• 22 JAN 19
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    Why the Australian government will not advise the public on wireless technologies’ risks to health – At least for now.

    EMFacts blog Commentary by Don Maisch PhD                               20, January 2019

    In stark contrast to a recent Italian court ruling where three Italian government ministries have acknowledged that there is a need to raise public awareness on how to use mobile phones safely (previous message and see Lennart Hardell’s blog here)[1] it is highly unlikely such concern for public safety will be issued from the Australian government, considering the pro-technology bias of the agencies and individuals who currently advise government ministers on telecommunications issues.

    Captured Agencies

    Whenever public concerns are raised with Aust. government and opposition members over telecommunications issues (mobile phones, smart meters, 5G), the standard response is to unquestionably follow the advice of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research (ACEBR). Both agencies steadfastly follow the Procrustean dictates of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) which do not allow for any deviation from ICNIRP’s dogma.

    A Procrustean Approach

    The following is the standard response from the current federal government to any members of parliament who dare raise questions on the safety of telecommunications technology.

    The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) provides expert advice on radiation protection and nuclear safety matters to the Coalition Government. In order to provide the best advice on the protection of the Australian public from the effects of radiation, ARPANSA undertakes its own research and reviews the relevant scientific research. . . The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s regulatory arrangements require wireless devices to comply with the exposure limits in ARPANSA’s Radiation Protection Standard for Maximum Exposure Levels to Radiofrequency Fields – 3kHz to 300 GHz (the ARPANSA RF standard). The ARPANSA RF Standard is designed to protect people of all ages and health status against all known adverse health effects from exposure to RF EME. The ARPANSA RF Standard is based on scientific research that shows the levels at which harmful effects occur and it sets limits, based on international guidelines [ICNIRP], well below these harmful levels.[2]

    So, whenever a politician from any party is contacted by members of their electorate with concerns over “RF EME” that politician will understandably ask for expert opinion from the government’s own expert agencies: ARPANSA and/or ACEBR. These agencies will in response send a variation of the above, and perhaps even the heavily criticized analysis led by Ken Karipidis from ARPANSA and Rodney Croft from ACEBR . The ARPANSA/ACEBR paper claims that there is no link between the use of mobile phones and brain cancer. Karipidis even claimed that “People say mobile phones can cause cancer but our study showed this was not the case” . It has been pointed out, however, that this claim was apparently made only by excluding inconvenient data from their analysis. For example, Joel Moskowitz of the University of California, Berkeley called it a “biased study” and Australian neurosurgeon Vini Khurana called the use of selected data “quite bizarre and unnecessary”. Read the Microwave News analysis here.

    With the coming rollout of 5G soon to hit Australia, it is inevitable that there will be ever increasing public concerns expressed to local and state and federal politicians as a consequence of the many thousands of small antennas which will be placed in close proximity to homes and in workplaces. The 5G Appeal certainly gives credence to these concerns. Also see the report by the European investigative team, “Investigate Europe”: “The 5G Mass Experiment: Big Promises, Unknown Risks“, and the recent (Jan 7, 2019) ABC News item: “Huawei-made ‘small cell’ boxes hit suburban Sydney, as residents raise health concerns” and the commentary from Dariusz Leszczynski here.

    So, how will Australian politicians respond to the public’s concerns?

    ACEBR to the 5G rescue

    Apparently writing in response to the above Jan 7 ABC article on Sydney residents concerns over small cells which will be part of the coming 5G networks, ACEBR’s Adam Verrender, essentially comes to the aid of the industry. In an ABC interview on Jan 9, 2019, Verrender claims that for mobile phone use (and other wireless devices) “Decades of scientific research has found no evidence of any adverse health effects” and that “even studies looking at long-term damage, such as brain cancer, have not found evidence of increased harm.” He then claims that the health hazard debate rages on “fuelled by misinformation, scepticism and a complex psychological phenomenon known as the nocebo effect, it’s little wonder this contentious issue persists, particularly given wireless technologies are so pervasive.”[3]

    In relation to electromagnetic  hypersensitivity (EHS), Verrender claims:

    “Despite the countless stories suggesting a link between symptoms and exposure to electromagnetic fields in the media in recent years, the evidence from extensive scientific investigation paints a very different picture. While it has been estimated that up to 10 per cent of the population may suffer from the condition, no relationship between symptoms and exposure to electromagnetic fields has been uncovered.”

    He goes on to explain that ACEBR research supports the view “that a complex psychological phenomenon, the nocebo effect, could explain the condition” and that Media “misinformation and alarmist coverage understandably fuel community concerns, leading some people to believe that they are sensitive”.

    Verrender mentions in the article that this conclusion is backed up by the findings of a provocation study designed by ACEBR. To quote:

    At the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research, we designed a study to address these criticisms. Interestingly, our results not only aligned with previous studies, but also supported the view that a complex psychological phenomenon, the nocebo effect, could explain the condition. [4]

    What Verrender fails to mention, however, is that this study, which the authors call “ A novel approach”, while having seven investigators, only had three participants!

    To say the least, it is a bit novel in science to attempt to use the findings of a provocation study, based on so few participants, and then make such sensational claims. Researcher Dariusz Leszczynski has criticised the limitations of such studies, perhaps Verrender and colleagues have not yet read Leszczynski’s critique, which is here. And my comments on Leszczynski’s blog here.

    Perhaps Mr. Verrender’s research focus is somewhat understandable considering this is the firm viewpoint of his PhD supervisor Dr. Rodney Croft at ACEBR and his study focus is on “neurobiological and psychological determinants of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity”. In other words, his research has a preordained bias in trying to establish as a scientific fact that any supposedly health effects from wireless devices, from mobile phones, smart meters to 5G and beyond are solely a consequence of needless worry from a worried public led astray by alarmist media hype.

    From the various fact sheets being produced by ARPANSA and ACEBR which increasingly reflect this bias, it is a brave politician who dares question the government’s own expert’s opinions, even if those opinions are somewhat disingenuous.

    Don Maisch PhD

    [1] Hardell, L., Comment: Court Rules on information on health risks from wireless phones, January 17, 2019, https://lennarthardellenglish.wordpress.com/2019/01/17/court-rules-on-information-on-health-risks-from-wireless-phones/

    [2] Letter from Senator Bridget McKenzie, Federal Minister for Regional Services, to Senator Catryna Bilyk (Tas) Sept. 11, 2018

    [3] Verrender A, Phone tower anxiety is real and we’re worrying ourselves sick, ABC News, Jan 2019. https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-09/huawei-small-cell-boxes-fuelling-phone-radiation-anxiety/10701856?fbclid=IwAR0MDiPYWJO3VDrIR-phndPCeujQI8LUOFeQ-8OQE1FzOBtWwwTLDbHEbo8&pfm=sm

    [4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29125197

     

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