Janet Ekong Writes
Mankind’s aversion to history can be quite puzzling to say the least. We have, over and over again repeated the mistakes of the past with huge and sometimes catastrophic consequences but we still capitulate to short term percuniary gains while destroying our collective future in several cases. A case in point is the needless and foolish politics of Carbon credit that surrounds our preservation of the Earth – effects which are already staring us right in the face – and short term gains in global economics and commerce.
The pursuit of our collective good evaporates in the face of big taxes and influence from powerful conglomerates even when the effects of such damage is already devastating us all. Did we learn from the effects of politics in Religion as was the case in Medieval Europe, what about the lies and skewed researches of the Tobacco companies or the strangulating grip of gun lobbyist that has turned our world into one huge keg of gunpowder; or the pandering to the whims and caprices of big Pharmaceutical companies while millions perish due to unaffordability of insanely expensive drugs that could be several times cheaper?
Yes, we are at it again! This time, the Telecommunications giants are the ones going for our jugular. .Dr. Devra Davis (PhD MPH) delivered Dean’s Lecture at The University of Melbourne on Mobile Phone and Wireless Radiation and aptly noted that “It’s worth remembering that the telecommunication industry is much larger than the medical industrial complex, and they have far more influence than the drug companies. They’re also mirroring many of the same tactics as the tobacco industry to peddle their wares. This includes attempting to discredit researchers who publish unfavourable cell phone studies”. She equally posited that “the results of any study can be accurately predicted by looking at its sponsorship. According to a review by Dr. Lai in 2008, the probability that a study will find “no effect” is two to three times higher in industry-funded studies, while independently-funded studies into the health effects of mobile technology are TWICE as likely to find a positive result’’.
Yes, technology has leapt our civilization several notches higher and the role of the Telecommunications in our lives is indispensable at this time and can’t be overemphasized but should a government – designed to manage the collective wealth of the citizens for the greater social development for the majority at least- capitulate and defer to the so called influence of these powerful Multinationals? Isn’t it a part of the terms of reference of a government to protect its citizens first and foremost even if it must err on the side of caution? NCC (Nigeria Communications Commission) cannot tell Nigerians that EMF (Electromagnetic Field- EMF is used to indicate the presence of electromagnetic radiation) from Masts and mobile phones are not dangerous to our health in the face of several scientific studies and empirical evidence that clearly suggest the contrary. As Dr. Devra Davies rightly summarized in her lecture mentioned above, “be aware that there is already robust scientific evidence that cell phones and other wireless devices pose significant health risks to all of us—especially to children and pregnant women. So while such findings are not being widely publicized as of yet, it makes sense to take action now to protect yourself and your children”.
I am not suggesting that we drive these Multinationals out of business but emphasizing the need for Government sensitization of the citizenry to the dangers of EMF, even if it imagines the danger is potential. Several other Governments have taken actions to protect its citizen on the dangers of EMF rather than lull the people into a false sense of safety like the Nigerian Government via NCC has done. Professor Denis Henshaw – Professor of Physics and head of Human Radiation Effects group at Bristol University commented that Mobile phones is an issue we all bury our heads in the sand. He said “The first mobile phone technology was rolled out without really any consideration for the long-term effects, just like asbestos and smoking. The government rakes in billions from the technology, in taxes from the mobile phone companies and licensing of the networks. The new generation really doesn’t want to know about any potential ill effects.” Even if the new generation may not have wanted to know the potential effects, the effects are already evident in several cases and living with us. An example is the case of Innocenzo Marcolini who developed a tumour in the left side of his head after using his mobile phone for between 5 and 6 hours a day for 12 years. He sued the Company and won in October 2012, a pension for Occupational disease both in the High Courts and the Supreme Court in Italy. So contrary to the denials of many health agencies in the U.S. and in some other countries like Nigeria, the Italian Supreme Court has recognized a “causal” link between heavy mobile phone use and brain tumor risk as in the compensation case of Innocenzo Marcolini. Again, a condition known as electro-sensitivity or hypersensitivity (EHS) which is where people are sensitive to non-ionising radiation now exists. Sweden now has a medical register of 285,000 and California 700,000 sufferers and it is believed that these figures are underestimated, since many people are not aware that their symptoms are connected to the condition known as electro-sensitivity. Nigerians should not be deceived into this false sense of safety and we must not forget the activities of the Tobacco Companies who concealed the dangers of smoking and the addictiveness of nicotine and supported their position with numerous deceptive studies. Or asbestos producers who hid evidence that the mineral was dangerous even though tens of thousands of workers were dying from exposure. We must ‘shine our eyes’ like we say in our local parlance.
NCC has gleefully informed us that there is no scientific studies that shows dangers of EMF or that radiation from masts and phones are well within the International safety limits. Both statements are incorrect. There are several studies showing dangers of EMF as listed below. Secondly, the International safety limits of radiation exposure is being debunked by several scientists. On the strength of convergent evidence in several studies, several scientists called the United Nations to action in a paper presented to UN’s Banki Moon. In their paper titled “Scientists Call For Protection From Non-Ionizing Electromagnetic Field Exposure”, they stated that “The US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) limit for public exposure from cellular telephones is Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) level of 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6 W/kg) but that numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage goes well beyond the human race, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plant and animal life”. This shows that the International Safety standard of International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) which is the bedrock of the safety assumptions of NCC, is even being disputed by several scientific studies.
SCIENTIFIC STUDIES ON EMF:
There are hundreds of scientific studies of diverse magnitude on the harmful effects of EMF. Below are just a few whose details can easily be accessed through a simple Google search. They include:
⦁ On May 31, 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO)/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a report admitting cell phones might indeed cause cancer, classifying radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Class 2B). The classification came in part in response to research showing wireless telephones increase the risk for brain cancer.
According to the press release:
“Dr Jonathan Samet (University of Southern California, USA), overall Chairman of the Working Group, indicated that “the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.”
“Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings,” said IARC Director Christopher Wild, “it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands‐free devices or texting.”
⦁ The Naila Study, Germany (November 2004) – This study, conducted over 10 years was released by The Federal Agency for Radiation Protection, Germany. Medical doctors compiled case histories since 1994 – 2004, looking at heightened risk of taking ill with malignant tumours. They discovered a threefold increase after five years exposure to microwave radiation from a mobile phone mast transmitter for up to 400 metres distance, compared to those patients living further away.
⦁ A study carried out by Ronni Wolf MD and Danny Wolf MD, Kaplan Medical Centre, Israel (April 2004)discovered a fourfold increase in cancer within 350 metres after long-term exposure to microwave radiation from a mobile phone mast and a tenfold increase specifically among women, compared to patients living away from the mast.
⦁ Austrian scientists Dr Gerd Oberfeld sent out a press release 1 May 2005 with this report: ´A study in Austria examined radiation from a mobile phone mast at a distance of 80 metres; EEG tests of 12 electro-sensitive people proved significant changes in the electrical currents of the brains. Volunteers for the test reported symptoms like buzzing in the head, palpitations of the heart, un-wellness, light headedness, anxiety, breathlessness, respiratory problems, nervousness, agitation, headache, tinnitus, heat sensation and depression
⦁ Bamberg, Germany 26-April, 2005 ; Dr C Waldmann-Selsam, Dr U. Seger Study: Bamberg, Oberfranken evaluated the medical complaints of 356 people who have had long-term [radiation exposure in their homes from pulsed high frequency magnetic fields (from mobile phone base stations, from cord-less DECT telephones, amongst others). They observed that people suffered from one, several or many of the following symptoms: Sleep disturbances, tiredness, disturbance in concentration, forgetfulness, problem with finding words, depressive mood, ear noises, sudden loss of hearing, hearing loss, giddiness, nose bleeds, visual disturbances, frequent infections, sinusitis, joint and limb pains, nerve and soft tissue pains, feeling of numbness, heart rhythm disturbances, increased blood pressure episodes, hormonal disturbances, night-time sweats, nausea. Following from the study, an Open letter was written to the German Prime Minister…. ⦁ www.tetrawatch.net/links/links.php?id=stoiberlet.
⦁ Dr. Siegal Sadetzki, the principal investigator of a 2008 study, testified at a ⦁ U.S. Senate Hearing that cell phones were identified as a contributor to salivary gland tumors. The report states that your risk of getting a parotid tumor on the same side of your head that you use for listening to the mobile phone increases by:
⦁ 34 percent if you are a regular cell phone user and have used a mobile phone for 5 years.
⦁ 58 percent if you had more than about 5,500 calls in your lifetime.
⦁ 49 percent if you have spoken on the phone for more than 266.3 hours during your lifetime.
⦁ Dr David Carpenter, Dean at the School of Public Health, State University of New York, in a study says 30% of all childhood cancers are associated with EMF ( Electro magnetic Field) exposure.
⦁ According to Professor Lennart Hardell of Sweden, those who begin using cell phones heavily as teenagers have 4 to 5 times more ⦁ brain cancer as young adults!
The following image, used with permission from the book Public Health SOS: The Shadow Side of the Wireless Revolution, clearly shows the differences in depth of penetration between adults and young children.
⦁ Dr. Devra Davis, author of “Disconnect–The Truth About Cellphone Radiation,” has been researching the safety hazards of radiation emanating from your cell phone.
Like many people, Dr. Davis just didn’t believe the possibility of cell phones being dangerous―until she studied it. And now, with the toxicological and epidemiological evidence to back up her claims, she’s trying to get the word out that cell phone radiation is not only dangerous, but can be downright lethal.
⦁ Researchers have now identified numerous mechanisms of harm, which explain how electromagnetic fields impact your cells and damages your DNA.
One such expert is Dr. Martin Blank, PhD, one of the most experienced researchers of the cellular and molecular effects of electromagnetic fields in the U.S. He gave an informative speech at the November 18, 2010 Commonwealth Club of California program, “The Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields,” co-sponsored by ElectromagneticHealth.org. In it, he explained why your DNA, with its ‘coil of coils’ structure, is especially vulnerable to electromagnetic fields of all kinds.
As described in the International Journal of Radiation Biology, April 2011ix, DNA possesses the two structural characteristics of fractal antennas: electronic conduction, and self-symmetry.
These properties contribute to greater reactivity of DNA to electromagnetic fields than other tissues, making the long-term consequences of repeated microwave exposures to our genetic material of great concern. Dr. Blank is adamant when he says that there IS evidence of harm, and that the harm can be significant. He also points out that the science showing harmful effects has been peer-reviewed, published, and that the results have been replicated, evaluated and “judged by scientists capable of judging it’’.
An analysis of the range of known mechanisms of action, including DNA effects, was published in November 2010 in “Non-Thermal Effects and Mechanisms of Interaction Between Electromagnetic Fields and Living Matterx.”
⦁ Researchers in Academic hospital, Maastricht, the Netherlands conducted a study to investigate to what degree radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation, induced by a mobile phone placed on the chest, impacts cardiac rhythm. The participant underwent four experimental sessions, spread over four days. A session consisted of four consecutive 15 minute conditions, three with a sham phone and one with a dialling mobile phone. The participant was blind for the condition. During each condition, per-millisecond electrocardiac activity (lead V4) and radiofrequency radiation was recorded jointly.
The result showed the macrolevel analysis clearly indicated that heart rate was lowered during the radiation exposure condition. Conclusions: Mobile phone radiation may impact heart rate, suggesting urgent further study to assess physiological safety parameters.
⦁ A Swedish scientific team at the Karolinska Institute conducted an ⦁ epidemiological study (2004) that suggested that regular use of a mobile phone over a decade or more was associated with an increased risk of ⦁ acoustic neuroma, a type of benign ⦁ brain tumor. The increase was not noted in those who had used phones for fewer than 10 years.
⦁ In 2007, Dr. ⦁ Lennart ⦁ Hardell, from Örebro University in Sweden, reviewed published epidemiological papers (2 cohort studies and 16 case-control studies) and found that
⦁ Cell phone users had an increased risk of malignant gliomas.
⦁ Cell phone use was linked to a higher rate of acoustic neuromas.
⦁ Tumors are more likely to occur on the side of the head that the cell handset is used.
⦁ One hour of cell phone use per day significantly increases tumor risk after ten years or more.
⦁ In March 2015, a study on mice carried on by Prof. Alexander Lerchl of ⦁ Jacobs University in Bremen and his team on behalf of the German ⦁ Federal Office for Radiation Protection found out that the growth rate of liver and lung cancer generated by chemical substances raises substantially when the animals are lifelong irradiated with mobile phone-like e.m. fields. This study confirms a research carried on in 2010 at Fraunhofer Institute. Moreover, the researchers discovered a significant higher rate of lymphomas, and found out that some of the effects occur also for field intensities lower than current limits. The underlying mechanisms are unknown
⦁ In 2014, a French national case-control study, CERENAT, confirmed a possible association between heavy mobile phone use and brain tumours (gliomas and meningiomas), finding an up to eight-fold increased risk of gliomas tied with cellphone use.
⦁ In December 2004, a pan-⦁ European study named REFLEX (Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards from Low Energy Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Exposure Using Sensitive in vitro Methods), involving 12 collaborating laboratories in seven European countries showed some compelling evidence of DNA damage of cells in in-vitro cultures, when exposed between 0.3 to 2 watts/kg, whole-sample average. At a cost of about $3million, the study showed yet again that RF radiation could increase the number of DNA breaks in exposed cells and could also activate a stress response – the production of heat shock proteins. It was clear chromosome damage could be seen in the cell exposed to mobile phone radiation over 24 hours exposure. You can view an image of the cell damage on Dr Gerd Oberfeld´s Westminster Presentation on ⦁ www.radiationresearch.org.
⦁ In 1995, in the journal Bioelectromagnetics, Henry Lai and Narenda P. Singh reported damaged DNA after two hours of microwave radiation at levels deemed safe according to U.S. government standards.
⦁ Microwaves seem to also be interfering with human reproduction according to a recent paper by Dr Imre Fejes of the obstetrics and gynaecology department at the University of Szeged in Hungary who concludes: “The prolonged use of cell phones may have a negative effect on sperm production and male fertility that deteriorates both concentration and motility.” See news report-: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1159951,00.html
⦁ An Israeli research group reported a sharp increase (58%) in the incidence of ⦁ parotid gland ⦁ tumors over the last 30 years, with the steepest increase happening after 2001. Your parotid gland is a type of salivary gland, located closest to your cheek—the same area where most people typically hold their cell phones. The researchers found a four-fold increase in parotid gland cancers from 1970 to 2006, while rates of other salivary gland cancers remained stable.
⦁ Furthermore, the mobile industry’s own research in the 13-country Interphone study showed a 40 percent increased risk of brain cancer from 1,640 or more hours of cell phone use, and independent Swedish research published in 2007 showed a 540 percent increased risk of brain cancer from greater than 2,000 hours of cell phone use.
⦁ The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) supported and animal study on the effects of microwave radiations on reproductive systems of male rats at JMU. The result showed that chronic exposure to these radiations cause double strands DNA breaks in sperm cells
⦁ Researchers at the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, have found correlation between mobile phone use and DNA and Chromosomal damage in certain individuals using cell phones.
ACTIONS TAKEN BY DIFFERENT NATIONS:
⦁ The UK Department of Health recommends that children under 16 should use mobile phones for short, essential calls only.
⦁ The French government has banned advertising of mobile phones to children under 14 and is banning mobile phones in schools
⦁ The European Environment Agency has called for governments, industry and the public to adopt measures to reduce children’s exposure.
⦁ The Israeli parliament has recommended an education programme to alert pupils to the potential dangers of mobile phone use.
⦁ San Francisco has passed regulations obliging the mobile manufacturers to adopt mandatory radiation labelling on mobile phones
⦁ The Helsinki Appeal 2005 from EMF Team Finland calls on the European Parliament to act promptly for the adoption of the new safety standard in the European Union. Physicians and researchers, feel great concern about the Precautionary Principle not being sufficiently applied to electromagnetic fields. They want the standards recommended by ICNIRP to be rejected, because recent scientific studies report various disturbances caused by mobile phone and other RF radiation.
⦁ The Irish Doctors´ Environmental Association believes that a sub-group of the population are particularly sensitive to exposure to different types of electro-magnetic radiation. They aver that “the safe levels currently advised for exposure to this non-ionising radiation are based solely on its thermal effects. However, it is clear that this radiation also has non-thermal effects, which need to be taken into consideration when setting these safe levels. The electro-sensitivity experienced by some people results in a variety of distressing symptoms which must also be taken into account when setting safe levels for exposure to non-ionising radiation and when planning the siting of masts and transmitters.’’
Thirty GPs in Liverpool: It was reported in the Liverpool Echo on November 2003 ” bad medicine”. A group of thirty, hospital doctors and consultants have signed a petition against the installation of a mast which they believe is a risk to health.
Freiburger⦁ Appeal: In October 2002 a team of German medical doctors started the Freiburger Appeal. After seeing a dramatic rise in severe and chronic diseases, they have noted a clear temporal and spatial correlation between disease and exposure to microwave radiation. The appeal has since been signed by thousands of doctors.
⦁ Russians, Chinese and many other parts of Europe are rejecting ICNIRP standards and are concerned about the biological effects.
⦁ The Ministry of Chinese Health revealed that in the last ten years studies on radiation similar to that emitted by the mobile phone industry have shown a majority of results are showing biological effects. Out of 154 studies, 88 or 57% have shown biological effects such as cancer, genetic molecular and cellular changes, electro physiology effects, behaviour changes etc. in a survey by Dr Henry Lai, Washington University, Seattle 2003. It said that the amount of evidence for biological effects and the characteristics of these are so alarming, that all efforts should be dedicated to find a way to minimize these effects.
⦁ China held an International Conference September 2005 in order to discuss and establish Asian Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ACNIRP). Research scientists have found that relatively low-level of RF (radio-frequency) radiation can lead to DNA breaks.
⦁ Government sets alarm bell ringing on phone hazards as all handsets in Delhi to come with radiation emission tags. Delhi government asks Centre to frame rules for mushrooming cell towers
RECOMMEMDATIONS OF A CONGLOMERATION OF SCIENTISTS TO THE UNITED NATIONS AS PRESENTED TO BANKI MOON
The group expressed their concern over the fact that despite both International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) findings, the WHO continues to maintain that there is insufficient evidence to justify lowering these quantitative exposure limits. This is even as it has adopted the IARC classification of extremely low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF EMF) in 2002 and radiofrequency radiation (RFR) in 2011 – classification which states that EMF is a possible human carcinogen (Group 2B).
They however recommended the following: (EXCERPTS)
⦁ Since there is controversy about a rationale for setting standards to avoid adverse health effects, we recommend that the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) convene and fund an independent multidisciplinary committee to explore the pros and cons of alternatives to current practices that could substantially lower human exposures to RF and ELF fields. The deliberations of this group should be conducted in a transparent and impartial way. Although it is essential that industry be involved and cooperate in this process, industry should not be allowed to bias its processes or conclusions. This group should provide their analysis to the UN and the WHO to guide precautionary action.
⦁ Children and pregnant women be protected;
⦁ Guidelines and regulatory standards be strengthened;
⦁ Manufacturers be encouraged to develop safer technology;
⦁ Utilities responsible for the generation, transmission, distribution, and monitoring of electricity maintain adequate power quality and ensure proper electrical wiring to minimize harmful ground current;
⦁ The public be fully informed about the potential health risks from electromagnetic energy and taught harm reduction strategies;
⦁ Medical professionals be educated about the biological effects of electromagnetic energy and be provided training on treatment of patients with electromagnetic sensitivity;
⦁ Governments fund training and research on electromagnetic fields and health that is independent of industry and mandate industry cooperation with researchers;
⦁ Media disclose experts’ financial relationships with industry when citing their opinions regarding health and safety aspects of EMF-emitting technologies; and
⦁ White-zones (radiation-free areas) be established.
In as much as we do need the billions from the Telecommunications Companies especially at this critical time in our economy, it is the responsibility of the Government to be honest with its citizens especially on health issues as seen in other climes. It is even more expedient to be circumspect rather than convey a false sense of safety in the face of an avalanche of scientific evidence to the contrary. If mobile phones (a one channel two way radio) is dangerous to health, how much more a multi-channel radio like a base station, height of the mast notwithstanding. We really must be careful not to be penny wise, pound foolish for the cost of health care as a consequence of EMF to millions of Nigerians in the near future could wipe out the so called huge gains from the Telecoms. The gravity of this scenario, I believe, could be drastically diminished by timely warnings and proactive actions by NCC rather than denials.