New paper reviewing the Russian RF standards fails to declare conflict of interest of lead author
A paper that claims to objectively evaluate the basis for the Russian RF standard has just been published in Bioelectromagnetics online. Titled, Scientific Basis for the Soviet and Russian Radiofrequency Standards for the General Public, the authors are Michael Repacholi, Yuri Grigoriev, Jochen Buschmann, and Claudio Pioli.
I find it interesting that the lead author is Michael Repacholi and any correspondence about the paper must be sent to Repacholi. However, rather than declaring his extensive history of conflict of interest, none is declared and this significant omission does not appear to be an issue with the Bioelectromagnetics editorial board.
To quote from the paper:
Conflict of interest: Aside from travel expenses to attend an authors” meeting in Moscow, and payment of the cost of translations of original Russian publications into English by the GSMA, no financial support was provided to any of the authors for the preparation of this article. None of the authors have any other conflict of interest.
*Correspondence to: Michael Repacholi, Department of Information Engineering, Electronics and Telecommunications (DIET), “”La Sapienza”” University of Rome, Rome, Italy. E-mail: email@example.com
For another take on Repacholi’s conflict of interest see:
Andrew Marino’s Michael Repacholi: SOB at WHO at: http://andrewamarino.com/blog/?p=154
Microwave News: Repacholi’s Rf review: http://microwavenews.com/short-takes-archive/repacholis-rf-review
Conflict of Interest & Bias in Health Advisory Committees: A case study of the WHO”s Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Task Group: http://www.emfacts.com/download/who_conflict.pdf
Also see my notes on the 2004 Moscow International Conference Mobile Communications and Health: Medical, Biological and Social Problems: http://www.studiosra.it/news/russian_conf.pdf
The very existence of the strict Russian RF standard has long been a problem for Repacholi as it contradicts not only his own scientific credibility but also the credibility of the International EMF Project at the WHO and ICNIRP, both created by Repacholi. This is his biggest conflict of interest.
So much for Bioelectromagnetics’ conflict of interest policy……
Comments on the Repacholi et al Russian review from Joel Moskowitz:
In the attached review paper just published online in Bioelectromagnetics, Repacholi and colleagues allege that there are methodologic weaknesses with the research that underlies the Russian RF standards; however, they claims the purpose of the review was not to criticize the research. The main purpose of this paper is to take issue with the “philosophy” underlying the Russian standard setting, a philosophy based on the precautionary principle.
Repacholi et al. point out that the Russian RF standards were based on studies that demonstrated autoimmune effects of exposure to RF that were not necessarily pathological. In contrast to standards adopted by other governments including the U.S., Russia adopted a precautionary approach in setting the RF standards:
The general approach to public health protection and setting exposure limits by previous Soviet and current Russian committees is that people should not have to compensate for any effects produced by RF exposure, even though they are not shown to be adverse to health (pathological). In other words, these committees assume there could be long-term health consequences if people have to compensate for RF exposures that produce biological but not pathological effects. Exposure limits are then set that do not cause any possible biological consequence among the population (regardless of age or gender) that could be detected by modern methods during the RF exposure period or long after it has finished. Their approach to protection is that limits of RF exposure should not cause even a temporary initiation of the protective or adaptive compensatory mechanisms over the near or long term. Thus, the final exposure limits are set as a fraction of the minimum RF exposure that is capable of provoking some adaptation-compensatory reactions in people.
This is an important difference from the approach used by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which bases its limits on the lowest RF exposure that causes any established adverse health effect (RFLowest). Limit values in their guidelines are then set by assuming that there is maximum absorption of the RF field by people and then reducing the RFLowest by large safety factors to produce the final limits, normally by a factor of 50 lower than the RF Lowest for the general public [ICNIRP, 1998].
Repacholi et al. fail to mention the serious limitations of the ICNIRP and IEEE standards that form the basis of the U.S. and European standards. These standards only recognize adverse health effects caused by heating tissue (i.e., thermal effects) and not the various adverse health effects that research has shown to be caused by non-thermal mechanisms.
Unlike our FCC standards which treat children just like adults, the Russian guidelines for children sound sensible as they take a precautionary approach in protecting children’s health:
Children are not small adults since they are developing organisms with special sensitivities and might be expected to be more sensitive to EMF than adults [Grigoriev, 2005; Kheifets et al., 2005]. Thus, results of studies conducted on adults might not be validly extrapolated to children; therefore, the NCNIRP considered that children need special consideration when developing exposure limits. According to the RNCNIRP, the following health hazards are likely to be faced in the near future by children who use mobile phones: disruption of memory, decline in attention, diminished learning and cognitive abilities, increased irritability, sleep problems, increase in sensitivity to stress, and increased epileptic readiness. For these reasons, special recommendations on child safety from mobile phones have been incorporated into the current Russian mobile phone standard [Russian Standard, 2003].
Recommends limiting mobile phone call time as much as possible and limiting possibility of use by children age < 18 years, pregnant women and pacemaker wearers (see 2003 Russian standards in Table 2)
However, Repacholi et al. disparage Russia’s “philosophy of protection of the public:”
The philosophy of protection of the public””that RF exposure of individuals should not cause any compensatory response””is not used in standards outside of Russia. National authorities in most countries want to know what health effects they are protecting against and not make assumptions about what effects may occur. This is the philosophy of the ICNIRP and IEEE committees.
Which philosophical approach makes more sense if one’s goal is to protect population health?
Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D.
Center for Family and Community Health
The UC Berkeley Prevention Research Center
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley
50 University Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7360