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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Talking about health

You cannot see it, taste it or smell it, but it is one of the most pervasive environmental exposures in industrialized countries today.
Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) or electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are the terms that broadly describe exposures created by the vast array of wired and wireless technologies that have altered the landscape of our lives in countless beneficial ways.
However, these technologies were designed to maximize energy efficiency and convenience; not with biological effects on people in mind. Based on new studies, there is growing evidence among scientists and the public about possible health risks associated with these technologies.
Human beings are bioelectrical systems. Our hearts and brains are regulated by internal bioelectrical signals.
Environmental exposures to artificial EMFs can interact with fundamental biological processes in the human body.
In today’s world, everyone is exposed to two types of EMFs: extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF) from electrical and electronic appliances and power lines and radiofrequency radiation (RF) from wireless devices such as cell phones and cordless phones, cellular antennas and towers, and broadcast transmission towers.
A working group composed of scientists, researchers and public health policy professionals (The BioInitiative Working Group) has joined together to document the information that must be considered in the international debate about the adequacy (or inadequacy) of existing public exposure standards.
Effects occur at non-thermal or low-intensity exposure levels thousands of times below the levels that federal agencies say should keep the public safe. For many new devices operating with wireless technologies, the devices are exempt from any regulatory standards. The existing standards have been proven to be inadequate to control against harm from low-intensity, chronic exposures, based on any reasonable, independent assessment of the scientific literature.
It means that an entirely new basis (a biological basis) for new exposure standards is needed.
There may be no lower limit at which exposures do not affect us. Until we know if
there is a lower limit below which bioeffects and adverse health impacts do not
occur, it is unwise from a public health perspective to continue “business-as-usual”
deploying new technologies that increase ELF and RF exposures, particularly involuntary exposures.
There is little doubt that exposure to ELF causes childhood leukemia.
There is some evidence that other childhood cancers may be related to ELF exposure but not enough studies have been done.
People who have used a cell phone for ten years or more have higher rates of malignant brain tumor and acoustic neuromas. It is worse if the cell phone has been used primarily on one side of the head.
The current standard for exposure to the emissions of cell phones and cordless phones is not safe considering studies reporting long-term brain tumor and acoustic neuroma risks.
The evidence from studies on women in the workplace rather strongly suggests that ELF is a risk factor for breast cancer for women with long-term exposures of 10 mG and higher.
Studies of human breast cancer cells and some animal studies show that ELF is likely to be a risk factor for breast cancer. There is supporting evidence for a link between breast cancer and exposure to ELF that comes from cell and animal studies, as well as studies of human breast cancers.
Alzheimer’s disease is a disease of the nervous system. There is strong evidence that longterm exposure to ELF is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
The consequence of prolonged exposures to children, whose nervous systems continue to
develop until late adolescence, is unknown at this time.
This could have serious implications to adult health and functioning in society if years of exposure of the young to both ELF and RF result in diminished capacity for thinking, judgment, memory, learning, and control over behavior.
Both ELF and RF exposures can be considered genotoxic (will damage DNA) under certain conditions of exposure, including exposure levels that are lower than existing safety limits.
Very low-level ELF and RF exposures can cause cells to produce stress proteins, meaning that the cell recognizes ELF and RF exposures as harmful.
This is another important way in which scientists have documented that ELF and RF exposures can be harmful, and it happens at levels far below the existing public safety standards.
We cannot afford ‘business as usual” any longer. It is time that planning for new power lines and for new homes, schools and other habitable spaces around them is done with routine provision for low-ELF environments .
The business-as-usual deployment of new wireless technologies is likely to be risky and harder to change if society does not make some educated decisions about limits soon.
Research must continue to define what levels of RF related to new wireless technologies are acceptable; but more research should not prevent or delay substantive changes today that might save money, lives and societal disruption tomorrow.


Prepared for the BioInitiative Working Group
August 2007
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