G J Hyland
Department of Physics
University of Warwick*, UK
International Institute of Biophysics*
(*) The views expressed below are those of the author, and
do not necessarily represent those of the Institutions with which he is affiliated.
I fully commend the initiative to establish a Website dedicated to the victims of microwave radiation from mobile telecommunication Base-stations (Cell towers). Since the advent of this technology, an ever-increasing number of people in many different countries have been reporting a similar array of adverse health symptoms of a predominantly neurological kind, such as sleep disturbance, headache, inability to focus and concentrate, impaired memory, confusion, and sensation of pressure in the head. The severity of these symptoms displays a wide range of subjective variation, ranging from mild discomfort to great distress - so great, in some cases, that those affected have been forced to sell their houses at financial loss and move to areas that are less electromagnetically polluted in this way.
This is a totally unacceptable state of affairs, which arguably contravenes the Human Right Act, and which, in many cases, has had a quite devastating effect on the families involved. Despite the existence of many well-organised and extremely well-informed local citizen groups, there is an identifiable need for a mechanism of global communication and cooperation whereby the experiences of those who have been affected can be pooled and shared, not only to provide a robust defence against the 'establishment' view that this technology is harmless, but also, hopefully, to identify and focus future epidemiological research requirements; this Website makes a valuable and much needed contribution to realising this important goal.
Sadly, people cannot rely on the protection of their governments in this field of environmental pollution, since governments freely admit to a vested interest in continuing to promote the growth of mobile telephony. In the UK, for example, the Government netted £22.5 Billion from the auction of the 3G licences, whilst the annual revenue from mobile telephony is currently around £15 Billion; clearly, it is in governments' interests not to find any problems with this bounteous technology. Accordingly, we have, in the UK, the obscene spectacle of the government body responsible for protecting the public from adverse effects of electromagnetic exposure (the National Radiological Protection Board, NRPB) being engaged by the mobile phone industry to speak at meetings in support of the safety of their products: the industry knows that it will not be disappointed.
Neither can the public expect an unbiased hearing either in Public Inquiries or in the Civil Courts. For the whole procedure is biased in favour of the Industry, since a judgement against the phone companies would have potentially serious consequences not only for the continued, effectively unregulated expansion of mobile telecommunications, but also, more importantly, on government revenue - a situation that will not be allowed to happen, as has repeatedly been demonstrated.
Given their experience with official cover-ups in the case of BSE/CJD - with initial assurances of no risk and subsequent revelations of cover-ups - the public is now understandably wary of safety assurances from 'official' scientific sources in the case of exposure to electromagnetic fields. Quite justifiably, the public remains sceptical of attempts by governments and the mobile phone industry to reassure them that all is well, particularly given the unethical way in which they often operate symbiotically so as to promote their own vested interests, often under the brokerage of the very statutory (advisory) bodies (such as the NRPB in the UK) whose function it supposedly is to ensure that the health and well-being of the public is not compromised by electromagnetic exposure. This scepticism is enhanced when those with views contrary to the 'official' perceived wisdom are treated as mavericks who, at worst, should be silenced, or, at best, studiously ignored.
Official assurances of safety in the case of exposure to the microwave radiation used in mobile telecommunications is based on the fact that the levels of emission in publicly accessible areas in the vicinity of Base-stations are thousands of times lower than the limits stipulated in the safety guidelines published by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The nonsense of being content with such compliance is that these guidelines protect against what is here not actually a hazard - namely getting overheated; the intensity of the radiation is simply far too low for this to occur. At the same time, however, these guidelines neglect the most discriminating feature of all, namely the 'aliveness' of those exposed1. When (and only when) alive, the body supports a number of electrical bio-rhythms characterised by different frequencies; perhaps the most familiar are those associated with the activity of the brain and the heart. These rhythms are intimately connected with biological functionality, some being involved in maintaining the delicate balance of biochemicals essential to health, whilst others play a role in the transmission of biological information essential to maintaining well-being.
The fact that the frequencies of some of these bio-rhythms are close to those that characterise the mobile telephony signals makes these electrical rhythms vulnerable to non-thermal electromagnetic interference (just as can occur in the case of radio reception), whereby the integrity of these bioelectrical rhythms can be undermined, and, in turn, health adversely affected - even when the signals are too weak to be able to cause any heating. Thus the potential of the radiation to exert adverse effects arises not because it does any actual material damage, but rather because it interferes with bio-functionality - particularly, in would appear, with natural processes that are intended to afford protection against the development of disease.
It is precisely because of the possibility of a similar deleterious electromagnetic interference between mobile phone signals and electronic control systems that the use of mobile phones is prohibited on aircraft: the prohibition is not thermally driven. Our internal, biological electrical control systems are similarly vulnerable.
It should be particularly emphasised that the repercussion of these electromagnetic sensitivities on the health of those exposed varies from person to person, according to their physiological/neurological/genetic predispositions at the time of exposure. Thus - just as in an epidemic - not everyone is equally affected. Indeed, the health of many people appears (at least up to now) not to be affected at all by exposure to the signals from a Base-station. This situation is, of course, exploited by those with a vested interest in not wishing to find any problems, and is cited in support of their claim that 'there are no established adverse health effects of exposure to these signals'. On the other hand, there are people that are extremely electro-sensitive, who can become very badly affected.
It is a gross scandal that, in the absence of adequate testing to ascertain the extent to which it might be harmful, mobile telecommunication technology has been allowed to be rolled out (and continues so to be) in an essentially unregulated way that results in the involuntary exposure of the majority of the population - a situation that does not obtain in the case of a new drug or foodstuff, which, by contrast, are subject to quite rigorous testing before being licensed. In the case of exposure to mobile telecommunication signals, the 'establishment' view is that if the signals do not heat you, they cannot harm you. In attempts to strengthen this position, every effort is made to rubbish any experimental findings that might suggest otherwise, whilst results that do not pose a threat to safety are uncritically accepted. What, in their view, is considered as an absence of proof of harm is erroneously, but conveniently, taken as proof of absence of harm.
It is impossible to continue to responsibly support this stance - unless one is prepared to dismiss the reports of ill-health as purely psychosomatic - given (i) what is now known about the biological effects that mobile telecommunications signals have, in particular effects allied to their shapes and repeat patterns (which differ between GSM, TETRA & UMTS/3G), and (ii) the fact that since the reported adverse health effects cannot be due to overheating (dependent on intensity) they can only be due to non-thermal interference against which the current safety guidelines offer absolutely no protection. Whilst, in some cases, a psychosomatic element can indeed be a confounding factor, the striking consistency between the nature of the symptoms reported by many people in different countries cannot be ignored - particularly when many of the symptoms were initially discovered under 'blind' conditions - i.e. those affected did not become aware of the presence of a Base-station in their locality until after they experienced ill-health. Furthermore, the consistency between the nature of the reported symptoms and the kinds of non-thermal effects that the signals are known, from laboratory experimentation, to provoke is a compelling reason to take these reports of ill-health seriously, rather than peremptorily dismissing them, as does the 'establishment'.
Given the experience of adverse health reactions provoked by exposure to GSM signals, it is even more irresponsible that TETRA and UMTS were ever allowed to be rolled-out with absolutely no investigations to ascertain whether their particular signals might provoke adverse health reactions in some people.
There is now accumulating evidence that supports the reality of adverse non-thermal influences of the radiation from all kinds of Base-stations. In the case of exposure to GSM, particular mention should be made of the significantly elevated incidence of cancer that correlates with proximity and duration of Base-station exposure found in a recently published study in Bavaria , and of adverse effects on well-being and sleep found in two recent Austrian studies not yet published . In the case of exposure to UMTS, many of the symptoms found under controlled conditions in the Dutch TNO laboratory study  are precisely the same as some of those reported by members of the public exposed to commercial UMTS Base-stations, endorsing the suspicion that their signals are not as benign as had been assumed. In the case of TETRA, on the other hand, the furore that its roll-out provoked in the UK has resulted in a belated programme of experimentation; this is still in progress, but, from the way it has been designed and conducted, is unlikely to corroborate earlier work suggesting that these particular signals could well affect the integrity of the nervous system.
The commonality of many of the symptoms reported under exposure to the microwave emissions from GSM, TETRA and UTMS Base-stations, despite the quite significant differences between their signals, suggests, however, that non-thermal influences of the kind discussed above cannot be the whole story, and that a more general non-thermal influence of the radiation (which still remains to be identified) must also be at work; one possibility could be that the electromagnetic vector potential is involved in some way.
This Website makes a valuable contribution to the on-going debate over the safety of mobile telecommunications technology by affording a mechanism whereby reports of ill-health attributed to exposure to the signals emitted by Base-stations of all kinds can be registered and recorded. This will permit the possibility of a more systematic study of correlations between reported symptoms of ill-health and exposure conditions than is currently possible, which will hopefully help focus the direction of future research.
- H. Eger et al. Einfluss der räumlichen Nähe von Mobilfunksendeanlagen auf die Krebsinzidenz, Umwelt Medizin Gesellschaft 17, 326-332 (2004).
- G. Oberfeld, H. Schimke & G. Bernatzky; H. Leitgeb et al. - to be published.
- TNO-report: FEL -03-C148, 2003. Effects of Global Communication system radio-frequency fields on Well Being and Cognitive Functions of human subjects with and without subjective complaints.