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28/08/2002 - EMF and DNA Breaks

The theory that susceptibility to cancer, at least in the first years of life in humans, and possibly the whole of short-lived animal lives, lies in the DNA has had further weight added to it. The work by ***************** showing that there are DNA markers present in children at birth which are indicators of the likelihood of the development of childhood leukaemia, were reinforced at the Bioelectromagnetic Society's (BEMS) annual meeting in Canada in June. There were difference in genetic composition between groups of rats that developed breast tumours following EMF exposure and those which did not. Dr Larry Anderson and Bernard Veyret, members of the IARC committee, which concluded that EMFs were a 'possible' human carcinogen said their conclusions might have been 'probable' or 'a known' carcinogen if this animal data had been available to them. More support for the significance of genetic makeup comes from a set of cellular experiments in which 50 Hz fields caused genetic changes, carried out by Dr Anna Wobus' group at the Institute for Plant Genetics and Agricultural Research in Germany. Based partly on information from Microwave News July / August 2002

The California EMF Program is to issue its final report 'at the end of the summer', concluding that EMFs are a cause of childhood leukaemia (54-95% likelihood), adult brain cancer (51-80%), miscarriages (51-59%), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS)(52-55%). For Alzheimer's (20-40%), male (20-45%) and female breast cancer (11-49%), adult leukaemia (40-85%), heart disease and suicide, they conclude that the evidence is weaker, but that a link to EMFs cannot be ruled out. It concludes that 'inexpensive' measures to reduce EMFs, such as changing powerline cabling and wiring in homes and schools can be justified on a cost-benefit basis. To those who argue that EMFs in the home or workplace are too weak to cause health effects, they respond that such arguments "depend on assumptions about biological systems that may or may not be sophisticated enough to reflect reality and rule out an effect." Microwave News July / August 2002

According to a progress report from the EC's REFLEX research project, distributed in May 2002, "a genotoxic effect of EMFs on primary cell cultures of human fibroblasts is to be considered as proven." This effect includes a significant level of DNA breaks. A considerable interindividual variance exists, suggesting it may be the genetic background that determines whether or not stem cells respond to EMFs (Microwave News).

Childhood cancers have increased by 26 percent since 1971, with some cancers being even higher, especially acute lymphocytic leukemia, 62 percent increase; brain cancer, 50 percent; and bone cancer, 40 percent. International studies have found paternal and maternal exposure (pre-conception, during conception and post-conception) to a wide range of occupational carcinogens to be major causes of childhood cancer. As well as food additives being strongly incriminated as likely factors in the development of cancer, there are strong associations between childhood cancers, particularly brain cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukaemia, and domestic exposure to pesticides from uses in the home, including pet flea collars, and chemicals used on the lawn and garden. Lindane, a potent carcinogen in shampoos for treating lice, is associated with major risks of brain cancer as it is readily absorbed through the skin. Ritalin, which is often prescribed for hyperactivity (ADD) in children, has been shown to induce highly aggressive rare liver cancers in rodents at doses comparable to those prescribed to children. Maternal exposure to ionizing radiation, especially in late pregnancy, is strongly associated with excess risks of childhood leukaemia. It should be particularly stressed that foetuses, infants and children are much more vulnerable and sensitive to toxic and carcinogenic exposures than are adults. Foetuses, infants and children are also more likely to suffer from other chronic toxic side effects of exposure to carcinogenic substances, including endocrine disruption and reproductive, haematological, immunological and genetic effects, for which there are no available incidence trend data comparable to those for cancer. The NRPB, the most conservative advisory body in Britain, has admitted an association between magnetic fields of 0.4 microtesla and above with childhood leukaemia. De-Kun Li, in research this year, already reported by Powerwatch, has found a significant increase in miscarriage in women travelling in the high magnetic fields that can be found in electric trains. This post-conception (and possibly pre-conception parental exposure) may have other effects on sperm, ova and developing foetuses that have not been researched. Separating out environmental factors is not easy, especially when carcinogenesis is linked with a multifactorial origin.

Cancer research, largely funded by drug companies, concentrates more on treatment of cancer than prevention. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in America spends under four percent of its budget on primary prevention, while the charitable American Cancer Society (ACS) allocates less than 0.1 percent of its revenues to primary prevention and "environmental carcinogenesis."

Health and Safety responsibilities from 24th July have moved from the Department of Transport to the Department of Work and Pensions. An MP's Office has said that it can take up to 6 months for a reply from Ministers these days! The Health and Safety Minister is Sally Keeble.