Major scandals related to EMF

Protecting people from exposure to EMF (electromagnetic field) is carried out through relevant national laws, guidelines and precautionary principles.

Preventive thresholds of radiation are much lower than any national thresholds of radiation at present. In this connection I would draw your attention to recent resolution of PACE (see http://www.next-up.org/pdf/Council_Europe_Resolution_1815_The_potential_dangers_of_electromagnetic_fields_and_their_effect_on_the_environment_27_05_2011.pdf ). The Parliamentary Assembly recommends setting preventive thresholds for levels of long-term exposure to microwaves in all indoor areas, in accordance with the precautionary principle, not exceeding 0.6 V/m.
In many countries threshold is 61 V/m at present.

Threshold has often been called: limit (exposure limit), level (max), signal strength (max) etc. A manufacturer may lawfully accept or not accept precautionary principle, but all must remember that ''Dura lex, sed lex''. Are manufacturers in law? There are some cases when many manufactures are without the law. I mean compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and GSM mobile phones. I mean all handheld devices with GSM mode.

I would classify a major scandal so. It is a situation when level of radiation from devices is exceeding the national threshold (limit) of radiation; nevertheless relevant devices are still being sold in the country.

I would like that you will understand me right. If the scandals had been completed, I should not have written about them. Unfortunately these dangerous devices are still being produced. Often national thresholds are substantially exceeded (I am not even speaking about precautionary principles). But if a national threshold is exceeded, this country will need to prohibit sources of dangerous radiation. National thresholds have often been included in national laws. How about the proper implementation of the laws?

Let us briefly discuss existing quantities of EMF to understand situation. The ICNIRP and some countries, such us Finland, use both basic restriction quantities and reference level quantities. In this case the reference level quantities mean almost nothing because allegedly only the basic restriction quantities may show a danger. It is worth to add all calculations of the basic restriction quantities are very expensive and strange. I would not recommend using of the basic restriction quantities for many reasons.

Some other countries, such us Switzerland, do not support the basic restriction quantities (see http://www.who.int/docstore/peh-emf/EMFStandards/who-0102/Europe/Switzerland_files/table_sz.htm ). Only the reference level quantities are supported in the countries. It means that the countries do not spend lot of money for creating models of the human body and unique measurement equipment. Needless to say that many ecological organizations and independent researchers use only the reference level quantities.

The first scandal

You can read about some dangerous emissions from the CFLs (see e.g. http://www.hpa.org.uk/NewsCentre/NationalPressReleases/2008PressReleases/081009Emissionsfromcompactfluorescentlights/ ). Some types of the CFLs can emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation at levels that can result in exposures higher than some national levels. WHO (IARC) classified all UV radiations as ''probable carcinogenic for human''. It seems that some manufactures are already without the law.
But that is not all because most of the CFLs also emit dangerous electric fields. Some national levels for these fields have been exceeded too.

It is very strange, but some times ago IT'IS Foundation created the models of the human body and the unique measurement equipment just in Switzerland (see Niels Kuster et al. Assessment of EM Exposure of Energy-Saving Bulbs &Possible Mitigation Strategies. Final Report of IT'IS Foundation, 2010). Why? The authors wrote that they did this because the uncertainty of free-space measurements (Please read - electric field strength measurements) close to the bulbs was very large (approximately +/- 40% at 300mm) and the recently defined standard IEC 62493 was also inadequate.

There are two main results in the Final Report.

1.The worst-case exposure of all investigated bulbs at a separation of 20mm were within the ICNIRP limits (please read- the ICNIRP basic restriction limits for current density), the majority of which with large margins(see pp.2 and 74).

2. The ICNIRP reference level is exceeded for most of the CFLs at this distance (Please read- the ICNIRP reference level for electric field strength at 150mm. The ICNIRP reference level limit is 87 V/m. The authors did usual electric field strength measurements too, see p.31).

My brief comments

How so? All bulbs are safe at 20 mm but most of these bulbs are dangerous at 150 mm! It is nonsense for Switzerland. Of course, the ICNIRP allows the reference levels to be exceeded as long as the basic restrictions are obeyed. But Switzerland does not use the basic restrictions. Switzerland is using only the reference level for electric field strength (limit for Switzerland is also 87 V/m). Did a manufacturer write about a safe distance from the CFLs due to the electric fields? I have not read about this. Hence most of those bulbs were dangerous in Switzerland.

It is interesting some times ago the Switzerland Radiation Safety Authority recommends to use the CFLs only at distance above 300 mm. I should think all manufacturers themselves must inform users about the safe distance. Thus we have the second reason to ban some CFLs.

I would like to add that in many cases the uncertainty of free-space measurements (approximately +/- 40% at 300mm) is acceptable. Such measurements are widely using eg in the TCO standards for computers. By the way these standards allow for electric field strength only 1 V/m (25-70 kHz) at a distance of 300 mm. I should think that precautionary safe level for all types of bulbs would also be 1 V/m (0.05-70 kHz). Some researchers suggest even 0.02 V/m, but such low level is valid only for electromagnetic waves (as rule, there are no strong electromagnetic waves in frequency range up to 300 GHz in vicinity of a bulb). Nevertheless strong electric fields and/or magnetic fields may exist in vicinity of the bulb.

I have measured 4 low power (7 and 11W) CFLs. The ICNIRP reference level and many national levels have been exceeded for all CFLs at a distance of 300 mm. Electric field strengths are below 1 V/m for all these bulbs only at distance over1800 mm. Due to these reasons I would recommend to place the CFLs at a distance far above 300 mm. Usually the higher power of a CFL the stronger alternating electric field. Just imagine a safe distance for a 30 W CFL in your home!

I have no doubt, application of the CFLs should be prohibited or essentially restricted. LED energy saving bulbs are safe for use in most cases.

The second scandal

For long time WHO had approved all suggestions of the ICNIRP in relation to EMF. Despite full cooperation between WHO and the ICNIRP, in 2001 WHO (IARC) classified ELF magnetic fields (magnetic flux density above 0.3-0.4 µT) as ''possibly carcinogenic to humans'' (see http://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/risk_assessment.pdf ). This meant that magnetic flux density limits of ICNIRP (typically 20-100 µT) were not valid for good protection. Moreover, WHO (IARC) did not mention about basic restriction quantity (current density) at all. In accordance with the recommendations of WHO (IARC) all people should avoid strong ELF magnetic fields. All they need is information about magnetic flux density. Unfortunately there were many devices with strong ELF magnetic fields in wide using. Hence all these devices should be classified at least as ''possibly carcinogenic to humans''.

Let us look only at GSM mobile phones because in this case even some national limits are substantially exceeded.
Some independent researchers found out by their measurements that the GSM mobile phones can produce extremely strong ELF magnetic fields. Magnetic flux density was able to exceed not only recommendation of WHO (IARC) but also all existing guidelines. It seemed that some type of the GSM mobile phones should be already prohibited at least in the countries which use only reference level quantities.

What did apologists of the ICNIRP do? Only in 2004 (do you remember when GSM started?!) they computed approximately magnetic flux density from unnamed mobile phone. That magnetic flux density also exceeded substantially the limit of the ICNIRP (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=14695008&query_hl=5&itool=pubmed_docsum )! They also computed approximately current density in the phone-user's head (please read -in a model of the head) but exposure does not seem to exceed the guidelines. In such way the recommendations of WHO (IARC) and even all reference levels were ignored, but this ignoring was valid only for procedure of the ICNIRP.
It would be worth to believe WHO (IARC) because the classification has been based on epidemiologic studies of childhood leukemia. There were no any artificial models of the human bodies in these studies.

One should think that immunity of a model of a child body is much better than immunity of the live child:). Moreover I have measured ELF electric fields near enough to some GSM mobile phones. A number of GSM mobile phones (not all) produce ELF electric fields with field strength above 100 kV/m (typical limits of the ICNIRP and many countries are only 1.1-5 kV/m). It is unacceptable.

Please note, I have yet written nothing about exposure to microwaves (RF fields) of all mobile phones. In most countries SAR methods have been used to estimate exposure to microwaves of the mobile phones. Moreover, it is claimed that safety of the mobile phones has been described by SAR only. This is very strange as you could see above. Nevertheless, from this point of view most of the mobile phones should be safe for use.

Some other countries, such us Russia, have only used power flux density methods to estimate exposure to microwaves of the mobile phones. In according with such method, Y. Grigoriev (Chairman of Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) states that most of the mobile phones should be prohibited in Russia. Are the mobile phones being sold in Russia?

Hence, some manufacturers should essentially diminish all fields from their mobile phones. It is possible; at least I have been using mobile phone (UMTS+GSM) with low RF and ELF fields for three years.

I have no doubt; all the fields from the mobile phones should be controlled. SAR measurement is clearly insufficient for complete protection.

Georgiy Ostroumov, Ph.D., microwaves, Finland


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