“A comment about health impacts of cell phone radiation”

As we all rapidly are being forced into the new generation of electronic gadgets and wireless services, sometimes referred to as the "Internet of Things", more people are asking themselves if the ever increasing levels of artificial electromagnetic fields (EMFs) really are safe for living organisms, writes Olle Johansson, associate professor at the Karolinska Institute.

publicerad 9 augusti 2017
Detta är en opinionstext. Artikelförfattaren svarar för de åsikter som uttrycks i artikeln.

In 2013, yet a very interesting 4-minute video about the health impacts of cell phone radiation, featuring Dr. Sanja Gupta, was launched by CNN in the USA:

“CNN’s Dr. Sanja Gupta Explains Cell Phone Radiation and Its Dangers (JMOA Inquiries: 0939-4098415)”

As usually very clear, unfortunately, this time Dr. Gupta misses several important points, especially the legal aspect* as well as the fact the mobile phone manufacturer’s instructions tell you to keep it one inch away from your body, thus not only your head/brain. When he demonstrates how the measurements are done, by moving the phone away from his head, he still holds it in his hand, exposing for instance all white and red blood cells in the peripheral blood every 5th minute when they pass his hand.

Approx. 25% of the radiation is used for communication, and 75% of all the radiation from a hand-held unit is absorbed by the body (head, shoulders, arm, hand, trunk), but will also pass right through you. I did some very simple penetration studies: Friday, March 14, 2008, I allowed pairs of rather stubby women to press their voluptuous bodies tightly around a mobile phone to see if I could call the phone, i.e. if the microwaves would penetrate their bodies. The result was clear; from a functionality point of view it was as if the bodies were not present at all, the women were completely transparent. (If this meant that 100% or 1% of the radiation went all the way through, I do not know, but the phones rang as if nothing was hindering their communicative capacity.)

*For the legal aspect, to urge people to keep the telephone or tablet one inch (or more) away from their body is so smart since you can never touch the gadget in question. The telecom manufacturers and operators say that their products are safe, so they claim, but they do not – legally – themselves touch them even with a barge pole or a pair of pliers. So, in a sense, these companies have their own precautionary principle, by completely and totally refuse liability for their own products. If you hold the gadgets in your hands or right to your head/body, then you have completely violated their firm instructions, and they will walk away from any Court of Law. (This was the effect of the London conference in 2002 about “Electromagnetic Environments and Health in Buildings”, headed by D. Clements-Croome, at which I presented the book chapter Johansson O, “Screen dermatitis and electrosensitivity: Preliminary observations in the human skin”, Spon Press, London & New York, 2004, pp 377-389.)

Dr. Gupta also touches upon the use of earpieces, but still – for most users including himself – it will violate the instruction to “keep it one inch away from your body” since most people will keep the phone in their hand. The employment of ferrite beads and hollow airtubes will not move the phone an inch away from your hand. All of this is about the (possibly?) unfortunate sole focus on our head and brain, and it may mean that much more important adverse health effects are overlooked by the consumers, being fooled into a false sense of security by moving the phone away from their head, but definitely not from their body. (Ironically, the head and brain is actually more resistant against radiation damage as compared to other soft tissues, like the gonads. And the effect on the latter may be much more devastating than extra cancer cases. — In Sweden we would say that the consumers are so fooled. — But do not get me wrong, the recent American National Toxicology Program cancer data, clearly tying together mobile phone exposure and increased risks for cancers, do keep me awake at night.)

In addition, the most recent research, like the “Phonegate” data from France, investigating the real radiation levels at ordinary close contact between body and phone, do not indicate that current RF exposure levels are just a fraction of what national and international exposure guidelines permit, quite the opposite. They clearly show that the recorded exposure levels actually are 3 times higher than the allowed maximal ones, so the difference between the natural background and the actual phone signal pointed out by me may be even bigger. As you know, this revelation has created a huge scandal in France, with ramifications all the way up to their National Assembly and Senate, as well as up to the European Union. Similar figures are now starting to emerge from other countries and laboratories, something also touched upon by Dr. Gupta pointing to the flawed FCC and ICNIRP guidelines (also having been a theme for my endless nagging for years). — As a matter of fact, such guidelines lack any form of biologically-based exposure standards or hygienic safety levels (the only such latter ever proposed is by myself**). Instead the safety of these gadgets are determined using so-called technical recommendations based on acute heating of fluid-filled plastic dolls, and only allowing you to make one (!) single, 6-minute long, mobile phone call once in your life-time. Does that make you feel safe?

**It should be noted that only one hygienic safety value ever has been proposed: 0.0000000001-0.000000000000001 µW/cm2 – this is the natural background during normal cosmic activities; proposed by myself, already in 1997***, as a genuine hygienic safety value, and since then many times repeatedly presented. (Given the highly artificial nature of the current wireless communication signals, e.g. of their pulsations and modulations, it may actually boil down to 0 (zero) µW/cm2 as the true safe level.) And do not ever believe it is possible to play it “safer” by only somewhat reducing the exposure levels!

[***It was quite interesting when I presented it at a trade union meeting in Stockholm (in 1997) since one of my most fierce opponents – then working i.a. for Ericsson and Telia Mobile – cried out: “I usually never believe anything that Olle Johansson says, but this time he is dead right!”. He called me many years later and said “that I actually had been dead right on everything; something he had slowly begun to realize…” ;-))  ]

Dr. Gupta also points to the well-known fact that the poorer reception and/or greater distance to the base station, your phone or tablet will automatically up-regulate it’s output power. This relationship we have also covered in a number of studies:

1. Hallberg Ö, Johansson O, “Mobile handset output power and health”, Electromag Biol Med 2004; 23: 229-239

2. Hallberg Ö, Johansson O, “Glesbygd är en sjuk miljö, nu börjar även friska dö” (=”Say to countryside goodbye, when even healthy people die”; in Swedish), Enheten för Experimentell Dermatologi, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Rapport nr. 6, 2004, 45 sidor, ISSN 1400-6111

3. Hallberg Ö, Johansson O, “Alzheimer mortality – why does it increase so fast in sparsely populated areas?”, Europ Biol Bioelectromag 2005; 1: 225-246

More and more people, all over the world, have over the years become concerned citizens who realise that modern electronic devices produce electromagnetic fields that are not native to our Earth. These non-native EMF:s are completely foreign to human, animal and plant biology, and are potentially reaping havoc on the health and well-being of mankind and life in general on our planet.

It is now high time that Dr. Gupta’s and my reflections also are made the concern of our politicians and civil servants who are there to serve us and protect us. Or was that not the intention…?



Olle Johansson

Olle Johansson, is a Ph.D., associate professor at the The Experimental Dermatology Unit, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.

He is a world-leading authority in the field of EMF radiation and health effects. Among many achievements he coined the term ”screen dermatitis” which later on was developed into the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity which recognition mainly is due to his work.

Read his full bio here

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