• 24 JUN 11
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    Perspective on the IARC findings by Cindy Sage, Sage Associates

    From Cindy Sage:

    1) IARC findings:

    Carcinogenicity of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.

    Robert Baan et al, June 22, 2011 Lancet Oncology DOI:10.1016/S147-2045 (11)70140-4

    The Lancet Oncology today published a summary from a meeting of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), that classifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) (including those caused by mobile phones) as possibly carcinogenic to humans (division 2B in the IARC classification).

    30 scientists from 14 countries met in Lyon, France, at the end of May, 2011, to discuss the evidence surrounding RF-EMF and cancer. The working group was chaired by Dr Jonathan Samet, Chair of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.

    Human exposures to RF-EMF (frequency range 30 kHz–300 GHz) can occur from use of personal devices (eg, wireless phones, Bluetooth, and amateur radios), from occupational sources (eg, high-frequency dielectric and induction heaters, and high-powered pulsed radars), and from mobile-phone base stations, broadcast antennas, and medical applications.

    The IARC Working Group concluded:

    “In view of the limited evidence in humans and in experimental animals, the Working Group classified RF- EMF as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B). This evaluation was supported by a large majority of Working Group members.”

    “(T)he Working Group concluded that the (Interphone Final Report) findings could not be dismissed as reflecting bias alone, and that a causal interpretation between mobile phone RF-EMF exposure and glioma is possible.”

    June 22, 2011

    2) Perspective by Cindy Sage, MA, Sage Associates: Co-Editor, BioInitiative Report, CHE-EMF

    WHAT IS THE ‘SO WHAT’ OF THE IARC RF-EMF REPORT?

    This represents a major scientific and public health shift. To date, the scientific evidence for an association between RF-EMF and ELF-EMF (which was classified by WHO IARC in 2001 as a 2B Possible Human Carcinogen) has been contested, and declared inconsistent and contradictory by both the US FDA and FCC. Both agencies have deferred on taking meaningful public health action. The FCC continues to ignore calls for a re-assessment of its outdated public safety limits for wireless technologies. The FDA and FCC routinely thwart public inquiries and calls for preventative action by throwing the ‘authority ball’ back and forth, each saying the other has the responsibility.

    Consider that the FDA has announced it will require placement of graphic warning labels (cartoons and explicit photos) on cigarette packages. There are 21 million smokers in the US. There are triple that number who are exposed to second-hand smoke. But, essentially every person in the US has some RF-EMF exposure, which dwarfs the smoking/second-hand smoke numbers.

    Today, there are nearly three hundred million Americans who are wireless subscribers (262 million in 2008). And, with no explicit warnings about the risk of wireless phones, Americans – and perhaps more importantly, their children – are suffering needless and potentially carcinogenic exposures that could be avoided with FDA warnings and FCC revisions to public safety limits.

    The RF-EMF exposures to which the American family is exposed on a chronic and largely involuntary basis comes mostly from cell towers, WI-FI and WI-MAX. There were 220,500 cell sites in the US in 2008, up from only 600 in 1985. Each affects community health. The wireless industry alone is seeking another 20,000 new cell sites.

    The use of wireless devices by others, and other wireless technologies built into transportation, shopping, medicine, education and schools, etc. puts millions at risk. Wireless technologies that require WI-FI saturation in schools at all age levels should be targeted for remedial action to remove RF-EMF exposures for children, who cannot protect themselves. These actions fall to local agencies and school districts, who rely on the FDA and the FCC and other sources for unbiased information.

    The Department of Justice Americans With Disabilities (ADA) standards need to be revised to incorporate protections for the 20 million or so Americans who have medical or metal implants which make them particularly vulnerable to RF-EMF interference and health harm. They will rely on the FDA and FCC as well.

    Most recently, electric utilities are mandating wireless transmitting devices (‘smart meters’) on every home and electrified building. These wireless meters produce RF-EMF subject to this IARC classification (a possible human carcinogen) at frequencies and intensities equivalent to wireless phones. Wireless ‘smart’ meters can produce RF-EMF at intensities that actually exceed FCC public safety limits, depending on how close to occupied space within a dwelling they are installed and how they are operated. In most instances, they will produce RF-EMF at intensities that have been reported for the last 20 years to cause bioeffects and adverse health impacts including cancer, neurological impairments and diseases, immune system disfunction, sleep disorders and negative effects on memory, cognition, and behavior. There is no reasonable justification now for such wide-spread new exposure to RF-EMF from ‘smart meters’ given the clear indication that we are going to expose virtually our entire population to a new source of continuous RF-EMF, at the same time the global expert health agency, the WHO IARC has classified this exposure to be a possible human carcinogen. It is unthinkable.

    Because public utility commissions and public safety commissions that oversee electric utilities rely on the FDA and FCC on this matter, it is imperative that the IARC Report be considered in all proceedings on new wireless metering, and the warnings from IARC should be sufficient to stop deployment of wireless meters, and warrant the replacement of the older (and safe) analog ‘spinning dial’ electric meters.

    We are looking at the opportunity to address preventable exposures. There are other options for energy conservation that do not involve perpetual exposures to possible human carcinogens across the entire population of every state.

    The rush to deploy RF-EMF (i.e., wireless technologies) in general is running far ahead of public health planning and public education about health risks. There has been no proportionate FDA health oversight relevant to the RF-EMF exposure levels of concern to date. This should change.

    Without further delay, the FDA and FCC need to update their website advice to consumers and all others who must act on the information at hand.

    The last time the FDA addressed the cell phone issue in any significant way was to incorrectly report in 2010 that the Interphone Final Report – the largest study of its kind – found “no evidence linking cell phone use to risk of brain tumor”. Despite letters of protest from experts in the field, the FDA ignored requests to correct its webpage.

    The FDA should be giving updated information and advice to consumers to reduce RF-EMF exposures based on the recent IARC report. And, this advice should extend to all forms of RF-EMF exposures, in accord with the Chair of the IARC Working Group Committee, Jonathon Samet, who clarified that “The 2B designation was not limited to cell phones. It has “broad applicability” to all sources of RF radiation.”

    A look at the FDA website this morning found only an FDA promotion of the iPhone as a way to relay medical information to a healthcare provider (FDA Consumer Updates at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/default.htm).

    The FCC needs to re-assess and update public safety limits in accord with new evidence that low-intensity (non-thermal) RF-EMF exposure can cause cancer. The FCC needs to adopt new, biologically-based public exposure standards that protect people from chronic, wireless exposures, including those populations who may be at higher risk for environmental toxins (children, the elderly, those with pre-existing medical problems, people with medical and metal implants, etc).

    This is a perspective piece by Cindy Sage and does not reflect the opinion of any other party or entity.

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