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Do adverse health trends correlate with research into Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR)?

An overview of adverse public health trends from 1996 – 2009

Sarah Benson - 10/08/09

On the eighth of May 1997, in the first few months of its publication NZine featured an article in which I interviewed Dr Neil Cherry about his research into the health effects of electromagnetic radiation. Such is the worldwide interest in this topic that the article entitled The Electromagnetic Radiation Health Threat - Part I has continued to be one of the most widely read NZine articles with no loss of interest in the topic throughout the last twelve years. Fortunately I was able to interview Dr Cherry for a series of further articles in the years before his death in 2003.

Now NZine is pleased to publish a further series of articles on the topic of the Electromagnetic Radiation Health Threat with the script of Do adverse health trends correlate with the research into Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR)?, a paper presenting An overview of adverse public health trends from 1996 – 2009 by public health advocate Sarah Benson.

Dorothy Hunt

NZine Editor

Do adverse health trends correlate with research into Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR)

An overview of adverse public health trends from 1996 – 2009

Do these trends correlate with the research into Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) that indicates a diverse range of adverse public health outcomes as a result of exposure?

Sarah Benson


Whilst increases in certain illnesses have been steady for about four decades – most figures are indicating that for the last 15 years we have seen, worldwide, a marked increase in cancers, cardiac illness, obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies in children, short term memory problems and sleeplessness, to name but a few. The medical fraternity is particularly concerned by the growing incidence of un-explained cancers, with one example being the findings of two Australian neurosurgeons, who in 2009 have admitted that there is epidemic of brain tumours - an epidemic that includes children.

There are many potential causes of illness – genetic and hereditary factors, as well as environmental pollutants such as chemicals. Nevertheless the only completely new pollutant in the past 10 – 15 years that coincides with the sudden spike in adverse health trends is electromagnetic radiation (EMR).

This explosion of microwave and radiofrequency radiation emitted by communications infrastructure – including computers - is relatively new. With millions of antennas and satellites now irradiating the global population 24/7 for the past 15 years, these are clearly implicated as the major culprit, being the only new pollutant affecting populations globally. All other causes, such as chemical and genetic factors are dwarfed by comparison.

Most people don't think about the fact that this radiation is being sent all around the planet - somehow magically finding its way to our phones, TVs and radios - without ever touching us. But the human body has its own sensitive electrical system – one that is easily affected by the EMR and microwaves which penetrate our bodies daily. The human body, says Dr. G. J. Hyland of the University of Warwick, UK, is "an electrochemical instrument of exquisite sensitivity," noting that, like a radio, it can be interfered with by incoming radiation.

The main purpose of this paper is to delineate the links between science and reality, cause and effect, the abstract and the actual. All effects must have a cause – this is a fundamental tenet of the physical universe. To deny this is to be unscientific and lacking the faculty of inquiry that underpins all scientific and intelligent discourse. The secondary purpose is to honour and exonerate the late Neil Cherry, much of whose work is quoted here.

New Zealand physicist Dr Neil Cherry began his work as an electromagnetic radiation (EMR) meta-analyst when he was asked by a residential group contesting the siting of a mobile phone tower if he would be their expert witness. He consequently studied over 600 researchers worldwide, and was shocked to discover that EMR caused DNA breakages, chromosome aberrations, increased oncogene activity in cells, altered brain activity, altered blood pressure and increased brain cancer at very low levels – much lower than those allowed by the Australian standard. He also found that EMR impacts on the pineal gland, thus resulting in a reduction of melatonin - a vital regulator of many of the body's biochemical and hormonal systems and functions and a major scavenger of damaging free radicals.i

Dr Cherry went on to make numerous media appearances, travelling to many countries around the world, speaking to scientists, individuals and communities about the potential dangers to health from EMR; the only scientist to have done this so comprehensively and consistently. He also took time discuss his findings with industry and government authorities, tirelessly explaining that biological effects were being found both in the laboratory and in populations that were well below the government's exposure standard. He did this until he died in 2003.

In 1997 Dr Cherry was invited to address the Australian Senate. Immediately after this address, the then telecommunications Minister, Richard Alston, who had attended, returned to the Senate and accused Dr Cherry of being a snake oil merchant and a charlatan.

However, since that day it has become evident that everything that Cherry predicted has eventuated. His findings have been replicated many times since, and have proved to be prophetic: cancer, leukaemia, cardiac disease, diabetes, sleep disturbances, dementia, weight gain or loss, weakened immune system, asthma, allergies, arthritis, nausea, memory and concentration problems, neurological conditions, and depression – all on a sharp rise. The conditions and diseases he warned of are either endemic or increasing; but unfortunately health authorities – especially in Australia – appear not to be making the connection between these and EMR.

Dr Cherry also found that microwaves can render the blood brain barrier permeable, thus allowing damaging chemicals, viruses and bacteria into the brain which can cause illnesses such as dementia and brain tumours.

Over 40 studies [show] that cell phone frequencies [mirror] the biological and epidemiological studies for EMR over the past four decades. This includes…increased brain cancer. I predict a significant increase in brain tumours in younger groups than normal from the use of mobiles. ii

Dr Neil Cherry

Recently, Dr Cherry's work has been confirmed by a group of 14 scientists and public health and policy experts who in August 2007 published a 650 page assessment and review of the science and public health implications of exposure to EMR called The BioInitiative Report.iii This highly comprehensive report has been widely distributed and accepted as being a true and accurate picture of the current state of the science on EMR and health. They found that:

"Prolonged exposure to radiofrequency and microwave radiation from cell phones, cordless phones, cell towers, WI-FI and other wireless technologies has been linked to interference with short-term memory and concentration, sleep disruption, headache and dizziness, fatigue, immune disruption, skin rashes and changes in cardiac function." However, "These effects can happen with even very small levels of exposure if they occur on a daily basis. Cell phone use is likely to be more harmful in children whose brain and nervous system development can last into late adolescence," says Cindy Sage of Sage Associates, "The public health implications of billions of people who are exposed makes this a matter of critical concern to policy-makers around the world." iv

They found that the existing public safety limits were inadequate for both Electromagnetic Fields and radiofrequency radiation.

In 2001 an Australian Senate Committee handed down a report that had heard from a wide variety of scientists – many of whom voiced their concern for public health at the results of the research being conducted. During the Senate hearings Dr Cherry said:

"I was very surprised there is so much published evidence in reputable, peer review journals that has not been sighted, summarised or integrated. The more I received the more solid the evidence seemed to be and the more consistent it seemed to be. And so when I heard people saying that the evidence was weak and inconsistent, I decided I should debate this with people and go to conferences and talk to them about it. ... This culminated last year at the conference at the European Parliament where I was asked to look particularly at low level effects and epidemiological studies with those response relationships of low level effects. ... Over 20 studies show that radiofrequency microwave radiation damages the genes, damages the chromosomes, damages the DNA, and therefore indicates genotoxicity. I am also aware that many studies only use small samples – they are epidemiological studies or laboratory samples. They find elevated levels but they are not specifically significant and they are often described as showing no effects. But I have supplied with my evidence a summary of brain tumour studies, and I have characterised them as studies showing elevated effects, studies showing significantly elevated effects and studies showing dose response effects. And that is a classical way, I believe, at looking at the evidence trail and asking: was it elevated, was it significantly elevated and have we found dose response elevation?"v

As far back as 1994 Australia's CSIRO did a 150 page literature review on the status of health effects from EMR.vi The report's author, Dr Stan Barnett, said: "whilst researching the scientific database in preparation for this report it has become evident that subtle changes in cell structure and biochemistry have been frequently reported at exposure levels where gross thermal change could not be attributed as a cause."

The fact that some studies have shown no effects is partly due to the fact that many are undertaken or funded by those with vested interests, and partly due to the nature of what is under investigation; electricity is a highly volatile element that is inaccessible to the senses and thus not like any other element that must be scientifically examined.

Health trends

A group of scientists and doctors in Germany presented evidence at a conference in 2002 showing "a dramatic rise in severe and chronic diseases among our patients exposed to radiofrequency and microwave radiation". These included extreme fluctuations in blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes in increasingly younger people, degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and epilepsy, leukaemia and brain tumours. They also found a rise in headaches, sleeplessness, tinnitus and other ailments that were able to be correlated with the onset of exposure to communications microwaves (see Appendix C).

In 2007 The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare announced that the five leading causes of non-fatal illness in Australia were diabetes, ischemic heart disease, dementia, asthma, anxiety and depression. As 90 per cent of diabetes cases are related to weight gain this could be included as a sixth.

I have no doubt in my mind that, at the present time, the greatest polluting element in the earth's environment is the proliferation of electromagnetic fields.

Dr Robert O. Becker, Nobel Prize winner, 2000vii

Since then other scientists have conducted further studies showing similar results. One, published in August 2007, indicates that mobile phone radiation causes cancer in miceviii, and yet another in the same year, with scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel finding that after only five minutes of exposure to radiation one tenth of the power of a mobile phone, rat and human cell chemicals underwent changes. This study is unique in that it demonstrates for the first time a "detailed molecular mechanism by which electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones induces activation of extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK) cascade and thereby induces transcription and other cellular processes."ix

In 2005 researchers in China found that relatively low-level RF radiation can lead to DNA breaksx, and in 2004 the REFLEX project, which summarised the work of 12 research groups in seven European countries, reported that RF radiation could increase the number of DNA breaks in exposed cells, as well as activate a stress response – the production of heat-shock proteins. The manager of the project, Franz Adlkofer, said: "…available scientific evidence of such critical events demonstrates the need for intensifying research – precautionary measures seem to be warranted."xi There are many such studies.

Dr Peter French, of St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, was able to replicate earlier findings, indicating that mobile phone radiation switched on heat shock proteins:

In plain English, the point is that it has been demonstrated by several researchers that increasing the amount of heat shock proteins in cells results in the increased potential for developing tumours, increased stimulation of metastasis or spread of cancers, the direct development of cancer, de novo, and the decreased effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs.

Dr Peter French, Principal Scientific Officer, Centre for Immunology, St Vincent's Hospital, Sydneyxii

In the USA Marshall and Wetherallxiii found an exponential increase of autism, ADHD, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Alzheimer's since 1984 - the year the first commercial cell phone networks started to spread across the USA. These rates increased even further with the switchover from analog (1G) to digital (2G) in the early 1990s.

In February 2007 Swedish scientists announced in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention that they had observed a connection between the health of the population and population density, suggesting that the two factors having the strongest correlation with decreased health quality were the estimated average power output from mobile phones…and the reported coverage from the global system for mobile communication base stations in each country.xiv

This was confirmed by the German company ECOLOG's report which was commissioned by telecommunications company T-Mobil in 2000. The results of this research - leaked to British group HESE in 2006 - found that cancer, DNA damage, chromosome aberrations, changes to enzymes, changes in the brain, interruption of cell cycle and cellular communication, debilitation of the immune system and changes to the central nervous system were caused by exposure to EMR.

Around a dozen studies in 2006 and 2007 demonstrated similar results, including one that found the signal from a mobile phone affecting genes and neurons in both 'on' and 'off' modes,xv while another found "some evidence of nervous system structural damage after the EMR exposure."xvi

Is it really wise and safe to subject ourselves to whole-body irradiation, all around the clock and wherever we are, with the same mobile radiation which laboratory studies have shown to cause serious injuries and effects?

Olle Johansson, Ph.D. Neuroscientist, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Swedenxvii

In April 2009 the European Parliament announced that mobile phone antennas, masts and other EMR emitting devices should be set within a specific distance from schools and health institutions. Based on a report adopted by the European Parliament, the recommendations were that whilst there were many benefits of wireless technology there were "Continuing uncertainties about possible health risks."

I believe that in Australia it is time that the precautionary principle was implemented. "The precautionary principle is a moral and political principle which states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action." (See appendix D).

A scientific paradigm change is urgently needed. In his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Thomas Kuhn discusses the nature of science, scientific research and methodology and paradigms, how conceptual changes come about, and what prevents them. In the introductionxviii he says:

"The most obvious examples of scientific revolutions are those famous episodes in scientific development that have often been labeled revolutions before….Copernicus, Newton, Lavoisier and Einstein. More clearly than most other episodes…these display what all scientific revolutions are about. Each of them necessitated the community's rejection of one time-honoured scientific theory in favour of another incompatible with it…each transformed the scientific imagination in ways that we shall ultimately need to describe as a transformation of the world within which the scientific work was done. Such changes, together with the controversies that almost always accompany them, are the defining characteristics of scientific revolutions."

"The invention of other new theories regularly, and appropriately, evokes the same response from some of the specialists on whose area of special competence they impinge. For these men the new theory implies a change in the rules governing the prior practice of normal science. Inevitably, therefore, it reflects upon much scientific work they have already successfully completed. That is why a new theory, however specialist range of application, is seldom or never just an increment to what is already known. Its assimilation requires the reconstruction of prior theory…an intrinsically revolutionary process that is seldom completed by a single man and never overnight."

"Normal science, for example, often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments."

Freiburger Appeal

(Signed by 58 doctors and medical specialists in 2002 - see Appendix C)

"Out of great concern for the health of our fellow human beings do we - as established physicians of all fields, especially that of environmental medicine - turn to the medical establishment and those in public health and political domains, as well as to the public.

We have observed, in recent years, a dramatic rise in severe and chronic diseases among our patients, especially:

  • Learning, concentration, and behavioural disorders (e.g. attention deficit disorder, ADD)
  • Extreme fluctuations in blood pressure, ever harder to influence with medications
  • Heart rhythm disorders
  • Heart attacks and strokes among an increasingly younger population
  • Brain-degenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer's) and epilepsy
  • Cancerous afflictions: leukaemia, brain tumours

Moreover, we have observed an ever-increasing occurrence of various disorders, often misdiagnosed in patients as psychosomatic:

  • Headaches, migraines
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Inner agitation
  • Sleeplessness, daytime sleepiness
  • Tinnitus
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Nervous and connective tissue pains, for which the usual causes do not explain even the most conspicuous symptoms.

Since the living environment and lifestyles of our patients are familiar to us, we can see, especially after carefully-directed inquiry, a clear temporal and spatial correlation between the appearance of disease and exposure to pulsed high-frequency microwave radiation."

All sections of this research paper will be published in NZine in separate chapters, with the appendices at the end. – Editor

  • i Cherry, N., 2000: Evidence that Electromagnetic Radiation is Genotoxic: The Implications for the Epidemiology of Cancer, Cardiac, Neurological and Reproductive Effects.
  • ii Cherry, 2000, Probable Health effects Associated with base Stations in Communities: The Need for Health Surveys, p.1
  • iii BioInitiative Working Group, Cindy Sage and David O. Carpenter, Editors: BioInitiative Report: A Rationale for a Biologically-based Public Exposure Standard for Electromagnetic Fields (ELF and RF) at www.bioinitiative.org, August 31, 2007.
  • iv http://www.bioinitiative.org/press_release/index.htm
  • v http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/Committee/ecita_ctte/completed_inquiries/1999-02/emr/report/c02.htm
  • vi Barnett, S., 1994, Status of Research on Biological Effects and safety of Electromagnetic Radiation: Telecommunications Frequencies, CSIRO, Division of Radiophysics.
  • vii http://www.energyfields.org/science/becker.html
  • viii Oberto G, et al, 2007: Carcinogenicity Study of 217 Hz Pulsed 900 MHz Electromagnetic Fields in Pim1 Transgenic Mice. Radiat Res; 168 (3): 316 - 326
  • ix Friedman et al, 2007: mechanism of fort-term ERK activation by electromagnetic fields at mobile phone frequencies, Biochemical Journal, 405, 559-568, printed in UK.
  • x Lixia S., et al, 2006: Effects of 1.8 GHz radiofrequency field on DNA damage and expression of heat shock protein 70 in human lens epithelial cells. Volume 602, Issues 1-2, 1 135-142
  • xi Diem, E., et al, 2005: Non-thermal DNA breakage by mobile-phone radiation (1800 MHz) in human fibroblasts and in transformed GFSH-R17 rat granulosa cells in vitro, 2004.
  • xii The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2001: Inquiry into Electromagnetic Radiation, Report of the Senate,
  • xiii Marshall 2001, Weatherall 2007.
  • xiv Hallberg, O., 2007: Adverse health indicators correlating with sparsely populated areas in Sweden; European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 16(1):71-76.
  • xv Zhao, TY et al, 2007: Studying gene expression profile of rat neuron exposed to 1800 MHz radiofrequency electromagnetic fields with cDNA micro assay. Toxicology, 235 (3): 167 - 175
  • xvi Orendacova, J., et al 2007: Neurobiological effects of microwave exposure: a review focused on morphological findings in experimental animals; Arch Ital Biol, 145(1):1-12.
  • xvii http://www.energyfields.org/
  • xviii Kuhn, Thomas S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1962.

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