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.

High radiofrequency radiation at Stockholm Old Town in Sweden

Exposure to radiofrequency (RF) radiation was classified as a possible human carcinogen, Group 2B, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer at WHO in 2011. Outdoor RF radiation levels were measured during five tours in Stockholm Old Town in April, 2016 using the EME Spy 200 exposimeter with 20 predefined frequencies. The results were based on 10,437 samples in total. The mean level of the total RF radiation was 4,293 μW/m2 (0.4293 μW/cm2). The highest mean levels were obtained for global system for mobile communications (GSM) + universal mobile telecommunications system (UMTS) 900 downlink and long‑term evolution (LTE) 2600 downlink (1,558 and 1,265 μW/m2, respectively). The town squares displayed highest total mean levels, with the example of Järntorget square with 24,277 μW/m2 (min 257, max 173,302 μW/m2). Measurements in the streets surrounding the Royal Castle were lower than the total for the Old Town, with a mean of 756 μW/m2 (min 0.3, max 50,967 μW/m2). The BioInitiative 2012 Report defined the scientific benchmark for possible health risks as 30‑60 μW/m2. Our results of outdoor RF radiation exposure at Stockholm Old Town are significantly above that level. The full report can be found here.

High radiofrequency radiation at the Stockholm Central Station in Sweden

We measured the radiofrequency (RF) radiation at the Stockholm Central Station in Sweden in November 2015. The full study can be read here. The exposimeter EME Spy 200 was used and it covers 20 different RF 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.

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, see Figure below. A man is standing with his smartphone just a couple of meters below a base station (see arrow). In that area maximum measured power density in the GSM +UMTS 900 downlink band from the base station was 95,544 µW/m2, which is the upper limit of measurement for EME Spy 200.

imgp5647a

Almost all of the total measured levels were above the precautionary target level of 3 to 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. Considering the rapid progress of this technology, including 5G that is to be launched in the near future, it is important to monitor current RF radiation exposure in the environment.

Portable Screen-Based Media Devices and Sleep

In a new report analysis was made of studies on use of e.g. mobile phones and tablets and sleep and tiredness. The report included analysis of 20 cross-sectional studies of children and adolescents aged 6-19 years, in total more than 125,000 subjects. Use of media devices during bedtime gave about doubled risk for inadequate sleep, poor sleep and tiredness daytime. Also if these devices were not actively used an increased risk, although lower, was found for these health problems.

In USA 72 % of children and 89 % of adolescents have access to at least one media device. Most of them use it during bedtime.

Various pathways were discussed for the negative sleep impact: “First, they may negatively influence sleep by directly displacing, delaying, or interrupting sleep time. Second, the content can be psychologically stimulating, and, third, the light emitted from devices affects circadian timing, physiological sleep, and alertness.”

It is remarkable that the authors do not discuss exposure to radiofrequency (RF) fields (electromagnetic radiation) as a contributing factor. Wireless devices such as mobile phones (smartphones) emit RF radiation also when they are not used; updating apps, internet, SMS etc. This passive exposure may have contributed to the sleep disturbances in persons that did not actively use them. The authors seem to have been unwilling to discuss RF radiation. In fact studies on electromagnetic radiation were excluded. Also wireless use of desktops and computers would have been of interest. The authors stated:

“The exclusion criteria were studies of stationary exposures, such as televisions or desktop or personal computers, or studies investigating electromagnetic radiation.”

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.

cancerfonden

Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) and human cancer

Almost 5 000 persons world-wide have endorsed the petition to WHO/IARC to evaluate all scientific evidence and classify RF/EMF as human carcinogen, Group I. The petition is still open on Internet for those who want to sign it; follow this link. The joint statement is as follows:

 

Joint Statement

We—the undersigned organizations, doctors, and scientists—wholeheartedly support the scientific findings of a connection between cancer and RF/EMF radiation. For the sanctity of human life, especially our children, we respectfully request that:

  • WHO/IARC immediately conducts the appropriate scientific review within IARC to move RF/EMF radiation from its current class 2B to class 1, known carcinogen based on review of the complete scientific database.
  • As is the policy of the WHO with Smoking/Cancer related issues, we respectfully request that the WHO and IARC not permit any conflicts of interests amongst the scientists, doctors, policy making/administrating officials, or anyone serving in any other capacity determining classifications of carcinogenicity and policy decisions regarding EMFs and Cancer.
  • Specifically we respectfully request that any scientist, doctor, policy making/administrating official, or anyone serving in any capacity in WHO and IARC not receive now or in the near future any monetary compensation from the wireless industry or any company that produces products that emit or receive RF radiation or benefit from such products or companies – in the form of research grants, consulting fees or any other form of compensation including payments to any relative of the scientist or colleague in close association.

 

We respectfully request that these conflicts be vehemently policed and monitored to maintain the integrity of the classifications, assure absolute transparency and ensure safety of the public.

According to Dr. Lennart Hardell, MD, PhD, and oncologist:

“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.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24192496

Moving radiofrequency radiation from Group 2B to 1 as a human carcinogen

The carcinogenic effect of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (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. The Working Group categorised RF-EMF from mobile phones, and from other devices that emit similar non-ionising electromagnetic fields, as a Group 2B, i.e. a ‘possible’, human carcinogen.

After that meeting supportive evidence has come from e.g. the French CERENAT study and also our recent publication on glioma. An increased risk for acoustic neuroma associated with use of wireless phones was published by our research group after the meeting giving pooled results of our study periods 1997-2003 and 2007-2009. Also other studies have reported similar findings.

We evaluated the Hill viewpoints on association and causation used in the 1960’s in the debate on lung cancer risk among smokers. Using these viewpoints our summary was that RF-EMF exposure should be a Group 1 carcinogen according to IARC criteria. There is now a petition to support that notion aiming at alerting IARC to classify such exposure to cause human cancer. Those who want to support the petition can follow this link.