What do healthcare practitioners need to know about wireless technology?

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ACNEM is an advocate for all healthcare professionals and it is our mission to use independent research and an evidence-based approach to contribute to optimal health and wellbeing of humanity.

Since 5G networks began rolling out across the world, we have been providing medical and allied healthcare practitioners with scientific info on a range of environmental health impacts related to wireless radiation (radiofrequency EMR) via our education and training sessions.
Here in Australia, the three biggest networks have started to activate their 5G networks in limited areas, but soon widespread expansion will commence.

Why is there so much hype around the launch of millimeter wave technology? What do healthcare practitioners need to know about the potential health implications?

What is different about millimeter waves?

5G uses higher frequency microwaves/radiowaves over 6 GHz (with millimetre range wave lengths, hence called mm waves) as carrier waves which have so far been used for limited applications such as airport screening, radar, satellite communications and non-lethal military weapons.  These mm waves are easily interrupted by solid matter such as buildings and trees than RF microwaves used for previous 1-4G and WiFi networks. Therefore, millimeter waves of 5G are developed to deliver faster internet speeds over shorter distances on land which means 5G networks require a whole lot more transmitters (base stations/masts).

The 5G network is therefore going to substantially increase human and environmental exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF or EMF).  In some European countries where more stringent exposure guidelines than Aust-NZ region existed, they had to relax their previous safety guidelines to pave way for 5G. Scientists who have been researching on the biological impacts of man-made EMR/EMF are concerned about the potential adverse health impacts on all forms of life on Earth. There is evidence of detrimental biological effects at cellular level, including DNA damage, and adverse health effects such as cancer to humans occurring within current guidelines.

In Australia millimeter wave transmitters will be used initially to boost capacity in high traffic areas such as the CBDs, train stations and sports stadiums but will be offered as home internet packages from mid-2020. Telstra CEO Andy Penn has said more than four million people currently pass through their 5G footprint every day.

While Australia has been quick to adopt the new technology, many countries/cities around the world are demanding investigation into the damaging health effects of wireless radiation. Many European cities including Brussels have declared moratoriums until safety testing is conducted on 5G.

In Australia the Byron Shire Council has called the first moratorium on 5G roll-out and it is reported that councils within the Blue Mountains, Tweed Valley and the NSW Northern Rivers are planning to follow suit.

How can we recognise signs of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS)?

A large body of scientific evidence substantiates the warnings and published guidelines by expert medical organisations in environmental health such as the European Academy for Environmental Medicine (EUROPAEM) and its American counterpart AAEM on illnesses caused by chronic exposure to anthropogenic EMR/EMF. These help clinicians to monitor, diagnose and treat conditions caused/exacerbated by EMR/EMF exposure.

While the Austrian Medical Association adopted a consensus paper of its EMF Working Group on differential diagnosis and treatment of EMF health problems and illnesses (EMF syndrome) in 2012, progress in incorporation of this knowledge into clinical practice has been lacking despite increasingly detailed clinical and biochemical characterisation of affected people in recent years.

A study found that electro-hypersensitivity appears to involve oxidative stress, inflammation and hyper-histaminemia, autoimmune response, deficits in melatonin metabolic activity, and other changes which may suggest increased risk for chronic neurodegenerative diseases (Belpomme et al. 2015).
The immediate concerns regarding the wireless technology is the exposure to radiated electromagnetic energy of up to 10 watts/m2 (allowed in most Western countries and Aust-NZ) and the deployment of small cell antennas only a few hundred meters apart with more than 20,000 satellites to support the 5G network.

Epidemiological studies on EMF exposure is a significant challenge due to population-wide exposure.  Complicating the matter, there is strong evidence of funding source influencing the research outcomes (i.e. studies funded by telecommunication companies under reporting biological effects) and questionable handling of the issue by health agencies. There is a need for independent research conducted by researchers free from industry ties or other conflicts of interest.

The Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory Association (ORSAA) reports on the following effects of radiofrequency EMR:

Nonthermal Effects

ORSAA database is now the largest categorised (and publicly available) database of peer-reviewed publications on RF-EMR and other artificial EMFs. It has separated studies on their findings and reports a large number of studies reporting various forms of cell damage (e.g. oxidative stress, DNA, mitochondrial damage) and health-related effects (e.g. cancer, neurological effects, immune/endocrine disruption).  Scientists at ORSAA have published some of these findings.

Thermal Effects

Leading technical experts in the field modelled an exposure scenario using millimeter wave pulses to replicate 5G devices operating above 10 GHz. They provided their data indicating that 5G pulses can result in localised, rapid heating of the skin in exposed people which may result in permanent tissue damage.

Planetary Effects

An article in The Lancet Planetary Health draws attention to widespread implications of rapidly increasing electromagnetic pollution. It points to the essence of scientific evidence stating that that most of (68.2%) of 2,266 experimental studies on humans, animals and plants on the ORSAA database found significant biological/health effects associated with exposure to anthropogenic EMR/EMF. They also referred to the finding that 89% of 242 studies that investigated endpoints related to oxidative stress reported significant effects, refuting prominent claims wireless technologies pose no health risks.

Neurodevelopmental Effects Related to Exposure EMR/EMF

A 2008 Danish study on mothers of 13,000 children found that pre- and postnatal maternal mobile phone use was associated with children's behavioural problems. Since then, researchers at Yale have experimentally demonstrated that ADHD-like behaviour and brain neuropathology can be induced in mice with prenatal exposure to mobile phone signals.  More recently researchers in USA have further strengthened this evidence from a Californian birth cohort where prenatal maternal exposure to EMF was associated with ADHD and especially ADHD with immune-related comorbidities (atopic diseases).  Meanwhile, Spanish academics reported from a study on young boys living near RF transmitters that there are risks of behavioural and cognitive problems. ORSAA database has more papers related to neurobehavioural effects of EMR/EMR on children and adolescents.

Health Effects

Dr Paul Heroux, Professor of Toxicology and Heath Effects of Electromagnetism at McGill University, summarised 1,724 peer-reviewed studies in the New Hampshire Commission report to show that the radio-frequency bioeffects include:

  • Neuro-behavioural effects
  • DNA damage
  • Altered gene expression
  • Brain activity changes
  • Death of cells

What do healthcare practitioners need to know?

In a 2015  report by Swedish clinicians - (Hedendahl et al. 2015) urged for specific recognition of electrohypersensitivity syndrome (EHS) in the WHO’s International Classification of Disease (ICD). This would serve beyond the existing IDC code W90 which refers to “external causes of morbidity and mortality”as a result of “exposure to other nonionizing radiation” including RF-EMR.

What's Next?

As clinicians we need to be aware of the health impacts of exposure to unnatural EMR/EMF that our 21st century living environments are filled with. Clinicians need to be aware of heightened sensitivity of some individuals that forms the basis of electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) and it may be a factor in patients presenting with wide-ranging symptoms. Recently, researchers at Yale School of Public Health found evidence on genetic variants that appear to increase the risk of thyroid cancer related to mobile phone use. 

The unborn foetus and children may also be highly susceptible due several attributes such as small size and higher water and fat content in tissue.  They are also experiencing a cradle to grave exposure for the first time in human history.

ACNEM will continue to keep you up-to-date with the latest research and findings on wireless and other technologies, including new 5G, as well as all clinical resources you may need to effectively handle environmental medicine in our rapidly changing planetary environment.

Learn more at the 2020 ACNEM Online Conference. View program here.

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References

Ahlbom A, Day N, Feychting M et al. A pooled analysis of magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia. Br J Cancer. 2000;83:692–698.

Bandara P, Weller S. Biological effects of low intensity radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation-time for a paradigm shift in regulation of public exposure. Radiation Protection in Australasia. 2017; 34(2): 2-5.

Bandara P, Carpenter DO. Planetary electromagnetic pollution: it is time to assess its impact. The Lancet Planetary Health 2018; 2: e512-e514.

Belpomme D, Campagnac C, & Irigaray P. Reliable disease biomarkers characterizing and identifying electrohypersensitivity and multiple chemical sensitivity as two etiopathogenic aspects of a unique pathological disorder. Reviews on Environmental Health 2015; 30(4), 251-271.

Calvente I, Pérez-Lobato R, Núñez M-I et al. Does exposure to environmental radiofrequency electromagnetic fields cause cognitive and behavioral effects in 10-year-old boys? Bioelectromagnetics. 2016;37:25–36.

Divan HA, Kheifets L, Obel C and Olsen J. Prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phone use and behavioral problems in children. Epidemiol 2008; 19(4): 523-529.

Hedendahl L, Carlberg M, Hardell L. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity-an increasing challenge to the medical profession. Rev Environ Health 2015; 30(4):209-215.

Kabuto M, Nitta H, Yamamoto S, Yamaguchi N et al. Childhood leukemia and magnetic fields in Japan: a case-control study of childhood leukemia and residential power-frequency magnetic fields in Japan. Int J Cancer. 2006;119:643–650.

Kundi M. EMFs and childhood leukemia. Environ Health Perspect. 2007;115(8):A395.

Linet MS, Hatch EE, Kleinerman RA, Robison LL, Kaune WT, Friedman DR, et al. Residential exposure to magnetic fields and acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children. N Engl J Med. 1997;337:1–7.

Neufeld E, Kuster N. Systemic derivation of safety limits for time-varying 5G radiofrequency exposure based on anayltcal models and thermal dose. 2018

Schüz J, Grigat J-P, Brinkmann K, Michaelis J. Residential magnetic fields as a risk factor for childhood acute leukaemia: results from a German population-based case-control study. Int J Cancer 2001; 91:728–735.