Since www.stuff.co.nz ran an article that interviewed New Zealand scientist Dr. Susan Pockett on the potential health hazards of 5G, two people have popped out of the woodwork to defend not only 5G but cell phones in general.
The first was Paul Brislen, former head of “corporate communications” for Vodafone who now runs a PR company that has 2Degrees as one of its clients. He wrote an article called “5G will fry your brain? I don’t think so” – which, despite its snazzy title isn’t a good read. (You can find a link to the article and read a critique of it by clicking HERE.)
Now Michelle Dickinson (aka “Nanogirl”) has written an article for the NZ Herald entitled “Are mobile phones really bad for our health?”
“Nanogirl” begins her article by hyping the perceived benefits of 5G (“predicted to be 1000 faster than our current systems”) and then tackles the sensitive topic of radiation. While anything with the “anything with the word radiation in it sounds scary”, she writes, this word “the word just means the emission of energy from any source.”
OK, so far so good. That’s a fair definition.
Then she writes:
“Non-ionising radiation doesn’t carry enough energy to “ionise”, or strip electrons from atoms and molecules. It therefore doesn’t have enough energy to damage our DNA.”
The statement above used to be thought true. However, unfortunately non ionising radiation has now been shown to cause damage to DNA by some mechanism, as is graphically illustrated below.
And rats that were exposed to non ionising radiation (at frequencies used in the 2G, 3G and 4G cellular phone systems in NZ) were found to have increased oxidative stress and DNA damage in their brains compared to rats that did not have this exposure.
The exposure levels for the rats in the above study that were exposed to these cellular phone frequencies was lower than what is considered to be a “safe” level for a cell phone by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). (See: https://www.fcc.gov/general/specific-absorption-rate-sar-cellular-telephones )
One explanation for why non ionising radiation may result in DNA damage (and why some electromagnetic fields can be used therapeutically to assist in bone healing) is outlined in this article:
OK, so now you know that non ionising radiation can damage DNA. Please remember this fact. It’s important that YOU remember it because it is a really common misconception that non ionising radiation can’t damage DNA. (I have lost count of the number of articles that I have read where authors have written that non ionising radiation doesn’t damage DNA even though it DOES damage DNA.)
Let’s see what else Nanogirl has to say about cell phones:
She says that “mobile devices are a ‘Class 2B carcinogen’”.
That’s true. RFR in the microwave range (such as is produced by cell phones, cordless phones and their bases, so call wireless “smart” or advanced electricity meters, wireless baby monitors, wifi routers etc. etc.) was classified as a possible carcinogen (Group 2B) by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research in Cancer in 2011.
This fact, she says, “really sounds scary.”
So she apparently decides to reassure you that there is no need for you to worry about getting cancer from your cell phone – even though studies showing that long term cell phone users had increased risks for some types of brain cancer were one of the reasons for the classification of RFR as a Group 2B carcinogen.
“To put things in perspective, however, other items in the 2B category include coffee, pickles and being a carpenter.”
Well, that sounds very well and good, doesn’t it!
Except that the status of coffee as a Group 2B carcinogen was revoked in 2016. (It is currently classified as “unclassifiable”).
So that leaves “pickles” and “being a carpenter”.
By the way, a little bit of reading shows that the types of “pickles” referred to in Nanogirl’s article appear to be the sort of fermented vegetables eaten in China and Japan. (http://www.inchem.org/documents/iarc/vol56/02-pick.html) If you are concerned about this you can choose not to eat this type of pickled veggies. No one is going to force them down your throat.
As for “being a carpenter” being rated with a Group 2B risk…This doesn’t surprise me given the occupational exposure to copper chrome arsenate treated timber, the fact that modern electric saws create a very fine mist of timber dust and I don’t think I have ever seen a carpenter wearing a mask while operating one. (The US EPA considers the form of arsenic found in copper chrome arsenate treated timber to be a confirmed human carcinogen.)
Plus a lot of builders use glues that reek of toxic solvents without using masks and people working in petroleum refining (where they are exposed to benzene and other toxic solvents) also have a class 2B category … but I digress.
Let’s look at a few of the Group 2B carcinogens that Nanogirl has not mentioned:
Lead is also categorised as a Group 2B carcinogen but Nanogirl doesn’t mention this. Petrol is also a Group 2B carcinogen. (Accordingly, some NZ service stations have a health warning printed on or beside their pumps.)
Talc-based body powers applied around the “perianal area” also has this rating and a major manufacturer is getting sued in the US. (This is probably because there is research dating back to the late 1980s on talc and ovarian cancer.)
OK. So there are quite a few things that most people would consider “nasties” in the “class 2B” carcinogen category but Nanogirl has chosen to tell you only about coffee, pickles and “being a carpenter”.
Then there’s the issue of whether RFR deserves to be a Group 2B carcinogen or whether its category should be upgraded.
Since 2011, new research has been published that supports a re-categorisation of this form of radiation (let’s just call it microwave radiation for short) from a possible carcinogen (Group 2B) to a probable carcinogen (Group 2A) or a proven carcinogen (Group 1).
What else does Nanogirl have to say:
To paraphrase, she says basically you don’t need to worry about your cell phone because WHO says the radiation is not a problem: “Current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields from mobile phones.”
Sounds good on the face of it, doesn’t it? But she is quoting from a pathetic link on WHO’s website that is completely unreferenced and does not even define what level of electromagnetic fields is “low-level”. (https://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/WhatisEMF/en/index1.html)
Back to Nanogirl and 5G…
She alludes to the fact that telcos in NZ want to use the “26 GHz band” (without specifying the frequency band per se) in NZ as part of 5G. This is a higher frequency form of microwave radiation than microwave radiation bands currently used in 2G, 3G and 4G systems here.
Nanogirl writes: “as the frequency goes up the depth of penetration into biological tissues goes down. This means that 5G is even less likely to penetrate the body than the current technology that we use.”
This is partially true.
Based on what is known about the higher frequency radiation that NZ telcos want to inflict on the NZ public (initially the “26 GHz band”) most of the energy of this high frequency radiation is likely to be deposited in the skin, where sweat glands have been speculated to possibly act as wave guides to conduct the radiation into the body. (You can see a presentation by Israeli scientists about the potential health impacts of millimetre wave radiation HERE: https://ehtrust.org/internet-things-poses-human-health-risks-scientists-question-safety-untested-5g-technology-international-conference/.)
But of course we don’t KNOW whether that will happen, because NO RESEARCH ON THE EFFECTS OF 5G FREQUENCIES ON THE HUMAN BODY HAS BEEN DONE.
Therefore the introduction of 5G would result in everyone in the area being subjected to a mass experiment, with no opportunity to give or withhold informed consent.
And in any case, in rural areas of NZ, Spark wants to use 600 MHz for 5G. This is a lower frequency form of microwave radiation than currently used in 2G, 3G and 4G systems in NZ.
But Nanogirl tells you none of this. Instead she ends her piece by saying you won’t need a tinfoil hat. Thanks Nanogirl!
Actually it is very disappointing that someone who has achieved a good public profile for herself as a woman in science (and who is likely to have teenage girls who aspire to careers in science or engineering reading her articles) has written a piece that essentially provides false reassurance about the health risks of cell phones.
She could have used her platform in the NZ Herald to encourage her readers to take sensible steps to reduce their exposure to wireless radiation – such not holding their cell phone (or cordless phone) to their head. (This simple step could reduce their risk of developing the often fatal brain cancer glioblastoma.)
She could also have done teenage girls (and other women) a favour by alerting them to the cases of young women who have developed breast cancer after routinely keeping their cell phone in their bras. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3789302/)
At this link you can read an article by Traci Frantz whose daughter Tiffany developed breast cancer at the age of 21.
She could have paid tribute to New Zealand scientist Dr. Neil Cherry whose work on electromagnetic fields and childhood leukaemia was internationally recognised and who also did work on microwave radiation and health prior to his career (and life) being cut short by motor neurone disease (MND).
She could have chosen to highlight the work that some NZ women scientists are currently doing in the field of microwave radiation and health.
For example, Dr. Mary Redmayne, who co-authored a very interesting paper about how a high-powered wi-fi router triggered seizures, among other important work. (Mary Redmayne has a Facebook page which is: https://www.facebook.com/RedmayneReports/ )
Or Nanogirl could have chosen to highlight a 2018 article by Dr. Susan Pockett called “Public health and the radio frequency radiation emitted by cellphone technology, smart meters and WiFi”, which was published in The NZ Journal of Medicine and may be read at this link: https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2018/vol-131-no-148714-december-2018/7777
She chose to do none of this. Why not?
Update: Since this article was written, Michelle Dickinson did a children’s science tour of NZ which includes Vodafone among its sponsors.
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