Information contained in a form or other document, usually a PDF.
Published on: Jan 24, 2011
Two key functions of any good scientific society are to provide good opportunities for researchers to interact and to promote good research through the interactions of the members. The most recent issue of The Bioelectromagnetics Society's newsletter (#217, November/December 2011) focuses on both aspects. Within the newsletter, you can find details about the upcoming EBEA meeting in Rome as well as the next annual meetings for BEMS. You will also find a particularly compelling article about how we analyze and report research results.
Look for this newsletter now at our new website: www.bems.org
(While you are there, be sure to renew your membership, if you haven't already done so!)
Published on: Dec 24, 2010
2011 membership dues can be paid on-line. Simply click on the membership button at the top of the page and follow the instructions.
NOTE: If you are a current member or have been a member anytime in the past, please follow the instructions to RENEW your membership. Do not use the links to create a NEW membership application.
(photo credit Janet Lathrop)
On a tour of one of the San Antonio area's seven missions, René de Seze, University Hospital of Nimes, Joe Wiart, France Telecom, are deep in discussion, while Jean-Claude Bouillet and Yves Meazza, Bouygues Telecom, look on. The November "summit" meeting of WHO, ICNIRP and IEEE ar nearby Brooks Air Force Base, Texas, was an international gathering focused on EMF research standards.
A highlight of any scientific meeting is hearing about research efforts at other laboratories. Here, Shaiela Kandel, a science advisor to the prime minister of Israel, spoke with Eric vanRongen, Health Council of the Netherlands, and Hilary Walker, U.K. Health Executive.
Chiyoji Ohkubo, Japan National Institute of Public Health, talked with Huai Chiang, Zhejiang Medical University, in the hallway at Brooks Air Force Base.
Michael Repacholi, director of the World Health Organization's International EMF Project, enjoyed a refreshment break with one of the conference presenters, David Black, New Zealand Institute of Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
Walker Rogers, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Brooks AFB, explains an idea to Dina Simunic, University of Zagreb, while BEMS newsletter editor Mays Swicord, tried his cell phone connection at Mission San José.
FEBRUARY 9, 2001. BEMS WINTER WORKSHOP, RADISSON BARCELO, 2121 P STREET, NW, WASHINGTON, DC 20037 (202) 293-3100 (202) 331-9719. 2 blocks from the Dupont Circle Metro stop. Contact: Ewa Czerska, FDA, CDRH, ODE, 9200 Corporate Blvd. Rockville, MD 20850, (301) 594-1212 X119 Fax: (301) 480-4224 e-mail: email@example.com Web: www.bioelectromagnetics.org
FEBRUARY 10, 2001. BEMS BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING, RADISSON BARCELO, 2121 P STREET, NW, WASHINGTON, DC 20037 (202) 293-3100 (202) 331-9719. 2 blocks from the Dupont Circle Metro stop. Contact: Gloria Parsley, The Bioelectromagnetics Society, 2412 Cobblestone Way, Frederick, MD 21702, 301-663-4252, 301-694-4948 fax, Email: BEMSoffice@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.bioelectromagnetics.org
FEBRUARY 22, 2001. U.S. NATIONAL COUNCIL ON RADIATION PROTECTION (NCRP) SYMPOSIUM, “21ST CENTURY BIODOSIMETRY: QUANTIFYING THE PAST AND PREDICTING THE FUTURE.” CRYSTAL CITY MARRIOTT, ARLINGTON, VA. Scientific program includes talks on gene expression profiles for monitoring radiation exposure by Sally A. Amundson; quantification of chromosome abnormalities using the polymerase chain reaction by Gino A. Cortopassi; radiation exposure assessment using cytological and molecular biomarkers by William F. Blakely; biomarkers of exposure and dose by Antone L. Brooks, and more. For additional information, contact William M. Beckner, executive director, NCRP, 7910 Woodmont Ave. Suite 800, Bethesda, Md. 20814. Telephone FAX: +1 (301) 907-8768. E-mail: email@example.com
MARCH 7-9, 2001. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION AND PERUVIAN GOVERNMENT REGIONAL SEMINAR ON “BIOEFFECTS AND EMF STANDARDS HARMONIZATION.” LIMA, PERU. This meeting will be an opportunity for central and south American countries to participate in WHO’s EMF standards harmonization process. It is anticipated that there will be simultaneous interpretation between English and Spanish. For further information on this meeting contact: Dr. Michael H. Repacholi, WHO, Geneva Fax: t41 22 791 4123, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
APRIL 2-4, 2001. INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ELECTROMAGNETICS IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE. UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO, JAPAN. SPONSORED BY URSI COMMISSION K: ELECTROMAGNETICS IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE. A conference on biological effects of wireless communication, biomagnetic stimulation, bone growth, electromagnetic interaction with biological systems, cellular effects, implantable medical devices, dosimetry, wound healing, thermal ablation therapy, and more. For more information, contact Conference Chairman Dr. Shoogo Ueno, University of Tokyo, Department of Biomedical Engineering. Tel. +81 3 5841 3563. FAX: +81 3 5689 7215. E-mail: email@example.com
APRIL 30-MAY 4, 2001. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) INTERNATIONAL EMF PROJECT STANDARDS HARMONIZATION MEETING. SOFIA, BULGARIA. This meeting will be an opportunity for Eastern European countries to participate in WHO’s EMF standards harmonization process. For local arrangements contact: Dr. Michel Israel, Head of Department for Physical Factors, National Centre of Hygiene, Medical Ecology and Nutrition, 15 Dimiter Nestorov Str. Sofia 1431, Bulgaria. Tel: +359 2 596154, Fax:+ 359 2 958 1277, E-mail: M.Israel@nch.aster.net At WHO, contact: Dr. Michael Repacholi, WHO, Geneva, SWITZERLAND. Fax: +41 22 791 4123. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
JUNE 10-14, 2001. BIOELECTROMAGNETICS SOCIETY 23RD ANNUAL MEETING. RADISSON HOTEL, ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA. Room rates $91 single $101 double plus tax. +1 (651) 292 1900. Contact: Gloria Parsley, The Bioelectromagnetics Society, 2412 Cobblestone Way, Frederick, MD 21702, 301-663-4252, 301-694-4948 fax, Email: BEMSoffice@aol.com or email@example.com Web: www.bioelectromagnetics.org
AUGUST 1-4, 2001. ASIA-PACIFIC RADIO SCIENCE CONFERENCE. TOKYO, JAPAN. Contact: AP-RASC Secretariat, c/o The Japanese URSI Committee, c/o Dr. Y. Furuhama, Communications Research Laboratory, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, 4-2-1 Nukuikita-machi, Koganeishi, 184-8795 Tokyo, Japan. (http://www.kurasc.kyoto-u.ac.jp/ursi/)
SEPTEMBER 6-8, 2001. EUROPEAN BIO ELECTROMAGNETICS ASSOCIATION (EBEA) 5TH INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS, MARINA CONGRESS CENTER, HELSINKI, FINLAND. Topics will include dosimetry and exposure systems, biological mechanisms, in vitro, in vivo and human clinical EMF studies, epidemiology and medical applications. Contact: EBEA 2001 Secretariat, Solveig Borg, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Topieliuksenkatu 41 aA, FIN-00250 Helsinki, FINLAND. Tel. +358 9 4747 2900; FAX: +358 9 2413 804. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.occuphealth.fi/e/project/ebea2001 or Dr Maila Hietenan, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Topeliuksenkatu 41 a A, Helsinki, Finland Fin-00250. Tel: +358 9 4747 714, Fax: +358 9 4747 805, e-mail: email@example.com
OCTOBER 2001. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) EMF BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS AND STANDARDS HARMONIZATION REGIONAL MEETING IN SOUTH KOREA is being finalised. This meeting will be an opportunity for Asian countries to participate in WHO’s EMF standards harmonization process. For more informaiton, contact: Dr. Michael Repacholi, WHO, Geneva. Fax: +41 22 791 4123. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial staff or the organizations served by this newsletter. We encourage contributions which will further discussion of important issues to the Societies and assist in scientific progress in our area of interest. Your response to opinions expressed here are welcome. Letters on other matters are encouraged,
In this month’s OPINION column we present a response to an earlier contribution to the discussion of what constitutes an established effect. -the editors
ARE “PHANTOM” PHENOMENA MORE SUBSTANTIAL THAN WE THINK?
By David de Pomerai
My attention was recently directed towards Jonathan Kiel’s commentary (BSN, July/August 2000) which dismisses our Nature paper (1) as a classic phantom phenomenon. We take issue with this view on several counts, since in our hands the responses to RF observed in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans are both consistently reproducible and on a large enough scale to make it difficult to dismiss as mere statistical fluke.
First of all, C. elegans biologists around the world culture these worms at temperatures ranging from 15 to 25 C; growth rate is in fact optimal at or around 25 C, such that life-cycle times are routinely quoted as 3.5 days from egg to adult at 25 C (2). This is shown clearly by Figure 1 below, based on the overnight growth of size-synchronised L1 larvae. C. elegans is in fact remarkably resistant to most stressors, including heat. A full heat-shock response (involving HSP70) is only induced at 34 C, whereas mild heat-stress at 28 C only activates the hsp16 group of small HSP genes (3). Worm growth does indeed decline at 28 C (and with a larger variance in final size; Figure 1), but by no means catastrophically so; the growth rate at 28 C is still higher than at.20 C. One longer-term effect of mild heat stress (20 h at 28 C) is the virtual abolition of egg production as the larvae mature into adulthood (Figure 2). By contrast, overnight RF exposure at 25 C both increases growth rate (4) and also stimulates later egg production (Figure 2), in both cases relative to simultaneous shielded controls at the same temperature. Note that all cultures were maintained identically at 25 C after the initial RF- or heat-exposure during the first 20 hours. Although a temperature rise of 3 C (i.e. from 25 to 28 C) would suffice to induce comparable hsp 16-reporter activity to that routinely observed in RF-exposed populations at 25 C (1, 4), such mild heat treatment has precisely opposite effects to those of RF on both growth and egg production. This reinforces our conclusion that the RF effects we observe are not simply due to bulk heating of the worms. The adjective “non-thermal” was in fact inserted into our title by Nature’s editorial staff; elsewhere we have tried to avoid this tendentious term, and indeed we are currently looking carefully for evidence of highly localised subcellular heating (a microthermal effect; e.g. 5). On all these grounds, we refute Kiel’s allegation that we are dealing with a phantom effect only detectable when cells are pushed close to a precipice of response. Worms are not stressed at our standard exposure temperature of 25 C; on the contrary, they grow at an optimal rate.
Kiel also takes us to task for expressing our results in a normalised format, relative to a baseline of low reporter activity at 15 C. In our view, this is a realistic baseline to use, as any differences between runs (no more than 2-3 fold) must be due to variations between worm batches (e.g. in terms of numbers, crowding, nutritional status or developmental stages present) or alternatively between assay conditions (e.g. in the effectiveness of worm permabilisation, or different reagent batches). Kiel would prefer our results to be quoted as ratios between RF-exposed and control groups, This can of course be done, but in our view it is biologically meaningless, because the new baseline (a series of controls at different temperatures) is itself shifting due to the onset of heat-induced reporter expression. The actual RF:C ratios are approximately 1 at 24.0 C, 10 at 24.5 C , 4 at 25.0 C and nearly 6 at 25.5 C . The apparent drop between 24.5 and 25.0 C is of course an artefact of using ratios with a shifting baseline, and is easily explained in terms of the small shoulder in the temperature-response curve for controls (rising from 140% to nearly 500% when normalised against 15 C controls; 1, 4). If we had reported raw enzyme activity data, the graph shape would have been much closer to that published (because the 15 C baseline controls are fairly constant between runs). The bottom line is that in all cases there is a large difference (increasing with temperature) in reporter activity between RF-treated and control groups. It should be noted that these controls derive from the same source population of worms, and are placed on same shelf of the same incubator, but outside the TEM cell used for exposure. If the TEM cell is switched off, such sham-exposed controls have never shown any significant differences from the shielded controls. As to reproducibility, the effects we have reported in the literature (1, 4, 6) are extremely consistent. Occasional failure to observe any RF induction is usually due to a low internal temperature of c. 24 C in the incubator, or to using insufficient worms. Conversely, high control values can arise if the incubator temperature rises above 27 C (see the control temperature profile in refs. 1 or 4), or if the worms are too crowded and become anoxic (which also induces hsp16-reporter expression). We are actively looking into other possible variables such as nutrition, but none of these would differentiate between control and RF-exposed populations. It seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that RF exposure at around 25 C can reproducibly induce both a mild heat-shock response (1, 6) and a modest increase in growth (4).
These effects cannot be dismissed as occasional phantoms glimpsed on the edge of a precipice! It is perhaps a wry reflection on this controversial field that in the 2.5 years since our first publication (6), or in the 6 months since our Nature paper (1), not a single request has been received for a sample of our transgenic worms. The experiments are simple enough, if set up correctly - so why the lack of interest? It may be argued that nematodes are a long way evolutionarily from humans, and the main focus of concern is on human health effects of microwave exposure. However, heat-shock responses are universal - in humans as well as in worms-and the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms will be much simpler to elucidate in the case of C. elegans.
Figure 1. Temperature-dependence of larval growth in C. elegans. Lengths were measured after 20 hr of growth at the indicated temperature (mean ± SEM, n > 100), and are expressed as percentages relative to the mean length of the starting L1 larval population (262 ± 3.524 µm).
Figure 2. Appearance of eggs in C. elegans L1 larvae exposed overnight to mild heat (28°C), RF (1.0 GHz, 0.5 W at 25°C) or shielded control (25°C) conditions, then all maintained subsequently at 25°C. Egg appearance in hermaphrodite adults (>99% of population) was monitored microscopically at intervals (time after end of exposure). Each trio of data points (one per condition) is derived from a separate run.
de Pomerai, D., Daniells, C., David, H., Allan, J., Duce, I., Mutwakil, M., Thomas, D., Sewell, P., Tattersall, J., Jones, D., and Candido, P. (2000). Non-thermal heat-shock response to microwaves. Nature 405: 417-418.
Wood, W.B. (1988). Introduction to C. elegans Biology. In “The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans” (ed. W.B. Wood), Cold Spring Harbour Press, New York, pp. 1-16.
Snutch, T.B., and Baillie, D.L. (1983). Alterations in the pattern of gene expression following heat shock in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Canad. J. Biochem. Cell Biol. 61: 480-487.
de Pomerai, D., Daniells, C., David, H., Allan J., Duce, I., Mutwakil, M., Thomas, D., Sewell, P., Tattersall, J., Jones, D., and Candido, P. (2000). Microwave radiation induces a heat-shock response and enhances growth in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. IEEE Transact. Micr. Theor. Tech. 48: 2076-2081.
Kotnik, T., and Miklavcik, D. (2000). Theoretical evaluation of the distributed power dissipation in biological cells exposed to electric fields. Bioelectromagnetics 21: 385-394.
Daniells, C., Duce, I., Thomas, D., Sewell, P., Tattersall, J., and de Pomerai, D. (1998). Transgenic nematodes of microwave-induced stress. Mutation Research 399: 55-64.
A brief English translation of the executive summary from a new Swedish report titled, “Electromagnetic hypersensitivity and health risks from electric and magnetic fields: Research review and evaluation,” was released recently by members of the Swedish Council for Work Life Research working group.
Ulf Bergqvist, University of Linkoping, chair of the working group on electromagnetic hypersensitivity at the Council, with co-authors Lena Hillert and Elisabeth Birke, Huddinge Hospital, prepared the 200-page final report (available in Swedish only at present) because their government asked in 1997 that the Council review research and evaluate research results. The three experts looked at Swedish as well as international studies of people who report allergic reactions or hypersensitivity to EMF exposure. They also briefly outlined other national and international reviews of possible health risks posed by exposure to electric and magnetic fields.
As Bergqvist and colleagues point out in a six-page English-language executive summary, they limited their evaluation to fairly well established effects, and avoided looking at studies with endpoints of “unclear or no real importance for health.” Also, they noted that “it is seldom possible to make definite conclusions based on single studies,” and that “conclusions should be drawn based on the totality of all relevant studies concerning a specific hypothesis.”
Bergqvist and colleagues stress that all steps in risk assessment “should be based on scientific knowledge,” while they acknowledge that “social and economic deliberations” may be necessary among non-scientists. Such additional concerns are best handled by national authorities, the authors note, who also may wish to consider using risk management strategies such as the precautionary principle and prudent avoidance.
Overall, Bergqvist and colleagues conclude that scientific studies do not support the idea that electric or magnetic fields are “sufficient or necessary” to trigger symptoms in individuals who believe they are electrosensitive. “These results cannot, however, exclude the possibility that electric or magnetic fields may be contributing factors for the symptoms, although there are currently no scientific indications of this,” they caution.
The working group offered the following general conclusions:
- full scientific support is lacking for other risk-reducing strategies than those on which the recommendations of ICNIRP and the European Union are based
- some occupational situations probably exist where these recommendations are exceeded; these should be considered important occupational health problems
- there is still some limited scientific support for the strategy of caution that was launched by five Swedish authorities in 1995 concerning extremely low frequency magnetic fields
- a similar support is lacking for extending this strategy to other fields or other frequency ranges
- researchers have found no evidence of health risks linked to the use of mobile phones
- the public’s normal exposure from base stations for mobile telephony, others’ use of mobile phones, or radio and television broadcasts is very low compared to current recommendations and guidelines
- research concerning individuals with electromagnetic hypersensitivity has not been able to identify any single factor of importance for the appearance of adverse health in these individuals.”
The medical complaint of hypersensitivity to electricity is controversial; one reason for this, these experts say, is that there is a “discrepancy” between results of well designed scientific studies and the affected individual’s own perception that EMF exposure is associated with poor health.
This is not sufficient reason to discount the individual’s experience, however, Bergqvist and colleagues strongly believe. In fact, they urge their government to take the view that “the strong degree of worry and concern that is noted in some groups” is by itself a health problem worthy of official attention.
They also feel that “a closer investigation of the extent of worry and risk perception in the public, and also into what actions could be effective in order to handle this worry, is beyond the remit or competence of this evaluation, but the evaluators wish to strongly emphasize the need for further action here.”
As Bergqvist, Birke and Hillert point out, increasing attention is now directed toward factors other than EMF which may play a role in poor health reported by hypersensitive people. These include personality traits, psychosocial factors, and external environmental factors. This multi-factoral approach should continue because research to date does not point to “any single factor” that could explain their complaints. Also, the scientists note, experience has shown that a “broad approach” is more helpful in resolving problems “at an individual level.”
To make best use of limited research resources, Bergqvist and colleagues urge international cooperation for continued research on electrosensitivity.
For more information or to receive a copy of the English or Swedish-language reports, contact Dr. Ulf Bergqvist, IKP/IAV, University of Linkoping, SE-581 83 Linkoping, Sweden, e-mail email@example.com.
Reports on current research and standards activities were among the highlights of a joint meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO), International Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) meeting at Brooks Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, in November.
WHO sponsored three days of discussion on EMF standards harmonization on Nov. 13-15, while the Air Force Research Laboratory hosted a tour of its facilities on the 16th. This was followed by three days of IEEE Standards Coordinating Committee (SCC) 28 meetings on Nov. 17-l 9. ICNIRP held afternoon and evening closed meetings throughout, but members participated in many of the discussions spanning the seven days of talks.
Michael Repacholi, director of the WHO International EMF Project, Geneva, received reports from representatives of at least 14 nations where various government agencies are considering EMF exposure guidelines. Many cited public anxiety over the possible health risks of cell phone use and radio-frequency (RF) EMF exposure as a factor in these discussions, although public concern over exposure to power-frequency (extremely-low-frequency ELF) electric and magnetic fields also was mentioned.
For IEEE, John Osepchuk, chair of SCC28, reported briefly that two IEEE committees, subcommittee (SC)3(SC3) covering exposure to electric and magnetic fields, O-300 Hz, and SC4 for exposure above 300 Hz, are working on new exposure standards. New IEEE standards will incorporate updated scientific information making them “more defensible,” Osepchuk noted. He also predicted that the U.S. National Commission on Radiation Protection (NCRP)--where a subcommittee has spent years revising public and occupational exposure guidelines---“will never issue its ELF document.”
From Canada, Dr. Art Thansandote, Health Canada, recalled that the Royal Society of Canada formed an expert panel on potential health risks of radiofrequency (RF) fields from wireless telecommunications in 1998. This group recently summarized and evaluated additional evidence on possible risks associated with the use of mobile phones published since their 1999 report appeared. The Society’s recent update addresses thermal effects, the relationship between EMF exposure and ornithine decarboxlyase activity, melatonin, Ca2+ efflux and the blood/brain barrier. It also considers new data on DNA damage, cell proliferation and carcinogenesis, testicular function and teratogenicity, evidence from epidemiologic studies, and neurological, behavioral and ocular effects.
While they expressed particular interest in results of new epidemiological studies, Canada’s expert panel concluded that results are not sufficient to alter their original conclusion that the epidemiologic evidence on health risks associated with RF field exposure is “inadequate for a comprehensive evaluation of risk.” Additional research is needed.
Canada’s Safety Code 6 exposure guidelines apply only to federal employees and federally operated devices, but in effect it sets de facto guidelines, A pdf version of Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 can be found on the Web at: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ehp/ehd/catalogue/rpb_pubs/99ehd237.pdf
In the U.K., a similar evaluation of cell phone use and health was prepared in 2000 by an expert group chaired by Sir William Stewart. That panel concluded that available evidence does not suggest that human exposure to radiofrequency fields is associated with adverse health effects. Like Canada’s Royal Society, the Stewart panel recommended that more research be carried out. The U.K. reviewers also recommended taking a precautionary approach until more definitive scientific information becomes available.
From China, Dr. Huai Chiang, Zhejiang Medical University, reported that, encouraged by WHO’s initiative on global standards harmonization, China’s ministries of health, environment and labor have put forward several different pro.-. posals for updating ELF and RF standards. China’s current regulations date from the 1970s, she explained.
Chiang reported that a small number of in vitro studies ---mostly cancer-related---exploring biological effects of power-frequency EMF are ongoing at a few universities. No animal, human, clinical or epidemiologic studies are underway. Instead, the major scientific emphasis is on possible health effects of mobile telephone use, including one epidemiologic study of cancer and some animal studies, she added. An English-language Web site offers information at: www://emfhealth.com/english/
From Germany, Dr. Birgit Wolz, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Bonn, reported that the public exposure guidelines set in the 1999 Ordinance 26 are due to be revised before about June 2001. By then, she expects Germany to be considering either the adoption of lower public exposure limits or official recommendations to take a precautionary approach, specifically for exposure to 50 Hz EMF in so-called “sensitive areas” such as schools and hospitals. These would be modeled after limits found in the current Swiss ordinance, Wolz said. Public concern has fueled a movement toward adoption of the precautionary principle in Germany, in particular to address children’s cumulative exposure, she added.
From Croatia, Dr. Dina Simunic, University of Zagreb, reported that her country is now also developing a new ELF public exposure ordinance based on the Swiss model, with “sensitive zones” at kindergartens, schools and hospitals. Neighboring Slovenia is also considering a Swiss-style ordinance, she added.
Simunic said that Croatia’s Ministries of Health and of Environment are cooperating on public exposure guidelines about ten times lower than the current International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines
In Finland, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is developing a new EMF ordinance based on ICNIRP guidelines, which could be ready by the end of this year, according to Dr. Veli Santomaa, Nokia Research Center.
Dr. Eric van Rongen, Health Council of the Netherlands, reported that politicians had recently rejected ELF and RF exposure recommendations developed after a full literature review by his agency, in favor of the ICNIRP guidelines. He thinks Dutch legislators wished to support European Union guidelines "in the interest of EU harmonization.” Van Rongen said the new rules will be completed in the near future.
From Sweden, Dr. Kjell Hansson Mild, National Institute of Working Life, reported that the country’s Radiological Protection Board probably will recommend adoption of the European Directive on ELF and RF EMF exposure, which is based on ICNIRP guidelines. However, he noted that its ELF limits pose a problem because Swedish law states that in order for the board to propose legal limits, it must address practical consequences such as costs. Guidelines are under discussion at the National Board of Occupational Safety and Health as well, Mild added.
From Korea, Dr. You’n-M’young Gimm, Dankook University, reported that both ELF and RF exposure ordinances are being written that concur with ICNIRP guidelines.
Special consideration will be paid to cell phone exposure, the scientist predicted, and for exposure in mountain areas where power lines may be closer to the ground than elsewhere. “The field intensity is high under them,” Gimm explained, and the public is concerned. A Korean EMF ordinance could be adopted in 2001 in draft form, Gimm noted; if no objections are raised, it would become law in 2002.
Research in Korea includes an ELF multi-generational rat study funded by the government, as well as an investigation of health among people living near a cell tower.
Dr. Shaiela Kandel, a scientific advisor to the prime minister of Israel, reported on a number of violent confrontations between construction workers attempting to erect cell phone towers and townspeople worried about RF EMF exposure. The Israeli Knesset faces enormous public pressure to adopt RF standards soon to address these concerns, she said. Once this issue is resolved, discussion will follow on ELF exposure.
In Bulgaria, according to Dr. Michael Israel, cell phone companies are putting great pressure on the government to change the country’s RF exposure standards, which are so low now that using a cell phone is illegal. WHO’s emphasis on worldwide EMF standards harmonization may encourage the Bulgarian government to reconsider its ordinance, he added.
In Russia, according to Dr. Nina Rubtsova, Russian Academy of Sciences, public concern is very high over possible health effects of radio, television and cell-phone towers, as well as video display terminals (VDT) in the workplace. New draft legislation that would establish “sanitary rules” for all frequencies and some special “sanitary zones” near base stations are under consideration. She noted that movement toward international standards harmonization in Russia will be slow.
Dr. David Black, New Zealand Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, briefly reportedon standards activity in Australia. He said that most public concern is over cell phone and base station exposure, and predicted that a draft guideline will soon address both RF and ELF public and occupational exposure.
Faced with a crisis of confidence over such health worries as bovine spongiform encephalitis (mad cow disease) and possible health effects of cell phone use, the European Commission (EC) Directorate General Joint Research Centre held a conference in October to explore a “new alliance between science, citizens and society.”
A seven-page English-language summary of conclusions from the October 16-l 7 conference, titled “Science and Governance in a Knowledge Society: The Challenge to Europe,” was released in December. The Science and Governance Summary and Conclusions are available on the Web at: www.jrc.es/sci-gov/sumcon.html
The report notes that 450 high-level government officials and others attended the conference from around the world. They included many members of the European Parliament, chief scientific advisers to U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, with Sir Robert May, advisor to U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. Chief scientists from France, Italy and Spain attended, as did directors general of national and international laboratories to discuss the crisis in public trust of science. Although the focus was on Europe at this particular gathering, participants considered the possibility that citizens are deeply distrustful of their governments’ ability to handle “the increasingly pervasive impact of science and technology” worldwide.
Three topics apparently dominated the October meeting--food safety, genetic engineering / biological experimentation, and cell telephone communications. As its recent report explains, the EC’s quest to “involve all stakeholders--decision-makers, scientists, citizens, industry and media--in a structured dialogue” formed the basis for much of the discussion. Overall, participants acknowledged a deep loss of trust in the power of science and technology to improve the quality of life, as well as a trend toward questioning the concept of “progress” in modern life.
“We are now emerging from a long period of dominance by the twin myths of technological determinism and scientific control,” the conclusions note. “A better understanding of the scientific process and of uncertainty is replacing the belief that science is purely objective and free of human influence or responsibility. The complex forces shaping scientific innovation include human visions and values which can and should be rendered more accountable in a wider democratic process.”
As reported by Dr. Tom McManus, chief technical advisor to Ireland’s Department of Public Enterprise, Dublin, at a recent IEEE meeting, momentum seems to have swelled in Europe that will eventually lead to “ordinary citizens” taking an active role in deciding how to protect the public against health risks, in particular, and how far science and technology will be allowed to go.
For example, plans are being laid for the European Union’s 6th Framework Programme for Research in 2002 to include citizen advisors on various panels once held only by scientists. Where once research was classified into three categories: basic, applied, and problem-solving, it may now be necessary to add a fourth sort: “precautionary research.” Although it is not clear how this will be defined, the intent is clear---if the public is more involved in decisions, subsequent actions may be more acceptable.
Some conference speakers warned that science and technology development are still considered essential for economic progress and cannot be spurned for long without adverse consequences. If one leg is “public involvement,” McManus noted, the other is the Joint Research Centre (JRC), an agency set up to look at atomic research when the European Unioin had just six members. The JRC may soon be in position as a convenient center of Europe’s research and scientific institutions, to effectively become a European Academy of Science.
“The idea is that if a government or government department has a problem with, for example, genetically modified potato crisps, plants that produce drugs, animals that produce human spare parts, or UWB telecommunications technology, they will go to JRC and JRC will provide the best answer available once it has contacted appropriate speciaIists through its virtual network,” McManus noted. For the time being, this technical service is being called “The European Scientific and Technical Reference System in a Global Context.”
McManus reported that adoption of this new regime is expected to coincide with the launch of the 6th Framework Programme for Research in 2002. Methods for public involvement in specific scientific research projects and research objectives generally will be developed over the next 12 months. A White Paper is slated for release in about June 2001, which will set out further details on implementation, including how the new initiative is to be funded.
Eleven papers from an EMF epidemiology workshop sponsored in January 1999 by the California Department of Health Services’ (DHS) EMF Program, Berkeley, are in press at according to Dr. Ben Greenebaum, editor in chief.
Raymond R. Neutra, chief of the state health department’s Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control, Vincent DelPizzo, who coordinated the workshop, and DHS staff had organized the EMF epidemiology workshop to assist in DHS's EMF hazard evaluation and risk assessment, expected to be complete sometime in mid-2001. More than 25 scientists evaluated data from many EMF epidemiologic studies over two and a half days at a hotel in Berkeley.
Neutra and staff contributed an article reviewing their conference goals, process and selected conclusions for the journal’s special issue. Also, ten epidemiologists, who had written review papers intended to stimulate discussion on EMF topics before the workshop, used these plus “pro” and “con” comments they heard from participants, plus detailed discussion of the data, to develop final papers for publication.
Authors of papers in the special BEMS issue include:
- Daniel Wartenberg, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, N.J., who addressed whether the association between childhood leukemia and wire code or calculated magnetic field exposure can be explained in terms of selection or other bias;
- David A. Savitz, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who discussed whether evidence in epidemiological studies of childhood leukemia and cancer using wire codes as an exposure assessment proxy points toward EMF or not;
- Thomas C. Erren, University of Köln, Germany, on EMF exposure and breast cancer;
- Leeka I. Kheifets, EPRI, Palo Alto, Calif. on EMF exposure and brain tumors;
- Anders Ahlbom, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm on epidemiologic studies of EMF and neurodegenerative disease; and
- Bryan Langholz, University of Southern California - Los Angeles, who discussed confounding issues in EMF epidemiology.
The journal’s special supplement is expected to appear in late January or early February, Greenebaum said.
A new generation of high-resolution, computer-based ELF and SAR exposure modeling methods---intended to be more precise than the traditional ellipsoidal representations of a cell---show extreme promise but are not yet reliable enough for use in setting exposure standards, Dr. Patrick Mason, US Air Force Research Laboratory, Brooks AFB, told IEEE’s Standards Coordinating Committee (SCC) 28.
He spoke at the IEEE parent committee meeting held in San Antonio in November. Mason acknowledged that many IEEE subcommittee 3 and 4 members, in the process of revising EMF exposure standards, had hoped that the more sophisticated, high-resolution models would aid them in their work. But he and former Johns Hopkins University physiologist Dr. J. Patrick Reilly, now an independent consultant who has been exploring the scientific rationale for new exposure limits for SCC28, found “substantial differences” in results when they attempted to compare models and/or permittivity values. One scheme had a seventeen-fold-difference in Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) values when modeling the testes at radio-frequency exposure levels, “and the situation could be even worse at lower frequencies due to uncertainty in permittivity values,” Mason said.
Further, not all models have been validated and not all include separate anatomical components, he added. Overall, Mason advised the IEEE subcommittees that he and Reilly feel “it is premature now to use these models” for standard setting. “They will be tremendously better down the road, but it’s too early today.”
Dr. Bill Bailey, Exponent, Inc., New York City, disagreed, pointing out that Mason and Reilly’s examples all involved RF exposure. Bailey suggested that the high-resolution models may be more valuable at low frequencies than Mason portrayed. However, Mason insisted that at minimum the models must be compared before these questions can be answered.
At least five research groups have computer anatomical models, according to Mason. They are Drs. Maria Stuchly, Trevor Dawson and colleagues at the University of Victoria, British Columbia; Dr. Om Gandhi and colleagues at the University of Utah; Dr. Michael Murphy and colleagues (including Mason himself) at Brooks Air Force Base, Dr. P.J. Dimbylow, U.K. National Radiation Protection Board and Drs. K. Fujiwara and J. Wang at the Nagoya Institute of Technology, Japan. These new models will help overcome the weaknesses of using the old system---“oversimplified” ellipsoidal representations of a cell---when modeling nervous system or internal organ exposure to electric and magnetic fields, for example.