• 22 MAR 06
    • 0

    From Rod Read (ElectroSensitivity-UK)

    English Nature Calls Symposium on Non-Ionising Radiation Threat to Wildlife. 17/03/06

    The scientific conflict over the evidence of bioeffects on humans, now generally known as electrosensitivity, or ES, the idiopathic reaction felt by a minority to radiation from microwaves, radio frequencies and all electrical devices, was broadened on Friday by concerns over the impact on wildlife.

    At the Northfield, Peterborough headquarters of Government Agency English Nature, Alastair Burn welcomed around a dozen invited organisations to examine the threat to wildlife of Non-Ionising Radiation. Having received a review report from Jim Smith of The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, CEH they jointly invited interested bodies. Organisations included representatives from the RSPB, the Environment Agency, RSPCA, the Mobile Operators Association, Bat Conservation, HESE ( European Health Economic Social and Ecological Project), also the support and campaigning charity for human victims, ElectroSensitivity-UK. Together they considered for the future how the impact should be prioritised when put against the multitude of other threats to wildlife presently studied and in the competition for research efforts and funding.


    A variety of questions were posed:

    ∑ How invasive and pervasive are electromagnetic field effects,
    ∑ what are the mechanisms of impact,
    ∑ whether the impact on individuals or populations should be the focus and
    ∑ is it possible to construct valid real-world experiments?


    The basic physics of the electromagnetic spectrum was admirably briefly explained by Dr David Franklin Associate Dean Curriculum in the Faculty of Science at the University of Portsmouth School of Environmental Sciences. By background a microwave physicist he has recently researched 900 MHz emissions on plant germination and nutrient transport. His decades of microwave research work with the MoD, DoD, telecoms companies and other cutting edge institutions left him intellectually unconvinced of there being a dangerous risk from the new technological developments but despite his scepticism and the lack of established mechanisms of health effects to mammals he had himself through a long-term exposure been left with electrosensitivity in his right arm and shoulder and was unable to carry or use a mobile phone without pain.


    Alasdair Philips of “Powerwatch”, a professional engineer and scientist with
    skills in electrical and electronic engineering, a senior scientific advisor to the Children with Leukaemia charity, stood in at short notice for Professor Gerard Hyland who was ill. He built on the introduction to emphasise that while our entire history and species evolution had been against a background of natural radiation exposure, a relatively quiet part of the electromagnetic spectrum was now hugely busy.
    New previously non-existent microwave bands used by telecoms for mobile phones showed huge spikes on any graphs, levels millions of times higher than anything previously existing, and using pulsing signals. Potential effects were unknown and controls for experimental comparison now impossible to find as humans and wildlife are all exposed, there had been no long term studies. It was happening now in the real world with the rapid rollout of new communications systems widely taken up and used without the health and safety criteria applied to food and drugs. He quoted the absent Professor Hyland”s description of human and animal biological systems as being “electromagnetically exquisitely sensitive”.

    The Government watchdog Health Protection Agency (old NRPB) Radiation Protection Division were calling for the “Precautionary principle” to be applied according to the level of perceived risk and more research on the effects of mobile phone microwave frequencies. Agreeing with Dr Franklin that masts presented much lower power levels to nearby humans or wildlife than handsets the beams were not as simple as those of a lighthouse. Much more splatter and splay meant radiation hotspots could be anywhere even directly under a tower. Anyway the power wattage was not really relevant, nor were the SAR ratings, it was the “informational” aspect of the signal which could interfere or interfuse with the natural internal dialogues of living biological systems. This disrupts functioning and research has been focused on the endocrine hormonal immune systems and the production of melatonin essential for bodily repair.

    In Germany there was the “Freiburger Appeal” calling attention to dangers and a GPs group reported on 356 patients sickened with non-specific symptoms linked to masts (Bamburg group). Permitted exposure levels varied hugely between countries, if Salzburg in Austria as fairly typical was taken as a metaphorical standard 30 mph the levels allowed in the UK, which were the highest in the world were the equivalent of a staggering 9,479 mph. For efficiency of phone operation permitted maximums 1000 times below these levels were adequate. The international regulatory body ICNIRP (International Committee for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection) recommended levels were equivalent to 2,847 mph, and were forthright about long-term cancer and other health implications by low-level NI radiation being explicitly NOT covered by their safety-level recommendations.


    James Reynolds an eco-physiologist from the University of Birmingham said the questions now being raised about effects on humans from high-voltage powerlines had been examined over the decades of their use and while known to be carcinogenic were economically unable to be avoided as burying the high voltage distribution system meant costs of twenty times that of overhead pylons. Scientifically reliable data was difficult to find outside powerline research. Ornithologists had research on Ospreys and other raptors who spent many hours on high-voltage lines employing them for hunting vantage points, roosts and nesting sites especially in North America and were actively encouraged now by artificial platforms constructed to encourage breeding while reducing deaths from electric shock. Measurements and research results were complex as effects were not simple and included both larger egg-yolk size and improved fledgling growth but thicker shells resulting in contradictory consequences. A real possibility for research was nest boxes under powerlines and elsewhere for tree swallows which volunteered easily for them and provided a scrutinisable population.

    Some work on masts effects, a study of Storks in Vallodolid in Spain was raised which pointed to aggressive behaviour and listlessness leading to unfinished nest-building and chick-rearing close to active broadcasting masts, this needed replication. Discussion took place on mechanisms again, it was possible calcium uptake was inhibited, so altering shell thickness as DDT had been discovered to have done and as potassium had been in plant nutrient transport systems. Anecdotal evidence on disappearing sparrows in London generally and from Leicester Square with the arrival of masts was discounted. Jonathan Bradley of the Bat Conservation Trust pointed out there were all manner of confounding environmental causes from vehicle exhausts to the arrival of pigeons in large numbers.


    The need for study over successive generations was pointed out in a research paper summarized by Rod Read of ES-UK. This was overlooked published science by Magras and others in the journal “Bioelectromagnetics” 18(6):455-461, 1997 on “Radiation-induced changes in the pre-natal development of mice”.
    RF level measurements around an “antenna park” of various power densities between 168 nW/cm2 and 1053 nW/cm2 were recorded. Twelve pairs of mice, divided in two groups, were placed in locations with different densities and were repeatedly mated five times. One hundred and eighteen newborns were collected measured weighed and examined macro- and microscopically. A progressive decrease in the number of newborns per dam was observed, which ended in irreversible infertility.


    Other laboratory results and papers were cited but not conclusive, it was not felt to be within the brief of English Nature or the CEH to be conducting basic biological scientific studies. They were expensive and long-term and for universities and research institutions, some surprise was expressed that more was not known firstly of human health implications. Ingrid Dickenson of the International HESE Group said much work had been recently done by Professor Warnke and others in Germany, which they were translating and there was a body of knowledge in Sweden where electrosensitivity in 280,000 humans was recognised. The Russians and Ukrainians were very advanced in these biological impact areas but their highly respected science was unavailable or ignored in the west.


    Summing up the chairman tried to elaborate on a parallel with the unexpected arrival decades ago of Rachel Carson”s seminal and pioneering work on the impact of DDT on wildlife in her famous book “Silent Spring”. Was a similar “genie” out of the bottle? The CEH thought it most unlikely the public would willingly part company with their mobile phones. At present the scientific evidence was too sparse though it did seem there was more out there now being brought to their attention at the symposium which had to be examined as a first step. Known and established risks from agricultural practices, habitat loss, such global crises as deforestation and chemical pollution would continue to dominate their work it was felt, this issue was new their resources were limited. It was suggested the telecoms MOA representative might ask the wealthy companies for assistance, it was mostly their microwave technology being seen as new and problematic.

    Rod Read ES-UK, electrosensitivity@hotmail.com tel: 01353-778151

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