Krakow is fighting back against the rising tide of electromagnetic smog amid increasing evidence of its harmful effects. Photo: when i was a bird via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).
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Krakow's bold step to curb electromagnetic pollution reflects growing evidence of harm
12th January 2017
As Kraków, Poland's second city, takes steps to protect its citizens from rising electromagnetic 'smog' from mobile phones, wifi, Bluetooth, smart meters and other devices, Lynne Wycherley summarises 2016's news highlights on the emerging bio-risks of rising exposure to non-ionisiong radiation. For how much longer can governments continue to ignore the growing evidence of harm?
Are we placing a covert stress, perhaps, on our exposed trees and pollinators? Could we be failing to safeguard children, teenagers, and those in frail health? What is the growing carbon cost of global, ever-on transmitters?
The first mayor of Kraków to be elected by popular ballot, law professor Jacek Majchrowski is tackling an environmental issue most governors avoid: the electromagnetic pollution in his city.
Following work on air pollution, and in response to growing demand, he is initiating forums for citizens to discuss the growing 'smog' of electro-magnetic fields (EMFs).
In a world first he is also initiating the provision of meters to detect radio-frequency (RF) / extremely low frequency (ELF) EMFs so people can collect objective data on their exposure.
In December, Majchrowski hosted an international conference on EMF pollution and citizens' 'right to information' - an echo of the new Right to Know law in Berkeley, California (cell-phone sellers must supply safety information).
Speakers included Sławomir Mazurek, a pro-reform Polish minister for the Environment. Majchrowski and his team are now re-zoning mobile-phone masts (cell towers) to reduce EMF exposure levels.
With similar boldness, Argentina's Lower National Congress proposed a new health law last year to regulate electromagnetic pollution.
Supported by trade unions and NGOs, its radical draft measures included hard-wired networks in schools (also hospitals) - recalling the recent Green-led French law on "electromagnetic sobriety" (2015) and recommendations of the American Pediatrics Society and British Doctors' Initiative.
A planetary paradox
Across the planet, 2016 had seen a paradoxical trend: anthropogenic radiation from mobile and wireless trends continued to rise rapidly, alongside striking, under-reported findings on its possible bio-risks.
Cell-phone use was still climbing. India alone reached over 1 billion verified subscriptions. But like Wilde's picture of Dorian Gray, the small screens endlessly sold to us harboured a troubling reality. In May, researchers in the USA's $25 million National Toxicology Programme released early warnings (later stated in detail). Cell-phone radiation had shown clear tumour-promoting effects in the hearts and brains of the rats under study.
In Britain, meanwhile, neuroscientist Dr Sarah Starkey published a key peer-reviewed paper (October 2016) that exposed shocking bias in the 2012 report by AGNIR, the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation - a report behind many governments' take-no-action health policies, including the UK's. And one which (as she demonstrates) blatantly excludes the peer-reviewed precautionary science.
Long buried by Germany's government, a report offering a rare window on 878 Russian-language science papers (1960-1997) was finally translated, with updates, into English. Long-term studies on Soviet workers repeatedly charted chronic debilitation from weak EMFs - including pulsed microwaves that have been commercially 'repackaged' for today's telecoms.
Though research protocols differed from those current today, raising potential questions, the author, medical Professor Karl Hecht, persuasively condemns his government - and the West as a whole - for its reliance on short-term studies.
Voices in the wind: unheard cautions
But escalating trends were in train. In July, the USA's Federal Communications Commission approved unbridled commercial development of 5G, (July), despite serious question-marks about the new electromagnetic radiation being lined up for use, and the spiralling public exposure it would bring.
Whilst BT ran adverts for "the most powerful WiFi in the world" (UK), newly published papers continued to show DNA or organ damage to WiFi-exposed animals - raising questions about our habitual close exposure to routers / boosters.
And while the ITU (International Telecoms Union) told the United Nations that 95% of the world's population had mobile phone-mast coverage (July), with added 4G/LTE supplying 53%, a landmark study in Germany (September) revealed progressive harm to trees from the growing microwave radiation. Strongly irradiated trees, even two miles from antennae, died back, often to the point that they were felled.
Similarly troubling, a Greek study of pollinating insects found that many species decreased in step with phone-mast radiation (Lázaro et al). Underground-nesting species fared much better - an imbalance, the authors noted, that could have wide eco-impacts, or affect crops.
A study on Antarctic krill (March) found that navigation was disrupted by an exceptionally weak radiofrequency field. Research showing insect cell-death from 6 minutes' weak wireless exposure added to previous, similar findings (a, b, c) on Bluetooth etc. Both hint at a need to monitor our fast-rising, non-ionising radiation.
Under-age users - a 'generation zapped'?
In Los Angeles, a young director began filming Generation Zapped, a courageous documentary on smartphone / wireless risks. Now in its late stages of production, it attracted wide support.
Psychiatry professor Nicholas Kardaras, an expert in addiction, published his gripping book Glow Kids: how screen addiction is hijacking our kids (USA). Drawing on his clinical experience of over 1,000 teenagers, he adopted the term "digital heroin" for interactive small screens.
Sharing evidence for addiction-hallmark brain changes, however, he neglected plausible links with the wireless radiation itself (published RF risks to the prefrontal brain / opioid receptors).
A survey suggested US smartphone ownership began, on average, at age 10. Around the world, research showing children's cell-phone radiation absorption was higher than adults' - especially in the brain and bone marrow - continued to be overlooked. As did Russia's 4-year study on multi-tested cognitive decline in 7 to 12 year-olds using cell phones (2011), a contrast to milder, short-term findings elsewhere.
Cell-phone risks to the blood-brain barrier which shields the brain from toxins - long highlighted by Professor Salford - found support in a new study. Professor Hardell (who called for pulsed RF to be upgraded to a Class 1 carcinogen in 2014) co-published on whether cell-phones might be a possible, hidden factor in the rise of thyroid cancer.
And a review of 21 studies showing RF/cell-phone risks to male fertility (Houston 2016) concluded that free radical damage played a key role.
Lost in the tide: human rights
Outside Sweden, human rights continued to be denied to the rising numbers of adults and children testifying to EHS (severe 'electrosensitive' symptoms).
Reviewing up to date biological evidence, the European Academy for Environmental Medicine recommended low pulsed-microwave exposure limits (0.006 V/m) for those affected - far lower than from today's wireless transmitters - including in schools, hospitals, public transport, and libraries.
In July, the Spanish Court of Madrid pronounced a former telecoms engineer permanently disabled by EHS. Meanwhile an appeal judge (UK) awarded Employment and Support Allowance to a claimant, using surrogate terms due to the lack of legal recognition of EHS.
ICNIRP, the controversial regulatory body with newly documented conflicts of interest, now held 5 of the 6 seats in the WHO's core group on EMFs (2016). As early as 2000, in a 189-page report, environmental professor Neil Cherry concluded ICNIRP neglected evidence "that would have had a chemical declared carcinogenic, neuropathogenic, cardiogenic and teratogenic for humans many years ago."
Though views would vary widely, by October 2016, 223 EMF scientists from 41 nations had signed the ongoing appeal to the WHO and UN for new safety standards.
The UK's microwave smart-meter rollout lumbered forward, despite spiralling costs, overseas court claims for health damage, and scientists' call for worldwide, non-toxic alternatives. TV adverts obscured the meters' microwave spikes (downplayed by manufacturers) and research on emerging health risks. (See note.)
Installation began to take off in London's tenanted accommodation. Mel Kelly, reprinted in The Ecologist, had already pointed out that many poorer households (tenants) would face involuntary metering and exposure.
Guarding the troubled gardens of our cells
The interaction of toxic chemicals and electromagnetic fields continued to be neglected. The discovery of EMF-sensitive magnetite in the brain from chemical air pollution (September) did not bode well. Nor did the earlier discovery that weak wireless exposure speeded up rodent body tumours triggered by a chemical carcinogen (Lerchl 2015).
Apple launched its wireless 'earbuds', which expose the brain to Bluetooth, just as Professor Pall (winner of eight international awards) published a new paper on wireless risks to our nervous systems and brains (September).
This followed his ground-breaking work on a 'master mechanism' of harm: 26 peer-reviewed papers revealed over-stimulation of electrical gates (VGCCs) in our cell walls. This process boosts production of peroxynitrite (see note) - one of the most toxic compounds in the body - an emerging disease risk factor which triggers free radical damage to cells, tissues, mitochondria, and DNA.
Noting 93 papers showing free radical damage from low-level wireless radiation, Yakymenko, et al 2016 concluded it has "a high pathogenic potential". Associate Professor Havas (November 2016) drew a similar, insightful parallel with weakly ionizing radiation such as X-rays or low energy gamma rays of nuclear origin.
'Creative steps for low-addiction living'
Overall, 2016's precautionary findings, added to the accumulating data suggesting bio-risks, raise sensitive questions. Are we placing a covert stress, perhaps, on our exposed trees and pollinators? Could we be failing to safeguard children, teenagers, and those in frail health? What is the growing carbon cost of global, ever-on transmitters?
And as time passes, might profit-driven trends for microwave 'smart homes', crammed with devices plus micro-transmitters (IoT), risk a subtle 'sick building syndrome', to everyone's hidden cost? Our care for humanity, and the delicate legacy of DNA, invites us to reflect on such questions.
Can we take inspiration from Krakow, and the French Green law on EMFs? As 2017 unfolds, it seems clean ways forward deserve new thought, alongside creative steps for low-addiction living - a vital complement to going low carbon.
Lynne Wycherley is a nature poet with six published collections. Working in parallel with pioneering doctors, she has been investigating non-ionizing radiation for 5 years.
Also by Lynne Wycherley on The Ecologist:
- 'Wireless pollution 'out of control' as corporate race for 5G gears up' (October 2016).
- 'How the smartphone boom could damage your health and the environment' (December 2012).
French Law Sobriété de l'exposition aux champs électromagnétiques. Main points: A census, and remediation, of worst mobile-phone mast hotspots (> 6V/m). Public map of masts. (Ofcom's was removed, 2016, with no plans to replace). WiFi banned from nurseries. Wired internet in new primary-school facilities; existing routers switched off when not part of lessons. Public WiFi signage. Government report on EHS. Notice of all proposed / altered antennae to mayors/ residents. Deactivation instructions, plus SARs, with all transmitting products, plus cell-phone safety information supported by awareness campaigns.
The National Toxicology Programme's Ron Melnick, who led the study design team, confirmed "after extensive reviews, the consensus is that there was a carcinogenic effect."
Exposé of AGNIR, open access: Rev Environ Health 2016; 31(4): 493-503. "Decisions about involuntary, continuous and widespread RF exposures in schools, hospitals, workplaces and public and private spaces in the UK and around the world have been made based upon inaccurate conclusions of the AGNIR report." (AGNIR membership overlaps with ICNIRP: below)
Professor Hecht: the 878 studies reported net "multi-morbid clinical findings and nonspecific regulatory disorders" including fatigue and nervous-system/body clock changes.
Re-packaged "Même ondes pulsées, même fréquences, même symptoms" [the same pulsing waves, same frequencies, same symptoms"]: Dr Pierre le Ruz, a former head of military radar research, interviewed by documentary-maker Marc Khanne (2013)
5G Dr Joel Moskowitz, community-health studies director, University of California: "precaution is warranted before 5G is unleashed on the world." Trials bouncing mm waves off outdoor surfaces boasted "tremendous reflectivity": this is troubling if humanity wants to conserve low-wave areas.
WiFi-induced damage (animals) e.g. to kidneys (Kuybulu et al 2016): the authors advise "staying away from EMF source especially in pregnancy and early childhood...may reduce negative effects of exposure on kidney." 2015 findings included free radical damage to uterus & foetus. Earlier results included pre-diabetic trends from 1 hour's WiFi for 21 days Salah et al 2013).
Parents may not realise tablets left in WiFi mode transmit continual microwave spikes - above 6V/m in ipads (video), exceeding smart phones' - even in the absence of a WiFi connection.
Tree damage "The occurrence of unilateral damage is the most important fact in our study" [i.e commencing on the more irradiated side] "This constitutes a danger for trees worldwide." Waldmann-Selsam C et al, Sci Total Envi 2016. (Microwave field measurements, V/m, reveal similar pollution levels local to, e.g., microcells, new WiFi boosters, and DECT security alarms). A small replication study on seedling failure in strong mast radiation (2016) awaits scaling up.
Genetic effects in residents (masts) "genetic damage evident in the participants of this study needs to be addressed against future disease-risk" Gandhi et al (ditto for blurred vision etc. 2014)
Professor Kardaras: "I have found it easier to treat heroin and crystal meth addicts than lost-in-the-matrix video gamers or Facebook-dependent social media addicts." Recent brain-imaging research shows effects in the frontal cortex matching those seen from cocaine.
Prefrontal brain Seat of 'executive functions' including impulse control. ADHD and prefrontal brain damage was found in mice prenatally exposed to mobile phones (Aldad 2012), and higher ADHD (not necessarily causal) in children with prenatal/postnatal exposure (Divan et al 2008).
Opioids ''low-level RF activates both endogenous opioids and other substances in the brain that function in a similar manner to psychoactive drug actions. Such effects in laboratory animals mimic the effects of drugs on the part of the brain that is involved in addiction.'' Bio-Initiative Report summary p.13
Cell-phones (children) Russian research: Khorserva et al, 2011. Other published cell-phone risks to children - and adults - include brain-protein/neurotransmitter imbalances e.g. Fragopoulou 2012/Aboul 2013 (re: depression, anxiety, memory, learning). See also Prof H Lai's overviews 1, 2. Pediatrics found some mobile-device use in a staggering 97% of American 4-year-olds (Nov 2015).
Blood-brain barrier (mammals): 30 minutes' 2G or 3G radiation from a mobile phone increased its permeability, Sirav & Seyhan, J Chem Neuroanat, Sept 2016; 75 (Pt B):123-7. (Salford found cases of delayed damage from the equivalent of 1.85m from a mobile phone).
Thyroid cancer "The incidence...is increasing in many countries, especially the papillary type that is the most radiosensitive", Hardell et al 2016. Thyroid cancer risks from ionising radiation in Japan (Fukushima), though dismissed by some specialists, were eloquently highlighted in The Ecologist.
ICNIRP International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection. (To date, has upheld industry-friendly safety standards that protect only against high-intensity exposures that 'cook' tissue). In 2004, noting ICNIRP was an "unelected" body, Caroline Lucas observed that "much of the science is being ignored, and the precautionary principle ... seems not to apply." Some scientists have appealed for broader representation on WHO's EMF core group (19 Dec 2016).
Smart meter rollout * Industry whistle-blower Diana Ostermann exposed how manufacturers downplay the house-piercing microwave pulses. Australian GP Federica Lamech testified "I suddenly became sick overnight with palpitations, chest pain, insomnia, dizziness, inability to concentrate, memory loss and fainting spells. I [later] found out it was [when] the smart meters were remotely turned on"(she had to abandon her home). For clinical findings see, e.g. Professor Marino / Dr Dietrich Klinghardt.
Apple wireless earbuds use an 'ever on' Bluetooth microwave transceiver that connects to the user's smartphone. Dr Joel Moskowitz: "We are playing with fire ... You are putting a microwave-emitting device next to your brain."
Professor Pall, 2016: "studies provide substantial evidence that microwave EMFs from cell/ mobile phone base stations, excessive cell/mobile phone usage and from wireless smart meters can each produce similar patterns of neuropsychiatric effects, with several of these studies showing clear dose-response relationships."
Peroxynitrite is regarded as an emerging key agent in the 'diseases of civilisation': cancer, neuro-degeneration, chronic inflammatory conditions, etc. [Prof Pall: strong mains-electric fields can contribute by a similar "VGCC" mechanism]. For RF/ELF oxidative damage, see Prof Georgiou .
Professor Havas: "As usage of microwave-emitting devices increases and is marketed to younger consumer without caution, we can expect a societal increase of certain types of cancers...as well as infertility and other health effects associated with free-radical damage".
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