How the non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation “safety” standards were set and why they are not relevant

The Precautionary Principle indicates that, when there is plausible scientific evidence of significant harm from a proposed or ongoing activity, preventive or corrective action should be taken to reduce or eliminate that risk of harm, despite residual scientific uncertainty about cause and effect relationships. Although there is general agreement on the principle, humans to date have often failed dramatically in the practical application of it. As noted by Alasdair Phillips of Powerwatch, “History is filled with examples of “perfectly safe” environmental factors that later turned out to be harmful, if not disastrous….Even the American Medical Association (AMA) accepted tobacco advertising in its journals, with such statements as, “They won’t harm anybody. They will prove enjoyable.”

“There is almost always a delay between the occurrence of public health effects and avoidance or minimization measures. A new substance or technology is introduced. It is found to be useful and becomes widely used.

“People start noticing an increase in a symptom, which they suspect might be due to the chemical or device being used. Safety assurances are given by manufacturers and government agencies. A search of the diverse sources of scientific studies reveals evidence of associations, cellular changes or animal effects, but there is no direct human evidence of effects. Early human studies often don’t find evidence of effects, or some find a small but statistically insignificant rise in symptoms. Cancers have latencies of decades for many adult cancers. That is, it takes typically eight to thirty years for damaged cells to develop into full-blown cancers.

“Subsequently, occupational groups who have a distinctly higher chance of exposure are studied and found to have a higher incidence of the disease symptoms. The study is repeated and confirmed. We then have evidence of a human health effect, and exposure standards are set below the level at which effects have been found (by association), with significant safety factors to allow for the general population, which includes a proportion of very vulnerable and susceptible people.” (“Cell phones – a boon to modern society or a threat to human health?” an interview with Dr. Neil Cherry by Dorothy Hunt, M.A. F.T.C.L., 29/1/99 , http://www.nzine.co.nz/features/cellphones.html)

[However, the political clout of profiting industries can delay or side rail setting of safety standards. This is the stage we are now at. The results of the epidemiological studies are unequivocal, several mechanisms have also been discovered, yet standards that clearly allow injury to continue remain unchanged. Once again, the wealth of a few has been given priority over the health of many. —Shivani]

Time magazine reported, on July 30, 1990, that Louis Slesin of Microwave News, has printed what may be his greatest scoop: the key paragraph of a two-year Environmental Protection Agency study recommending that so-called extremely low-frequency fields be classified as “probable human carcinogens” alongside such notorious chemical toxins as PCBs, formaldehyde and dioxin. The recommendation, which could have set off a costly chain of regulatory actions, was deleted from the final draft after review by the White House Office of Policy Development. “The EPA thing is a stunner,” says Paul Brodeur, a writer for the New Yorker. “It’s a clear case of suppression and politicization of a major health issue by the White House.”

An explanation said the basic interaction between EM fields and biological interactions leading to cancer are not understood. Yet, in the same report, they suggest there is a causal link between leukemia, lymphoma and cancer in children with exposure to magnetic fields from residential 60hz distribution systems! One must wonder how these two contrasting statements coexist in the same report.

Paul Brodeur wrote of the EPA report in the New Yorker: “….the summary-and-conclusions section of the draft EPA report contained a persuasive indictment of power-line magnetic fields as a cancer-producing agent. Its authors stated that five of the six case-control studies published in the peer- reviewed medical literature showed that children who lived near power lines giving off strong magnetic fields were developing cancer more readily than children who did not live near power lines.”

Martin Halper, a director of the EPA, said in a December 1990 Fortune magazine article: “In all my years of looking at chemicals, I have never seen a set of epidemiological studies that remotely approached the weight of evidence that we’re seeing with ELF electromagnetic fields. Clearly there is something here.”

In a leaked United States National Council on Radiation Protection report funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and written by eleven leading American experts in EMFs. Bob Edwards, in the October 7, 1995 issue of New Scientist, writes that the report recommends an EMF safety limit of 2 mG (0.2 microteslas). He writes: “EPA officials say the report is the most comprehensive study ever on the health effects of low-frequency EMFs. Its findings represent a fundamental challenge to the electricity industry. The authors say that their recommendations, if accepted, could force ‘complex and costly’ changes in society’s use of electricity.”

In a July 16, 2002 letter from Norbert Hankin of the EPA’s Center for Science and Risk Assessment, Radiation Protection Division to Janet Newton, President of The EMR Network, Mr. Hankin writes: ” The FCC’s current exposure guidelines, as well as those of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, are thermally based, and do not apply to chronic, non-thermal exposure situations.”

“[The] FCC…. issued regulations setting public exposure limits for microwave radiation at levels at least ten thousand times higher than levels which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, were causing reports of illness from all over the world..

Digital (pulsed) technology is more harmful at lower levels of power than analog. The FCC’s mandate to replace all analog TV, radio, and telecommunications transmissions with digital during the next few years is very dangerous.” ( Arthur Firstenberg, Telecommunications vs. The Environment)

Cell phones are rated for “safety” according to SAR.

” Radio frequency (RF) and microwave (MW) field intensities are usually measured in milliwatts per square centimeter (mW/cm2). However, the intensity provides little information on the biological consequence unless the amount of energy absorbed by the irradiated object is known. This is generally given as the specific absorption rate (SAR), which is the rate of energy absorbed by a unit mass (e.g., one kg or one g of tissue) of the object. The unit of measurement for the SAR is watts per kg (W/kg).

The rate of absorption and distribution of RF/MW energies depend on many factors like type and shape of tissue, orientation relative to the radiation, type and parameters of the radiation, etc. The distribution of absorbed energy in an irradiated organism is extremely complex and non-uniform, and may lead to the formation of so called “hot spots” of concentrated energy in the tissue. EMF Issues

[Cell phone “safety tests” are done by exposing fluid in a plastic head to a cell phone held next to the “ear” while the temperature of the fluid is monitored. The safety level” is then set at a level that did not overheat the fluid. This has nothing to with the level of RF/MW frequency radiation that causes harm to living humans and animals in non-thermal ways. (A plastic head cannot possibly suffer from conditions such as insomnia, headaches, forgetfulness, inability to focus, Alzheimer’s or cancer.) Despite considerable evidence in published scientific literature for biological effects of electro-magnetic radiation in the RF/MW range of the spectrum at specific absorption rates (SARs) far too low to produce a heating response, the standard has not been updated to conform to reality. Your brain is not a plastic piñata. – Shivani]

” Existing Safety Guidelines, based solely on consideration of the SAR, afford no protection against ….frequency-specific effects,

….In order that the radiation can exert non-thermal influences, it is essential that the organism be alive, for only then are the various oscillatory endogenous electrical activities excited, via which the radiation can access the system..

….Clearly, non-thermal influences are connected more with the transfer of information from the irradiating field to the alive organism, through the latter’s ability to ‘recognise’ certain frequency characteristics of the radiation, than with its ability to absorb energy from the field.” (“The Existing Microwave Safety Guidelines are Inadequate”, Dr. Gerard Hyland, University of Warwick , International Institute of Biophysics)

In this same paper, Dr. Hyland suggests that at locations where there is any long-term exposure, power densities should not exceed 10 nanoW/cm2.

“About 1997, ICNIRP (International Commission for Non Ionizing Radiation Protection) took a very narrow view of the reasons for susceptibility of the bodies of living beings to Non Ionizing Radiation. They merely considered the heating effect and ignored the most important effects. ….In Germany , Bamberger <0.06 volts/metre give 30% illness, 0.06 -0.2 volts/metre gives 60% illness. These values are relatively close compared to ICNRP 41 volts/metre!” (Dr. John Walker)

….Magras & Xenos (1997) have reported irreversible sterility in mice after 5 generations of exposure to 0.168 to 1.053 microwatts per square centimeter in an “antenna park.” Note that the current, applicable US exposure standard would be 579 microwatts per square centimeter, — 500 times higher! — and that this very low exposure level would relate more to a person living near a Cellular Tower, than a phone user. (http://www.wave-guide.org/library/cellphones.html)

“Table 1 shows the international standards and safety guidelines established by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.
These exposure standards were established in 1990, more or less arbitrarily. The problem with these standards is that numerous scientific studies have shown significant biological effects induced by EMF at field strengths thousands of times below these safety standards.

Table 1: ELF safety standards

Table 1: ELF safety standards
Exposure electric field magnetic field
Whole Day 10 kV/m 5,000 mG
Short term 30 kV/m 50,000 mG
Limbs —- 250,000 mG
General Public
Up to 24 hrs. a day 5 kV/m 1,000mG
Short term 10kV/M 10,000 mG

( from:  http://www.icswebsite.com/emf/emfissues/emfissues5.html )

Stating that non-ionizing radiation can only harm you if it heats your tissues makes about as much sense as stating that cigarettes can only harm you by burning you.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified magnetic fields as a possible carcinogen.

In Russia:

” The threshold principle of injury to health is used as the basis of EMF limits .

….The bioeffects of microwaves were evaluated on the base of functions of the central nervous and neuroendocrinal systems, unspecific and specific immunity, generative function and etc.

….The results of the experimental researches have shown distinct dependence between

microwaves bioeffects and the intensity of exposure. They have confirmed the earlier available data about the expressed biological effect of microwaves exposure to the power density of 4 mW/cm2 and especially 10 mW/cm2 . The effects of the indicated intensity provoked distinct changes of functional condition of the central nervous and endocrinal systems, immunity and etc.

….The analysis of all data has allowed to establish that the parameters of effects characterizing the threshold of affect of the factor are 1 mW/cm2 for T = 120 min (S = 120mW/cm2 or 2000 µW . h/cm2 ) and 10 mW/cm2 for 25 min > T > 6 min (4166 µW . h/cm2 > S>1000 µW (h/cm2).

….It is necessary to take into account chronic long-term irradiation.” (THE RUSSIAN STANDARDS AND THE OPINION ABOUT INTERNATIONAL HARMONIZATION OF ELECTROMAGNETIC STANDARDS, Grigoriev Yu., Institute of Biophysics, Centre of Electromagnetic Safety, Russia, Moscow)

Dr. Chris König from the Public Health Department in the City of Salzburg explained that in that city they had adopted an interim public exposure standard based on a study which showed cellphone effects on sleeping subjects, and a safety factor of 500, resulting in a preliminary public exposure standard of 0.1mW/cm2 .

(Safety factors used for toxic chemicals range from 1 to 10,000.)

The European standard for safety for ELF fields is “20,000 milligauss is safe”, whereas experiments show that 2 milligauss causes a significant reduction in the cleansing effect of melatonin on cancer cells.

The following countries/regions are among those that have set exposure limits are below the factor 9 -espoused by the ICNIRP Guidelines: Greece, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, France (Paris), Austria – Salzburg, Spain (Regional Castilla-La Mancha), Switzerland (Prolonged Exposure), Russian Federation and Australia.

Kazakhstan has set a limit of 50 GrahamStetzer units for electrical pollution allowed. The responsible party has to pay for remediation.

A drastic reduction in exposure guidelines was also proposed in 1995 for Italy by the Physics Laboratory, National Institute of Health. They proposed a reduction to 1 mG for residential and 5 mG for occupational exposure.

To quote from their report, entitled, “High Voltage Power Lines in Italy: Quantitation of Exposure and Health Risk Evaluation:” “New regulations have recently been proposed in Italy, both at national and regional level, aimed at preventing possible long-term health effects of magnetic fields from power lines. Based on some indications from the epidemiological literature, the proposed standards require the exposure limits to be reduced to values that are three orders of magnitude lower than recommended by IRPA/INIRC guidelines.”

Dr. Cherry’s recommended public health protection standard for RF microwaves is 0.1 microwatts per sq. cm. He states that: “Every person is at risk of neurological effect from living, working or going to school in fields of 0.2 mG or more, I recommend the target limit chronic mean exposure level for children as 0.2 mG. This is not based on 0.2 mG being completely safe. No level of exposure to artificial oscillating fields is safe. The safe level of exposure to 50/60 Hz fields is zero.

For 50/60 Hz electromagnetic fields the recommended initial guideline is 1 mG A maximum limit value of 0.2 mG is recommended for the school environment. The desirable level in homes, schools and workplaces is 0.1 mG, the “Excellent” category. The 0.2mG level is in the “Good” category. People should aim to live in the “Good” to “Excellent” categories.

We need absolute proof positive of the harmful effects of EM radiation on living systems. We have it. The key is that the effects of radiation are CUMULATIVE – I repeat CUMULATIVE !!! IT CAN TAKE 10 – 20 – 30 or even more years for the damage to become apparent. It can even be handed down through generations. These things we know.

ALWAYS we must keep in mind that the results of radiation are CUMULATIVE over time.

We need measurements of total accumulated radiation over a specified period of time. Just as we did in the ‘60s when we wore personal dosimeters in the field locating sources of radiation. Just as Xray technicians and also people required to work in the Chernobyl (1986?) area must. We need to measure accumulated radiation. (“Motorola Funded Counter Research on Microwave DNA Damage”, Dr. Neil Cherry, Associate Professor of Environmental Health, Lincoln University, 9th December 2002)

“Adding to the worry in the United States is the virtual blackout on good information for the public and for our decision-makers . Local governments and their communities are prohibited by federal law from even discussing radiofrequency radiation issues in the siting process, and may not ask for information.

[This law was brought to you by the marriage of industry and politics. —Shivani]

There is presently no reliable way to get information on locations of cell sites, and levels of RFR they produce. In some communities, wireless carriers have been particularly successful in lobbying local governments to lease publicly-owned properties for sites. Therefore, there is a disincentive in making too many inquiries on behalf of the public they represent, for fear of incurring displeasure of their lessees. There may also be some liability issues that local jurisdictions incur, so that administrative records are intentionally kept “clean” of RFR health hazard and exposure level data.

Information should be overlain on a land use map showing nearest uncontrolled public access, distance to occupied buildings and designated land use for each building (home, school, daycare, pre-school, hospital, convalescent hospital or home, commercial office, shopping mall, etc) The purpose for generating this information is to allow the public to make reasoned judgments about whether and where to spend time at home, work, school and play with respect to chronic, low-level RFR exposure. Until better regulatory standards guide land-use compatibility decisions about whether and where to site new wireless transmitters, the public is obligated to perform its own detective work, become informed, and make personal choices about RFR exposure. At present, the circumstances generally make chronic, low-level RFR exposure involuntary by keeping information out of the public arena” ( “Radiofrequency Radiation Information: What the Public Needs to Know for Wise Decision-making in Cell Siting” , Cindy Sage of Sage Associates)

The FDA’s stated position: “It is generally agreed that further research is needed to determine what effects actually occur [from RFEMF exposure, ed.] and whether they are dangerous to people” (FDA 2002).”

The Consumer Affairs Commission (1999) found current thermal guidelines associated with EMR as irrelevant, since cancer and Alzheimer’s are associated with non-thermal EMR effects.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) concluded on July 24, 1998, that extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields should be regarded as possible carcinogens.

“The UK has allowed the highest output of radiation in the world.

[Several microwave towers have been pulled down at night by desperate residents. —Shivani]

It recently adopted lower levels of radiation, by accepting guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The ICNIRP standard, however, doesn’t offer any form of protection other than from the heating effects of microwave radiation. In other words, the ICNIRP standard only protects your body from properties of high levels of elevated temperatures. A very substantial body of peer-reviewed science clearly shows that many biological changes have already happened.

The Government and Health Protection Agency Radiation Protection (HPA RPD) -formerly known as the NRPB now admit that magnetic fields at the power levels of 0.4 microtesla doubles the risk of contracting leukaemia, whilst other European Countries have brought down their power levels to 1 or 2 microtesla, the UK remain 100 times higher. They also admit that they have known about this for over three years.” (“Mobile Phone And Mast Radiation – How Dangerous Are These”, by Eileen O’Connor of The EM Radiation Research Trust, October 1, 2005)

The United Kingdom’s National Radiological Protection Board urges that children should only use cellphones in emergency situations.

As stated by IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers) International Standard IEEE 519- 1980, revised to the IEEE 519-1992, the electric utilities are legally responsible for the quality of the electricity delivered by their wiring, particularly regarding high frequencies and harmonics. This is an internationally standard accepted by the USA. It is not enforced.

[Rule 92-D of The National Safety Code accepted by the US, Canada and Mexico prohibits objectionable flow of current over the grounding conductor. However, Wisconsin PSC allowed electric utilities to ground all transmission and distribution poles in the ’90s, in order to use the ground to return the current to the substations, rather than asking them to update their wiring to be able to properly return current to the substations via the wiring. As more and more current is added to the ground, the Wisconsin PSC raises the voltage allowed on the ground.

There is no such thing as “stray voltage.” Dogs stray. Electricity does not. “Stray voltage” is an absurd term concocted by the electric utilities & Public Service Commissions, which they define as only running through and affecting animals, not humans. Therefore, “stray voltage commissions” never have to consider complaints of human injury. Also, “stray voltage” is defined as being steady state, meaning just 60 Hz, whereas today’s current contains many frequencies. Therefore, “stray voltage” cases cannot be won by farmers, because what is damaging their cows does not fit the definition of “stray voltage.” In fact, most of the damage is not due to electrical shock, but caused by the high frequencies. — Shivani]

In drafting….guidelines for….exposure to powerline frequency (50-60 Hz) EMFs, Australian authorities….have taken their maximum exposure guidelines from overseas expert groups, mainly the ICNIRP, which are as follows, (for magnetic fields over a 24 hour exposure):

  • For Residential Exposures: 1000 milliGauss (mG)
  • For Occupational Exposures5000 milliGauss (mG)

….However….these guidelines are only designed to avoid immediate high level hazards and do not consider prolonged low-level exposures at all. This was admitted in 1991 by Dr. Keith Lokan, from the ARL in a conference paper published in Radiation Protection in Australia (Vol 9 No.4, 1991), referring to IRPA/INIRC guidelines which were taken over by the ICNIRP in 1993 and reconfirmed at that time.

To quote: ” These limits [as above] represent plausible field values, below which immediate adverse health effects are unlikely, and as such serve a useful purpose. They are NOT intended to provide protection against possible cancer induction by continued exposure at the lower field levels implicated in the studies we have been considering at this workshop.” (1 – 3 mG)

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