Views of Dr. Neil Cherry of New Zealand


5 November 1999

Views of Dr. Neil Cherry of New Zealand

.......Following is a collection of the work and views of Dr. Neil Cherry of New Zealand.....

It includes a good bit of the discussion that took place at the Vienna Workshop on Cellular Phone "possible hazards" during the fall of 1998.

It was forwarded by Connie Fogal of Canada.


Roy Beavers (EMFguru)

.....It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.....

People are more important than profits!!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 04 Nov 1999 10:33:42 -0800
From: Connie Fogal <>
Subject: Fwd: Cell Phones: Hazards and Health Risks

More on this EMF subject: information on a conference; and on Dr Neil Cherry, a New Zealander who is looking into effects of the electromagnetic spectrum in general - including cell phones and radio mast transmission.  This collection was prepared in New Zealand.....

Cell Phones -
A Boon To Modern Society Or A Threat To Human Health?

Public concern about this question led to an international scientific workshop on possible biological and health effects of RF electromagnetic fields. This was held in Vienna in October 1998 and attended by international scientists.

Report on an interview with Dr Neil Cherry who attended this workshop.......

Why was the workshop held?

Public concern in Austria about the health effects of cell phones and cell towers led a group of five senior academics to call an international workshop on the biological and health effects of electromagnetic radiation, including cell phones and cell towers.

Who organised the workshop?

The workshop was arranged by a group of academics, mainly health professionals, who are also experts in risk management and risk assessment. They came from five departments of the University of Vienna and one department of the University of Salzburg. They have an international reputation which was built up through their work in the chemical and nuclear industry. They are very experienced in risk research, but new to the area of electromagnetic radiation.

Who was invited?

About twenty five international experts who were independent of industry and the military were invited to the workshop at the University of Vienna. The organisers were delighted that they managed to attract the leading experts mainly from the United States, Canada and European countries, who were doing the fundamental research. These experts were to present the latest research but also to put it into the historical context.

Because of the public concern about the cell phones and cell towers in Austria money was raised from health funding authorities to hold this scientific workshop.

What was Dr Cherry's role?

He was invited because of the paper he had presented in Auckland in February 1998 to an electromagnetic radiation workshop. It was entitled, "Should cell phones have health warnings?" The paper he presented in Vienna was entitled "Should cell phones have health warnings because of the evidence of the risk of brain tumour?" He found that he was included among these people whom he holds in high esteem in a specific role - to integrate the scientific results of many disciplines to show the inter linking of the information. As a New Zealand university researcher who is totally independent, Dr Cherry has the role of reviewing and cross linking the results of the work of the others.

Survey of cell phone users in Norway and Sweden

Dr Kjell Hansson Mild reported on an extensive survey of ten thousand cell phone users in Norway and Sweden conducted because of the concern about symptoms such as dizziness, discomfort, concentration problems and memory loss experienced by people using cell phones. Even larger responses included fatigue and headache and a sense of warmth on and behind the ear along with a tingling sensation and burning of the skin. These symptoms were of particular significance because the ordinary use of the telephone does not produce the sense of warmth. It is the microwave radiation from cell phones, at sufficient intensity to produce warming, which, in this research, is associated with neurological symptoms.

In the extremely large sample in the report, when the data was ordered by the number of calls per day and by the number of minutes per day on average spent on the cell phone every symptom showed an increase with usage. Both in the Swedish and the Norwegian users there were very strong increases of symptoms with usage. For up to two minutes usage a day 6% of users developed headaches, for two to fifteen minutes usage a day the number of users affected increased to 10%, for fifteen to sixty minutes a day it rose to 17%, and for more than sixty minutes a day to 22%. For the other symptoms - dizziness, discomfort, loss of concentration and memory loss - the proportion of users affected was lower, but all showed an increase of symptoms with increased usage.

Fatigue was a major effect in Mild's survey of cell phone users. This was also found in people living near the Schwarzenburg radio tower in Switzerland, for people exposed chronically to low intensity radio. Microwaves have been associated with headaches for over thirty years, and there are a growing number of cell phone users who are reporting symptoms of confusion, memory loss, disorientation and dizziness.

Dr Cherry's paper

In his paper he presented ten epidemiological studies in which exposure to radio or microwaves had been found to produce a statistically significant increase in brain tumours in exposed occupations and military groups. He acknowledged that none of these studies involved cell phones, but stated that to claim that radio and microwave cannot be associated with brain tumour was scientifically wrong.

In analogue cell phones there is a very high frequency FM radio. (FM is used for radio and television signals.) Digital cell phones are similar to radar, using pulses carried by microwaves. Servicemen or workers exposed to radar and radio get more brain tumours. Therefore there is a chance, and there is evidence, that cell phone users could be at risk of increased numbers of brain tumours.

Disagreement about the interpretation of the Korean War Study

Dr Cherry used the Korean War Study as one of his examples of studies showing increases in brain tumour in radio/microwave environments. Dr Michael Repacholi challenged this, saying that the authors concluded there were no effects from the radar exposure and it was wrong to use data from the paper in a way the authors didn't.

Dr Cherry was supported by Dr Carl Blackman of the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) when he countered that the data was more important than the conclusions, and if the data analysed in an appropriate manner showed effects, then that was an appropriate interpretation of that data.

Cell phones and blood pressure alteration

Dr Stanislaw Szmigielski, a senior epidemiologist from Poland, and author of the Polish Military Cancers Studies, presented the latest results of their research into blood pressure changes. Dr Szmigielski reminded the workshop that epidemiological studies of RF/MW exposed personnel and residents should not only be related to power density measurements (PD) but also to cumulative radiation dose (RD). Measurements showed that daily mean doses were equivalent to 1/50th of the daily peak exposures.

He then presented results of a study on blood pressure which followed from their previous work which documented dose response increases in ECG abnormalities and shifts in blood pressure. When effect increases with dose this is a very strong result. Their latest, and larger, study confirmed the results of the previous work, with statistically significant differences being found in heart dysfunction in RF/MW exposed workers.

Dr Cherry took the opportunity to ask Dr Szmigielski about exposures related to his studies on RF/MW and cancer in the Polish military. Dr Szmigielski strongly denied that the effects they were finding could be related to thermal levels of exposure. He referred to the strict monitoring and reporting regime to which all personnel were subject and which protected them from extreme exposures which would have thermal effects.

How public concern develops into epidemiological studies

There is almost always a delay between the occurrence of public health effects and avoidance or minimization measures. A new substance or technology is introduced. It is found to be useful and becomes widely used.

People start noticing an increase in a symptom which they suspect might be due to the chemical or device being used. Safety assurances are given by manufacturers and government agencies. A search of the diverse sources of scientific studies reveals evidence of associations, cellular changes or animal effects, but there is no direct human evidence of effects. Early human studies often don't find evidence of effects, or some find a small but statistically insignificant rise in symptoms. Cancers have latencies of decades for many adult cancers. That is, it takes typically eight to thirty years for damaged cells to develop into full-blown cancers.

Subsequently, occupational groups who have a distinctly higher chance of exposure are studied and found to have a higher incidence of the disease symptoms. The study is repeated and confirmed. We then have evidence of a human health effect, and exposure standards are set below the level at which effects have been found (by association), with significant safety factors to allow for the general population, which includes a proportion of very vulnerable and susceptible people.

The association between cell phones and brain tumour is following this pathway. Local people notice that friends or family, with no history of brain cancers, get brain tumours at relatively young ages. An undertaker notices a pattern of brain tumours in younger people. Workers who started using cell phones quite early after their introduction get brain tumours and go to court for compensation. Cases are dismissed for lack of strong evidence or are settled out of court. An oncologist notes the public concern, looks at local cancer records and notices a rise in brain tumour which approximately parallels cell phone usage. Dr Cherry searches the scientific literature and finds in many studies ample evidence of biological effects - cancer in cells and animals, and an increase in the incidence of brain tumour in personnel exposed to radio and microwave.

The cell phone industry, government and international officials, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), reassure the public that there is no cause for concern.

Several countries have agreed to study cell phone users over several years to see if effects can be detected.

Published in the Salzburg Standard:
The Vienna Workshop (October 25-28, 1998)

Dr Chris Konig from the Public Health Department in the City of Salzburg explained that in that city they had adopted an interim public exposure standard based on a study which showed cell phone effects on sleeping subjects, and a safety factor of 500, resulting in a preliminary public exposure standard of 0.1 microWatts/sq cm (Safety factors used for toxic chemicals range from 1 to 10,000.)

The Vienna Workshop's contribution

Scientists who have done the fundamental research on biological changes to cells and animals were brought together with those who have carried out and reviewed the epidemiological evidence, and those who have reviewed the integrated evidence, including a WHO official. The scientists agree that there is ample evidence to recommend caution and minimal exposure from cell phones particularly, but also from cell sites.

The WHO official, Dr Michael Repacholi, retains the view that there is no evidence which justifies public concern nor which will require changing WHO support for a guideline or standard based on avoiding thermal effects.

Need to minimise risk by minimising exposure

Dr Cherry concludes that there is a large body of scientific evidence associating low level radio and microwave exposure to biological changes in cells, including DNA breakage, cancer increases in mice and rats, and brain tumours in exposed workers and military personnel. There are suggestions and concerns that more of the cell phone users could be getting more brain tumours. Dr Cherry recommends that since the scientific evidence points strongly towards the probable link (not yet proven), between cell phone use and cancer, the prudent approach is to minimise risk by minimising exposure.

(For discussion of further research presented at the workshop and for the resolutions of the participants at the end of the workshop be sure to read Part 2 of the interview with Dr Cherry.)

Biological effects

Dr Cherry then moved to discussing the biological effects. Central to this is calcium ion efflux.

Calcium ion efflux

The subject of the paper presented at the workshop by Dr Carl Blackman was calcium ion efflux - calcium ions flowing out of cells when exposed to pulsed and modulated EMR. This was first identified in about 1974 by American researchers, Susan Bawin and Ross Adey. Under some conditions the RF induces a flow of calcium ions into the cell.

Dr Blackman has conducted far more experiments in his laboratory on this influx/efflux than anyone else. They have shown that calcium ion alteration occurs at particular carrier frequencies, particular signal strengths, particular modulation frequencies and in particular temperature ranges, but not in others which lie between them.

After summarising these hundreds of experiments Carl Blackman stated that EMR must be treated as chemicals (plural) because we have made the mistake of treating it as a single chemical looking for single effects across the whole spectrum, when it is clear that the effects are very significant and occur at particular combinations of variables, but do not occur at a nearby different combination.

He finished by stating that it is very well established that there is a biological effect called calcium ion efflux and influx that can be caused by EMR at levels that are not involving heating but involving a frequency which has nothing to do with the energy levels. This is therefore a true biological effect, not a consequence of heat but produced by particular combinations of EMR and thus is a separate biological change.

Dr Repacholi accepted that this is a biological effect at low level exposure, but claimed that there was not a health effect. Dr Blackman's response was that such a statement meant that Dr Repacholi was re-writing history. The history of the research is that it began because of the concern that workers working with microwaves had a changed response time and changed behaviour which was identified with an altered EEG (brain scan).

Work of Bawin and Adey

Bawin and Adey were brought into the research because of the effect on people, and they first experimented with monkeys and found that they had changed behaviour and changed reaction times and altered EEG. They found the same effect in rats, rabbits and cats. With some of the cats they also removed the top of the skull and directly monitored the electrical signals in the brain and found there were changes in the calcium ions. The move to chick brains was occasioned by the cost of doing hundreds of experiments, but the same calcium ion effects were found in chick brains. The evidence trail leads historically from people to monkeys, to rabbits, to rats, to cats and to chicks.

Human health effect

Calcium ion influx/efflux is a mechanism for brain change which affects behaviour and reaction times in people and is therefore indicative of a human health effect.

Calcium ions in cells play a role in the growth and development of cells in DNA synthesis and in the life and death of cells. Therefore calcium ion alteration of cells by EMR is a biological mechanism linking to neurological degeneration such as Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases of age, to cancer and many other health effects. The scary aspect of this is that calcium ion efflux occurs at intensities and field strengths that are extremely low.

Research into link between Alzheimer's disease and EMR

Dr Cherry commented on two recent papers, both in the journal "Neurology". The first paper, originally published in December 1996, had the title, " Elevated risk of Alzheimer's disease amongst workers with likely electromagnetic field exposure". Researchers, Sobel et al, writing this paper have found that when they adjusted for many other compensating factors there is close to a five times increased risk of Alzheimer's for workers working in electromagnetic radiation fields in electrical industries. In a later paper in the journal they present a hypothesis about the mechanism through which there is increased production of a substance called amyloid beta, a fact known to be associated with Alzheimer's disease. They investigated how electromagnetic fields might well enhance the production of that substance. The first step in this process is calcium ion efflux from the cells. This means that there is a mechanism and epidemiology - which is true of so many health effects in this area.

Research in Belgium

In 1998 Belgian researcher Dr Luc Verschaeve used various genetic tests like DNA breakage and chromosome damage tests to test the safety of cell phones and find out whether they can produce genetic damage. In Europe there are several cell phones using different frequencies and different modulation.

The results he termed 'inconsistent' because some cell phones consistently showed DNA breakage and chromosome damage, and other cell phones consistently showed no damage. His initial conclusion was that he could not therefore say that the cell phones damaged genetic material.

His DNA assay technique is not as sensitive as that used at the University of Washington laboratory, which may explain some of the negative results. However, he does pick up consistent DNA and chromosome damage from some particular cell phones. It is a common conclusion to say that some results are up and some are down which means that it is not possible to say whether or not cell phones are dangerous.

If Dr Verschaeve used the most sensitive methods he might find that some cell phones produced low levels of DNA changes and others moderate or high.

Research into calcium ion changes

According to Dr Blackman's data on calcium ion changes it would be more accurate to say that one cell phone damages DNA while another does no damage.

The damage appears to depend on a particular choice of the nature of the signal in the carrier frequency, the modulation characteristic, and the intensity of the signal. One interesting result was that a carrier frequency which seemed invariably to produce DNA damage was 954 megahertz carrier frequency.

This could be one of the reasons why experiments on animals using different variables gave different results. Many researchers in the military and industrial laboratories take the attitude that if there is going to be an effect then it must be visible when high levels of energy are really pumped in. The science says that with EMR it is not necessarily an effect that occurs at a higher level and a higher energy.

Effect of low level electromagnetic fields

The ability of very low level electromagnetic fields to affect human beings and animals has been observed and accepted by biometeorologists for several decades. While Adey and Bawin were finding calcium ion changes in the brains of animals as a mechanism to explain behaviour and reaction time changes in people and animals, German researchers were finding that human reaction time variations and daily sleep rhythms correlated with very subtle changes in atmospheric ELF and ELF modulated RF changes.

Radio frequency fields penetrate tissue and so they carry their modulation signals deep into brain and muscle tissue. Here the signals can alter the electrical signals between the cells and alter the calcium ion flows into and out of the cells. The changed voltage gradient on the membrane of the cells also changes the efficiency with which the electrically charged neurotransmitters and other cell messengers find and enter their receptors on the cell membrane surface.

Importance of low levels of exposure

This workshop made it clear why some important biological effects are found at very low levels of exposure, which are not observed at very high levels of exposure. This explains why it is wrong to dismiss the existence of adverse health effects caused by low level exposures simply because at high levels of exposure only heat related effects are seen.

It is impossible to have an intelligent, thoughtful conversation in front of the speakers at a rock concert, but you can interrupt a conversation in a quiet room. At low levels EMR can interrupt the intercellular communication and subtly and vitally change the cell growth control factors. Many thousands of papers have been published based on determining the thermal threshold. Almost all of them did not look for any effects other than heat. Some attempted to determine the threshold for behavioural effects such as avoidance of the signal. All of these studies are irrelevant to the questions of chronic low level exposure and its effects.

Research published in January 1999

Calcium ions as mediators of intracellular signaling are crucial for development of apoptosis. Apoptosis is programmed cell death that removes damaged cells. A January 1999 paper (FESEB J. 13, 95-102) concludes: "The rescue of damaged cells may be the mechanism explaining why magnetic fields that are not mutagenic per se are often able to increase mutation and tumour frequencies". This was after they had shown that calcium ion influx induced by the magnetic field reduces the apoptosis and thus allows damaged cells to survive.

Calcium ion influx/efflux has not been seen at high exposure intensities but it has been measured to significantly occur down to 0.00015 W/kg or 0.08mW/cm2. Thus adverse health effects such as brain changes, sleep disruption, impaired immune systems, cancer and neurological diseases, all of which are able to be initiated by altering cellular calcium, can be caused by pulsed and modulated electromagnetic radiation.

What were the resolutions of the workshop on Mobile Phones and Health

The resolutions were prefaced with a note on terminology. The preferred terminology to be used in public communication: Instead of using the terms "athermal", "nonthermal" or "microthermal" effects, the term "low intensity biological effects" is more appropriate.

Resolutions (at the Vienna Workshop)


The participants agreed that biological effects from low-intensity exposures are scientifically established. However, the current state of scientific consensus is inadequate to derive reliable exposure standards. The existing evidence demands an increase in the research efforts on the possible health impact and on an adequate exposure and dose assessment.

Base stations

How could satisfactory Public Participation be ensured? The public should be given timely participation in the process. This should include information on technical and exposure data as well as information on the status of the health debate. Public participation in the decision (limits, siting, etc) should be enabled.

Cellular phones

How could the situation of the users be improved? Technical data should be made available to the users to allow comparison with respect to EMF-exposure. In order to promote prudent usage, sufficient information on the health debate should be provided. This procedure should offer opportunities for the users to manage reduction in EMF-exposure. In addition, this process could stimulate further developments of low-intensity emission devices.

(end resolutions)

The Electromagnetic Radiation Health Threat

Have you thought seriously about the threat to our health posed by electromagnetic radiation, through equipment used at work, frequent use of cell phones or cordless phones, microwaves, many household appliances or overhead transmission lines? Do you think that it is too complicated and that it is best to leave it to the experts?

In an interview with Dr Neil Cherry about his work in this area he discussed some of his research and the evidence for his concern, and challenged us and our local bodies to take responsibility for our health and reduce the threats coming from electromagnetic radiation.

Being informed - a source of empowerment

Empowering people - that is the most important driving force for Neil's energies at the moment. That is the integrating point behind what he is doing - sharing information, hopefully in ways that people understand it.

Neil Cherry In his many roles, as a university lecturer, as a Regional Councillor, as a public speaker, and a media commentator. he is working to disseminate information power. There are so many vital issues that are complex, and people are being disempowered by being told, "This is too complicated. Trust us. We know what we are doing."

As one of the people who is now an elected politician and who knows about the parliamentary system, Neil's analysis is that in many ways those making decisions often don't know what they are doing. They are people just like us. They have been given opportunities like anybody who has been elected, and it is their duty to use those opportunities with care and responsibility for the people who have put their faith and trust in them.

Neil's expertise is something that has been built up year by year and integrated with the knowledge that has been acquired in the past. The knowledge is modified by the most extensive reading before Neil makes a public statement.

Electromagnetic radiation a threat to our health

Electromagnetic radiation is the big issue he is involved in at the moment--radio waves from radio and TV towers, microwaves from cell phones, cell sites, mobile phones, cordless phones, and microwave ovens (the last being a minor problem compared with the others). The background radiation has been rising significantly by factors of thousands in the general population since the Second World War. Cancer is partly genetic, but largely environmental. Our food, the toxins in the environment like air pollutants, benzine, toxins in food like saccharine, are shown to be potential carcinogens, all those PCVs and other fairly toxic chemicals, can damage cells, but evidence is very strong that electromagnetic radiation damages cells in a way that is potentially cancer causing.

The official position of those who make their money out of producing and using this technology is that we all know that the only thing that electro magnetic radiation can do is heat and if it doesn't heat it can't have any effect.

However, a different view comes from science from reading the people who have researched what happens to cells in laboratories in repeatable experiments. For example, a laboratory took human breast cancer cells, and exposed them to an infusion of melatonin, which is a natural neurohormone which we all have, which helps us sleep at night. Then they applied a very low level of varying electric field, 50 cycles field, and the oncostatic effect of melatonin was totally eliminated.

Every night when we go to sleep our melatonin levels rise and melatonin goes through our blood and cleans our cells up. For example, it scavenges out free radicals which are highly damaging chemicals. If the free radicals persist for very long they damage DNA and cause damaged cells and are shown to be carcinogenic. Melatonin is one of those agents that cleans us up every night to reduce the possibility that cells will become carcinogenic.

That experiment shows that electromagnetic radiation from power lines and appliances can reduce the melatonin cleaning-up effect on human breast cancer cells. The experiment was repeated in three other laboratories. It gave a very reliable and repeatable result. The strength of the signal they used was two to twelve milligauss - a very low level magnetic field magnitude in that wave.

The European standard for safety for ELF fields is "20,000 milligauss is safe", whereas this experiment shows that 2 milligauss causes a significant reduction in the cleansing effect of melatonin on cancer cells.

Is there any other evidence that people who work with ELFs get breast cancer?

There are several papers in epidemiology which show that people who work with ELF fields get more breast cancer. The first paper that Neil read showed that there is a statistically significant increase in breast cancer among these people but there was no known mechanism, so it was not regarded as a significant result. This was breast cancer in men. This was a surprising result. Breast cancer in women working in the electrical industry was the subject of the next paper which gave similar findings.

Neil put together the cell work and the epidemiology, finding a mechanism and a result, so it cannot now be said that we do not know how it happens. Such findings were supported by other tests.

What has been the international reaction?

Instead of these theories being accepted, big international studies have been conducted to disprove the connection. It is impossible to identify a particular given cause in each case. Research needs to be conducted over a large section of the population.

Those who work in the electrical industry are at risk, as the ELFs act as co-carcinogens preventing the repair mechanisms from working. Not only may cancer result, but also people may suffer from depressed immune systems.

People living in the U.S. embassy in Moscow were concerned that radar was being aimed at the top floor of the building. Tests showed that there were changes in the blood and an increase in cancer among those who lived there, including the children.

Air traffic controllers who were exposed to radar were tested and were found to have broken chromosomes. When they were taken away from the exposure the repair began, but the recovery rate was very slow.

Physiotherapists operating microwave equipment were the subject of research in 1993. In this group there was an increase of 50 - 60% in miscarriage rate, of which 48% occurred in the first seven weeks, yet they were exposed to the microwaves for a very brief time - at most two minutes per treatment.

Eighteen months later Australian Telecom responded saying that microwaves have difficulty penetrating the foetus, though short waves can. If it is not heat that causes the problem then the reason could well be that free radicals are damaging the DNA which causes damage to the chromosomes because of reduced melatonin. This could result in a deformed foetus which then aborts.

No records have been kept of the number of miscarriages in the general population, which means that there are no past statistics for comparison.

There have been problems among physiotherapists in Sweden and Denmark where there have been an increasing number of still births, cot deaths, deformity of children, and perinatal problems.

Cell phones are another cause of problems.

When the cell phone signal is held next to the brain there are changes in the brainwaves in 70% of people. This test was done at a level of about 2 microwatts per sq. cm., which is only a fraction of the actual exposure experienced from the cell phone. It is the level which is experienced at a cell phone site. In this, as in most aspects, people are not all the same. Some are more electro-sensitive. People who sleep with a cell phone by the bed have poor REM sleep, leading to impaired learning and memory. This is related to melatonin reduction.

In research at the University of Washington rats' brains were exposed to a microwave signal and showed breaks in the DNA associated with increased free radicals and increased cell deaths - at levels of exposure about what a cell phone produces next to people's heads. People are now suing cell phone companies because of brain tumours caused by high use.

In spite of this research one "world expert" in electromagnetic radiation and health has said that the worst thing about a cell phone is that it can cause an interruption during dinner in a restaurant.

What research in epidemiology suggests that the work on rats might have an applicability to people? The cells in rats' brains are very similar to human brain cells.

The National Cancer Institute in the U.S. did a study of people in industries that exposed their workers to microwaves. They found that in seven industries in the Eastern U.S. there has been a tenfold increase in brain tumours among employees who have worked there for twenty years. The main cause appears to be electromagnetic radiation. Other possible causes have been checked, such as solder fumes which could have doubled the rate but not resulted in a tenfold increase.

Opposition to publication of the research

The U.S. Air Force ridiculed the idea that electromagnetic radiation could cause illness. The Environmental Protection Agency, the statutory body set Neil Cherry up to protect public health in the U.S., conducted a big review in 1989-90 and published a report recommending that power line ELFs be declared a probable carcinogen, and that microwaves and radiowaves be declared possible carcinogens. This was based on experiments on animals and epidemiology. The White House and the Air Force declared that the report should not be published on grounds of national security and that such a report would alarm the public. The report was put on hold until the administrators of the E.P.A. changed the conclusions to say there was no proven effect. This does not contradict probable and possible effects, but it hides these words. The data remains.

Recently funds for the project were cut, but the researchers said that the evidence was now stronger than in 1990. Early in 1995 a study of U.S. Air Force officers exposed to ELFs, RF microwaves and ionising radiation showed a small but statistically significant increase in brain tumours in officers exposed to RF microwaves and ELFs but not in those exposed to ionising radiation. Now even the Air Force is recognising that their highly trained staff are getting more brain tumours.

The statements that Neil makes to the public are not based on fear, but on research, on extensive international studies, and data from work in the laboratory, from animals, from epidemiology.

"It is a matter of national security that public health is protected from avoidable exposures. That to me is a higher level of national security than being able to listen to the Russians, the Indonesians or the Australian trade practices," he said.

This research could well explain why cancer rates in New Zealand are rising because this is one of the few potential carcinogens which we know is rising and everybody is exposed to it. This applies not just in New Zealand, but all round the world. This means that we should be doing our darnedest to get the standards down to make sure that industry does not unwittingly and unnecessarily expose people. This includes making sure that power lines and cell sites are away from houses, hospitals, and schools. Radio and TV towers should be well away from where people live and work so that by the time the signal reaches our radios, TVs and cell phones the signal is so low that it is below that at which we know there is a low, but significant risk of it affecting public health.

How the legal requirements should help

The Resource Management Act 1991 was written for this situation. It says that we are "to avoid, remedy or mitigate any adverse effects of an activity on the environment ....... including any cumulative effect of low potential probability and high potential impact ....regardless of scale, intensity, duration or frequency". The threat from ELFs is of low potential probability and high potential impact.

Resistance to this application of the law

No one, not even the Courts, wants to accept this as a possibility because the impact on commercial development in New Zealand is that it would be severely curtailed.

What can the individual citizen do to minimise the risk from ELFs?

The first thing is to listen and take the risk seriously. It is difficult because it is odourless, tasteless, silent, colourless, and does not appear to exist until we think about it.

We can minimise our exposure - cut back on our use of cordless phones and cell phones, keep away from the microwave oven when it is not necessary to be close to it, (more than a foot away when it is operating), stop our children from sitting close to the television set or the VDU, and go for low emission screens.

We can get our houses checked out with a meter that will check the ELFs in houses. If our house is not 'quiet' we can contact the electrician to find out why and where. Maybe there is a wiring fault. In New Zealand most houses should be good with our system of AC signals with our wires.

Industry has been acting very responsibly. Lower emission technology is being produced all the time. But if we sit close we will still get above the 2 milligauss standard. This is the level where epidemiology is starting to find some effects like an increase in childhood leukaemia when the emission gets above the two milligauss level near power lines.

What action can our local bodies take to protect us?

We have to get our city and regional councils to take this research seriously. They have the legal power with the Resource Management Act to require that major transmission power lines be moved away from houses and to require that cell sites are placed well away from key places.

The power lines could be routed around cities without technical problems. Money is the only obstacle to this change. A number of other countries have made it a legal obligation to make this change in a staged programme of removal of existing power lines, with no new power lines being located within cities.

Neil's recommended public health protection standard for RF microwaves is 0.1 microwatts per sq. cm.

Who is setting the standard that allows it to be 200 and wanting it now to go up to 500 for cell sites?

Do you know that the Standards Committee includes Telecom New Zealand, BCL New Zealand, and Telstra Australia, the military, civil aviation, unions and consultants who regularly appear for industry?

Do you know that there is a public health expert in New Zealand who says that cell sites are safe? He is presented on radio as 'totally independent', a doctor who is paid large sums by Telecom. He says that they are safe. He is not therefore perceived by the public as independent, but he is on the Standards Committee.

Of twenty three people on this committee we have only one public representative - Dr. Ivan Beale, Associate Professor of Psychology from Auckland University.

In Australia the interests of the people on their Standards Committee are openly listed. Nine of the twelve members are users or sellers of the technology. Three are apparently public health people, but the National Institute of Occupation Health representative used to be the medical head of Telecom medical research in Australia. The former chairman of the committee has appeared for companies all round the world to say that there is no problem.

Telstra Australia got their head of medical research to do a study to allay people's fears about cell sites - a toe in the water study. As the sites were too new to have produced significant statistics on cancer rates they used the municipalities around three TV towers in Sydney, and compared them with six other municipalities further away. This study showed an increase in childhood leukaemia of 61%, and increase in childhood leukaemia death of 274 fold in that inner ring. All other possible causes were investigated, but not linked. (The scientist who headed the study no longer works for Telstra.)

In Christchurch people have been very concerned that Telecom has been planning to site a cell phone tower next to Shirley Primary School. With the help of Vicky Buck, the Mayor of Christchurch, and Gary Moore, a city councillor, Telecom have looked for alternative sites. If these prove unsatisfactory they wish to build the tower next to the school. They have offered to reduce the output power to take it down to less than one microwatt per sq. cm. when it reaches the infant block.

We need to be informed about such issues and have our views heard.

The Electromagnetic Radiation Health Threat
(additional questions)

To answer readers' questions, here is a followup article based on a further interview with Dr Neil Cherry.

Answers to readers' queries

So much interest has been created by the two earlier articles and there have been so many emails and entries in Backchat that I have interviewed Neil again and we hope that in this article and the references given for further research you will find answers to your questions.

Measuring equipment

One reader from Hong Kong inquired about equipment for measuring the electromagnetic fields. A source of good quality equipment is Wandel and Goltermann, email: or take a look at their World Wide Web site:

In depth information

Several readers want more detailed information which is contained in reviews which Neil has written. Readers may email for these and they can be sent for the cost of copying and airmail which usually works out to approximately $25.00 U.S. That covers the range of biophysics, biochemistry, animal experiments, and epidemiology and links them together.

Neil's email:

The effects of living near cell sites

Local council approval

One Australian reader, Lucy Williams, commented that it appeared that Telstra needed no approval by the Council. Since July 1 1997 new regulations have come into force in Australia which can involve the local council, so Lucy should contact the local council about the current Telecommunications Code.

Dangers of living near a digital phone pole

Two readers, Lucy from Australia and Chris from NE U.S., have asked about the dangers involved in this situation. The danger depends on how close you are to the pole. If you are within 200 metres of a typical mobile phone tower it may be associated with an increased low risk of a range of cancers and miscarriage, and a higher risk of sleep disturbance and chronic fatigue which may lead to learning difficulties.

The risk increases the closer you are to the tower. Neil uses the term 'risk' as not everybody is likely to be affected, but some people may well be.

Use of mobile phones

One reader had a job which involved a lot of use of a mobile phone. The aim should be to use them hands free which keeps the antenna away from the head. This means plugging an extension into the mobile phone and using an earpiece and a microphone. This means that the unit can be kept a metre or so away from the user. Many digital mobile phones have a plug-in point for these extensions. Car phones also have hands-free options.

Another alternative is the use of a pager instead of a phone.

In any case it is important to minimise the use of a mobile phone, and so minimise the possibility of becoming a health statistic in the next ten to twenty years with the risk of a brain tumour, for example. Eight studies associate brain tumour risk with EMR exposure.

Cordless phones have a lot lower power than mobile phones, because their range is 200 metres maximum, while the range of mobile phones is several kilometres.

Effect on brain function

There is a lot of evidence that brain function is altered with pulsed microwave and radio signals from mobile phones, including altered E.E.G. and sleep patterns, and altered circadian function which indicates a change in melatonin. Breakage in DNA in rats' brains has been linked to free radical damage which can be eliminated by melatonin.

Recent studies of mobile phone users have found a very significant increase in the incidence of headaches, nausea, vertigo, numbness of the skin or tingling of the skin, confusion and temporary memory loss.

Readers may recall that in an earlier article Neil mentioned that he had been tested for EEG change from using a mobile phone and had not been affected. He still does not risk using a mobile phone, however.

Further reading

Neil recommends two interesting papers on the question of brain function:

'Effects of Pulsed High-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields on Human Sleep' Mann and Roschke in 'Neuropsychobiology' 1996 Vol 33 pp 41-47.

'Low-frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields influence EEG of man'von Klitzing in 'Physica Medica' April - June 1995 Vol 11 pp 77-80

This is a study looking at seventeen subjects in forty five experiments, and 70% of subjects had an altered EEG function.

Experiments in the Seventies and Eighties

Animal experiments carried out in the seventies and eighties on cats, rabbits and other animals have shown similar sorts of patterns. The two articles listed above were based on work done in the nineties.

Looking at the pattern of material shows that it forms a cohesive set of effects which also starts to address the concern expressed by Gordon Arnold - the need to watch very closely initial early studies because there could be problems with experiments and the way they have been carried out.

Neil agrees with this comment. Individual experiments and papers must be looked at very carefully. The advice Neil has received and gives is, "Don't take them simply on face value, but read them carefully and look at the set of papers about an issue. See if there is an evolution of understanding and a reinforcement of a pattern which makes scientific sense."

Hawaii experiment

An example is an early experiment in Hawaii which found a cluster of childhood leukaemia near some radio transmission towers. This was followed up by a study of several areas in Hawaii and increased cancer, particularly childhood leukaemia, was found in the tracts that had radio transmission facilities compared with those that didn't.

Wichita research

In Wichita, Kansas, there was an airfield on one side of the town and an airport on the other, both with air traffic control radar. Researchers from the university took tests in this town built on rolling hills, to test whether the electromagnetic radiation from radars might increase cancer.

They compared those who lived in valleys, and on eastern and western slopes of the hills exposed to one radar each, and on ridges exposed to both radars. The incidence of total cancer increased on that gradient, with the lowest incidence in the valleys, an increased incidence on the slopes and the highest incidence on the ridges.

Australian cell site studies

When testing for the safety of cell sites in Australia researchers used the TV towers in North Sydney. This test, the Hocking Study, conducted and funded by Telstra, showed that people living close to the towers had more leukaemia than those living further away.

Tests on the impact of high powered TV/FM towers in the UK

When looking at the very high powered towers in the UK researchers found that people living immediately below the towers had less leukaemia than those a short distance from them. The rate dropped off as the distance from the tower increased further. This closely relates to the ground level exposure, forming a strong dose-response relationship.

Overall pattern

Each test on its own might not be significant. However, from these tests a pattern emerges, growing stronger with each set of new statistical evidence, giving a strong conclusion that exposure to EMR in populations living near transmission facilities increases the incidence of cancer, particularly leukaemia.

Why leukaemia?

Which part of the body does EMR get absorbed in most? It is a whole-body absorption. Which organs involve the whole body? - the skeleton, the bone marrow, the circulatory system, the blood, which are the organs in which leukaemia is formed. It involves lymphoid systems and other key glands.

Lymphoma experiment in Adelaide

Another experiment, conducted at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and funded by Telstra, involved mice which were genetically engineered through a gene tending to increase lymphomas in the immune system. In one group 22% developed lymphomas. In another group which were exposed to a cell phone signal for one hour per day the rate of lymphomas increased to 43%.

Telstra was probably not expecting the experiments which it funded to produce results which confirmed the increased incidence of cancer in those exposed to mobile phone electromagnetic radiation.

In 1959 scientists knew that a radio frequency was a great controllable mutagen and the way to break chromosomes was to use RF radiation.

Early papers looked at thermal effects

There is now a block of solid evidence supporting the view that there are health risks for those exposed to EMR. Up until the late 1980s there were about six thousand papers produced looking at the thermal effects from EMR. Very few papers looked at chronic low levels of radio frequency exposure.

Absence of thermal effects stressed by those with vested interests

Those who benefit from the establishment of cell phone and television towers in residential areas emphasise the results of the research on the thermal effects and seek to downgrade the more recent studies which have investigated the risks of cancer by viewing them separately.

In a recent televised interview a Telstra PR manager said that there had been about six thousand papers and none of them showed that mobile phones pose any risk.

Studies in the nineties look at residential exposure

Now a growing and quite large body of published research is showing that there are health effects from residential exposures. For instance in terms of power lines two recent studies have been published from projects in New Zealand. They looked at people in Auckland living under high voltage power transmission lines. One looked at health effects and found five out of eight health variables investigated had linear dose response relationships with exposure. These variables included asthma, type 2 diabetes, chronic illnesses, and immune-related illness.

Link with psychological problems

A companion study of the same group looking at psychological effects found significant linear dose response relationships between exposure and some psychological and mental health variables, significantly depression. The significance of the dose response relationship is that it is generally regarded as a desirable criterion for the demonstration of causation. The demonstration of a cause/effect relationship is strengthened significantly if there is a known biological mechanism and there are reinforcing animal experiments.

Thus depression and melatonin could be related, and the calcium-ion efflux is a biological mechanism related to immune system problems. Animals exposed to electromagnetic fields have reduced melatonin, and have shown immune system problems and increases in cancer.

Suggested Reading

'Neurophysiologic Effects of Radio Frequency and Microwave Radiation' W. Ross Adey M.D. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine Vol. 55 No 11 pp 1079-1093, 1979

'Response of Brain Receptor Systems to Microwave Energy Exposure' Kolomytkin et al - a chapter from the book 'On the Nature of Electromagnetic Field Interactions with Biological Systems' ed. Allan Frey, pub 1994, R. G. Landes Company (This article shows the effects on brain chemistry of rats exposed to 915 MHz down to less than 10 microwatts per sq cm.)

Health risks for welders

One correspondent asked about the effect on a man's health of being a welder and especially working at times with a machine with a very strong magnetic field beside his head. He finds that this work in particular produces stomach and chest pains. Dr Cherry says that several studies show that welders exposed to intense EMR and fumes have increased risk of colon cancer, melanoma, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinsons Disease and Alzheimers.

The intensity factor

Some patients with MS and PD experience significant relief from Pico Tesla signals administered by a neurologist as neurophysiological treatment. If exposed to a signal a million times higher than this, then a person is exposed to an increased risk of Alzheimers, cancer, brain tumours and depression.

The significance of this is that if you take some drugs in the appropriate dosage they can be beneficial in balancing body chemistry, but if you were to take a dose a thousand to a million times higher it would be fatal.

The same principles apply to EMR, but because it is invisible, tasteless, and odourless it is ignored.

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