A brief letter of critique of the J. Mark Elwood paper entitled Epidemiological Studies of Radio Frequency Exposures and Human Cancer by Dr Chris Barnes Bangor Scientific and Educational Consultants August 2013
Dr Barnes' Homepage Link http://drchrisbarnes.co.uk
This present paper presents a brief criticism of the J. Mark Elwood paper on the basis that it (a) ignores part of the electromagnetic spectrum and (b) disregards two key and contemporary authors in the field. Finally the validity of classic radial ring analysis is called into question when analysing the bio-effects of Radio Frequency Radiation.
The paper in question entitled Epidemiological Studies of Radio Frequency Exposures and Human Cancer appeared in Bioelectromagnetics Supplement 6;s63-s73 in 2003 (1).
The work reaches the conclusion that studies to date can neither confidently prove or disprove an associative risk of cancer with Radio Frequency Exposure. No one is trying, necessarily, to suggest that all, even non -thermal RF radiation is a carcinogen per se and indeed few workers other than Cherry (2) have done this. However, high levels of RF have been shown in both animal models and in vitro models to be cancer promoters, possibly through thermal mechanisms alone. There are numerous other mechanisms through which RF and living systems can interact from a bulk scale down to a cellular and even sub-cellular level, see Challis (3). There are even more controversial theories covering how magnetic fields associated with RF influence memory states in bound water and hence cellular membrane tunnelling processes, see Smith (4) and Ludwig (5) and Lednyiczky (6). More references appear in the Stewart Report 2000 (7).
The present author believes the Elwood paper (1) is a very valuable starting source of reference and reviews a good deal of the relevant literature but is flawed in its interpretation based on its own content figure1 and has omitted various crucial pieces of work which pre-date it.
A simple qualitative visual assessment of the data presented in figure 1 of the paper shows the mean relative risk of all the studies to be in excess of unity, i.e. some sort of real risk occurs. Granted the error bars for the 95% confidence intervals 5/16 of the studies are larger than would normally be desired but on balance even a lay person could see that the bulk of the data is on the high side of unity.
Crucially also the paper effectively dismisses ELF as though it were in a separate category when both ELF and RF are both forms of EMF or EMR.
Finally and even more crucially, the paper makes no reference to the work of two important contemporary scientists of the era immediately predating it. Namely this work involves that of the late Dr Neil Cherry of Lincoln University in New Zealand (2000) (8) and the work of Morton and Phillips (2000) (9) of Oregon Health Science University.
We now know that ELF studies including power-line studies and residential magnetic field studies always show a positive association with childhood Leukaemia of the acute lymphoblastic type (ALL), see Pelissari 2009 (10). For the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area, Morton and Philips (9) show an association with leukaemia and breast cancer for VHF TV signals even though the power density of FM signals from the same tower was greater. The conclusion was that VHF TV signals are more biologically potent due to the low frequency synchronisation pulses contained therein.
Cherry (2002) (11) analysed cancer in residential populations using radial ring analysis methods around the San Francisco Sutro TV tower which transmits both RF ( VHF FM and UHF frequencies ) and MW ( Medium Wave). An astounding result was found, that is that Cancer relative risk seemed to follow the antenna radial field attenuation pattern taking into account the way that geographic topology influences signal distribution form the tower. This led to an approximate 50:50 mix in the population, the 'exposed' group and the 'unexposed' group. Moreover the peak RR values particularly for all kinds of lymphomas and leukaemia and even brain cancers in the exposed group were up to an order of magnitude higher than anything reported elsewhere.
There is, however, words of caution. Two confounding factors were not considered by Cherry. Firstly, natural radiation in the atmosphere from gamma ray flux, charged particles and neutrons all increase with height, see Blumthaler et al (1997) (12). Secondly, natural UVB radiation both increases with height and changes its peak frequency. Exposure to the former could perhaps explain some of the excess cancers which appeared to correlate with transmitter field strength due to location height. Exposure to the latter has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer due to increased provision of body (serum) vitamin D, see Lappe (2011) (13). Finally, when Cherry refers to 'all cancers', it is believed here that he his referring merely to all the cancers in his study and not to all known cancers per se.
Cherry(11) has also pointed out the work of Dolk 1997 in the UK, which was both referenced and discussed by Elwood and which produced conclusive results for the Sutton Coldfield transmitter (14) but mixed results for others in the UK. The present author hopes to comment on Dolk's inconclusive findings for all other high power UK transmitters (15) elsewhere and in the near future.
Epidemiologists need to understand the following 'new' science
The crucial point is that with a radio or TV transmitter as far as epidemiology is concerned it simply does not behave like one source. It is not like say a factory chimney emitting PCBS or dioxins being blown in fixed direction by the wind.
There is a main beam from the antenna and often multiple side lobes. There are multiple reflections due to ground topography and even taking the simplistic view that the field strength alone is what counts only people hit by the beam will be affected. Thus in a population as a whole even given a radial ring treatment of analysis, if there are few people in the beam than not in the beam incorrect conclusions will be reached regarding cause and effect.
Following an initial suggestion of Smith (16,17 ) the present author has developed a quantum mechanical hypothesis further and can predict at least for trees ( possibly for humans as well but there is insufficient data yet) precise geographic locations around any transmitter antenna where there is likely to be increased risk. Biological systems can only be influenced by information at biological rates. Modern pulsed transmissions often pulse at biological rates. The definition of a cancer promoter is an agent which can influence biological reaction rates. In this respect it is possible to speculate that other than high power CW fields with their obvious thermal effects, pulsed emissions are likely to be more biologically potent than non- pulsed emissions . An understanding of the electromagnetic Aharonov-Bohm effect shows the information contained in the modulation of a radio transmission to be in the magnetic vector potential (18-21) which unlike the electric field is not readily attenuated. Thus rather than rethinking safe power levels for transmitters we may need to rethink safe (precise) locations for either transmitter installations and/or residences and public buildings if we wished to totally remove ourselves from risk.
Conclusion and Further work
This is an emerging area and concurring with Elwood on one essential point, much more research is needed. It is the aim of the present author to make revelations and elucidations in this perplexing field in the very near future.
1. Epidemiological Studies of Radio Frequency Exposures and Human Cancer appeared in Bioelectromagnetics Supplement 6;s63-s73 in 2003 (1).
3. Challis (2005) http://www.microwaveheating.wsu.edu/Safety%20-%20MW-%20RF/files/Safety%20of%20RF-Microwave.pdf
7. The Stewart Report 2000, http://www.hese-project.org/hese-uk/en/niemr/power_density_effects.pdf
9. Morton and Phillips, Epidemiology 11(4) July 2000 pS57