WHO Monograph on Radiofrequency Radiation and ICNIRP

There is growing international concern on the biased representation of persons in the preparation of the WHO Monograph on Radiofrequency Radiation. As discussed earlier the group is dominated by members of ICNIRP. In 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).

A recent letter to WHO written by members of the BioInitiative Working Group describes the unbalanced ‘no-risk’ group at WHO preparing the document. The full text may be read here.

More results from Interphone confirm glioma risk associated with use of mobile phones

The Interphone study on use of mobile phones and brain tumour risk included 13 countries during the study period 2000 – 2004. The major results were published after a delay of 6 years in 2010. In the last decile of cumulative exposure > 1,640 h a statistically significant increased risk for glioma was found, OR = 1.40, 95 % CI =1.03-1.89. In the other categories of cumulative use a decreased risk was found. Bias and confounding were discussed as potential reasons for that. Analysing only subjects with regular use of a mobile phone yielded OR = 1.82, 95 % CI = 1.15-2.89 in the group with highest cumulative use.

There was an age difference between cases and controls in the Interphone study and furthermore cases and the matched controls were interviewed at different time periods, controls usually later than cases. This is problematic for mobile phone use with rapid penetration of the use in the population. In a recently published alternative analysis, cases and controls nearest in age and time for interview were included. The association between mobile phone use and glioma was strengthened thereby. Thus, among regular users in the 10th decile (> 1,640 h) cumulative use gave OR = 2.82, 95 % CI = 1.09-7.32. The authors concluded that there was ‘stronger positive association among long-term users and those in the highest categories of cumulative call time and number of calls.’.

Since the IARC evaluation in 2011 on exposure to radiofrequency radiation form mobile phones, and other devices that emit such radiation, and brain tumour risk additional research has strengthened the association. It is by now time to re-evaluate the scientific evidence on the cancer risk from radiofrequency radiation.

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

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

Increasing rate of brain tumours in Sweden

Radiofrequency fields emitted from mobile and cordless phones were in May 2011 evaluated to be ’possibly’ carcinogenic to humans, Group 2B, by IARC. This has had little effect on precaution. Instead incidence data on brain tumour from the Swedish Cancer Register have been used to dismiss the increased risk. In this study we show that these data are not reliable. Instead there is an increasing rate of brain tumours in Sweden. Using the Swedish National Inpatient we show in this study that the rate of brain tumours in Sweden increased since 2007. This increase was seen from 2008 in the Causes of Death Register. The increasing rates may be caused by use of mobile and cordless phones, see http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/12/4/3793.

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