The forthcoming "new" evaluation of cell phone radiation and health was already published...

The ICNIRP evaluation is coming in 2012 but we already know what its evaluation of the epidemiological evidence says. Photo: Lyon, France, home of IARC (Leszczynski)

HELSINKI, December 27, 2011 — Christmas is over and the New Year is fast approaching. This is the time of the year when we reflect on the things that happened during the past 12 months.

In the area of cell phone radiation and health, the most important event of the passing year was the evaluation of the scientific evidence by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

All scientific evidence concerning cancer and cell phone radiation was evaluated by the Working Group of 30 experts invited by the IARC. The evaluation work was done in plenary sessions of the whole Working Group and in subgroups I-IV: exposure to radiation (4 experts), epidemiology (10 experts), animal studies (4 experts) and mechanistic studies (12 experts with 1 expert absent; I was in this subgroup), respectively.

Subgroups worked on scientific articles assigned to them and on the reviews prepared by the subgroup members before the Lyon meeting.

Unfortunately, because of “miscommunication” between IARC and experts, the subgroups spent a majority of their time revising reviews prepared before the meeting rather than discussing science.

The science analyzed in subgroups was later brought before the plenary meeting of the whole Working Group. The outcome of the subgroup discussions was decided either by unanimous acceptance of certain view or by compromise, or by simple majority.

This organization of the work in subgroups led to situations where certain scientific evidence was unjustly dismissed.

The subgroups also made conclusions that at the first sight appear correct, but actually provide a skewed view. Experts in the research field understand that the conclusions tell the truth but not the whole truth.

For example the following statement:

“…There is insufficient evidence from human studies to determine if RF radiation has effects on gene and protein expression…”

The statement is correct but it is based on a single pilot study analyzing protein expression that was published in 2008. If no more similar studies take place, this statement of “insufficient evidence” will be “correct” and “valid” forever.

The classification of the cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen has come to many scientists as a great surprise. The classification was predominantly based on evidence from epidemiology and from animal studies. The epidemiological evidence included the results from the Hardell group in Sweden, which was hotly debated and led to one expert walking out of the meeting.

The evidence from the animal studies was also vigorously discussed and some experts attempted to down play conclusions of their own studies when these conclusions were used as supporting evidence for the existence of cancer-related effects from cell phones. Such attempts were dismissed. Interestingly, the strongest evidence from animal studies was provided by studies using a combination of chemical carcinogens and cell phone radiation.

During the meeting in Lyon, some asked why the evidence from laboratory in vitro studies does not play a more important role in the scientific evaluation. The explanation is in the following statement:

“…Overall Evaluation: The data from studies of genes, proteins and changes in cellular signaling are insufficient to provide mechanistic evidence of carcinogenesis in humans…”

Within the mechanistic subgroup were voices (including my own) that wanted to use the in vitro laboratory evidence in support of the carcinogenic effects of cell phone radiation but the democratic voting prevented it.

What is the next step? In 2012, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) will evaluate all health-related studies, not only those that are cancer-related. This evaluation, similarly to IARC evaluation, will be used by the World Health Organization to make its recommendation.

Front page of the ICNIRP commentary

However, we already know what ICNIRP thinks about the epidemiological evidence. Immediately after the IARC announced its classification of cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen, ICNIRP has published a commentary on the epidemiological evidence with the concluding statement: 

“…Although there remains some uncertainty, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumours in adults…”

The IARC evaluation was published on May 30, 2011. The ICNIRP commentary was published on July 1, 2011.

Is this a “predictive” prelude to the forthcoming ICNIRP evaluation? Time will tell.

Read more of Dariusz opinions on IARC evaluation in his blogs published on June 2nd and June 3rd, 2011

Read more from Dariusz Leszczynski in his science blog “BRHP - Between a Rock and a Hard Place” at http://betweenrockandhardplace.wordpress.com  Dariusz is a Research Professor at the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland.

Follow Dariusz on twitter: @blogBRHP

Disclaimer: the opinions presented in this column are author’s own and should NOT be considered as the official opinions of the STUK - Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland.


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Dariusz Leszczynski

Dariusz Leszczynski is an expert in the biological and health effects of cell phone radiation.

Since 2009 he publishes a science blog dealing with the issue of cell phone radiation and health: http://betweenrockandhardplace.wordpress.com  

Disclaimer: the opinions presented in this column are authors' own and SHOULD NOT be considered as opinions of any of his employers.

Contact Dariusz Leszczynski

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