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Children, screen time and health mandates
Malta Created: 4 Apr 2022
A number of studies show technology having negative effects on children’s health.

In her report called ‘The Impact on Mental Health of Children and Young People During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic’, published in July 2021, Sarah Foster, a UK-based play and creative art therapist, noted that children and young people have had increased exposure to non-ionising radiation as a result of health mandates.

Chris Rowan, a paediatric occupational therapist and biologist, explains: “It’s important to come together as parents, teachers and therapists to help society ‘wake up’ and see the devastating effects technology is having not only on our child’s physical, psychological and behavioural health but also on their ability to learn and sustain personal and family relationships.”

Rowan very effectively and diagrammatically portrays the negative impacts of the accelerating intensity and increased duration of screen time through tablet, smartphone and internet use; what he calls virtual futures. These are physically, emotionally and mentally unhealthy lifestyles that are more likely than not to end in failed lives or preventable illness.

On the other hand, Rowan also displays a chart of the proven positive impact of a lifestyle that is not electronically mediated. One based on awareness of internal and external stimuli and emotional bonding experienced when physically with other people and in the natural world. Such a lifestyle contributes to improved strength, coordination, security, body functions, serenity, calm and focus. These are excellent predispositions for optimal development, attentive awareness and learning, ultimately giving us the best chance of having a fulfilling and rewarding life.

It is also known that exposure to wireless technology such as radio frequencies (RFR), microwave radiation (MWR) and electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) may cause harm. Exposure arises from Wi-Fi routers at homes, schools, hospitals, hotspots and the workplace.

This radiation also arises from 3G and 4G masts emitting internet and mobile data, present everywhere.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organisation issued a press release on May 31, 2011 in which it classifies radio frequency electromagnetic (non-ionising) radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans under a 2B classification.

The latter classification is within the second out of four categories that range from “the agent is carcinogenic to humans” to “probably not carcinogenic to humans”. Carcinogenicity is the propensity for an agent, such as RF radiation, to develop cancer in people. This was the conclusion of the IARC Working Group after considering hundreds of scientific articles.

The IARC Working Group did not quantify the risk, however, one IARC reviewed study, of cell phone use since 2004, showed a 40 per cent increased risk for gliomas, a brain cancer, for high category users – 30 minutes exposure per day for 10 years. Jonathan Samet, chairperson of the IARC Working Group indicated that “the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk and, therefore, we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk”.

“Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings,” said IARC director Christopher Wild, “it is important that additional research be conducted into the long-term heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting”. This was in 2011.

In spite of its justified concern in 2011, the IARC has not, to my knowledge, in the past 10 years reconsidered its 2B classification for radio frequency electromagnetic radiation as a possible carcinogen, notwithstanding its commitment “to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk”.

The IARC appears to have ignored both the numerous more recent studies and the increase, by many magnitudes, of the radiation that people are today exposed to.

Tom Butler, a professor and former satellite and microwave communications engineer and IT professional, in his 2019 paper confirms his view that microwaves are strong enough to cause biological damage and that the danger they present goes well beyond their thermal (heat) effects that is the industry adopted limit.

A March 2021 report issued by the Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory Association (ORSAA) has identified 2,065 studies that investigate the effects of RFR and EMF radiation exposure that does not exceed the industry heat-based standard limits. Sixty-nine per cent of these studies show that there is a biological effect on humans, 22 per cent show no effect and nine per cent show uncertain conclusions. The studies were also analysed by source of funding.

Interestingly there is a strong bias in the industry-funded studies towards ‘no effect’ conclusions.

The Environmental Health Trust warns that there are no studies showing that it is safe for children to be exposed to RF-MW-EMF radiation and no studies to show that continuous exposure from smartphones, phone masts, antennas, radio/TV towers, radar, cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers and baby monitors is safe. The EH Trust also points out that, biologically, children are not small adults. Children, due to their rapidly developing body, are more vulnerable to the biological effects of RF-MW-EMF radiation exposure than adults. A 2008 study reported that “the brain tissue of children absorbed about two times more MW radiation than adults’ tissue”.

The health authorities need to be much more aware of the harm caused by non-ionising RF-MW-EMF radiation. We are not asking the digital industry to shut down. We are asking them to hardwire connectivity and make their products and services safe. Health must come before profit.
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Source: Times of Malta, David Marinelli, 25 Mar 2022

Mobile phone update
Malta Created: 15 Feb 2015
It is always useful to keep aware of new health research and updates regarding mobile phone usage.

Exactly 30 years ago last month, the world’s first mobile phone call was made – from a device weighing four kilos and costing £4,000.

The change in size, weight and cost of devices today has probably led to three-quarters of the human race owning a mobile device, the fastest growing technology on the planet.

Joel Moskowitz of the University of California, Berkley School of Public Health, US, says: “This is the largest technological experiment in the history of our species, with potential health risks we still know next to nothing about.”

This view is shared by Denis Henshaw, professor of human radiation effects at Bristol University, UK, who said: “Vast numbers of people are using mobile phones and this could be a time bomb of health problems.”

However, over the past 20 years there has been a plethora of official reports on the safety of mobile phones and other wireless technologies, which have concluded that these devices pose no significant risk to health. Nevertheless, a group of scientists got together in the mid-2000s, calling themselves the BioInitiative Working Group.

This group, which largely consisted of wireless radiation researchers, has written a harsh reply as feedback to the reports. The reply lists a wide range of health effects scientists at the European Commission have either ignored or dismissed.

Today we’ll look at the list and some of the contributory comments.

Cancer is the obvious start. An early concern with mobile technology was clusters of the disease around those living near phone masts. One study in Israel found a 4.5-fold increase in cancers of all kinds in the immediate vicinity of a mast (Int. J. Cancer Prev., 2004). In 2009, a Korean team of researchers carried out a pool analysis of the results of 23 studies, which involved almost 38,000 subjects.
Over the past 20 years there has been a plethora of reports on the safety of mobile phones

A significant positive association was found in the studies that were blinded (researchers didn’t know who were mobile phone users and who weren’t). They found a “harmful effect” between mobiles and tumours of the brain, head and neck (J. Clin. Oncol., 2009).

Moving on to brain tumours, studies by five independent research groups have revealed significantly increased risks of a benign tumour of the cranial nerve supplying the ear. This grows slowly and must be removed in a major operation that can result in permanent facial paralysis. Other risks found were cancer of the glial cells (including neurons) of the nervous system and cancer of the meninges, the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord.

A French study carried out in 2014 by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research found almost three times more gliomas in long-term heavy mobile phone users (in some cases this stretched to six times more).

Japanese researchers found more than a threefold extra risk of acoustic neuromas in people using mobiles for more than 20 minutes a day for five years.

The most compelling evidence though comes from a Swedish team of cancer experts whose research stretches back 15 years. The results clearly demonstrate “a consistent association between long-term use of mobile and cordless phones and glioma and acoustic neuroma”.

Overall, they found that using a mobile for more than a decade significantly increases the risk of a malignant tumour by almost two times with an analogue cell phone and by nearly four times with a digital phone. Interestingly, the risks were even higher for people who had started using mobiles as teenagers.

In a separate study by the same Swedish team, they found more than seven times the risk among people using a mobile for more than 20 years and 6.5 times the risk for long-term users of cordless phones.

As expected, most of the gliomas and acoustic neuromas were on the same side of the head which was usually exposed to the phone. In the 2013 official report on the medical evidence for brain tumours, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that radiation from mobile phones is “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.

Breast cancer is an interesting health risk to link to a mobile phone. Studies linking phones to this type of cancer are weak. However, there is strong anecdotal evidence that mobiles carried in women’s bras can directly affect the breast tissue and cause cancer.

Last September, Californian oncologists reported four similar case histories of young women who had developed breast cancer in precisely the areas where they normally carried their smartphones.

What shocked the doctors was that these women were aged 21 to 39 and had no family history or other risk factors relating to cancer. All their cancers “had striking similarity, all tumours were hormone positive… (with) an extensive intraductal component and… near-identical morphology.” (CaseRepMed., 2013).

Next week, we will look at further health effects and pointers to using your mobile phone safely.
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Source: Times of Malta, Kathryn Borg, 15 Feb 2015

Experts warn schools over potentially hazardous Wi-Fi microwaves
Malta Created: 18 Oct 2012
Are multiple routers inside schools blanketing children with microwave radiation? Some experts at a University of Malta conference on electromagnetic radiation believe so, and have called for a drastic reduction in exposure.

Governments worldwide may be ignoring research that proves a correlation between Wi-Fi microwave radiation and poor health, in order to safeguard the interests of industrial giants, physicist Magda Havas (pictured) told a conference in Malta of experts that presented findings on the effects of electromagnetic fields from mobile phones and antennae, and Wi-Fi boxes.

Havas, from Trent University (Ontario, Canada), said that despite several studies clearly showing harmful effects resulting from Wi-Fi radiation, governments worldwide continue to insist on placing Wi-Fi routers in schools and public spaces.

"We don't believe in putting antennas near our schools, so why are we so willing to put antennas inside schools? That's right. Wi-Fi routers are microwave antennas," Havas said.

The World Health Organisation has classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as being possibly carcinogenic to humans, according to studies on rats on the use of wireless phones and the effects of mobile phone antennae.

Havas, adamant that Wi-Fi radiation is a possible human carcinogen, compared the wireless internt routers to microwave ovens.

"While Wi-Fi routers use a much lower intensity of radiation, the radiation of routers is not contained and consists of pulsed waves which are constantly ongoing, unlike a microwave oven which is contained and temporary.

"Students are exposed to microwave radiation for 1,200 hours a year, 12,000 hours after 10 years. Metal objects on the body, such as braces, are likely to increase radiation exposure near a router," Havas said.

Another paper presented by Professor Norbert Leitgeb of Austria's Graz University, also questioned the risk of mobile phone use among children although he conceded that claims of hazardous radiation are still controversial and require further study.

"The public discussion whether exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields in general and to mobile phone microwaves in particular may be a health risk to children is still controversial. It is governed by emotions and prejudice, and influenced by myths, speculations and misunderstandings," Leitgeb said.

Due to physiologically undeveloped features in children, babies and infants, Leitgeb said differences needed to be studied according to developmental age as the head and thickness of the skull is not the same as adults.

"It is argued that children could be at higher risk because their potential vulnerability and longer lifetime exposure. However, although emotionally, the assumption that children could be more vulnerable than adults to environmental factors is not justified in any case," Leitgeb explained.

Leitgeb said that due to a lack in convincing experimental evidence and only weak evidence from epidemiologic studies, it is up to individual risk perception to decide the role of precaution and management of phone use of children.

"One thing is clear. The general term 'children' is too unspecific to account for the different vulnerabilities during their developmental process, and confuses rather than facilitates the discussion. Recommendations need to specifically address children age groups rather than 'children' in general."

However, Havas explained that since 1939 human exposure to radiation and microwaves has changed from being intermittent, to constant in 2010, since radiation is no longer restricted to military bases and airports. "Today we have transmitters inside our home. In the past, exposure was limited to a few occupations. Today, infants and children are exposed."

Wi-Fi base stations or routers in schools have multiple antennae which emit a beacon signal which is always on. "With multiple routers the entire school is blanketed with microwave radiation. Once the computer disconnects from the Internet, the only remaining radiation is from the router. So, the placement of these routers is critical. They should be well-marked in plain sight, as far away from people as possible."

Radiation waves emitted by cordless phones have also been found to affect the heart according to a paper by Magda Havas and Dr Jeffrey Marrongelle, presented during the conference.

"This was a study to test the effect of radiation from a cordless phone on heart rate variability (HRV) or the number of beats per minute. Although not affecting all participants in the same way, there were some subjects experiencing tachycardia or rapid heart rate," Havas explained.

Interestingly, several students in Canada visited their paediatric cardiologist and wore heart monitors to school to record heart irregularities at Mountainview School, in a study presented by Havas on Wi-Fi radiation emissions.

"A six-year-old girl experienced a 'musical heart', headaches and dizziness only while at school. A 12-year-old boy experience tachycardia. A 12-year-old girl experienced nausea, vomiting, no fever, insomnia, blurred vision and tachycardia only at school. A 13-year-old boy experienced heart pounding, insomnia and headaches but symptoms abated when he moved."

Havas said that while many parents and teachers may be thinking that their children are only inventing excuses not to go to school, these children may only be experiencing these symptoms while at school because of over-exposure to microwaves emitted from antennas or Wi-Fi routers. "I have spoken to a number of children who say they love school, but don't enjoy being there because they feel sick."

Studies with human sperm cells showed that sperm exposed to Wi-Fi radiation near a laptop computer were much slower and had DNA damage.

"Does Wi-Fi affect female egg cells? We don't know. But, if it does, exposure of one generation may have consequences on future generations," Havas said.

Havas said that while wireless internet is highly unlikely to ever be completely removed, cell phone antennae should not be placed near schools and Wi-Fi routers should not be placed inside schools.

"The worst thing to do is to keep Wi-Fi on, all the time. This is a high tech and low intelligence option. A better option is the modified Wi-Fi which means limiting the location and time of use. The best of option is a wired connection, which is both high tech and high intelligence," Havas said.
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Source: Malta Today, Bianca Caruana, 18 Oct 2012

Debate on harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation resumes
Malta Created: 27 Jun 2012
In a meeting held earlier this week, the Social Affairs Committee resumed its debate on the harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones.

The Social Affairs Committee heard explanations given to it by various ministries, public entities and major mobile telephony companies about allegations raised by various parties regarding damages caused by electromagnetic radiation emanating from phone antennas.

This electromagnetic radiation can be harmful to the mobile phone user as well as people surrounding him/her.

The Committee will hold another meeting on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 18.00h. During this meeting, it will pose a set of questions to the Ministry of Health, the Elderly and Community Care, together with the three main mobile telephony companies on the island; GO, Vodafone and Melita.

The representatives invited will be expected to give a scientific explanation to these questions.

A copy of this presentation can be viewed at

Anyone interested in forwarding any comments, complaints or suggestions, even anonymously may do so by Monday, July 2, on, or on the following postal address:

L-Iskrivan tal-Kumitat
Kumitat Permanenti dwar l-Affarijiet Soċjali
Kamra tad-Deputati
Il-Belt Valletta
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Source:, 27 Jun 2012

Malta Created: 13 Jun 2012
The Chairman of the social affairs committee of theMaltese Parliament has called a public hearing for the 12thJune. We intend to speak there and question the mobile phone operators, who deny that there is ANY evidence of risk such as to bring into play the \'precautionary principle\'. This would require them to find alternaive sites and remove the many hundreds already sited within 10 metres of kids\' , elderly people\'s, and ill and other vulnerable people\'s bedrooms all over Malta. For three years theyhave ignored the growing evidence, including Euroepan Parliament resolutions that call on the authorities and operators not to site these on schools etc. How can it then be right to site them in densely populated rresidential areas, and this without consultation or consideration of viable (if less profitable and effective - commercially)- alternatives; and this on their own admission.
PLEASE help us break through this cynical barrier - you could be saving health and even lives down the line. Stop this human experiment now, in Malta and in other countries. Email the chairman at
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Source: Margaret White/Agnes Ingvarsdottir

Mobile base stations on Tuesday’s parliamentary agenda
Malta Created: 11 Jun 2012
The sensitive issue of mobile base stations has made it to the parliamentary agenda, with Parliament’s Social Affairs Committee due to discuss the issue at length on Tuesday. The discussion will revolve around the potential threat posed to children.

In addition to interested parties from the public, the meeting will hear from representatives from the Ministries of Health, Education, Infrastructure and Communications, the Malta Communications Authority, Mepa, environmental NGOs, and the countries three mobile telephony providers.

A concurrent online petition, which calls for mobile base stations situated on rooftops across the country to be removed from within at least 10 metres from children’s bedrooms, drawn up by Prof. Peter Xuereb, describes the current practice as a “human experiment”. Referring to Tuesday’s Social Affairs Committee, the petition’s organisers say, “We intend to speak there and question the mobile phone operators, who deny that there is any evidence of risk such as to bring into play the ‘precautionary principle’.

“This,” the petition states, “would require them to find alternative sites and remove the many hundreds already sited within 10 metres of the bedrooms of children, elderly people, and sick and other vulnerable people all over Malta.

“For three years they have ignored the growing evidence, including European Parliament resolutions that call on the authorities and operators not to site these on schools and so on. How can it then be right to site them in densely populated residential areas, without consultation or consideration of viable (if less profitable and effective − commercially) alternatives; and this on their own admission?”

The petition − which can be viewed and signed at − adds, “Please help us break through this cynical barrier − you could be saving health and even lives down the line. Stop this human experiment now, in Malta and in other countries”.

A group of concerned citizens who brought the matter to the Committee aim to challenge a letter published in 2008 by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, which had said that Mepa had been “given the green light by the director of public health, confirming these antennae did not generate any adverse effects” and that the Malta Communications Authority continuously monitored radiation in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.

A Council of Europe (CoE) resolution last year called on all member states, Malta included, to “take all reasonable measures to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields, especially to radio frequencies from mobile phones, and particularly the exposure to children and young people who seem to be most at risk from head tumours” and to “reconsider the scientific basis for the present electromagnetic fields exposure standards set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, which have serious limitations and apply ‘as low as reasonably achievable’ principles, covering both thermal effects and the athermic or biological effects of electromagnetic emissions or radiation”.

The CoE also called for the setting in place of information and awareness-raising campaigns on the risks of potentially harmful long-term biological effects on the environment and on human health, especially targeting children, teenagers and young people of reproductive age, and to pay particular attention to “‘electrosensitive’ people suffering from a syndrome of intolerance to electromagnetic fields and introduce special measures to protect them, including the creation of wave-free areas not covered by the wireless network”.

So as to reduce costs, save energy, and protect the environment and human health, the CoE recommended that research is stepped up on new types of antennas and mobile phones, and encouraged research to develop telecommunication based on other technologies which are just as efficient but which have less negative effects on the environment and health.

In its resolution, the CoE added, “While electrical and electromagnetic fields in certain frequency bands have wholly beneficial effects which are applied in medicine, other non-ionising frequencies, be they sourced from extremely low frequencies, power lines or certain high frequency waves used in the fields of radar, telecommunications and mobile telephony, appear to have more or less potentially harmful, non-thermal, biological effects on plants, insects and animals as well as the human body even when exposed to levels that are below the official threshold values.

“Moreover, the precautionary principle should be applicable when scientific evaluation does not allow the risk to be determined with sufficient certainty, especially given the context of growing exposure of the population, including particularly vulnerable groups such as young people and children, which could lead to extremely high human and economic costs of inaction if early warnings are neglected.

The CoE’s Parliamentary Assembly said in the resolution it “regrets that, despite calls for the respect of the precautionary principle and despite all the recommendations, declarations and a number of statutory and legislative advances, there is still a lack of reaction to known or emerging environmental and health risks and virtually systematic delays in adopting and implementing effective preventive measures.

“Waiting for high levels of scientific and clinical proof before taking action to prevent well-known risks can lead to very high health and economic costs, as was the case with asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco.”
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Source: Independent Online, 10 Jun 2012

Probe will start into mobile phone masts
Malta Created: 25 May 2012
A group of people concerned about radiation from mobile phone antennas has convinced a parliamentary committee to probe the matter and grill the authorities responsible for the devices.

The planning authority, the communications authority and the Health Ministry will soon be questioned about the health hazards of electromagnetic radiation by Parliament’s Social Affairs Committee.

This was decided at a meeting on Tuesday after the committee failed to take any action when people raised their concerns about the controversial base stations on rooftops two years ago.

The chairman of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, Austin Walker had said in a letter to one of the concerned citizens in 2008 that the authority had been “given the green light by the director of public health, confirming these antennae did not generate any adverse affects”.

He added that the Malta Communications Authority was continuously monitoring the radiation in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.

But the committee and a lobby group against the antennas remain unconvinced and want to query such approval, in light of questions being raised by international experts. They can now question the authorities.

“It is a gross scandal that, in the absence of adequate testing, mobile telecommunication technology has been rolled out in an essentially unregulated way that results in the involuntary exposure of the majority of the population,” Daniel Massa said during his presentation to the committee.

He has taken a particular interest in the cause in the defence of electro-sensitive people, who have been suffering health problems as a result.

Armed with studies and quoting experts, Prof. Massa pointed to the link between cancer – in particular, leukaemia clusters in children – and electromagnetic fields.

However, apart from a possible carcinogen, the radiation from base stations could also cause a wide range of symptoms from headaches to lack of concentration, memory loss, depression and burning sensations.

Prof. Massa said exposure limits, according to the guidelines of the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, remained almost 1,000 times higher than the safe threshold.

Meanwhile, no one seemed to know what was going on and 26 months after the issue was first raised at the committee meeting, everyone remained in the dark, he insisted.

Social Affairs Committee chairman Edwin Vassallo insisted on ensuring the related entities, including the main players, Go, Melita and Vodafone, shouldered their responsibilities.

He said he was ready to take the cause into a wider forum, including environmental NGOs and local councils if necessary and throw his weight behind it if there were the slightest doubt that the base stations were a health hazard.

“If we are not sure, then we should at least attempt to minimise the extent of the damage,” said University lecturer Peter Xuereb, who also made his case against the antennae.

In Lija, these were positioned within 10 metres from children’s bedrooms, he said.

Peter Borg, an accountant, related the trauma of his daughter’s leukaemia, saying another ttwo children in Marsascala, which was “surrounded by base stations”, had been diagnosed and expressing his shock when he found one on a building facing the back of the school where several classes and playgrounds are.

In San Ġwann, there were seven antennae on one building and these were even being hidden in tanks not to raise concern, others maintained.

An electro-sensitive woman asked how long those in her “cruel” predicament would have to wait until something was done about it.
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Source: Times of Malta, Fiona Galea Debono, 25 May 2012

Concern on mobile phone risks
Malta Created: 30 Jun 2010
The majority of Maltese are worried about the potential health hazards of radiation from mobile phones and antennae while nearly four in 10 say they do not trust the Malta Communications Authority to do a good job protecting them.

EU citizens were surveyed to gauge their concerns about exposure to electromagnetic fields.

The results of the local survey show that the majority of respondents do not really understand the risks at play, however mobile phones and antennae are the devices that most concern them.

A total of 57 per cent of the 500 Maltese respondents said they were concerned about the effects of radiation from mobile phones and antennae, with 31 per cent qualifying that they were "very concerned".

But this still does not compare to the scepticism seen in Europe, where in some countries as many as 70 per cent said they were concerned about the possible effects of radiation.

Asked whether they felt informed about the potential health hazards, 82 per cent of Maltese respondents said they did not feel informed and complained that they had not received any information on the subject.

They were then asked whether they felt Malta's regulator was doing a good job at informing and protecting them effectively, with 39 per cent saying it was not. However, the majority did not express an opinion on this question while only 18 per cent said they were satisfied with the MCA's work.

While the survey focuses on the concerns regarding mobile phone technology, there are other potential hazards, such as high tension power lines and wireless computer networks, which many seem to be oblivious about.

There are also many home appliances, such as computers, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens, cookers and heaters which emit an electromagnetic field.

The potential effects of electromagnetic fields on human health vary widely depending on the frequency and intensity of the fields, however details are still scarce as studies on this potential health hazard are still inconclusive.

In fact, the potential health effects of the very low frequency radiation surrounding power lines, mobile antennae and electrical devices are still the subject of ongoing research.

In workplace environments, where electromagnetic field exposures can be up to 10,000 times greater than the average, the US has issued some cautionary advisories but still stresses that the data is currently too limited to draw good conclusions.
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Source: Times of Malta, Ivan Camilleri / Brussels, 26 Jun 2010

The precautionary principle
Malta Created: 7 Apr 2010
Imagine waking up one morning to find a very large satellite dish less than a few meters from your child’s window on the roof of a neighbour’s house. You are at first concerned about the size and the view it has destroyed. Over your morning coffee you reflect that such a dish is too large for a television. Later during the day you meet the neighbour, who does not normally use the house but who happened to be there, and jokingly asked whether he is trying to get channels direct from down-under. He replies that he was awarded a couple of thousand euros for having the dish on his rooftop. Since he does not use the place often it did not bother him. He tells you it is a relay dish belonging to a mobile phone company. You suddenly have goose skin. You remember you had heard stories about these dishes and that the electromagnetic radiation they emit are harmful to children and that countries had reported many cases of leukaemia in children where they exist.

You obviously take up the issue and try to calm down and gather as much information as possible. You confirm that the studies are true and make printouts. You write to the company and make your own research. You find that the company has breached MEPA rules, and indeed that MEPA granted an exception. You go to your local minister and have no luck. You end up going to the Minister concerned, to MEPA, to the MEP. All give you sympathy but say that no law, but only guidelines, exist. The local parliamentarian, however, contacts MEPA and asks for the nullification of the application and for the dish to be removed. The dish remains there.

This is a true story. I have omitted identities and details which can reveal them. If I were the parent of the two young girls I would be concerned. Would you? The facts above are only a mere summary of what went on and, to be sure, I am not certain whether the parents knew about the application before the dish was installed. The neighbour of course either could not be bothered, or did not know the facts. Would he have accepted the money knowing that young couples with children were in the vicinity? To date the couple have contacted the Minister of Health who asked them to check whether there is an EU law to the effect in order for him to take action. The context of this article is not merely to convince the authorities but to show that if we mean business on Bioethics, and if we are truly a caring society, we need not wait for children to get cancer to start moving in the right direction.

It is true that politicians walk a tight rope between the business world, the economy and the environment. It is not easy not to grant permits in such a small country. But neither do we conscientiously have to wait for someone in Brussels to make a law. This is not about breaking laws; it is about common sense and following clear evidence. We should be the forerunners to make use of evidence before the need for law. The only way, as a small country, to have an impact in the EU is to show that we mean business in areas that count. God forbid that this issue is politicised and certainly walking in the shoes of a politician with such an issue at hand is not an easy task when you are faced with the duties of everyday life which in turn affect all of our lives. But both UNESCO and the EU have issued guidelines to this effect. It is true that the days when a politician grabs the phone and shouts some command down the hierarchical ladder are gone. People can and do use the force of the law, where it is known that a court case can take years to resolve. These parents do not have years where their children are concerned.

Bioethics! Did you know that bioethics all started with such environmental issues? The person who actually coined the word ‘bioethics’, was an oncologist (a specialist in the treatment of cancer) who realised that we have to do something about the environment we live in, as it was the same environment which was causing much of the cancer he was seeing. From passive smoking to power stations and radiation stations, he realised that if we had to wait for epidemiological evidence all the time, we would be sacrificing the lives of too many people until we actually do something about things. It is true that the business world must move forward, but there should be an ethics of society and of the business world which takes on the biological impact of the environment we live in to prevent disease; hence bio-ethics.

It is also true that the word bioethics has been corrupted. What the oncologist meant was to take into consideration the biological effects; what it has become is a term meaning an ethics of life, seeing that ‘bio’ often is interpreted as ‘life’. Be that as it may, the final effect is the same. UNESCO has however taken this environmental stand in its manifesto, and it is spreading throughout the world. In its studies and publications on the precautionary principle, it gives examples of how in the past, when precaution was taken, considerable damage was avoided. Today, since we have the right to go to court, it is often too late when things do change. On the one hand we find the quotes of Dr John Snow, a GP working in London during the time of the cholera epidemic, who noticed that the areas of London where cholera was mostly endemic were related to a particular water-station (in those days there were private companies, and different companies provided water for different areas). His recommendation to close down the station led to a decrease in cholera and to further studies which revealed how it was actually transmitted in water.

On the other hand, we have all heard about the Asbestos experience. The UNESCO publication describes it well. Times had changed since John Snow. No precaution was taken even though evidence was accumulating about the effects of Asbestos on the lungs, giving rise to cancer and cancer-like conditions, just as lethal. But Asbestos was so much in use that it was difficult for countries to take action. When countries finally took a stand, many had died, and we still have many people suffering from Asbestoses. Even in Malta many ex-dockyard workers have this condition and the unions only managed a collective agreement with insurance to give them a pittance of compensation. The point is however that had we taken action earlier these diseases could have been avoided. They were other times in Malta and the work of people came before theoretical medicine. Would it have been different today? If we can, in conscience, answer in the affirmative to this question, we should admit that we have it on our plates again today – with radiation.

Now the EU has adopted the precautionary principle. And the EU has considered these dishes and given guidelines which are clear. The European Environment Agency (EEA) calls for immediate action to reduce exposure to mobile phone masts. The EU says they should be distanced from schools and hospitals. But if they should be distanced from schools and hospitals, then why not home. I have spoken to MEPs and they say that once one considers schools and hospitals, it is taken for granted that homes are included. There is no need for an actual law or directive and governments are expected to follow up on these recommendations.

So we have the EU, the EEA (a European institution), and UNESCO all telling us the same thing. Of course we can err. But correcting that error takes courage and energy. Sometimes being in government means that you have the force of the Law even where specific laws do not exist. You are in the position to do something about it. Politicians know the case I am speaking about (unless, God forbid, there are others). It has appeared in the media and the young couple have done all that is possible and have not gotten anywhere. Yet!!! I strongly believe we have good people in power and that the Minister of Health and the PM need not have an EU or local law about antennae. I am also sure that the mobile company also has a conscientious board of directors who do not need to be told what to do by politicians – or do they? Why should we as a people have our rights and health environments polluted unnecessarily? Do we really need to go through all this?

The precautionary principle is clear. It has been adopted by the EU. It tells governments that they do not need to wait for laws or for EU institutions to give directives. Actually neither do they need to wait for epidemiological evidence, if the indications are clear. One uses the precautionary principle because lives are important and we know that producing evidence and passing laws takes time. In the meantime we are told (as if we needed to ‘be told’) that we can and should do something about it.

Now in this case we also have enough evidence which shows that such radiation emanating from such masts cause the growth of brain cancer cells, and especially more childhood leukaemia, apart from headaches, memory loss, attention deficit (in children), increased blood pressure in health men, damage to eye cells, etc, etc, etc. There have been considerable resolutions by scientific bodies, including the Vienna Resolution, The Salzburg resolution on Mobile telecommunication Base Stations, reports to the EU by EC-sponsored studies (REFLEX), etc. The WHO, FDA, International Agency for Cancer, National Cancer Institute, the European Commission, etc have all spoken.

However, the Maltese Communications Authority acts in accordance with the ICNIPR – the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection – which falls short of health issues – especially long-term ones like leukaemia in children. The UK commissioned a report in this regard (the Steward Report) which states clearly that there is now scientific evidence that there may be biological effects from such masts; they also say that they cannot guarantee that even radiation below national and ICNIPR guidelines are totally without adverse effects. The report states that the gaps in knowledge are sufficient to justify a precautionary approach.

Taking a precautionary approach, using this principle of precaution, reverses the way we should do things. It tells us to ‘stop’ until we have the evidence, and not to stop when we have the evidence. It does not even speak about laws and it is pre-law – could it be otherwise? And to whom does it speak if not to our politicians? Taking a precautionary approach means picking up the phone right now and asking politely to remove that antennae. We all want the luxuries of our mobile phones. But I for one would not wish that that luxury comes at the cost of the lives of our children. It is not the onus of this family to bring to the Minister any law which exists. I am sure the Minister has people who can do this for him. But in the absence of such law, and even in the absence of evidence, there is a principle which we have been speaking about which is a moral law and a natural right. A feeble Minster will dilly-dally. A courageous and morally sound one would use this invaluable tool which has been given to him. The precautionary principle recognises that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. He is, at the end, the true bio ethicist, given that as a matter of fact, there is the evidence.

Pierre Mallia is Associate Professor in Family Medicine, Patients’ Rights and Bioethics at the University of Malta; he is also Ethics Advisor to the Medical Council of Malta. He is also former president of the Malta College of Family Doctors.
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Source: Malta Independent Online, Pierre Mallia, 07 Apr 2010

Microwave expert raises alarm over mobile phone antennae
Malta Created: 11 Mar 2010
Women, children and the elderly may be especially sensitive to microwaves emitted by mobile phone antennae and need particular consideration, according to an expert on the matter.

Barrie Trower, an independent research scientist who spent 11 years questioning captured spies involved in microwave warfare during the Cold War, described as "frightening" the effect of genetic damage to the ovaries of young girls, which, he claimed, could be caused by the antennae.

"If these women have girls, the genetic damage could carry on from generation to generation because it is irreparable. This is what we are gambling with," he said.

Although there was a gap in the research on children, Mr Trower said it was known that they were more vulnerable to microwaves by virtue of their size: "Being the size of their wavelength, they can act like aerials, vibrating inside and undergoing some sort of stress."

Having less dense bones, the microwaves penetrated them easier and they did not have a fully developed immune system to fend them off, he said.

Mr Trower was brought over by the Kortin Residents' Association, which has two mobile antennae in the area and claims residents have been suffering from their harmful effects.

A woman with an antenna 25 metres from her bedroom has constant migraines and another suffers from electro sensitivity and has contemplated suicide, depression being one of the many adverse affects, according to Mr Trower.

In fact, he said, between three and 15 per cent of the population suffer from electro sensitivity.

The association is setting up a movement, in conjunction with the Lija mayor and with Mr Trower as advisor, to raise awareness of the harmful effects of the antennae and remove them from public areas, its president, Andrè Catania, said.

Legal action has already started with a letter to the mobile phone operators and the residents who accepted money to have the antennae on their roofs, holding them responsible for any damage.

So far, however, the only response was that they were in accordance with the law, Mr Catania said.

The next step was to see the government's reaction, he said, auguring that it would plan to move the antennae to the coastline.

"We do not want to destroy them. Our ultimate aim is to reduce their power to harmless levels or move them away from residents," he said.

Mr Trower said there were legal precedents, quoting three court cases that proved mobile phone transmitters caused cancer.

He said it was often overlooked that two neighbouring transmitters could piggyback on each other, causing multiple effects. This meant that what was within the guidelines could suddenly not be any more. Mr Trower urged decision-makers to read scientific literature to set the correct safety levels. "When they say they are within international guidelines, they are quoting the maximum levels, not the safe levels," he warned.

Mr Trower said it had been known since 1932, when microwaves were used for the first time, that they could make people sick, including severe headaches, fatigue, cancer and susceptibility to infection. "And we knew everything there was to know about their harm by 1971," he said.

Mr Trower is on his way to South Africa for talks with ministers on the fact that, for the first time in its history, it has childhood leukaemia clusters and suicides around transmitters.

Together with Daniel Massa, from the Kortin Residents' Association, he made a presentation to the Social Affairs Parliamentary Committee yesterday, auguring that the government would step in to move the antennae away.

Prof. Massa said the "short-sighted, reprehensible lack of adequate planning to protect the Maltese is that thousands of electro-sensitive persons continue to suffer from an array of adverse health symptoms of a predominantly neurological kind".

He said the Department of Health Information had not issued a single statement about emerging and newly-identified non-thermal biological health risks from electromagnetic radiation. Then it presumed to inform the planning authority that the antennae did not generate any adverse effects
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Source: Times of Malta, Fiona Galea Debono, 11 Mar 2010

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