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17/01/2008 - Health Minister misleads the House of Commons

On the 14th of January, Dawn Primarolo, Secretary of State for Health, had to answer the following question presented to her in the House of Commons: "... what recent research her Department has commissioned into the potential effect on health of mobile telephone masts."

Sadly, her response was extremely poor, falling back on old and out-of-date HPA advice and weak summaries of MTHR evidence that does not match the data in the research.

In fairness to her, she has no real biological or scientific background and has to rely on advice she is given to make her reply, but it does beg the questions of how competent our Health Protection Agency is on keeping on top of the evidence of possible risk to health. She quotes the following:

"... exposure levels from living near to mobile phone base stations are extremely low, and the overall evidence indicates that they are unlikely to pose a risk to health"

HPA advice to the Department of Health, December 2007

One can't help but wonder what evidence exactly the HPA has been looking at, because there are not a large number of papers looking at base station exposure published. Those that are out there are not encouraging, with links to cancer[1][2], "Microwave Syndrome" effects[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10], cellular effects[11 - review of multiple papers], and animal studies[12][13][14]. In contrast to the issues with mobile phones, there have been almost no epidemiological studies that have not found a link between living proximity to mobile phone base stations and some form of health effect.

This was then followed by a reference to the 2007 MTHR report, which summarised that "None of the research published in its 2007 report so far demonstrates that biological or adverse health effects are produced by radiofrequency exposure from mobile phones or base stations."

This is a bizarre manipulation of the truth (again, this is the fault of the MTHR, not Dawn Primarolo). As we previously covered, despite the serious flaws that the INTERPHONE studies had, a number of the papers still managed to find concerning, statistically significant, increases in brain tumours for people using the phone for over 10 years[15][16][17] - This is completely inline with Hardell's work over the last 5 years finding exactly the same thing[18][19][20].


[1] - Eger H et al, (November 2004) The Influence of Being Physically Near to a Cell Phone Transmission Mast on the Incidence of Cancer, Umwelt Medizin Gesellschaft 17,4 2004 [View paper in full]

[2] - Wolf R, Wolf D, (April 2004) Increased incidence of cancer near a cell-phone transmitter station, International Journal of Cancer Prevention, 1(2) April 2004 [View paper in full]

[3] - Preece AW et al, (June 2007) Health response of two communities to military antennae in Cyprus, Occup Environ Med. 2007 Jun;64(6):402-8 [View on Pubmed]

[4] - Abdel-Rassoul G et al, (March 2007) Neurobehavioral effects among inhabitants around mobile phone base stations, Neurotoxicology. 2007 Mar;28(2):434-40 [View on Pubmed]

[5] - Hutter HP et al, (May 2006) Subjective symptoms, sleeping problems, and cognitive performance in subjects living near mobile phone base stations, Occup Environ Med. 2006 May;63(5):307-13 [View on Pubmed]

[6] - Bortkiewicz A et al, (2004) Subjective symptoms reported by people living in the vicinity of cellular phone base stations: review, Med Pr. 2004;55(4):345-51 [View on Pubmed]

[7] - Oberfeld G et al, (October 2004) The Microwave Syndrome - Further Aspects of a Spanish Study, Conference Proceedings [View paper in full]

[8] - Navarro EA et al, (December 2003) The Microwave Syndrome: A Preliminary Study in Spain, Electromagn Biol Med 22(2-3): 161-169 [Paper not on Pubmed]

[9] - Santini R et al, (September 2003) Symptoms experienced by people in vicinity of base stations: II/ Incidences of age, duration of exposure, location of subjects in relation to the antennas and other electromagnetic factors, Pathol Biol (Paris). 2003 Sep;51(7):412-5 [View on Pubmed]

[10] - Santini R et al, (July 2002) Investigation on the health of people living near mobile telephone relay stations: I/Incidence according to distance and sex, Pathol Biol (Paris) 2002 Jul;50(6):369-73 [View on Pubmed]

[11] - REFLEX Report, (December 2004) Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards From Low Frequency Electromagnetic Field Exposure Using Sensitive in vitro Methods, A project funded by the European Union under the programme "Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources" [View paper in full (10 MB .pdf]

[12] - Everaert J, Bauwens D, (2007) A possible effect of electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone base stations on the number of breeding house sparrows (Passer domesticus), Electromagn Biol Med. 2007;26(1):63-72 [View on Pubmed]

[13] - Yurekli A et al, (2006) GSM base station electromagnetic radiation and oxidative stress in rats, Electromagn Biol Med 25(3):177-88 [View on Pubmed]

[14] - Balmori A, (October 2005) Possible Effects of Electromagnetic Fields from Phone Masts on a Population of White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), Electromagn Biol Med 24: 109-119, 2005 [View paper in full]

[15] - Lahkola A et al, (April 2007) Mobile phone use and risk of glioma in 5 North European countries, Int J Cancer. 2007 Apr 15;120(8):1769-75 [View on Pubmed]

[16] - Schoemaker MJ et al, (October 2005) Mobile phone use and risk of acoustic neuroma: results of the Interphone case-control study in five North European countries, British Journal of Cancer. 2005 Oct 3; 93 (7): 842-8 [View on Pubmed]

[17] - Lonn S et al, (November 2004) Mobile phone use and the risk of acoustic neuroma, Epidemiology 2004 Nov;15(6):653-9 [View on Pubmed]

[18] - Hardell L et al, (September 2007) Long-term use of cellular phones and brain tumours - increased risk associated with use for > 10 years, Occup Environ Med. 2007 Sep;64(9):626-32 [View on Pubmed]

[19] - Hardell L et al, (October 2006) Tumour risk associated with use of cellular telephones or cordless desktop telephones, World J Surg Oncol 2006 Oct 11;4:74 [View on Pubmed]

[20] - Hardell L et al, (March 2003) Vestibular schwannoma, tinnitus and cellular telephones, Neuroepidemiology 2003 Mar-Apr;22(2):124-9 [View on Pubmed]

For a more comprehensive overview of the existing literature on mobile phones and their base stations, see our studies list


Hansard answers - Hansard written answers for 14th January 2008
HPA website, radition section - UK Health Protection Agency website, Radiation section
MTHR press release - MTHR press relesase on their 2007 Report
Powerwatch coverage of the MTHR report - Powerwatch coverage of the MTHR 2007 report

Also in the news

Michael Bevington speaks out about current and historical attitudes towards EMFs

Michael Bevington has put together a fantastic document looking at the historical attitudes towards EMF related health concerns and research. It covers how pre-conceived ideas and notions affect the open-mindedness of scientists to new hypotheses on areas of contention, and summarises the evidence to date and the possible implications that it may have.

This 56 page document is well worth reading, as it gives a very logical and rational approach to dealing with the conflicting arguments on both sides of the EMF debate.


Download EMF document - Download document in full (411 KB .pdf)

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