WHO EMF PROJECT IMPRESSIONS MELBOURNE 17 NOVEMBER.
Written by Rowan Campbell in Melbourne
I attended the WHO regional workshop on RF, health effects and policy options, at Swinburne University Melbourne 17th November, and make a report.
Unfortunately I missed the opening address of Michael Repacholi, and arrived to about 120 people during the presentation of Dr Emilie van Deventer on sensitive subpopulations to RF. Dr van Deventer stated that there was need to do further work on the topic of electrosensitivity (she called it electrical hypersensitivity), and indicated that it seemed to be a problem to address. She also addressed the issues of possible vulnerability of children to EMFs.
I think around this time an audience member raised the difficulties presented with running provocation studies with electrosensitivity- it is very hard getting recruits. Electrosensitives will need to also make themselves available for carefully conducted studies by ethical investigators, such as ten WLANSs, DECT phones, silent computers etc running under a bed to get anything done. This is very difficult for people with some conditions like tinnitus, which can be degenerative. The audience member also stated that the electrosensitives may be accused of having psychological problems. It was also noted that it is difficult to keep up with the pace of the rollout of technologies, a continual problem with research.
The ARPANSA rep to the WHO gave a summary of current developments in wireless, such as wireless USB, among other subjects.
After the end of his presentation, an audience member asked whether the Mobile Carriers Forum would contribute to any future ARPANSA presentations, which was denied.
He had covered microcells and picocells, so I asked him: With respect to microcells and picocells and macrocells, Australia has a large rural and regional area and we intend to probably service it with macrocells. Currently at the town of Crest in the south of France, there is a macrocell, and the death rate in its vicinity in August was 18 times higher than the surrounding population. Also there is a report of about 20 cancers near a tower in Sevilla in Spain. Does the WHO or ARPANSA have any plans to send teams into those places to collect data and get to the bottom of this? – No. The WHO does not enter other countries.
The ACRBR presented some of their scientific data, including some promising theoretical work on the action of radiation on protein molecules by a resonance mechanism. They have also set up a small study into electrosensitivity. It will not be complete until 2007.
Dr Veyret from France presented initially an overview of European research. He said that there are many highly experienced teams in Italy, where he is on sabbatical, compared to other countries. They have recently lost their funding. An industry rep in the audience asked how much money had been spent on research- 9- 10 million euros per anum for some years. Around this time what appeared to be an industry rep said at an EMR health conference possibly we should ignore the EMR health issue because we could have the whole world connected and speaking English.
After a break, Lindsay Martin, manager in EMR section at ARPANSA presented and stated it was clear that there was concern and anger in some sections of the community, and showed an openness to discussing the subject with the public. He asked for suggestions on courses of action and showed some moves to more involved in properly assessing the situation and engaging the public. This accompanied a change in the tone of the proceedings, and more discussion from the audience. Presenters were mentioning discoveries of effects.
Dr Veyret again presented, on the subject ‘Are mobile phones or their base stations dangerous’. Early on he stated that there was no apparent danger from base stations. I couldn’t help but laugh, and my neighbour moved chairs.
In his presentation on animal studies etc, he gave some ground on proven effects, and I believe it was he who noted that sleep studies were settling towards showing disturbed sleep issues, as well as some other factor that I forget. He handballed real world epidemiology, the most obvious issue, onto the next speaker, as had the ARPANSA/ WHO rep. He did note the possible interaction of chemicals with EMFs, and highlighted the difficulties in the research.
He had stated that there was no evidence of genotoxic damage. I queried that there were 2 or 3 studies recently showing sperm damage, which was not outright DNA damage but interference. He denied this.
A Swedish professor who had been lumbered with the job of explaining cancer outbreaks got up. He presented a carefully balanced analysis of brain tumour data from multiple sources, admitting that some sources were now leading towards indicating there may be a risk, but the data was really muddied and too hard to draw firm conclusions at this stage. Large cancer outbreaks were not discussed and questions were asked about which side of the head the tumours were appearing compared to the phone.
Professor Laurie Challis presented some mathematical models showing interactions of EMR with tissue when pulsed. He stated that while nothing was concrete, it was noted that very large peak radiation doses could occur at some conditions such as cell membranes or sharp points, but only in certain frequency ranges.
While there was lively discussion and debate from both industry and non- industry sides, it does appear that there may be some degree of conciliation from some quarters of the WHO concerning previous shortcomings of the WHO process.
Finally in question time at the end, an industry rep asked why don’t we shut all research down now, its an expensive waste of time, there is no harm and its just giving people ideas. The panel disagreed. I had the last question. Regarding epidemiology: We have two studies showing a weak to moderated association of various EMFs with Alzheimer’s. Also we now have the paper ‘1997 a curious year in Sweden’ (one of the panel sunk down in his chair pretty upset, this study is not conclusive) claiming to show a ‘drastic’ was their word rise in the rate of Alzheimer’s since 1997 in Sweden when a second band of mobile phones and other digital broadcasts was introduced. While figures have not been provided, although several illness variables are shown to be related to mobile phone output levels in various counties in Sweden, does the WHO have any plans to conduct any epidemiology on Alzheimer’s? The Swedish professor had never heard of the Swedish study from his own Swedish institute, and suggested a 10 year cohort investigation. The convenor suggested that it must have been one of those lesser quality studies and there was unanimous laughter, and we finished the day with applause.
I didn’t attend the second day. It is foreseeable that if interested public parties attend these meetings in different parts of the world, without getting to out of hand, the calibre of scientific enquiry from the WHO may rise soon- some statements that had previously come out do border on scientific fraud. If electrosensitives want to play, they will have to become actively involved in study design and formalising things.
A press report associated with Michael Repacholi, ‘TV poses more risk than mobile phone’, which whitewashes the contents of Thursday’s debate has appeared, containing the statements ‘People are generally scared by new technology … but after $250 million in research over ten years we still haven’t found any (reason for health concerns) … The purpose of this is to tell people what the real situation is, what the science is saying … It’s no use perpetuating a myth.’ This statement as reported is false and misleading and deceptive, and is designed to create a poisonous situation. There is a chance that mobile phone tower morbidity studies and reports represent isolated occurrences of a tower interacting with an uncommon secondary factor. Sorting the electromagnetic factors from the medical ones is a very difficult task, and some misattributions to radiation have probably occurred. However, elsewhere the deaths and illness in Crest have been referred to as ‘psychological’ problems. Some of this behaviour by operators at some outbreak sites worldwide is approaching manslaughter and madness. If continued propaganda is distributed by the head of the WHO EMF project, Dr Michael Repacholi, the WHO should be forced to sack him and replace him with a scientist.
Telstra, Australia’s telecommunications leader with many representatives at the conference, has just announced last week it intends to run the whole country on 3G, and become the leader in wireless internet in an ABC television interview on Sunday 20th November.
The WHO EMF project has been publicly riddled with controversy over its funding and leadership.
If the WHO wants to launch a tsunami disaster relief project, they need a mobile insertion squad. If you want to scramble power and resources to the far corners of the earth, you need technology.
This technology also increases globalisation and assists medical research, which assists the WHO’s mission.
But what if this technology drives individuals senile and homeless?
The WHO EMF Project is fundamentally conflicted between the desire to help the whole, and duty to protect the individual. Big business has taken advantage of this to stymie the EMF project. The only solution to this conflict is aggressive, fearless science.
The media with the telecommunications revolution is one of the biggest stakeholders in this. In effect, it appears the media channels have placed a ban on reporting these deaths, diseases and electrorefugees. The media has not helped, and will probably not help. They are fundamentally conflicted.
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