Public health is reportedly at risk because hundreds of studies documenting the adverse effects of low-level radiation exposures from wireless technologies have been "inappropriately ignored or discounted" by the agencies that set limits on human exposure to radio frequency radiation (RFR). That's according to a report published today in the journal Environmental Health 1 by a group of 17 experts that includes two retired top U.S. government scientists.

The limits set by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, on which Health Canada's Safety Code 6 limits are based, "are based on invalid assumptions, do not protect human health and ignore the impact on wildlife. They do not adequately protect workers, children, people with electromagnetic sensitivities and the public from exposure to non-ionizing radiation from wireless data transmission," say members of the new International Commission on the Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields (ICBE-EMF) in the article. 

They call for an independent re-evaluation of these limits, taking into account peer-reviewed scientific studies conducted over the past 25 years, in order to establish safe exposure standards requested notably by the Amercian Academy of Pediatrics since 2013. "Numerous studies have identified oxidative effects associated with low-level RFR exposure, as well as significant adverse effects, including cardiomyopathy, carcinogenicity, DNA damage, neurological disorders, increased blood-brain barrier permeability, and sperm damage," says Dr. Ronald Melnick, chair of the Commission and former senior toxicologist for the U.S. National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "These effects need to be considered in revised, health-protective exposure guidelines. In addition, the assumption that 5G millimeter waves are safe because of their limited penetration into the body does not preclude the need for health effects studies." Among the 17 ICBE-EMF members are biophysicist Carl Blackman PhD, former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientist,  Anthony B Miller MD, former director of epidemiology at the National Cancer Institute of Canada, and physicist Paul Héroux PhD, professor of toxicology of electromagnetism at McGill University's Faculty of Medicine. 

The RFR exposure limits are based on science from the 1980s, well before the ubiquity of cell phones. They were proposed by the controversial International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and are intended only to prevent heating of human tissue after a six-minute exposure. They dismiss the non-thermal effects that have been documented for more than 70 years at doses thousands of times lower than the thermal threshold, which is the only one proven to be harmful, according to the ICNIRP and the World Health Organization (WHO). According to a report tabled in June 2000 by two European environmentalists 2, many scientists and journalists have demonstrated that the ICNIRP is in conflict of interest with the telecommunications industry, which would have hijacked the scientific debate in its favor. The WHO's research project on the harmfulness of waves was founded and long directed by ICNIRP founder Michael Repacholi, a former Health Canada researcher and industry consultant who has left a "legacy of cronyism," according to Microwave News 3.

Swedish oncologist and epidemiologist Dr. Lennart Hardell, author of more than 100 papers on non-ionizing radiation, added, "Multiple robust human studies of cell phone radiation have found increased risks of brain tumors, and these are supported by clear evidence of carcinogenicity in the same cell types found in animal studies." It was based on his studies, among others, that the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified RFR as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" in 2011.

These experts call for the public to be informed about the health risks of wireless radiation and encouraged to minimize exposures, especially of children, pregnant women and others who are hypersensitive to electromagnetic radiation. 

ICBE-EMF spokesman Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, answered our questions via email.

AF What's new in this report from previous calls? 

JM In our opinion, this peer-reviewed article completely dismantles the basis for ICNIRP RF exposure limits. In addition, it provides a comprehensive review including the most recent scientific data on the subject. The ICBE-EMF study was commissioned by the advisors of the International EMF Scientist Appeal of 2015 signed as of today by more than 250 scientists from 44 countries who have written over 2,000 peer-reviewed papers on EMFs, biology and health. We will continue to implement the recommendations of the call.

AF How optimistic are you about the political and public health impact of your new call? 

JM Some of our members are optimistic because of the overwhelming public opposition to 5G in their countries. We all recognize that there are powerful forces fighting to maintain the status quo or even weaken current exposure limits. ICBE-EMF is committed to continuing the fight for wireless exposure limits that protect our health and wildlife. There are several important legal cases pending in the U.S. and other countries that could be game changers (e.g., Environmental Health Trust et al. v FCC and Murray et al. v Motorola et al.). Courts in many countries are requiring that adequate accommodations be provided for people with electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

AF Have any countries resisted raising their exposure limits to support 5G deployment, despite the risks of skin, eye and testicular damage?

JM There has been reluctance in Switzerland. Theodora Scarato of the Environmental Health Trust is keeping an update on international policies on wireless radiation exposure. 

AF Do you feel you are preaching to the converted and being ignored by the big media, politicians and public health authorities? 

JM In addition to a large and growing segment of the public, many journalists, politicians and public health authorities now understand that wireless safety regulations are inadequate to protect public and environmental health. The problem is a powerful global industry that controls the mass media and many politicians. In fact, the telecommunications industry appears to be more powerful than Big Tobacco ever was.

  1. Scientific evidence invalidates health assumptions underlying the FCC and ICNIRP exposure limit determinations for radiofrequency radiation : implications for 5G, Environmental Health, 18 octobre 2022.
  2. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection: Conflicts of interest , corporate capture and the push for 5G, par Michèle Rivasi et Klaus Buchner.
  3. Will WHO kick its ICNIRP habit?, Microwave News, 29 novembre 2021.