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www.thelancet.com/planetary-health Vol 2 December 2018
e512
Planetary electromagnetic pollution: it is time to assess its
impact
As the Planetary Health Alliance moves forward after a
productive second annual meeting, a discussion on the
rapid global proliferation of artificial electromagnetic
fields would now be apt. The most notable is the
blanket of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation,
largely microwave radiation generated for wireless
communication and surveillance technologies, as
mounting scientific evidence suggests that prolonged
exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation
has serious biological and health effects. However,
public exposure regulations in most countries con-
tinue to be based on the guidelines of the International
Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection1 and
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers,2 which
were established in the 1990s on the belief that only
acute thermal effects are hazardous. Prevention of tissue
heating by radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation is
now proven to be ineffective in preventing biochemical
and physiological interference. For example, acute
non-thermal exposure has been shown to alter human
brain metabolism by NIH scientists,3 electrical activity
in the brain,4 and systemic immune responses.5 Chronic
exposure has been associated with increased oxidative
stress and DNA damage6,7 and cancer risk.8 Laboratory
studies, including large rodent studies by the US National
Toxicology Program9 and Ramazzini Institute of Italy,10
confirm these biological and health effects in vivo. As we
address the threats to human health from the changing
environmental conditions due to human activity,11
the increasing exposure to artificial electromagnetic
radiation needs to be included in this discussion.
Due to the exponential increase in the use of wireless
personal communication devices (eg, mobile or cordless
phones and WiFi or Bluetooth-enabled devices) and
the infrastructure facilitating them, levels of exposure
to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation around
the 1 GHz frequency band, which is mostly used for
modern wireless communications, have increased from
extremely low natural levels by about 10¹⁸ times (figure).
Radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation is also used
for radar, security scanners, smart meters, and medical
equipment (MRI, diathermy, and radiofrequency
ablation). It is plausibly the most rapidly increasing
anthropogenic environmental exposure since the mid-
20th century, and levels will surge considerably again,
as technologies like the Internet of Things and 5G add
millions more radiofrequency transmitters around us.
Unprecedented human exposure to radiofrequency
electromagnetic radiation from conception until death
has been occurring in the past two decades. Evidence
of its effects on the CNS, including altered neuro-
development14 and increased risk of some neuro-
degenerative diseases,15 is a major concern considering
the steady increase in their incidence. Evidence exists
for an association between neuro develop mental or
Figure: Typical maximum daily exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation from man-made and
natural power flux densities in comparison with International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation
Protection safety guidelines1
Anthropogenic radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation levels are illustrated for different periods in the
evolution of wireless communication technologies. These exposure levels are frequently experienced daily by
people using various wireless devices. The levels are instantaneous and not time-averaged over 6 minutes as
specified by International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection for thermal reasons. Figure modified
from Philips and Lamburn12 with permission. Natural levels of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation were
based on the NASA review report CR-166661.13
010
6
1 MHz
10
9
1 GHz
10
12
1 THz
Power flux density (W/m
2
)
Frequency (Hz)
2010s
1980s
1950s
Medium-wave broadcastin
g
Short-wave broadcasting
FM VHF radio
Television
Mobile phones
Mobile phones, WiFi, etc
300 GHz end of ICNIRP radiofrequency guidance
10
–15
10
–12
10
–9
10
–6
10
–3
1
10
–18
10
3
10
6
10
9
ICNIRP (occupational peak)
ICNIRP (occupational)
ICNIRP (public peak)
ICNIRP (public)
2010s, typical
1980s, typical
1950s, typical
Natural background
Comment
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www.thelancet.com/planetary-health Vol 2 December 2018
behavioural disorders in children and exposure to
wireless devices,14 and experimental evidence, such as
the Yale finding, shows that prenatal exposure could
cause structural and functional changes in the brain
associated with ADHD-like behaviour.16 These findings
deserve urgent attention.
At the Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory
Association, an independent scientific organisation,
volunteering scientists have constructed the world’s
largest categorised online data base of peer-reviewed
studies on radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation
and other man-made electromagnetic fields of lower
frequencies. A recent evaluation of 2266 studies
(including in-vitro and in-vivo studies in human,
animal, and plant experimental systems and population
studies) found that most studies (n=1546, 68∙2%)
have demonstrated significant biological or health
effects associated with exposure to anthropogenic
electromagnetic fields. We have published our
preliminary data on radiofrequency electromagnetic
radiation, which shows that 89% (216 of 242) of
experimental studies that investigated oxidative stress
endpoints showed significant effects.7 This weight of
scientific evidence refutes the prominent claim that
the deployment of wireless technologies poses no
health risks at the currently permitted non-thermal
radiofrequency exposure levels. Instead, the evidence
supports the International EMF Scientist Appeal by
244 scientists from 41 countries who have published on
the subject in peer-reviewed literature and collectively
petitioned the WHO and the UN for immediate
measures to reduce public exposure to artificial
electromagnetic fields and radiation.
Evidence also exists of the effects of radiofrequency
electromagnetic radiation on flora and fauna. For
example, the reported global reduction in bees and
other insects is plausibly linked to the increased
radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation in the
environment.17 Honeybees are among the species
that use magnetoreception, which is sensitive to
anthropogenic electromagnetic fields, for navigation.
Man-made electromagnetic fields range from
extremely low frequency (associated with electricity
supplies and electrical appliances) to low, medium,
high, and extremely high frequency (mostly associated
with wireless communication). The potential effects
of these anthropogenic electromagnetic fields on
natural electromagnetic fields, such as the Schumann
Resonance that controls the weather and climate,
have not been properly studied. Similarly, we do not
adequately understand the effects of anthropogenic
radio frequency electromagnetic radiation on other
natural and man-made atmospheric components
or the ionosphere. It has been widely claimed that
radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation, being non-
ionising radiation, does not possess enough photon
energy to cause DNA damage. This has now been
proven wrong experimentally.18,19 Radiofrequency
electromagnetic radiation causes DNA damage
apparently through oxidative stress,7 similar to near-UV
radiation, which was also long thought to be harmless.
At a time when environmental health scientists
tackle serious global issues such as climate change and
chemical toxicants in public health, there is an urgent
need to address so-called electrosmog. A genuine
evidence-based approach to the risk assessment and
regulation of anthropogenic electromagnetic fields
will help the health of us all, as well as that of our
planetary home. Some government health authorities
have recently taken steps to reduce public exposure to
radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation by regulating
use of wireless devices by children and recommending
preferential use of wired communication devices in
general, but this ought to be a coordinated international
effort.
*Priyanka Bandara, David O Carpenter
Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory Association,
Scarborough, QLD 4020, Australia (PB); and Institute for Health
and the Environment, University at Albany, Rensselaer, NY, USA
(DOC)
pri.bandara@orsaa.org
We declare no competing interests. We thank Alasdair Philips for assistance with
the figure and Victor Leach and Steve Weller for assistance with the ORSAA
Database, which has enabled our overview of the scientific evidence in this area
of research.
Copyright © The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access
article under the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.
1 International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. ICNIRP
guidelines for limiting exposure to time-varying electric, magnetic, and
electromagnetic fields (up to 300 GHz). Health Phys 1998; 74: 494–522.
2 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. IEEE C95.7-2014—IEEE
recommended practice for radio frequency safety programs, 3 kHz to
300 GHz. IEEE Standards Association, 2014. https://standards.ieee.org/
standard/C95_7-2014.html (accessed Nov 6, 2018).
3 Volkow ND, Tomasi D, Wang GJ, et al. Effects of cell phone radiofrequency
signal exposure on brain glucose metabolism. JAMA 2011; 305: 808–13.
4 Schmid MR, Loughran SP, Regel SJ, et al. Sleep EEG alterations: effects of
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fields. J Sleep Res 2012; 21: 50–58.
For the Oceania Radiofrequency
Scientific Advisory Association
see www.orsaa.org
For the International EMF
Scientist Appeal see www.
emfscientist.org
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5 Kimata H. Microwave radiation from cellular phones increases
allergen-specific IgE production. Allergy 2005; 60: 838–39.
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16 Aldad TS, Gan G, Gao XB, Taylor HS. Fetal radiofrequency radiation
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18 Smith-Roe SL, Wyde ME, Stout MD, et al. Evaluation of the genotoxicity of
cell phone radiofrequency radiation in male and female rats and mice
following subchronic exposure. Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics
Society Annual Conference; Raleigh, NC, USA; Sept 9–13, 2017.
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Pathophysiology 2009; 16: 89–102.
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Neurobehavioral disorders are increasingly prevalent in children, however their etiology is not well understood. An association between prenatal cellular telephone use and hyperactivity in children has been postulated, yet the direct effects of radiofrequency radiation exposure on neurodevelopment remain unknown. Here we used a mouse model to demonstrate that in-utero radiofrequency exposure from cellular telephones does affect adult behavior. Mice exposed in-utero were hyperactive and had impaired memory as determined using the object recognition, light/dark box and step-down assays. Whole cell patch clamp recordings of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs) revealed that these behavioral changes were due to altered neuronal developmental programming. Exposed mice had dose-responsive impaired glutamatergic synaptic transmission onto layer V pyramidal neurons of the prefrontal cortex. We present the first experimental evidence of neuropathology due to in-utero cellular telephone radiation. Further experiments are needed in humans or non-human primates to determine the risk of exposure during pregnancy.
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Background: In 2011, IARC classified radiofrequency radiation (RFR) as possible human carcinogen (Group 2B). According to IARC, animals studies, as well as epidemiological ones, showed limited evidence of carcinogenicity. In 2016, the NTP published the first results of its long-term bioassays on near field RFR, reporting increased incidence of malignant glial tumors of the brain and heart Schwannoma in rats exposed to GSM - and CDMA - modulated cell phone RFR. The tumors observed in the NTP study are of the type similar to the ones observed in some epidemiological studies of cell phone users. Objectives: The Ramazzini Institute (RI) performed a life-span carcinogenic study on Sprague-Dawley rats to evaluate the carcinogenic effects of RFR in the situation of far field, reproducing the environmental exposure to RFR generated by 1.8 GHz GSM antenna of the radio base stations of mobile phone. This is the largest long-term study ever performed in rats on the health effects of RFR, including 2448 animals. In this article, we reported the final results regarding brain and heart tumors. Methods: Male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed from prenatal life until natural death to a 1.8 GHz GSM far field of 0, 5, 25, 50 V/m with a whole-body exposure for 19 h/day. Results: A statistically significant increase in the incidence of heart Schwannomas was observed in treated male rats at the highest dose (50 V/m). Furthermore, an increase in the incidence of heart Schwann cells hyperplasia was observed in treated male and female rats at the highest dose (50 V/m), although this was not statistically significant. An increase in the incidence of malignant glial tumors was observed in treated female rats at the highest dose (50 V/m), although not statistically significant. Conclusions: The RI findings on far field exposure to RFR are consistent with and reinforce the results of the NTP study on near field exposure, as both reported an increase in the incidence of tumors of the brain and heart in RFR-exposed Sprague-Dawley rats. These tumors are of the same histotype of those observed in some epidemiological studies on cell phone users. These experimental studies provide sufficient evidence to call for the re-evaluation of IARC conclusions regarding the carcinogenic potential of RFR in humans.
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The impact of human activities on our planet's natural systems has been intensifying rapidly in the past several decades, leading to disruption and transformation of most natural systems. These disruptions in the atmosphere, oceans, and across the terrestrial land surface are not only driving species to extinction, they pose serious threats to human health and wellbeing. Characterising and addressing these threats requires a paradigm shift. In a lecture delivered to the Academy of Medical Sciences on Nov 13, 2017, I describe the scale of human impacts on natural systems and the extensive associated health effects across nearly every dimension of human health. I highlight several overarching themes that emerge from planetary health and suggest advances in the way we train, reward, promote, and fund the generation of health scientists who will be tasked with breaking out of their disciplinary silos to address this urgent constellation of health threats. I propose that protecting the health of future generations requires taking better care of Earth's natural systems.
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The effects of nonionizing electromagnetic (EM) field interactions with the human body were reported and human related studies were collected. Nonionizing EM fields are linked to cancer in humans in three different ways: cause, means of detection, and effective treatment. Bad and benign effects are expected from nonionizing EM fields and much more knowledge is necessary to properly categorize and qualify EM field characteristics. It is concluded that knowledge of the boundary between categories, largely dependent on field intensity, is vital to proper future use of EM radiation for any purpose and the protection of the individual from hazard.
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Previous studies have observed increases in electroencephalographic power during sleep in the spindle frequency range (approximately 11-15 Hz) after exposure to mobile phone-like radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF). Results also suggest that pulse modulation of the signal is crucial to induce these effects. Nevertheless, it remains unclear which specific elements of the field are responsible for the observed changes. We investigated whether pulse-modulation frequency components in the range of sleep spindles may be involved in mediating these effects. Thirty young healthy men were exposed, at weekly intervals, to three different conditions for 30 min directly prior to an 8-h sleep period. Exposure consisted of a 900-MHz RF EMF, pulse modulated at 14 Hz or 217 Hz, and a sham control condition. Both active conditions had a peak spatial specific absorption rate of 2 W kg(-1) . During exposure subjects performed three different cognitive tasks (measuring attention, reaction speed and working memory), which were presented in a fixed order. Electroencephalographic power in the spindle frequency range was increased during non-rapid eye movement sleep (2nd episode) following the 14-Hz pulse-modulated condition. A similar but non-significant increase was also observed following the 217-Hz pulse-modulated condition. Importantly, this exposure-induced effect showed considerable individual variability. Regarding cognitive performance, no clear exposure-related effects were seen. Consistent with previous findings, our results provide further evidence that pulse-modulated RF EMF alter brain physiology, although the time-course of the effect remains variable across studies. Additionally, we demonstrated that modulation frequency components within a physiological range may be sufficient to induce these effects.
Article
The dramatic increase in use of cellular telephones has generated concern about possible negative effects of radiofrequency signals delivered to the brain. However, whether acute cell phone exposure affects the human brain is unclear. To evaluate if acute cell phone exposure affects brain glucose metabolism, a marker of brain activity. Randomized crossover study conducted between January 1 and December 31, 2009, at a single US laboratory among 47 healthy participants recruited from the community. Cell phones were placed on the left and right ears and positron emission tomography with ((18)F)fluorodeoxyglucose injection was used to measure brain glucose metabolism twice, once with the right cell phone activated (sound muted) for 50 minutes ("on" condition) and once with both cell phones deactivated ("off" condition). Statistical parametric mapping was used to compare metabolism between on and off conditions using paired t tests, and Pearson linear correlations were used to verify the association of metabolism and estimated amplitude of radiofrequency-modulated electromagnetic waves emitted by the cell phone. Clusters with at least 1000 voxels (volume >8 cm(3)) and P < .05 (corrected for multiple comparisons) were considered significant. Brain glucose metabolism computed as absolute metabolism (μmol/100 g per minute) and as normalized metabolism (region/whole brain). Whole-brain metabolism did not differ between on and off conditions. In contrast, metabolism in the region closest to the antenna (orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole) was significantly higher for on than off conditions (35.7 vs 33.3 μmol/100 g per minute; mean difference, 2.4 [95% confidence interval, 0.67-4.2]; P = .004). The increases were significantly correlated with the estimated electromagnetic field amplitudes both for absolute metabolism (R = 0.95, P < .001) and normalized metabolism (R = 0.89; P < .001). In healthy participants and compared with no exposure, 50-minute cell phone exposure was associated with increased brain glucose metabolism in the region closest to the antenna. This finding is of unknown clinical significance.