Is non-ionising radiation really safe?
By Dr. Ellis Evans, Natural Blaze
The telecoms industry and governmental regulators have consistently ignored or avoided meaningful discussion on the cancer risks from using mobile phone and other microwave devices such as DECT phones, smart-meters, etc.
Our safety regulators also routinely disregard any form of criticism, particularly the omission of non-thermal biological effects in their regulatory methodology.
The reason why is very simple yet they do not advertise the ‘Achilles heel’ or foundation stone of their regulatory and legal methodology. In fact, all safety legislation in all countries that rely on data from the International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) focus solely on non-ionising radiation. Biological or non-thermal effects such as cancer, DNA-breakages, disruption in cellular transport and other adverse biological processes are completely ignored.
I urge the reader to ask their telecoms regulators one very simple question, ‘do you have any legislation relating to consumer safety that specifically mentions non-thermal or biological effects’?
Over here in the UK I have looked at the legislation surrounding the use of mobile phone and other microwave technologies from Public Health England (PHE) and cannot find any exposure values or safety information relating specifically to non-thermal or biological effects.
The regulatory framework is concerned with thermal or skin-heating effects and nothing else. Here in Europe, America, Australia and elsewhere, regulators rely on advice and information in setting exposure levels on data from the ICNIRP. The ICNIRP base all their safety data on non-ionising radiation which legally translates to thermal heating effects only.
The ICNIRP and telecom regulators the world over further argue that initiation of biological effects is theoretically impossible because the devices they regulate use non-ionising radiation. Significantly, note that current-day regulatory advice related to exposure of non-ionising radiation extends up to 300 GHz.
This means that the next development of telecommunication devices known as 5G (which operates up to 300GHz) will not be safety tested for non thermal or biological effects. Why? The telecoms industry will argue that because these frequencies are non-ionising, there is no need to test for carcinogenic processes.
The rest of this article will discuss what we need to know about the hidden and forgotten debate surrounding the definition of non-ionising radiation. It is also good to know that all parameters of non-ionising radiation were put in place before the wide-scale rollout of the Internet, WIFI and the proliferation of consumer toys that has led to our present-day electromagnetic entanglements with electrosmog.
The electromagnetic spectrum (see Figure 1) illustrates the division between non-ionising and ionising radiation. The threshold between these two groups of radiation was discussed from the early 19th century onwards within private scientific organisations such as the ICRU (International Committee on Radiation Units), ANSI/IEEE (American National Standards Institute /Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers) and a host of other safety standards setting bodies.
Notably, most of these findings were eventually consolidated under another private body called the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection). These august scientific bodies were staffed mostly by physicists and engineers with little input from the medical profession. The ICNIRP ‘guidelines’ on non-ionising radiation were formulated in 1988, just prior to the rollout of the Internet.
Historically, it has always been easier to scientifically define ionising radiation compared to non-ionising radiation. This is due to the fact that ionising radiation mostly refers to radioactive substances, principally alpha, beta and gamma emitters. Non-ionising radiation has always been more difficult to define scientifically because it solely relies on the value of the photon energy to define the threshold between itself and ionising radiation.
Additionally, we are talking about a photon which can be viewed as a planar travelling wave having electrical and magnetic components. It is difficult to predict the propagation of microwave frequencies because the signal can be reflected, refracted, attenuated or enhanced depending on what is between your head and the mobile phone tower. The significance of both electrical (e) or magnetic properties (h) varies along the electromagnetic spectrum. Towards the low end of this spectrum, biological systems are dominated by magnetic effects because the wavelengths (or dissipation of energy per wavelength) is very dilute.
As we move up the spectrum band, wavelengths become smaller with resultant rise in increased electrical characteristics. There is little work that has been carried out to identify the significance of the electrical, magnetic or electromagnetic effects of body exposures to frequencies between 30 kHz and 300 GHz. Instead we rely on safety work carried out during the development of radar.
There are several reviews (mostly military) that take a standard view that exposure to microwave radiation is carcinogenic and leads to all sorts of cancers.
To make sense of radiation in general, it is useful to look at what we are already aware of. If we look at the entire electromagnetic spectrum, we can already identify carcinogenic effects from (a) electrical generating systems and (b) overhead pylons and cables and electrical substations. All these processes create very high electrical field voltages and currents with subsequent high magnetic fields. If you live close to these structures you increase the statistical odds you may contract some form of cancer. Eden(2) suggests in his paper published by Cancer Treat Rev (2010) that environmental factors, including non-ionising radiation, contribute to the etiology of childhood cancers (leukemias).
The Dutch government currently has a scheme going on where it is buying up all privately owned properties that lie under high power electrical pylon cables. They understand what is going on in terms of cancer induction and are pro-actively taking issues into their own hands(4).
If we move up the electromagnetic spectrum we discover carcinogenic effects attributed to microwave radiation studies. A snapshot of these studies can be found here. It is useful to understand that exposures to microwave radiation can increase free radicals, decrease DNA repair mechanisms, lead to DNA-breakages and other initiators of cancer. These biological endpoints are all potential initiators of carcinogenesis, similar in function to that found for ionizing radiation. Clearly, if it waggles like a duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck. It is becoming more and more difficult for the telecoms industry and its regulators to ignore non thermal effects.
Part of the problem we face when presenting this type of data to regulators is that we have to engage the State Machine which is reluctant to change any of its microwave safety advice in light of new developments. This is even more so when the facts between microwave exposure and initiation of carcinogenic processes become ever larger and more significant.
In 2011 the IARC (International Agency on Cancer Research) classified exposure to microwave radiation, as Class 2B i.e. possibly carcinogenic. This warning is based on the fit between the incidence of gliomas (brain tumours) and heavy users of mobile phones. Heavy usage in the year 2000 was defined as 30 minutes per day. Usage for many groups within present-day society easily exceeds this length of time. This agency is the scientific arm of the World Health Organisation. The classification of microwave radiation having the potential to initiate cancer was based on data from a study called INTERPHONE(3).
The IARC report itself is 481 pages long and it is by no means a critique of the telecoms industries because it clearly states that “although numerous experimental studies have been published on the non-thermal biological effects of RF-EMF, multiple computational analyses based on biophysical and thermodynamic considerations have concluded that it is theoretically implausible for physiological effects to be induced at exposure intensities that do not cause an increase in tissue temperature”.
In other words, it is clear from a first read of this report that the Agency itself accepts the ‘theory’ behind non-ionising radiation. Interestingly, the weight and significance of data from the INTERPHONE study probably led to much heated discussion. Those members of the Agency who stuck to their guns in demanding some form of cancer warning on exposure to microwave radiation are to be commended. Importantly, this is the first bit of light in the whole debate on non-ionising radiation.
This IARC Class 2B carcinogenicity warning suggests that, under certain conditions, it is possible to initiate carcinogenic processes for users of mobile phones. Clearly, it is no longer safe to assume that non-ionising radiation is safe. This is an ‘inconvenient truth’ for the telecoms industries and their regulators yet the significance of this cancer-warning has largely gone over the head of consumers.
Regulators do not want to talk about mobile phone frequencies, Class 2B cancer warning in the same breath with ‘non-ionising’ radiation. Clearly, their is much more scientific work that needs to be carried out on exposure to microwave radiation. It should be carried outwith an open mind free from the restrictions of the scientific paradigm that ‘non-ionising radiation’ is incapable of initiating carcinogenic processes within the body.
The real problem we all face in this is simply that the Scientific Process itself is not working as it should to resolve any of these issues. Many scientists fail to understand the gist and merit of the Scientific Method itself. Science is based on observation and a hypothesis is used to test what you think is happening. The hypothesis must be falsifiable. What is meant by this phrase is that any hypothesis must be provably wrong i.e. the hypothesis should be put to the test until it sinks or passes all tests. Therefore, based on good scientific thinking if I say that non-ionising radiation is reasonably safe under all conditions of exposure I should conduct experiments to the contrary. The thrust of my experiments is to elucidate ’cause-effect’ phenomena between non-ionising radiation and biological effects. Various approaches can be used i.e. theoretical, computer modelled simulations or laboratory animal experimentation. Each avenue of research should produce consistent results to continually falsify your current hypothesis. Through time and repeatable research conclusions by other scientists should we elevate a working hypothesis to a Scientific Theory. Even at this stage of scientific maturity, the theory remains a theory unless or until proven wrong. Science supposedly advances in this way.
The current ‘no cancer effect’ hypothesis put forward by a sizeable chunk of health physicists, the telecoms industries and their regulators is that there is insufficient photon energy within microwave frequencies to eject electrons from the outer orbit of elements or molecules. This view is not good science because it is merely a theoretical statement made out of thin air that supports a particular view. Unfortunately, that particular view has a lot of financial clout behind it because these players i.e. telecoms, military researchers, cancer charities and cancer research institutes are all doing quite nicely out of the status quo. There is no incentive for anyone in these money-generating enterprises to think beyond their particular ‘boxes’. Most government scientists by definition share these same views because in today’s modern world, Science is no longer objective but subjective.
The current hypothesis that ‘exposure to microwave radiation is absolutely fine’ needs rigorous testing because it is becoming clearer each day that reality is showing us, exposure to microwave radiation is causing adverse biological effects on our body and capable of causing cancer. If for some reason microwave radiation is able to break chemical bonds in several different ways, it is highly likely that these biological changes will lead to carcinogenesis. If the telecoms industry took a leaf out of the life of Dr Bob Becker(6), they may discover a wealth of information related to the functioning of the central nervous system when exposed to artificially-induced electromagnetic frequencies.
According to Kuhn, the telecoms industry and its regulators should be conducting experiments to falsifiably prove that exposure to microwave radiation does initiate carcinogenic processes. Every single time a paper is looked at by the ICNIRP /IARC /PHE (Public Health England) they argue the scientific protocol is not sufficiently robust or of the wrong type or statistically unsound. Almost all the data on non thermal effects is ignored for one reason or another. When this particular apple falls to the ground – and it will – we approach what Kuhn describes as the ‘overturning of a scientific paradigm’. It will be like a switch going off in the minds and perception of the scientific community. Look for massive changes in the telecom industries and how they do business. The telecom regulators and everyone else involved in this deception of perception will quickly fall by the wayside. Everyone loves mobile phones yet it is the fully informed consumers who will ultimately demand much safer technologies – consumer sovereignty truly is king yet it is slow to show itself.
Finally, most ordinary people would say that the chances of catching cancer is down to lifestyle choices, the type of work you do and where you live. The bulk of the scientific community, however, views this as chance, luck or down to the odds your genes randomly mutate. It took a long time coming but a scientific paper published in 2015 sides with the view of ordinary people in these matters and statistically argues that “external factors play a big role (in cancer-causation), and people cannot hide behind bad luck”(6). In other words, many of the fallacies of Big Science are beginning to break down. It is only a matter of time before many of the fallacies behind non-ionising radiation break down as well. Next time you see anything from a government regulatory department that says ‘these devices use non-ionising radiation’ as a form of fluffy appeasement, understand there is a lot in this sentence that has not been said, caveat emptor.
About the Author
Dr. Ellis Evans runs an environmental consultancy looking at the measurement and likely health implications of microwave radiation, ELF (extremely low frequency) signals from many devices that connect us or our household gadgets and utilities to the Internet. He carries out ‘healthy home’ surveys on our homes and neighbourhood. He can be contacted here: firstname.lastname@example.org
- IARC Monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans: Non-ionising radiation, Part II: Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, Volume 102
- Eden (2010) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=20223594
- INTERPHONE Study: http://interphone.iarc.fr
- Dutch government properties:
- Substantial contribution of extrinsic risk factors to cancer development (2015) https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v529/n7584/nature16166/metrics/news
- Robert O Becker & Gary Selden, The Body Electric – electromagnetism and the foundation of life (1985) Publishers: William Morrow & Company