The long anticipated ten–year US federal study on the relationship between cellphone use and cancer has concluded its research. The $25 million National Toxicology study has been described as a game changer among researchers and is expected to bridge the scientific divide on this decade long issue.
Researchers exposed male rats to the frequencies emitted from cellphones over a two year period. Two types of tumours were found in the animals in both the brain and the heart. Tumours were not found in rats not exposed to the frequencies.
A number of experts have dubbed this issue as ‘bigger than the tobacco scandal’since the 90’s but industry research and the World Health Organisation has stuck to its guns that mobile phone use is safe. There is no known biological mechanism to explain how non-ionizing radiation might lead to cancer and this has formed the foundation of the argument. Scientist never did find the mechanism for tobacco and cancer either.
Last year France passed a law banning wifi in nursery schools and other schools are expected to keep their routers off when not in use. They also to use cable connections to the internet as a first preference. Citizens also have access to cell tower radiation measurements and government has produced Cell Antennae maps for the country. Wifi hotspots must be clearly labelled so people can practice precaution. Also, children’s mobile devices must be bought with equipment to reduce exposure to radiation. The public is also to be made aware of the possible health risks associated with exposure according to the existing scientific research. Most experts arguing that the devices are safe have linked political favour to the various legislations being implemented now to practice caution.
Despite the International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying radio frequencies [RF] as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 2011 and issuing a precautionary warning; the WHO, industry and some governments have assured the world that research was inconclusive and no mechanism has been established to associate exposure to cancer. The classification in itself was marred with controversy when investigative journalist Mona Nilsson exposed a professor on IARCS working committee for his direct links to a Brussels based lobbying firm for telecoms. Professor Anders Albhorm was axed from the voting committee on the eve of the important vote.
“Anders Ahlbom’s link to the Telecom Industry through his brother and their common company is a straight-forward explanation of his systematic denial of health risks,” said Nilsson.
“Many insiders consider that the classification would never have been with Albhom chairing the classification group.
“It has taught us how important one person’s subjective opinion can be for how we consider risks and I think it’s scary that one person can have such a huge influence as Albhom apparently would have had,” she said.
Albohm was also a founding member of ICNIRP.
Just recently the World Health Organisation announced its plans to develop its own standards on Non-ionising radiation (NIR) exposure around the world. The International Commission for Non- Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has at the same time, announced its plans to review its current standards for exposure since it hasn’t done so since 1998. Speaking in Cape Town, South Africa, ICNIRP’s outgoing chairman Martin Röösli said some countries are heading the call to implement precaution from exposure due to political reasons. ICNIRP has been criticised publicly for its lack of transparency and closed committee selecting nature. Professor Dariusz Leszczynski just recently published a piece on his scientific blog saying, “it is a private club where members elect new members without need to justify selection. Leszczynski also said the close similarity of the opinions of all members of the Main Commission and all of the other scientists selected as advisors to the Main Commission makes the decision making process bias.
In a report released alongside the NTP study, the researchers said: “Given the widespread global usage of mobile communications among users of all ages, even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to [radio-frequency radiation] could have broad implications for public health.”
During the recenty radiation convention and workshop in South Africa, The South African Non- ionising Radiation Research Organisation handed a letter to ICNIRP which is currently electing its new commission. Another letter was handed to the World Health Organisation’s head of the EMF project, Emilie van Deventer. Van Deventer denied KayaNews an interview, but was later forced to take a question during an open panel discussion. In a response to a question form KayaNews, van Deventer said research was not strong enough and so that reflects in IARC’s classification. She also said that she was aware of the UN petition last year, and assured panel members that during the current draft WHO standards on non ionizing radiation, research since 1992 will be reviewed and checked for quality so that all meets certain standards.
Van Deventer was referring to an appeal sent to the UN and the WHO in April last year calling for the WHO to recognise IARC’s precautionary warning. This was the first time anyone from the WHO acknowledged receiving the petition.
Dr Devra Davis, a long standing critic of the mobile industry and governments alike says the results from the NTP study are going to change everything.
In 2011 Director for Non-Ionizing Radiation Research at the Department of Health in SA, Leon Du Toit said that at present there is no confirmed scientific evidence that points to any health hazard associated with very low levels of exposure that the general public would typically experience in a base station’s vicinity.
“The department is therefore satisfied that the health of the general public is not being compromised by microwave emissions from cellular base stations.
“This also means that local and other authorities, in considering the environmental impact of any particular base station, do not need to and should not attempt, from a public health point of view, to set any restrictions with respect to parameters such as height of the mast, distance to the mast, and duration of exposure” he said in a public statement dated March, 14 2011.
Du Toit has denied KayaFM news an interview opportunity and the Health Ministry has refused to take an interview request from anyone but Du Toit who refuses to send the request.
Has the South African Government been warned?
Yes. In 2011 both Dorny and a neuroscience professor from the Swedish based Karolinska Institute, Olle Johansson wrote to several Ministers, Mayors and departments to warn of their gross neglect in regulating radiation exposure in the country.
“You often hear about safe levels of exposure and that there is no proof of health effects, but my personal response to these seemingly reassuring statements is that it is very important to realise, from a consumer’s point of view, that no accepted proof for health effects is not the same as no risk.
“Too many times, experts have claimed to be experts in fields where actually the only expert comment should have been: “I/we just do not know”.
“Such fields were for example the DDT, X-ray, radioactivity, smoking, asbestos, BSE, heavy metal exposure, depleted uranium, etcetera, where the no risk-flag was raised before true knowledge came around.
“Later on, the same flag had to be quickly lowered, many times after enormous economic costs and suffering of many human beings,” Johansson told cabinet, including Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
Both the Public Protector and the Communication’s Ministry have failed to comment after numerous attempts. Communication Ministry spokesperson Siya Quoza was uninformed on the subject and failed to respond by the agreed deadline.
The Public Protector’s office has to date only confirmed receiving a request for comment but has not confirmed whether Thuli Madonsela received Johansson’s letter in 2011.