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18/06/2009 - Interphone DECT flaws highlighted by new Swiss Study

After the recent coverage broadcasting the submission of the first Interphone summary paper to a journal for publication, it seems an appropriate time to highlight the findings of a newly published Swiss study (Frei et al, May 2009) in the journal Environmental Research.

It has been repeatedly speculated that the exclusion of DECT digital cordless phones from the Interphone protocol may represent a serious confounder in the accuracy of the data produced, and the statistical ability for the findings of the individual Interphone studies to actually demonstrate an effect even if one exists. This paper highlights just how potentially serious the confounder might actually be: Using RF dosimetry meters the typical exposures to RF EMFs were measured in 166 study participants, and found that typical mean exposures were 0.13 mW/m2 (0.22 V/m) over the period measured. The range of mean exposures varied from 0.014 mW/m2 (0.07 V/m) to 0.881 mW/m2 (0.58 V/m), with the highest values being related to public transport systems such as trains, airports or buses.

However, the abstract also separated out the exposure into 3 main sources, which they highlighted as mobile phone base stations (32.0%), mobile phone handsets (29.1%), and DECT phones (22.7%). This means that of the total exposure to RF, at least 54.7% (with a further possible 16.2% from other exposures) has not been catered for, either in "exposed usage" or in controlled confounders within any of the Interphone papers. As the Interphone protocol assessed only mobile phone usage as a (hopefully appropriate) proxy for RF EMF exposure, it means that the exposure assessment they have used is massively inaccurate, having assessed potentially less than a third of the participants actual exposure.


Paper abstract on Pubmed - Paper abstract on Pubmed
Environmental Research journal description on Elsevier - Environmental Research journal description on Elsevier
IARC announcement of Interphone paper being published - IARC announcement of Interphone paper being published
Microwave News coverage of the Interphone issue - Microwave News coverage of the Interphone issue
Lloyd Morgan's column entry on the flaws of the Interphone studies and their protocol - Lloyd Morgan's analysis of the Interphone protocol

Also in the news

ARPANSA increase their acute ELF exposure limits threefold

ARPANSA, the Australian Radiation Protection And Nuclear Safety Authority (equivalent of the old UK NRPB), have just drafted an update to their ICNIRP-esque ELF EMF standards, recommending an increase from 100 µT to 300 µT for short term exposure.

The 3-fold increase in the allowed ELF magnetic fields guidance levels will not break the basic EMF restrictions (mainly induced currents and voltages) in a human body. The NRPB / HPA-RPD in the UK circulated and web-posted a paper suggesting just this in April 2005. The driving force for this may well have been the discovery that in some trains and many tube-trains the ICNIRP guidance levels are exceeded and something like 300 µT (3000 mG) would cover this problem. It is unlikly that this is due to any real change in health effects exposure rationale at all, simply a case of covering themselves against any law suits which they have discovered they can do without changing the basic restrictions.

However, whilst this will have little bearing on typical residential and occupational exposures for most people, and no bearing whatsoever on those electromagnetically sensitive to ELF EMFs, it sends out a very mixed message when the evidence for Childhood Leukaemia [Ahlbom 2000, Greenland 2000], Alzheimer's [Garcia 2008] (First 3 references are meta-analyses, the rest are indivual studies), neurodegenerative diseases (such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) [Feychting 2003, Hakansson 2003, Ahlbom 2001] and miscarriage [Lee 2002, Li 2002, Cao 2006] is so strong at far lower exposure levels (typically > 0.4 µT).


ARPANSA homepage - ARPANSA homepage


1. P Ahlbom A et al, (September 2000) A pooled analysis of magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia, Br J Cancer. 2000 Sep;83(5):692-8 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
2. - Greenland S et al, (November 2000) A pooled analysis of magnetic fields, wire codes, and childhood leukemia. Childhood Leukemia-EMF Study Group, Epidemiology. 2000 Nov;11(6):624-34 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
3. P Garcia AM et al, (April 2008) Occupational exposure to extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields and Alzheimer disease: a meta-analysis, Int J Epidemiol. 2008 Feb 2 [Epub ahead of print] [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
4. P Feychting M et al, (July 2003) Occupational magnetic field exposure and neurodegenerative disease, Epidemiology. 2003 Jul;14(4):413-9; discussion 427-8 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
5. P Hakansson N et al, (July 2003) Neurodegenerative diseases in welders and other workers exposed to high levels of magnetic fields, Epidemiology. 2003 Jul;14(4):420-6; discussion 427-8 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
6. P Ahlbom A, (2001) Neurodegenerative diseases, suicide and depressive symptoms in relation to EMF, Bioelectromagnetics. 2001;Suppl 5:S132-43 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
7. P Lee GM et al, (January 2002) A nested case-control study of residential and personal magnetic field measures and miscarriages, Epidemiology. 2002 Jan;13(1):21-31 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
8. P Li DK et al, (January 2002) A population-based prospective cohort study of personal exposure to magnetic fields during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage, Epidemiology. 2002 Jan;13(1):9-20 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]
9. P Cao YN et al, (August 2006) Effects of exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields on reproduction of female mice and development of offsprings, Zhonghua Lao Dong Wei Sheng Zhi Ye Bing Za Zhi. 2006 Aug;24(8):468-70 [View Author's abstract conclusions] [View on Pubmed]

BEMS dedicate section to discussing the end wireless research

At the 2009 annual Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting in Davos this year, a whole section is devoted to the bizarrely entitled "Hot Topic: When Do We Know Enough To Stop Research on the Safety of Wireless Communications?".

Commenting that, whilst both industry and public funding for wireless communication research is diminishing, there must come a point at which it is reasonable to decide to research no further, a debate is planned that will address this issue with the possibility of genuinely considering that enough research has been done to rule out harm from wireless communication systems! With all the current research demonstrating risks for long term phone use and brain cancer, and the huge lack of research into chronic exposure from base stations (for which considerably above 50% of the research that has been published indicates an association with health risk), to even consider the idea that enough research has been done is extremely surprising.

This sounds concerningly like the Atlantic Legal brief from 1995 where a number of nobel laureates all recommended that, as the evidence connecting ELF EMFs and childhood leukaemia is so more, the time was at hand to cease researching into the health effects of ELF EMFs. Six years later, after both the Ahlbom and Greenland meta-analyses were published, they must have been feeling rather foolish.

Also commented on by Microwave News

Leichtenstein parliament confirms 0.6 V/m guidance levels

The Leichtenstein parliament has confirmed its intention to enforce the law adopted in May 2008 to restrict exposure (in sensitive areas: homes, workplaces, schools, hospitals and other public buildings) to 0.6 V/m from mobile telecommunication base stations.

This was met with dismay by the telecommunications industry, who have stated that this will make it unfeasible to run a financially viable mobile phone service under these restrictions. The goal is meant to be met by 2013, but the industries are expected to provide an annual progress report towards the goal as well. The 4 main mobile phone companies based in Leichtenstein have threatened to pull out of the country if this restriction is not lifted, to which the government has responded by exploring the possibility of running a state owned mobile telecommunication network if they were to do so!

WHO outline EMF and children research agenda and priorities

The World Health Organisation have published a recent set of research priorities for electromagnetic fields with regards to children. Covering a wide range of topics from dosimetry to studies on health associations, this is a fairly complete document demonstrating a high consideration for the need to produce further research into both ELF and RF EMFs and potential health effects.

It's great to see the World Health Organisation considering so many of these areas a "High Priority" for further work and research, especially considering the title for the session at the BEMS meeting at Davos and other rumourings that perhaps enough research has been done already. It is a shame that an areas that may be key in elucidating how EMFs may cause health effects has been judged "Low Priority" ("Further studies of possible carcinogenic mechanisms for ELF fields, particularly in combination with known carcinogens"), but at least it is a recognised area benefiting from more work.

Los Angeles district repeal telecommunication act planning restrictions

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) have just passed a resolution to repeal limitations on state and local authority imposed by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that infringe upon the authority of local governments to regulate the placement, construction, and modification of telecommunications towers and other personal wireless services facilities on the basis of the health.

Now the motions (motion 1 and motion 2) have been accepted in the form of this resolution, it finally allows the district planning authorities to consider health further than the compliance to the Federal Communications Commission standards.

Powerwatch Site Hacked

The Powerwatch site was hacked last Wednesday (10th June), and due to internet connection problems we were not able to fix the damage until Friday (12th June). As a result, the Powerwatch site was blacklisted for 3 days by Google.

If you have visited the Powerwatch site in the intermediary time you may wish to run a full virus scan on your computer. AVG offer excellent and free anti-virus software if you are not sure whether you have any installed.

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