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

In a new article by Dr Lennart Hardell health effects from radiofrequency radiation, ICNIRP and the WHO agenda are discussed. The whole article can be found here, see also abstract below.

Abstract. 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.

 

 

Effects of Mobile Phones on Children’s and Adolescents’ Health: A Commentary

Effects of Mobile Phones on Children’s and Adolescents’ Health: A Commentary

Author: Lennart Hardell

In: Special Section of Child Development. Contemporary Mobile Technology and Child and Adolescent Development, edited by Zheng Yan and Lennart Hardell, May 15, 2017.

Abstract

The use of digital technology has grown rapidly during the last couple of decades. During use, mobile phones and cordless phones emit radiofrequency (RF) radiation. No previous generation has been exposed during childhood and adolescence to this kind of radiation. The brain is the main target organ for RF emissions from the handheld wireless phone. An evaluation of the scientific evidence on the brain tumor risk was made in May 2011 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer at World Health Organization. The scientific panel reached the conclusion that RF radiation from devices that emit nonionizing RF radiation in the frequency range 30 kHz–300 GHz is a Group 2B, that is, a “possible” human carcinogen. With respect to health implications of digital (wireless) technologies, it is of importance that neurological diseases, physiological addiction, cognition, sleep, and behavioral problems are considered in addition to cancer. Well-being needs to be carefully evaluated as an effect of changed behavior in children and adolescents through their interactions with modern digital technologies.

Discussion

In spite of the IARC evaluation little has happened to reduce exposure to RF fields in most countries. The exposure guideline used by many agencies was established in 1998 by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and was based on thermal (heating) effects from RF radiation neglecting non-thermal biological effects. It was updated in 2009 and still gives the guideline 2 to 10 W/m2 for RF radiation depending on frequency.

In contrast to ICNIRP the BioInitiative Report from 2007, updated in 2012, based the evaluation also on non-thermal health effects from RF radiation. The scientific benchmark for possible health risks was defined to be 30 to 60 µW/m2.  Thus, using the significantly higher guideline by ICNIRP gives a ‘green card’ to roll out the digital technology thereby not considering non-thermal health effects from RF radiation. Numerous health hazards are disregarded such as cancer, neurological diseases, psychological addiction, cognition, sleep and behavioral problems.

For obvious reasons the extent and severity of long-term health effects among children and adolescents using this technology are not know. However, there are already numerous peer-reviewed studies showing health hazards from wireless devices. Urgent action using the precautionary principle is needed.

Evaluation of mobile phone and cordless phone use and glioma risk

In a recent article published in a scientific journal we evaluated use of wireless phones (mobile phones and cordless phones; DECT) and glioma risk. Glioma is a brain tumour that is one of the most common types. We used the Sir Austin Bradford Hill nine viewpoints on association or causation published in 1965 at the height of the debate on smoking and lung cancer risk. The same method can be used for other environmental agents and cancer risk.

As Bradford Hill pointed out not all nine viewpoints need to be fulfilled. The current knowledge may not exist in certain aspects. However, certain aspects such as first exposure before the onset of the disease and a dose-response relationship should exist.

Our evaluation was based on human epidemiological studies and findings in laboratory studies on animals and in cell cultures. Our conclusion was all nine viewpoints by Bradford Hill are fulfilled and that glioma is caused by radiofrequency (RF) radiation:

The nine Bradford Hill viewpoints on association or causation regarding RF radiation and glioma risk seem to be fulfilled in this review. Based on that we conclude that glioma is caused by RF radiation. Revision of current guidelines for exposure to RF radiation is needed.

RF radiation as a human carcinogen was evaluated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at WHO in May 2011. The conclusion was that such exposure is a possible human carcinogen, Group 2B according to the definition by WHO. The scientific evidence has increased since then and RF radiation should now be regarded as a human carcinogen, Group 1. An updated new evaluation by IARC is urgently needed.

We discuss in our article scientific controversy in this area including industry influence and ties between researchers and industry. A key player is the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP), a private NGO based in Germany that selects its own members and that does not publish funding sources. The ICNIRP guideline for RF radiation is extremely high and only based on short time thermal (heating) effects. Non-thermal effects are disregarded, that is a vast majority of studies on negative health effects from RF radiation not based on tissue heating. This gives in practice a ‘green card’ to roll out this technology since the high ICNIRP guideline is rarely compromised. Several governmental organizations in different countries have adopted the high ICNIRP level for exposure.

A new Health Criteria (Monograph) on RF radiation and health is under production by WHO. As discussed previously this document is biased towards the no-risk paradigm thereby neglecting published health risks from RF radiation. It has turned out that almost all persons in the core group for the WHO Monograph are present or former members of ICNIRP, see Table.

 

Table. Members of WHO Monograph core group and their involvement in other groups

Name WHO ICNIRP UK/AGNIR SSM SCENIHR
Simon Mann X X X
Maria Feychting X X X X*
Gunnhild Oftedal X X
Eric van Rongen X X X
Maria Rosaria Scarfi X X* X X
Denis Zmirou X

*former

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: Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks

 

Thus, this fact – being member of both ICNIRP and the core group – is a serious conflict of interest. One would rarely expect that the core group members would present an evaluation that is in conflict with their own evaluation in ICNIRP. It has been requested that these persons should be replaced by experts with no conflict of interest, a most reasonable viewpoint.

As a matter of fact the Ethical Board at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, concluded already in 2008 that being a member of ICNIRP may be a conflict of interest that should be stated in scientific publications (Karolinska Institute Diary Number 3753-2008-609). This is not done as far as can be seen in publications by ICNIRP persons such as members of the WHO core group.

The fifth generation (5G) of RF radiation is now under establishment. This is done without proper dosimetry or studies on potential health effects. The major media attention is a ‘love song’ to all possibilities with this technology such as so called self-driving cars, internet of things etc. Consequences for human health and environment such as wild life and vegetation are not discussed. Politicians, governmental agencies and media are responsible for the skewed debate. The layman is not informed about opposite opinions on this development. Health effects from RF radiation in media is a ‘no issue’ at least in Sweden but also in most other countries.

Has the WHO EMF Project been hijacked by ICNIRP?

Recently the following appeal has been posted at http://olgasheean.com/who-emf/:

“Make your voice count

Sign this VOTE of NO CONFIDENCE in WHO’s EMF Project

We, the undersigned, being aware of and/or harmed by the adverse biological effects of EMFs, hereby declare our VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE for WHO and its EMF Project, headed by industry-biased Emilie van Deventer—an electrical engineer (with no medical or health credentials), who has publicized her support for the wireless telecommunications industry and has a major conflict of interest, given her industry-funded research aimed at promoting and advancing wireless communication technology.

We demand that:

1. Emilie van Deventer be immediately replaced by a qualified independent professional who has the appropriate medical credentials and a medically informed understanding of and respect for the millions of individuals experiencing microwave sickness/electromagnetic sensitivity, and who will act on the body of science that confirms the adverse biological effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

2. WHO and its EMF Project take immediate action to acknowledge, and make science-based decisions regarding, the proven harm caused by EMFs, without any bias or regard for commercial or industry interests, and with full disclosure to the public. With a mandate of preserving the health of the global population and, via its EMF Project, of ‘investigating the detrimental health effects from exposure of people to non-ionizing radiation’, WHO must ensure its complete freedom from industry bias and corruption.”

IARC as part of WHO evaluated radiofrequency (RF) radiation in May 2011 and concluded it to be a possible human carcinogen, Group 2B.  However, in a fact sheet issued by WHO in June 2011 shortly after the IARC decision it was stated that ‘To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use’.

WHO has still not acknowledged health risks form RF radiation: ‘No major public health risks have emerged from several decades of EMF research, but uncertainties remain’.

WHO plans to publish in 2017 an Environmental Health Criteria Monograph on RF radiation. It has been open for comments and parts of our letter to WHO is shown below:

 

World Health Organization                                                                         15 December, 2014
Dr. T E van Deventer, Team Leader
Radiation Programme Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social
Determinants of Health, World Health Organization
Geneva, Switzerland
Via Email: vandeventere@who.int

Comments on the WHO draft: Radio Frequency fields: Environmental Health Criteria Monograph

The following comments relate to section 12.1 Cancer Epidemiology. Due to the short time for submission of comments it is not possible to make a full review. That would require an in-depth review checking the original publications in detail.

Unfortunately the WHO draft does not state the names of the authors and any conflicts of interest. However, it must be clear that if any current or previous member of ICNIRP is part of this draft it would be a serious conflict of interest. ICNIRP has produced guidelines for radiofrequency electromagnetic (RF-EMF) exposure and accepts only thermal effects. Thus the large bulk of evidence on non-thermal effects is ignored, see the update of ICNIRP guidelines:

ICNIRP statement on the “Guidelines for limiting exposure to time-varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields (up to 300 GHz)”. Health Physics. 2009; 97:257-8.

However, it is the opinion of ICNIRP that the scientific literature published since the 1998 guidelines has provided no evidence of any adverse effects below the basic restrictions and does not necessitate an immediate revision of its guidance on limiting exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields…..With regard to non-thermal interactions, it is in principle impossible to disprove their possible existence but the plausibility of the various non-thermal mechanisms that have been proposed is very low. In addition, the recent in vitro and animal genotoxicity and carcinogenicity studies are rather consistent overall and indicate that such effects are unlikely at low levels of exposure. Therefore, ICNIRP reconfirms the 1998 basic restrictions in the frequency range 100 kHz–300 GHz until further notice.”

ICNIRP has not published any later statement. Thus, ICNIRP has not changed their guidelines in spite of increasing evidence of adverse health effects from RF-EMF exposure. Being a present or a former member of ICNIRP creates intellectual bias, not the least to adopt their evaluation in any further review outside ICNIRP. In fact, it would be remarkable if an ICNIRP member comes to a conclusion other than the ICNIRP paradigm of “no health effects.”

Another remarkable drawback of the draft is that the following important chapters are missing: Chapter 1: Summary and recommendations for further study. Chapter 13: Health risk assessment, Chapter 14: Protective measures. It is unclear why these chapters are excluded. Is it so that WHO aims to produce their conclusions without comments from the international scientific community?

……………………………

Concluding remarks:

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 misinterpreted, 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 conflicts of interest.

Lennart Hardell, MD, PhD                               Michael Carlberg, MSc
Department of Oncology                                 Department of Oncology
University Hospital                                          University Hospital
SE-701 85 Örebro                                           SE-701 85 Örebro
Sweden                                                           Sweden”

 

Later the members of the WHO core group has been presented, here also with their ICNIRP affiliation:

Name WHO ICNIRP
Simon Mann X X
Maria Feychting X X
Gunnhild Oftedal X X
Eric van Rongen X X
Maria Rosaria Scarfi X X*
Denis Zmirou X

*former
WHO: World Health Organization
ICNIRP: International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection

Thus, of the six members five are presently or have been members of ICNIRP. It is no wonder that at least the epidemiology part does not substantially differ from the ICNIRP ‘no risk’ paradigm. 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 conflict of interest that should be stated in scientific publications (Karolinska Institute Diary Number 3753-2008-609).

It is thus pertinent that those concerned about the WHO EMF project, that includes persons with obvious conflicts of interest, should consider the petition:

http://olgasheean.com/who-emf/

Letter to WHO regarding brain tumour risk associated with exposure to radiofrequency fields

We have previously commented on the many scientific mistakes in the WHO draft Monograph on radiofrequency fields and health effects. Since there has not been any reaction we have sent the following letter asking for revision. A similar letter was send to IARC asking for new cancer risk evaluation.

 

World Health Organization                                                              4 August, 2015

 

Dr Margaret Chan, Director General

World Health Organization

Avenue Appia 20, 1211 Geneva 27

Geneva, Switzerland

 

Emelie van Deventer, Team Leader

Radiation Programme Department of Public Health,

Environmental and Social Determinants of Health,

World Health Organization

Geneva, Switzerland

 

Dear Ms. Margaret Chan

Dear Ms. Emelie van Deventer

 

Further Comments on the WHO draft: Radio Frequency fields: Environmental Health Criteria Monograph

On 15 December, 2014 we submitted comments on the WHO draft on radio frequency fields and health. Since we have not got a satisfactory reply from WHO, not seen a revision of the draft, and adding to that more published studies that reinforce the increased risk for certain brain tumours associated with use of wireless phones we want to submit the following, additional comments.

The brain is the primary target organ for exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) during the use of the handheld wireless phone. This has given concern of an increased risk for brain tumours. The carcinogenic effect of RF-EMF on humans was evaluated at a meeting during 24 – 31 May 2011 at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at WHO in Lyon, France. One of us (LH) was part of the expert group. The Working Group categorised RF-EMF from mobile phones, and from other devices that emit similar non-ionising electromagnetic fields in the frequency range 30 kHz–300 GHz, as a Group 2B, i.e. a possible, human carcinogen (http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol102/mono102.pdf).

Since then more studies have been published that strengthen the association between use of wireless phones (mobile and cordless phones) and increased risk for brain tumours. We have performed long-term research in this area and in the following we give a short up-dated summary of our findings based on research since the 1990’s. In our publications relevant information can be found also on other studies, as well as discussions of the current scientific evidence.

Glioma:

Glioma is a malignant brain tumour (“brain cancer”), and the most common type is glioblastoma multiforme with a poor prognosis. We have published a statistically significant increased risk for glioma among users of both mobile and cordless phones. The risk increased with latency (time from first use of the phone until tumour diagnosis) and cumulative number of hours for use. Highest risk was found in the area of the brain with highest exposure to RF-EMF. All these results are of biological relevance; that is what would be expected for a causal association. The full paper can be read here:

http://www.pathophysiologyjournal.com/article/S0928-4680(14)00064-9/pdf

Meningioma:

Menigioma is mostly a benign brain tumour and accounts for about 30 % of all intracranial tumours. The incidence is approximately 2-times higher in women than in men. No conclusive evidence of an association between use of mobile and cordless phones and meningioma was found in our study. However, taking the long latency periods that have been reported for the increased meningioma risk associated with exposure to ionizing radiation it is still too early to make a definitive risk assessment. Results for even longer latency periods of wireless phone use than in our study are desirable, see more details here:

http://www.spandidos-publications.com/or/33/6/3093

Acoustic neuroma:

Acoustic neuroma or Vestibular Schwannoma is a rare benign tumour in the eighth cranial nerve that leads from the inner ear to the brain. It grows slowly and does not undergo malignant transformation, but may give compression of vital brain stem centres. Tinnitus and hearing problems are usual first symptoms of acoustic neuroma. We published a clear, statistically significant, association between use of mobile and cordless phones and acoustic neuroma. The risk increased with time since first use. For use of both mobile and cordless phones the risk was highest in the longest latency group. Tumour volume increased per 100 hours of cumulative use and year of latency for wireless phones indicating tumour progression from RF-EMF. The whole study can be read here:

http://www.spandidos-publications.com/ijo/43/4/1036

Brain tumour prognosis:

A causal association would be strengthened if use of wireless phones has an impact on the survival of glioma patients. We analyzed survival of 1,678 glioma patients in our case-control studies 1997-2003 and 2007-2009. Use of wireless phones in the > 20 years latency group (time since first use) yielded increased hazard ratio (HR) = 1.7, 95 % confidence interval (CI) = 1.2-2.3 for glioma, i.e. decreased survival. Increased HR was found for use of both mobile and cordless phones. Highest HR was found for cases with first use before the age of 20 years. These results strengthen a causal association between use of wireless phones and glioma. The publication can be read here:

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/10/10790

Risk in different age groups of first use:

In our glioma study we found highest risk for subjects with first use of mobile or cordless phone before the age of 20, see Table 8 in the publication:

http://www.pathophysiologyjournal.com/article/S0928-4680(14)00064-9/pdf

We published similar results for acoustic neuroma and use of mobile phones, see Table 21.2:

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.433.7480&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Children and adolescents are more exposed to RF-EMF than adults due to thinner skull bone, higher conductivity in the brain tissue, and a smaller head. The developing brain is also more vulnerable than in adults and it is still developing until about 20 years of age. The finding of higher risk in young persons is worrying, not the least due to the high prevalence of use of wireless phones in children and adolescents.

Brain tumour incidence:

It is not correct to claim that the incidence of brain tumours has not increased in the Scandinavian countries. The age-standardized incidence of brain tumours increased dramatically in Denmark with +41.2 % among men and +46.1 % among women during 2003-2012 (http://www.ssi.dk/Aktuelt/Nyheder/2013/~/media/Indhold/DK – dansk/Sundhedsdata og it/NSF/Registre/Cancerregisteret/Cancerregisteret 2012.ashx).

Due to the well-known under-reporting of brain tumours to the Swedish Cancer Registry we studied brain tumour rates using the Swedish National Inpatient Register and the Causes of Death Register (see http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/12/4/3793/htm ). In summary we found a statistically significant increasing rate of not specified brain tumours from 2007 in the Inpatient Register and from 2008 in the Causes of Death Register. Our study indicated that several of these tumours were never reported to the Swedish Cancer Register. The results are in accordance with a reasonable latency period for use of wireless phones, e.g. mobile phones, see Figures 5 and 6 in our publication. Thus, the Swedish Cancer Register data cannot be used to dismiss an increased risk for brain tumours associated with use of wireless phones. On the contrary our study is consistent with an association considering a reasonable tumour induction period.

Mechanistic aspects:

Reactive oxygen species:

RF-EMFs do not cause direct DNA damage. On the other hand numerous studies have shown generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can cause oxidative damage of DNA. This is a well-known mechanism in carcinogenesis for many agents. The broad biological potential of ROS and other free radicals makes radiofrequency radiation a potentially hazardous factor for human health, not only cancer risk but also other health effects. A recent update can be read here:

http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/15368378.2015.1043557

-Tumour promotion:

Tumour promotion by RF-EMF exposure was reported in 2010 in a study on mice: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20545575. These findings were recently replicated and add to the relevance of tumour risk: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25749340

-p53:

The p53 protein is a transcription factor that plays a vital role in regulating cell growth, DNA repair and apoptosis, and p53 mutations are involved in disease progression. In a recent study it was found that use of mobile phones for ≥3 hours a day was associated with increased risk for the mutant type of p53 gene expression in the peripheral zone of astrocytoma grade IV (glioblastoma multiforme), and that this increase was statistically significant correlated with shorter overall survival time:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4178273/

 These results are in agreement with the decreased survival for patients with astrocytoma grade IV (glioblastoma multiforme) associated with long-term use of mobile phones and cordless phones that we reported in 2014, see above the section on prognosis.

Causality:

To further evaluate strengths of evidence Sir Austin Bradford Hill wrote in the 1960’s a famous article on association or causation at the height of the tobacco and lung cancer controversy: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1898525/pdf/procrsmed00196-0010.pdf

Hill offered a list of nine aspects of an association to be considered when deciding if an association is causal. However, he did not request all nine viewpoints to be fulfilled for causality. We used the Hill criteria to evaluate the causality on brain tumour risk from RF-EMF emitted from wireless phones. We concluded that based on the Hill criteria, glioma and acoustic neuroma should be considered to be caused by RF-EMF emissions from wireless phones and regarded as carcinogenic to humans, classifying it as Group 1 according to the IARC classification. See more here:

http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/reveh.2013.28.issue-2-3/reveh-2013-0006/reveh-2013-0006.xml

Conclusion:

Our results are in agreement with other studies such as the international Interphone study and the French CERENAT study. This is discussed in more detail in e.g. our article on glioma risk, see also:

http://www.pathophysiologyjournal.com/article/S0928-4680(12)00110-1/pdf

The so called Danish cohort study on mobile phone users has been taken as evidence of no risk. However, the many shortcomings as reviewed elsewhere makes the study inconclusive regarding assessment of cancer risk. It should not be cited as evidence of no risk, for more details see: http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/reveh.2012.27.issue-1/reveh-2012-0004/reveh-2012-0004.xml?format=INT

In summary there is consistent evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma associated with use of mobile phones and cordless phones. Furthermore, the risk is highest for persons with first use before the age of 20, which is of special concern. Our conclusion is that RF-EMF should be regarded as a human carcinogen. The IARC classification should be updated to at least Group 2A, a probable human carcinogen. Current guidelines for exposure need to be urgently revised. The WHO Monograph draft on this issue is based on selective inclusion of studies and wrong assessment of the evidence of increased risk. Thus the Danish cohort study on mobile phone users and the Swedish Cancer Register data cannot be used as evidence of no increased risk. It is important that the public and decision makers are given correct information about the cancer risk so that they can make decisions based on correct data and take precautions. Otherwise there is an obvious risk of forthcoming increasing impairment of human health and increasing numbers of cancer in the population. We anticipate correction of the Monograph and your reply to this letter no later than 15 September, 2015. If you so wish our research group may of course give a presentation at WHO on this topic.

Yours sincerely,

 

Lennart Hardell, MD, PhD

Department of Oncology

University Hospital

SE-701 85 Örebro

Sweden

 

Michael Carlberg, MSc

Department of Oncology

University Hospital

SE-701 85 Örebro

Sweden

Letter to New York Times

Ms. Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor                                       July 24, 2015

Ms. Carol Pogas, Reporter

The New York Times

Regarding: Cellphone Ordinance Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/us/cellphone-ordinance-puts-berkeley-at-forefront-of-radiation-debate.html?_r=0

Published online July 21, 2015

Dear Ms. Sullivan and Ms. Pogas,

We have read this article in the New York Times with interest. However, there are several mistakes, and even wrong statements, on the health hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) from cell phones in the article. In the following we want to correct some of the false statements.

The brain is the primary target organ for exposure to RF-EMF during the use of the handheld wireless phone. This has given concern of an increased risk for brain tumours. The carcinogenic effect of RF-EMF on humans was evaluated at a meeting during 24 – 31 May 2011 at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at WHO in Lyon, France. One of us (LH) was part of the expert group. The Working Group categorised RF-EMF from mobile phones, and from other devices that emit similar non-ionising electromagnetic fields in the frequency range 30 kHz–300 GHz, as a Group 2B, i.e. a possible, human carcinogen (http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol102/mono102.pdf).

Since then more studies have been published that strengthen the association between use of  wireless phones (mobile and cordless phones) and increased risk for brain tumours. We have performed long-term research in this area and in the following we give a short up-dated summary of our findings based on research since the 1990’s. In our publications relevant information can be found also on other studies, as well as discussions of the current scientific evidence.

Glioma:

Glioma is a malignant brain tumour (“brain cancer”), and the most common type is glioblastoma multiforme with a poor prognosis. We have published a statistically significant increased risk for glioma among users of both mobile and cordless phones. The risk increased with latency (time from first use of the phone) and cumulative number of hours for use. Highest risk was found in the area of the brain with highest exposure to RF-EMF. All these results are of biological relevance; that is what would be expected for a causal association. The full paper can be read here: http://www.pathophysiologyjournal.com/article/S0928-4680(14)00064-9/pdf

Meningioma:

Meningioma is mostly a benign brain tumour and accounts for about 30 % of all intracranial tumours. The incidence is approximately 2-times higher in women than in men. No conclusive evidence of an association between use of mobile and cordless phones and meningioma was found in our study. However, taking the long latency periods that have been reported for the increased meningioma risk associated with exposure to ionizing radiation it is still too early to make a definitive risk assessment. Results for even longer latency periods of wireless phone use than in our study are desirable, see more details here: http://www.spandidos-publications.com/or/33/6/3093

 Acoustic neuroma:

Acoustic neuroma or Vestibular Schwannoma is a rare benign tumour in the eighth cranial nerve that leads from the inner ear to the brain. It grows slowly and does not undergo malignant transformation, but may give compression of vital brain stem centres. Tinnitus and hearing problems are usual first symptoms of acoustic neuroma. We published a clear, statistically significant, association between use of mobile and cordless phones and acoustic neuroma. The risk increased with time since first use. For use of both mobile and cordless phones the risk was highest in the longest latency group. Tumour volume increased per 100 hours of cumulative use and year of latency for wireless phones indicating tumour progression from RF-EMF. The whole study can be read here: http://www.spandidos-publications.com/ijo/43/4/1036

Brain tumour incidence:

It is not correct to claim that the incidence of brain tumours has not increased in the Scandinavian countries. The age-standardized incidence of brain tumours increased dramatically in Denmark with +41.2 % among men and +46.1 % among women during 2003-2012 (http://www.ssi.dk/Aktuelt/Nyheder/2013/~/media/Indhold/DK – dansk/Sundhedsdata og it/NSF/Registre/Cancerregisteret/Cancerregisteret 2012.ashx).

Due to the well-known under-reporting of brain tumours to the Swedish Cancer Registry we studied brain tumour rates using the Swedish National Inpatient Register and the Causes of Death Register. In summary we found a statistically significant increasing rate of not specified brain tumours from 2007 in the Inpatient Register and from 2008 in the Causes of Death Register. Our study indicated that several of these tumours were never reported to the Swedish Cancer Register. Thus, the Swedish Cancer Register data cannot be used to dismiss an increased risk for brain tumours associated with use of wireless phones. On the contrary our study is consistent with an association considering a reasonable tumour induction period, see more here: http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/12/4/3793

Mechanistic aspects:

It is correct that RF-EMFs do not cause direct DNA damage. On the other hand numerous studies have shown generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can cause oxidative damage of DNA. This is a well-known mechanism in carcinogenesis for many agents. The broad biological potential of ROS and other free radicals makes radiofrequency radiation a potentially hazardous factor for human health, not only cancer risk but also other health effects. A recent update can be read here: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/15368378.2015.1043557

Causality:

To further evaluate strengths of evidence Bradford Hill wrote in the 1960’s a famous article on association or causation at the height of the tobacco and lung cancer controversy. Hill offered a list of nine aspects of an association to be considered when deciding if an association is causal. However, he did not request all nine viewpoints to be fulfilled for causality. We used the Hill criteria to evaluate the causality on brain tumor risk from RF-EMF emitted from wireless phones. We concluded that based on the Hill criteria, glioma and acoustic neuroma should be considered to be caused by RF-EMF emissions from wireless phones and regarded as carcinogenic to humans, classifying it as Group 1 according to the IARC classification. Current guidelines for exposure need to be urgently revised. See more here: http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/reveh.2013.28.issue-2-3/reveh-2013-0006/reveh-2013-0006.xml

Conclusion:

Our results are in agreement with other studies such as the international Interphone study and the French so called CERENAT study. This is discussed in e.g. our article on glioma risk. In summary there is consistent evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma associated with use of mobile phones and cordless phones. Furthermore, the risk is highest for persons with first use before the age of 20, which is of special concern. Our conclusion is that RF-EMF should be regarded as a human carcinogen. The IARC classification should be updated to at least Group 2A, a probable human carcinogen. It is necessary to give the public correct information on the cancer risk. The precautionary principle should be used to minimize exposure to RF-EMF. Media have an important role to inform in a balanced way. Unfortunately this article in the New York Times is biased towards the no risk assumption. It should be corrected based on facts and not wishful thinking.

 

Yours sincerely,

Lennart Hardell, MD, PhD

Department of Oncology

University Hospital

SE-701 85 Örebro

Sweden

 

Michael Carlberg, MSc

Department of Oncology

University Hospital

SE-701 85 Örebro

Sweden

Mobile phones, brain tumour risk and wrong information from the Swedish Cancer Society

In a letter dated March 12, 2015 Stefan Bergh at the Swedish Cancer Society writes that there is no association between use of mobile phones and brain tumours: “To talk in a mobile phone does not increase the risk for brain tumour”. The letter is in Swedish, see part of it below.

That statement is not according to the evaluation made by IARC in May 2011 concluding that RF-EMF is a ‘possible human carcinogen’ Group 2B. Further research has strengthened the association.

More and more persons in Sweden are diagnosed with cancer. Thus, it is important that the Swedish Cancer Society gives correct information on risk factors. Our research on wireless phone use and the risk for brain tumours has mainly been supported in Sweden by Cancer- och Allergifonden and Cancerhjälpen, but not at all by the Swedish Cancer Society.

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