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Children in an electromagnetic environment
It is an inescapable fact that the planet today is a complete cacophony of man-made electromagnetic fields and signals. It is as if a wild party is going on in what used to be a quiet open space. Maybe it seems that many of us can stand the noise and are resilient to the fields, and particularly to the structures within modern digital communications signals that lie within the range of frequencies that our bodies use for normal healthy well-being.
All living things on Earth evolved over many millions of years through a wildly changing environment, surviving many changes, such as an oxygen-rich environment, which once were competely toxic to most of life, but became essential for our form of life. Slow adaptation over such prolonged periods changed the nature of organisms; life itself survived but few life forms did. We need therefore to be very aware that the electromagnetic environment today is grossly out or proportion to that we evolved within, filtered by natural magnetic fields and our ionosphere.
If survival of the fittest is an acceptable price for modern conveniences, we should be aware that the ‘less fit’ includes our children, whose development in this changed environment may affect their whole-life chances. In this context, a home where everyone uses a mobile phone, uses DECT phones and wireless routers and accepts everything wireless is easier, better and without consequence, has become a blind spot of natural precaution. At one very obvious end of the spectrum is the hard sell of mobile phones to toddlers. Part of the sell is that no-one is safe without one. Not true of course, but it sounds persuasive. Perhaps, rather, no-one is safe with one. Certainly, clamping a microwave transmitter of highly structured signals onto your head is not a good idea, if you do it very often, or for very long. And a very bad idea for a young child. Some countries are becoming more precautionary at this level, advising against it (even the UK, though it is not government-endorsed action).
So what about wireless games? These too are an addition to the electromagnetic burden in the home, and despite the sell (again) that games improve the mind or the body, they too are an unwise addition for a growing child. Music, books and exercise with a ball will achieve the same healthy outcomes, but of course make rather less money. The social context is another aspect: children’s lives are more complex, more difficult, and according to recent research reports, probably less happy (though more entertained) than they used to be. We, the adult world, the parents, are responsible for being duped by eternal consumerism and pursuit of wealth and possessions, and it is we who are imposing an increasingly dangerous electromagnetic environment on this planet – and our children.
Do you think that the wealth of research showing that life interacts with the environment elctromagnetically, leaves us immune to the enormous changes we have made? Like man-made climate change, we are not too small and insignificant to alter the well-being of our planet and our species. Can you recommend these developments?:
A Rationale for a Biologically-based Public Exposure Standard for Electromagnetic Fields (ELF and RF)
An international working group of scientists, researchers and public health policy professionals (The BioInitiative Working Group) has released its report on electromagnetic fields (EMF) and health. They document serious scientific concerns about current limits regulating how much EMF is allowable from power lines, cell phones, and many other sources of EMF exposure in daily life.
The report concludes the existing standards for public safety are inadequate to protect public health.
Europe-wide survey of public perceptions about mobile phone and mast radiation
Two in three believe radiation from phones damaged their health according to a European survey reported in the Independent on Sunday, 8 July 2007.
‘Two-thirds of Britons believe radiation from mobile phones and their masts has affected their health, a startling official survey shows. And huge majorities are dissatisfied with government assurances about the potential threat.’
The EU Eurobarometer survey polled more than 27,000 people across the continent, 1,375 of them in Britain. Chair of the Health Protection Agency, Sir William Stewart appears not to have the support of the Agency’s Radiation Protection Division. Whilst their statements remain questionable and unconvincing (eg, about wi-fi, Sir William recently said on BBC Panorama, ‘I believe that there is a need for a review of the Wi-Fi and other areas ... I think it’s timely for it to be done now.’
Source: EU Eurobarometer
The survey reveals great dissatisfaction with the information they are given by officials and government, and some scientists, with nearly three-quarters in the UK saying they are ‘not very well’ or ‘not at all’ informed about the official protection framework against the potential health risks from the radiation.
To find out more about recent research on mobile phones or masts and health, see our research pages. Studies on masts are harder to do in a way that is unequivocal about the environmental factors but the trend on mobile phones and health reveal what amounts to a ten year watershed after which there is a significantly increased risk of tumours in the head. However, the sheer number of global reports from people living around masts, of ‘sensitivity’ or degrees of unwellness relating to nausea, headaches and sleep disruption suggest that there is something serious here too.
Interview with the Radiologist Professor Dr Eckel from the Bundesärztekammer (equivalent to the BMA in the UK)
The interview given below was published by the Schwabischen Post on 7 December 2006.
In Hüttlingen, a community near to Ellwangen, the residents are, just as in other places, fighting against a planned mobile telecommunications transmitter.
Dr-Ing. Frank Ermisch Diplom-Physiker, Ellwangen
The cell nucleus is mutating
Professor Dr Heyo Eckel is a radiation expert. He is a radiologist, lecturer at Göttingen University, vice chairman of the Health and Environment Committee of the German Medical Association [Ausschusses Gesundheit und Umwelt der Bundesärztekammer], Chairman of the Niedersachsen province charity Children of Chernobyl. And because he also still has family connections in Hüttlingen, we spoke with him about electromagnetic radiation.
by Markus Lehmann Hüttlingen/Göttingen
For radiologists there are two areas: the scientific-formal-legal and the emotional.
His scientific conclusion: electromagnetic, pulsed waves from transmitter masts and mobile phones affect and deform the cell nucleus. The effects are comparable with those of X-rays. As long as the harmlessness of mobile telecommunications is not proven, everything must be done to protect the population against potential health damage.
Are electromagnetic waves dangerous for humans?
These waves deform and damage the cell nucleus. That is proven and has resulted in experiments ‘in vitro’ (in laboratory studies). The cell nucleus can also mutate as a result of natural occurrences. However, one has no control over that. But changes due to the influence from electromagnetic waves are definitely documented.
And this technology is deployed across the country?
According to the present state of scientific knowledge there is no alarming health risk. Out of the many thousand of reports, there are only 400 to 500, which comply with purely scientific protocol and thus must be taken seriously. But one must consider: the mobile telecommunications technology is still relatively new, but yet it is now deployed across the whole country. Consequential damage is hard to ascertain, not yet and maybe only after years. Like in bygone days with X-Ray radiation.
You are also involved in the Tschernobyl problem ...
Yes. And the injuries that result from radioactive radiation are identical with the effects of electromagnetic radiation. The damages are so similar that they are hard to differentiate.
So you are saying, that there is a potential or suspected danger. What is your suggestion?
One must act politically. The politicians refer constantly to safe limits. There must be an agreement with the industry on a minimum distance from base stations, as in Switzerland. Above all there must be further research on how these electromagnetic waves effect humans. This radiation does not taste, it does not smell. And one does not hear it. It is not discernable through our senses. And, that’s why people are afraid of it.
What do you advise citizens who have fears about a transmitter in their vicinity?
Legally, one cannot do much. One can advise, that people unite together. In order to exert pressure – moral pressure – on the local politicians, the provincial and federal government politicians. Because they have a duty of care to avert presumed or perceived damage to citizens.
Mobiles: Could these be the cigarettes of the 21st century? . . . ‘Absolutely’
What is the issue? There is at the very least a hint that using a mobile phone frequently over ten years causes head tumours. The latency for these is between 10 and 20 years. We had better find out, because most people use mobiles, started using them frequently at around the same time (within about 5 to 10 years), and so if there is a problem it could be a very big one and emerge suddenly.
In January 2007 two new studies were set out for the 3rd round of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) Programme:
In context, yet another study published Jan 2007 points to increased intracranial tumours after 10 years use, on the side mobiles are used. And this study once again defined ‘regular use’ as once a week for six months:
Every announcement of results from EMF studies closes with the phrase ‘but more research is needed’. Here is more research. No-one would dare to be conclusive. But similarly it is difficult to imagine what amount of research would be enough to stimulate an adequate response.
This has two simultaneous effects. First, it buys time for an industry that already knows there is a problem, by perpetuating uncertainty (as with tobacco, asbestos, dioxins, GM, CO2 and climate change). Second, it delays action for those most at risk, or already in trouble. Five years for an industry to mitigate damage to business is five years during which children are using mobile phones, and people are increasingly dependent on them, without any strong advice on protecting themselves from what is still described as a very minimal risk.
Professor Lawrie Challis, interviewed in The Times is surprisingly cautious, and advises:
In the light of analyses such a the Danish Interphone study, and the King’s College Psychosomatic Medicine work for MTHR, it is increasingly difficult to dare to come out with anything to the contrary; explaining the results has considerable impact on the global economy. Who wants to act first? It is the same argument as that of economic damage in responding to climate change. We need a ‘Stern Report’ on the global economic impact of health and mobile phones in 10 to 20 years time.
A definitive piece of research unequivocally shows that EM fields at surprisingly low levels can cause neurological and immunological disorders, even cancer. Further, the study is itself a true replication, verifying an earlier study. It is decided, for once, that ‘further research’ is not required for action to be taken, even if the biological mechanism is not fully understood.
This is announced on national media. What happens next?
You decide. A lot is at stake. Is it just a matter of being careful with a mobile phone? Or is it comparable to facing climate change by swapping our lightbulbs?
More on the MTHR programme
Professor Lawrie Challis chairs the MTHR (Mobile Telecommunciation and Health Research) programme in the UK. It is co-funded by government and the telecomms industry. Set up in 2003 in the light of the IEGMP findings, funding was quickly swallowed up, including programmes on communicating risk so that people do not get concerned. Here is not the place to criticise that programme, but some critical provocation studies (subjects in double blind trials of various states of EM exposure), such as that by King’s College (mobile phones) and Essex University (mast signals) have been commented upon heavily with regards to methodology and assumptions. The most significant feature of these studies has to be the quality and meaning of a ‘sham’ signal situation where certain thresholds of sensitivity are assumed.
Unfortunately, the MTHR programme has been unable to maintain its own website, and whilst some research has been completed and published, much remains inaccesible to many, in academic journals.
News coverage on the new MTHR mobile phone study
Dead birds ‘rain down’
It sounds like pages from the pages of Exodus, but thousands of dead birds rained down in Esperance, Australia.
And on two streets in Austin Texas. Both up to 8 January 2007.
Coincidences happen, but what could have been the cause?
The Australian event (latitude 34 degrees south) took place over several weeks in Esperance, a coastal town. The end came when no birds were left. The birds showed no common injury, detectable toxins, or cause of death. 24 degrees longitude away, the Texan event (latitude 30 degrees north) took place in Austin, and appears to have been more localised and sudden. Again, autopsies of dead birds revealed no cause.
Speculation has abounded and been related on blogs and news forums, focusing on the bizarre and the unlikely. Let’s just consider the possibilities more methodically, based on the fact that these are birds dying in flight, across several species, as highly localised events not trends:
This seems to be a different class of event from attested showers of frogs or fish that would appear to result from tornadoes or weather incidents. There have not been weather reports to support the first two points, and the birds were local and were not bedraggled.
On the third point, if an airborne toxin was involved (poison gas cloud), how was it confined by weather conditions in sufficient concentration for sustained slaughter in a small area? If death is slower with dispersed toxin, then there should be a very wide spread of fewer deaths considerably further afield. Also, presumably the toxin would be detectable, but has failed to show up.
The question that should be asked for the fourth possibility, is why multiple species of birds, why a confined location, and why not also larger insects too, or terrestrial animals that may feed on the carrion (the Esperance event was over several days). Have foxes or cats died eating a dead bird? If a food toxin is supposed, do all these species share the same diet? No toxin has been identified after autopsies in either location. Finally, if true, a large number of birds would also begin to be too unwell to fly, and deaths on the ground near roosts would be apparent.
Is disease a clue? Bird flu has been ruled out, but could several species become simultaneously infected, display a very close response to it, be able to fly and then suddenly die together on the wing? These events are also dissimilar to mass deaths of waterfowl, where periods of death can be related to infection or water contamination.
The sixth point has no real significance in terms of collision, or the birds would be severely injured, and aircraft damaged.
Is there any other possibility? Perhaps: there could be short-lived electromagnetic concentrations at certain locations and altitudes, resulting (for example) from military experiments, where high energies (eg the HAARP series of transmitters) or experimental vectored intersections, interfere with avian bioelectromagnetics such as nervous or cardiac regulatory systems. Let’s not stray into conspiracy theories (plenty of opther sites do that!). However, we do know that powerful electromagnetic disturbances are caused by military equipment, and there is plenty of evidence that long-range effects from EM beams and energies are not only of strategic interest, but in various stages of development around the world.
When two streets are involved, and ground-level effects are not exhibited (affecting anaimals, ground birds and people), this is not an environmental toxin indicator, but a temporal- and spatial-specific impact on life systems at altitude.
Perhaps this indicates either a ‘useful experiment’ or an accident.
How the events were variously reported in the news:
What else do we know about birds and electromagnetic fields?
(We will leave you to find out about HAARP and scalar waves and weapons.)
Investigations on birds and man-made EM fields centre mainly around bird navigation, but anecdotal evidence is strong that birds, while they may perch on power lines and mobile phone masts, dislike these environments for roosting and rearing.
Homing pigeons have in recent years become lost en masse, birds have fled and gardens become silent as mobile phone masts and TETRA have been installed (especially songbirds), gulls have left longstanding nest sites, and the decline of sparrows in cities has been associated with the spread of mobile communications.
Climate change has coincided to some degree with losses of sparrows and songbirds, but people sensitive to EM fields, who themselves physically feel mobile phone masts or power lines, have observed adverse bird behaviour at times of change (new installations etc.).
It may appear inconclusive: is natural geomagnetic navigation by birds being interfered with (either the natural fields, or the birds’ magnetic sensors)? Are lights on masts at night disorienting? Are air ions around masts disturbed, making birds uncomfortable?
Whatever the case, birds are sensitive to EM fields, and we have changed the natural EM environment beyond comparison with ‘weak’ transmissions, as well as strong (eg HAARP). Here the parallel of powerful extreme low frequency (ELF) submarine sonar and cetaceans might be made:
More on birds and electromagnetic fields
Across the world: masts, money and medics
In Beer Sheva and in Sutton Coldfield the sentiments and fears are the same. The research they have read and cite is the same, as is the insistence that their living environment must not be determined by coporate interest and profit. The difference appears to lie in doctors’ acceptance in Beer Sheva that mobile phone antenna above your living space are an explanation of headaches.
Here is a useful case study of why it is wrong to simply ascribe the psychosomatic/group hysteria theory to health problems around masts, and a Swiss survey among general practitioners:
So the question remains: is this empty fears and scaremongering, resulting in psychosomatic response or group hysteria? Is it rational to suppose that there are connections between short-term onset of headaches and long-term incidence of cancer? Yes; visit our health research pages to find out more.
Here is an example of a completely misguided approach.
Apparently: ‘The test involved generating signals identical to those output by WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access) base stations. WCDMA is the most common 3G cell phone technology and is already in use in Japan and many other countries. The signals were up to 10 times more powerful than the maximum limit allowed in Japan and even so they had no harmful effects on cell samples put in their way.’ Three profound issues stand in the way of this study meaning anything at all:
This four-year study may not have been deliberately engineered to ‘prove’ transmitters are harmless to living things, but it was certainly an over-simplification of the known issues.
Danish mobile phone study motivation exposed
Launched simultaneously on the world’s media on 6 December 2006, with headlines such as ‘After 21 years, scientists say mobiles don’t cause cancer: common fear of link is debunked’, a study from the Danish Institute of Cancer Epidemiology found ‘no evidence’ of a link between cancers and mobile phones. The population sample of 420,000 show apparently that using a mobile phone slightly reduces the chances of head cancers – the researchers say this might be because if you could afford an early mobile you probably smoked and drank less (?!). The study looked at records of users between 1982 and 1995, and their health up to 2002, and does not take into account any sharp rise in use of mobile phones in the past 5 to 8 years. However, it compared these users with users of phones since 1995. It was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Here is some of the news reporting:
But perhaps all is not as well as it seems?
Information from Dr George Carlo
I have some very unique personal insight that I would like to share on this new Danish study. I will have a formal analysis and Safe Wireless Alert out on this by the end of the week. But, here is important background.
Indeed, John Boice and his colleagues have been on the cell phone industry payroll, and for big money, since the late 1990s. The money laundering vehicle is the International Epidemiology Institute – the name sounds like a non-profit by design, but make no mistake, this is a big for-profit enterprise. When I ran the Wireless Technology Research (WTR) Group, the International Epidemiology Institute, with Boice and a fellow named Joe McLaughlin, applied for funding to do this exact epidemiology study that was released this week. After much discussion within the WTR, they were refused funding because I felt they were blatantly biased and had overtly given us the notion that they would always create findings that were favorable to the industry. They thought that is what we wanted in the WTR – they thought they were playing to the audience. But, they were wrong. When we refused to give them funding to do work, they went directly to the industry with the same pitch, and were hired. They were able to make good on their pitch of being able to put ‘put all of this under the radar’ by further laundering the industry support money through the Danish Cancer Registry. This is the pitch that was given to me personally and directly. I still have their proposal.
The study released this week is the second such study with the same ‘spin on the findings’ from this group of investigators. In 2001, they also had ‘one of the largest studies to date’, and Boice went on a bit of a television tour – paid directly by the industry – to blunt the effects of my Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age book tour. I faced off with him a couple of times on T.V. most notabley on John Gibson’s news show on MSNBC. It is interesting that MSNBC is also asleep at the switch on this one.
Interestingly, the other person quoted in the news reports on this study – and I am certain his name was given in the press package released by the industry for the study as that is common practice to make sure there is ‘independent corroboration’ – is Joshua Muscat. Muscat worked for me under the WTR. Muscat blatantly changed his data after his studies were completed under pressure from the industry. Specifically, Muscat’s work – peer reviewed and completed according to a specific protocol under the WTR – identified a near tripling in the risk neuroepithelial tumors and a correlation between the side of the head where the phones were used and the side of the head where the tumor was located that were both statistically significant. I speak of these findings in my Cell Phones book because they were the findings in the final peer-reviewed report of the data. The findings of a statistically signifi cant increase in neuroepithelial tumors and significant tumor laterality concordance were the official findings of the WTR. However, the industry hired an epidemiologist named Linda Erdreich to participate in the peer review. Under her influence, Muscat’s data ‘mysteriously’ changed – not once, but twice. First, in the report Muscat gave at the Second State of the Science Colloquium – and published in the book that contains all of the papers presented at the Long Beach Colloquium in June 1999 – the statistically significant correlation between side of the head where tumors were and side of the head where phones were used disappeared. Then, yet again, in the paper that he submitted to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the data were further altered so that the statistically significant increase in tumor risk disappeared as well. Both of these alterations in the data were flagrant breaches of the peer-reviewed scientific protocols that were intended to guide that research. In a letter to the editor of JAMA before the study was published, I pointed these inconcistencies out and indicated that I was the funder of the study. The journal ignored the letter and went forward with the publication. Clearly, the industry carefully orchestrated the Muscat fraud so that the data that were ‘published’ in JAMA carried no statistical significance. The press release for that study carried the ‘no statistical findings’ heading. Of course, all of these data manipulations are evident in published papers, but no one has chosen to raise the issue in the media.
Interestingly, when the Muscat JAMA study was released in January 2001, there was another ‘high credibility’ companion paper released in the industry package along with it to support the ‘no cancer from cell phones’ spin. That study, done by Inskip et al., was realeased two weeks early at the request of the industry, so that there would appear to be two leading journals debunking the cell phone-cancer hypothesis at the same time. They were all bundled into one package that was sprung on me one night when I was being interviewed by Dan Rather of CBS News. In that paper, Inskip himself pointed out that the study did not any tumors that were within the range of exposure to the cell phone near field plume. However, even with the admitted shortcoming that the data were only marginally relevant to actual cell phone induced radiation exposures, it was lauded as another cell phone safety harbinger in the press package. And, who was that Jo urnal who agreed to release the study early under pressure from the cell phone industry? You guessed it, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. And, who had just left the payroll of the National Cancer Institute who runs the journal at the time? You guessed it -- John Boice.
Finally, also now circulating in the press package as part of this latest study are comments from Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society. He is using this as an entre to get in the news to raise some money for ACS. His take – the studies show no risk. Of course, what people don’t know is that in 2002, scientists from the American Cancer Society testified in brain cancer litigation in Federal Court in Baltimore, Maryland on behalf of the cell phone industry. They would want you to believe that no one was paid for that testimony. However, shortly after that, a report was released by the American Cancer Society that included cells phones as one of the greatest cancer myths. So blatant was this connection between the American Cancer Society and the cell phone industry, that last year, when Sanjay Gupta of CNN ran a story about the belief of Johnnie Cochran’s surgeon that his fatal brain tumor was due to his cell phone use, the indust ry did not even reply in the story. Instead, they simply referred to and quoted the American Cancer Society’s report on cell phones being one of the cancer myths. Thus, they used the American Cancer Society paper as a public relations shield.
Everything I say here is fully documented by publicly available information. But, it is so diffuse that it is difficult for folks to connect the dots. Inexplicably, there remains a peculiar absence of investigative journalists who are working on uncovering the full breadth and depth of the industry’s orchestrated manipulation program. Where are Woodward and Bernstein when you need them?
Am I callling out some very prestigious groups and openly showing their conspicuous unethical behavior, questionable integrity and disregard for public health? You bet I am. The Danish Cancer Registry, John Boice, Joshua Muscat, Michael Thun, Linda Erdreich, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society have ties to the telecommuncations industry that compromise their ability to provide meaningful information on this important public health issue. As sad as it is, this is a ‘follow the money’ exercise that is yet another example of public health being compromised by industry subterfuge.
Dr George L Carlo
Are there alternatives to microwave communications?
A requirement to avoid the harm caused by digital microwave radiation and ‘electrosmog’, is to either reduce EM field level or migrate to EM frequencies that are not harmful.
Two concepts present themselves:
The Visible Light Communications Consortium has some ideas:
See also the work of Dr Stefan Spaarman:
Do mobile phones cost the Earth?
Nearly a billion mobile phones are sold each year. Obsolesence is built in, with many service options in the UK offering an upgrade every year. Reliability is still very patchy too. It is ironic that even as the operators are pushing the latest services such as TV on your phone, or gambling, or Internet access or a better camera, the majority of users just want to talk or send a text.
What happens to the old phones? Many are still in drawers or cupboards, but millions escape any notion of recycling (ie re-use in other parts of the world: faulty ones can’t realistically be repaired) and enter landfill or incineration. And they are not made from 100 per cent friendly materials!
Ever considered the carbon footprint of a little mobile phone – times several billion? Every new one comes with a new charger too, and many of those chargers are left on all the time.
Mobiles and all the other little digital gadgets are causing a big problem. Manufacturers are increasingly aware of course, but for many parts of our modern gadgets, toxic waste is inevitable, and the sheer volume of manufacture inescapable. Even recycling takes energy.
There is of discussion avaiable about phone chargers, and it’s the billions, not the one, that matter. But ‘standby Britain’ is in only a small part due to phone chargers (there are lots of other similar chargers for other appliances like rechargeable mini-vacs, that are probably always on, cameras etc.
And there are other costs, more human, to our passion for electronic gadgets:
Mobile technology convergence: just where is it taking us?
At the same time as school WiFi was being discussed in the news recently (see item below), the use of near-field communication was announced, to enable mobile phones to become ‘smart wallets’, speeding commercial transactions, but also facilitating marketing and tracking. People keep valuable things in their wallets that are not just credit cards or money: such as identification, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that smart wallets may be a future replacement for ID cards.
With the UK having the most surveillance cameras per head in the world, with all our roadside cameras equipped for number plate recognition, with sensitive microphones proposed to accompany cameras in cities, and loudspeakers to remind people to pick up litter as they are watched dropping it; with all our personal details and records, movements, phone calls, emails, Internet movements, available and increasingly integrated, and with ID cards around the corner – where is our privacy going? Or is privacy a luxury to be dispensed with in the interests of social order, crime and terrrorism prevention?
Before you shout ‘Luddite!’ and ‘paranoia!’ perhaps we should pause and look ahead and ask what outcomes are most likely from current social trends. After all, we’re on a roll, aren’t we? Technology is the solution to all our future problems ... Maybe.
Convergence is the matter of bringing technologies together: and why not have a single device for all our information access and communication needs, especially as miniaturisation continues, rather than many?
WiFi in the news
In August 2007 the German government [Bundesregierung] recommended that the use of wireless (WiFi) networks (WLAN) in the workplace or at home should be avoided, if possible.
Here is the translation of the German document:
Here is the BBC Panorama 21 May 2007 (30 mins)
‘That’s interesting about the Wi-Fi – I got a wireless setup at home about four months ago and have had to stop using it because after about 20 minutes it gives me headaches, and after that I get pins and needles in my feet and hands and I start to feel really light headed and sick. I’ve gone back to a wired connection. I could feel when it was on or off, even when not in the same room.
‘The headache feels like there’s a sort of electrical thing going on between my ears, and it’s very painful between the eyes, like there’s pressure building there. It’s actually very similar to a problem a friend of mine had a few years ago with a Nokia phone, she had the same headaches and also a metallic taste in her mouth, when she changed phones it was OK again.
‘It’s a very strange thing because it’s not all Wi-Fi that does this to me, I can sit in a [public] hot spot and feel fine, but my home setup is really unpleasant, maybe because it’s at such close range. I do also get the same symptoms if I visit [local] Sainsbury’s so maybe there’s some kind of Wi-Fi thing going on up there too – I went there a few months ago for the first time in a about a year and had to leave sharpish.
‘When I can feel it, it’s like the air is heavy and thick, and I find it hard to think clearly, it’s quite hard to put into words. I heard on the news today that some expert is recommending that children don’t hold Wi-Fi devices on their lap, there’s definitely something very wrong with Wi-Fi.’
resident, West Sussex, UK
In 2007 wireless networks have been in the news a lot, as the use in schools has been revealed to be so widespread. For convenience over wiring buildings up, this doesn’t sound unreasonable. But when field strengths in school computer suites with say 20 wireless laptops is compared with those from mobile phone use, the concerns start to seem much more valid [see figures at Powerwatch].
The primary issue is whether the combination of what people report and what the science suggest, should bring about a change in policy, especially if regular prolonged exposure by teachers and children is damaging to either health or academic performance. For the difference in cost between wired network points and wireless networks, how valid is this official statement by the UK’s Health Protection Agency (in red below)?
There is no evidence to date that exposure to the RF signals from WiFi and WLANs adversely affect the health of the general population.
There can be no laboratory evidence that human health is affected by wireless networks because the necessary experiments have not been done, nor have studies been made of chronic exposure of individuals to the radiation from mobile phones. However, several international studies suggest that they pose a significant threat to health.
Also, a number of individuals have presented credible accounts of how they have been personally affected by the introduction of wireless networks and these cannot be ignored.
Any assertion that wireless networks (WLAN) must be safe because not everyone shows obvious physical symptoms, ignores the well-being of those that do. Also, these symptoms could be an early indicator of underlying damage that may eventually affect the remainder of the population.
The signals from WiFi are very low power, typically 0.1 watt (100 milliwatts) in both the computer and the mast (or router) and resulting exposures should be well within internationally accepted guidelines.
Also, the international guidelines are not appropriate. Only acute short-term exposures to unmodulated microwaves are covered. This clearly does not apply to chronic exposure to low-level digital communications as used in wireless networks.
It is also an undeclared assumption in this statement that the only harmful effects of non-ionising radiation are due to heating. Frequency, waveform and quantum effects are completely ignored, even though these are established features of normal bio-electromagnetic responses in living organisms such as humans.
The frequencies used are broadly the same as those from ‘traditional’ RF applications.
‘Traditional’ has no meaning: tradition is a subjective comparison without content, and the assumption is that carrier frequencies are the only relevant parameter. WiFi is indeed part of the IEE 802.11 standard, and the carrier frequencies are similar to those used by mobile phones. The comparison is clearly intended to suggest that everything else has a clean bill of health, and this is not the case.
The frequencies and signals used by WiFi are similar to those used by mobile phones, and recent studies have shown these to be genotoxic, and are associated with an increased risk of cancer and a loss of fertility [see also our EM fields health lists.].
Based on current knowledge, RF exposures from WiFi are likely to be lower than those from mobile phones.
Again this statement is imprecise at best. Current knowledge is not so poor that we do not know what a classroom exposure regime is like. Nor is it a valid comparison to set wireless networks against mobile phones. The comparison is intended to suggest that even if there is a doubt about excessive mobile phone use, there can therefore be no doubt about wireless networks. If there is a doubt about phones (and there is substantial doubt) the underlying assumption is that they can only be harmful on the scale of energy absorption. This is an unwarranted assumption given findings from research into modulation frequency and waveform effects on living organisms.
On the basis of current scientific information WiFi equipment satisfies international guidelines. There is no consistent evidence of health effects from RF exposures below guideline levels and therefore no reason why schools and others should not use WiFi equipment.
It does not take much scientific information to see that the international guidelines for exposure greatly exceed any likely exposure in a classroom. But as shown above, the issue of the relevance of those guidelines must be in considerable doubt.
The ‘consistency of evidence’ is a function of the underlying assumption of experimental conditions (ie, which parameters matter), and of what constitutes a ‘health effect’, not just a physiological response (HPA always cites sight as a harmless EMF bio-response). ‘RF exposures below guidelines’ is an uninformative broad generalisation of what factors have been examined. Some studies do indeed show a highly consistent effect on specific cell physiology, for example, in cases where that effect is highly significant for health effects.
This statement therefore appears to acknowledge that indeed evidence does exist of adverse health effects, somewhat in contradiction of the first point in the HPA statement.
It is a complete non sequitur that there is ‘therefore no reason’ for schools to avoid wireless networks.
The evidence is there, the consistency in research is there, the inadequacy of exposure guidelines is clear. And in the face of all this, it is deemed wise to chronically expose children and teachers while discussions continue, and while a perfectly acceptable alternative (wired network points) exists.
If a new drug were to be discovered that caused similar symptoms in even a minority of patients, it would probably be taken off the market and certainly not used for regular mass medication. On this basis, the case for the safe universal use of WiFi in schools has not yet been made and it would be wise to withdraw it pending further independent laboratory trials.
Failure to do this might call into question the mandate of the Health Protection Agency as a truly ‘independent body that protects the health and well-being of the population’.
(h.e.s.e.-UK is represented at the HPA EMF Discussion Group: minutes here.)
Addendum: Since the Panorama programme elicited such a response, including a substantial number of people removing domestic wireless networking, the following was added by the HPA to their statement:
‘However with any new technology it is a sensible precautionary approach, as happened with mobile phones, to keep the situation under ongoing review so that parents and others can have as much reassurance as possible. That is why our Chairman, Sir William Stewart, has stated it would be timely to carry out further studies as this new technology is rolled out. The Health Protection Agency is discussing this with relevant parties.’ [h.e.s.e.-UK remains unclear as to what kind of precautionary approach at all has been adopted with regard to mobile phones.]
During November 2006 controversy emerged in the UK news, especially about WiFi in schools. Young people are presumably more vulnerable, and clusters of computers all connecting with WiFi points certainly raise EMF levels beyond what could be called minimal. MPs and scientists called for re-examination and avoidance of WiFi in schools, and industry and engineers dismissed the idea of any risk.
Here is some of the press coverage on WiFi and schools:
Hot on the heels of this was the issue of mobile phone picocells for the home. Why not connect your GSM phone to your broadband connection? Why have a DECT phone, or a landline, when the mobile will connect you, pretty much for free, even for international calls? Hutchison 3 has a deal with Skype for just this. The competition for domestic airwaves is in tune with a need to connect every person to central communications at very low cost, whilst introducing infrastructures that don’t need contentious macrocell base stations.
Inevitably many discussions and blogs have followed, mostly discrediting any idea that any harm might come from such low energy level devices. For people able to sense, or who suffer from, small microwave transmitters, the case is unequivocal. For those majority who have no physical awareness, the issue seems equally unequivocal: people aren’t falling down all over, so how can this possibly be a problem? However, blogs and lots of people talking does not mean balanced or informative discourse, or discovery of the facts.
In the UK ‘The Cloud’ has been descending on our cities providing Internet access on the move (how did we manage without it?). This is a significant addition to the environmental microwave burden and many people are finding their city centres no-go areas except for the briefest visits, because they are made unwell to varying degrees. But it is not just the UK. Here is an account of ‘Wireless Oakland’, Michigan.
MTHR mobile phones provocation study
King’s College department of psychosomatic medicine undertook a study for the Mobile Telecommunication and Health Research programme (MTHR) in 2005. Their results are widely cited as ‘proof’ that electrosensitive people are deluded as to the cause of their condition, and that it can be cured by psychiatric approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
Here are links relating to the study:
Rubin’s team concluded that since the sensitive people reacted to everything equally but differently from the control group, their equivalent response to ‘sham’ shows it’s all psychological in origin.
What they assumed was that the standard MTHR mobile phone dummy fields were too low in ‘sham’ condition. The mobile unit in fact produces equal signals in all modes, it just runs to a ‘load’ rather than the external antenna.
There is a fundamental point here. The MTHR study clearly shows that the electro-sensitive subjects experienced syptoms massively more than the control subjects (people who did not rate themselves as sensitive to EM fields). The interpretation is that all the subjects experiencing headaches were nocebo-induced sensitives. Why? Because of the lack of differentiation between the sensitive subjects’ reactions to the MTHR ‘phone’ modes of GSM and sham. This is interpreted as proving that the people, rather than the experimental conditions, determined the outcome, based solely on the assumption that the actual radiated signal in sham mode was ‘too low’ to affect anyone. There is no dosimetric basis for this: if there was, this experiment would not have been necessary!
Lack of cross-disciplinary understanding
Three people out on a walk stumble over a sharp stone. One of them (a builder) picks it up, and says: ‘This is out of a wall, I recognise the shaping. I come across this when doing repairs.’
The second (an archaeologist) takes it excitedly and says: ‘No, this is a prehistoric hand-axe. I recognise where it fits the palm and the sharp edge has been created for scraping.’
The third (a geologist) then takes the stone and says casually: ‘I don’t know what you’re all talking about, this is just a piece of flint from the chalk strata around here; there’s lots of it, and weather damage and erosion sometimes makes it look like it’s been worked or used.’
Then the farmer, who has been listening from a distance, approaches and laughs: ‘That’s a piece of local flint alright, made into a hand axe and reused in that wall over there at some time. The way the local geology has been utilised for thousands of years is really interesting, but we have to make walls from what’s there!’
We all interpret the world with what we know best, not with what we do not know.
There is a real and fundamental problem in the business of EM radiation and health, because almost certainly there is physics at work in biology here, and biophysicists and bioelectromagneticists are few and far between in the UK. If your specialism is engineering you will not understand quantum effects well. If you are a psychologist you may well assume your explanation of neurology is superior to one where endogenous electromagnetics have a part to play and may be susceptible to external influences.
Too few researchers in this area have much appreciation of the role of electromagnetics in physiology, and by writing it out, ignore what is outside their field of knowledge. This is equally true in studies of CFS and ME, multiple chemical sensitivity and so on. A sweeping description of ‘idiopathic environmental intolerance’ with connotations of a solely mentally-induced condition, will not do as objective science.
Consultation, Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) opinion on ‘Possible effects of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) on Human Health’
In October, the EU asked for reports from people suffering from electrosensitivity (ES).
Mobile phone risk
The following are some interesting analyses by Lloyd Morgan on the Hardell studies of phones and the comparison between their research and the Interphone studies. Particularly telling are the scatter graphs in the second entry, showing a very graphical representation of the results compared against each other.
(Source: Lloyd Morgan, at Powerwatch)