Warning over smartphone and children

Scientists – wireless technology causes harm

Many moons ago I worked in London designing the The Lancet magazine. Back then the magazine for senior medical professionals was based in an old Victorian building with creaky staircases, and bedrooms turned into offices – it was a grand building.

Every morning I’d arrive full of energy and big ideas. However, as I crossed the threshold, pushing open the large front door eight steps up from the street, I had to conceal my youthful enthusiasm. It wouldn’t do to bounce into the exceptionally conservative office and disturb the peace. No, that wouldn’t do at all.

As with the company, so with the medical and science magazine. If one has something published in The Lancet then it is good as gold. Thoroughly checked, reviewed, and checked again. The Lancet didn’t, and does not, publish any old hair-brained tosh. Far from it. And if it does, as has happened once or twice, it is removed and an announcement made.

So it is interesting to be reminded today of a paper I read earlier this year in this highly respected publication – a word of caution, a warning – from scientists worried about the fog of wireless radio waves smothering us all.

As you might expect, the scientific paper is heavy reading – but I hope to pick through it here to highlight the concerns expressed by its authors (Priyanka Bandara and David Carpenter) in plain English.

The article – Planetary electromagnetic pollution: it is time to assess its impact – reminds readers that public exposure regulations for wireless services and products continue to be based on the guidelines established in the 1990s.

Thirty-plus years ago few people had a mobile phone; and the charges to call one, or make a call from one, were so steep that nearly everyone would use a landline first. It had to be really important or urgent to use a mobile phone. And making a call is all you could do with them.

The regulations around wireless frequency were formed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection in the belief that “only acute thermal effects are hazardous”.

In other words; if holding a phone to your head caused your skin to get warm (cook) then it was deemed potentially dangerous. If your skin didn’t get warm then scientists of the day deemed it safe.

It seems an overly simplistic indication of safety given we are talking about radio waves that are known to pass through solid objects. Could it be possible that as these radio waves pass through your skin, muscle and brain that harm is caused?

The authors write in the December 2018 paper: “Prevention of tissue heating by radio frequency electromagnetic radiation is now proven to be ineffective in preventing biochemical and physiological interference.

“For example, acute non-thermal exposure has been shown to alter human brain metabolism by National Institute of Health scientists, electrical activity in the brain, and systemic immune responses.”

In plain English, just because your skin doesn’t get any warmer when using a mobile phone it doesn’t mean the phone / radio waves are harmless.

The authors also write that: “Chronic exposure [of wireless frequencies] has been associated with increased oxidative stress, DNA damage and cancer risk.

“It has been widely claimed that radio frequency electromagnetic radiation, being non-ionising radiation, does not possess enough photon energy to cause DNA damage. This has now been proven wrong experimentally.

“Laboratory studies, including large rodent studies by the US National Toxicology Program and Ramazzini Institute of Italy, confirm these biological and health effects in vivo.”

In vivo means taking place/happening in a living organism. As opposed to in vitro (test tube).

The paper also states that levels of background radiation has risen by more than 1000% as a result of mobile wireless technology. Technologies such as the Internet of Things and 5G will add millions more radio frequency transmitters around us.

So our environment, particularly in the cities, has been changed as a result of wireless technology. Think of it this way; if wireless frequencies were physical pollution that we could see and smell then we might be in permanent darkness and choking to breathe.

Man-made radiation V natural radiation

Source: Planetary electromagnetic pollution: it is time to assess its impact.

“Evidence of its [wireless radiation] effects on the central nervous system, including altered neuro-development and increased risk of some neuro-degenerative diseases, is a major concern considering the steady increase in their incidence,” say the authors.

“Evidence exists for an association between neuro-developmental or behavioural disorders in children and exposure to wireless devices, and experimental evidence, such as the Yale finding, shows that prenatal exposure could cause structural and functional changes in the brain associated with ADHD-like behaviour.”

That’s right. Modern wireless technology could cause babies to be born with issues they wouldn’t have had if they had been born 30 years ago. And those issues may manifest themselves as ADHD.

“These findings deserve urgent attention,” say the authors.

You might need to read the following twice too!

“A recent evaluation of 2,266 studies found that most studies (68·2%) have demonstrated significant biological or health effects associated with exposure to anthropogenic (man-made) electromagnetic fields,” write the authors.

“This weight of scientific evidence refutes the prominent claim that the deployment of wireless technologies poses no health risks at the currently permitted non-thermal radio frequency exposure levels.”

While 68% of the 2,266 studies Bandara and Carpenter reviewed showed negative health effects linked to wireless radiation – 32% did not. It is disparities such as these that allow some organizations to say that wireless radiation is – on the balance of probabilities – a safe technology.


Authors of The Lancet report

Priyanka Bandara; Affiliations: Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory Association, Scarborough, QLD 4020, Australia

David carpenter; Affiliations: Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany, Rensselaer, NY, USA

  • Read the full Lancet report here
  • Further reading here