; there is growing evidence to distress us about the threats of EMF on children.
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Background We previously reported associations between cellphone exposure and emotional and behavioural difficulties in children in the Danish National Birth Cohort using cross-sectional data. To overcome the limitations of cross-sectional analysis, we re-examined these associations with prospectively collected data. Methods Based on maternal reports, prenatal and postnatal cellphone exposures were assessed at age 7 years, and emotional and behavioural difficulties were assessed at 7 and 11 years with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. We used multivariable-adjusted logistic regression models to estimate ORs and 95% CIs relating prenatal exposure and age-7 cellphone use to emotional and behavioural difficulties at age 11 years. Results Children without emotional and behavioural difficulties at age 7 years, but who had cellphone exposures, had increased odds of emotional and behavioural difficulties at age 11 years, with an OR of 1.58 (95% CI 1.34 to 1.86) for children with both prenatal and age-7 cellphone exposures, 1.41 (95% CI 1.20 to 1.66) for prenatal exposure only, and 1.36 (95% CI 1.14 to 1.63) for age-7 use only. These results did not materially change when early adopters were excluded, or when children with emotional and behavioural difficulties at age 7 years were included in the analysis. Conclusions Our findings are consistent with patterns seen in earlier studies, and suggest that both prenatal and postnatal exposures may be associated with increased risks of emotional and behavioural difficulties in children.