When Carol Craig
(30 October) accuses the government of lying about any dangers to human health that may be associated with 5G ( i.e. the fifth generation of mobile phone evolution), I have to sit up and take notice. She says that the government is lying to protect the profits of the phone companies, which it thinks are more important than the health of its citizens. This is strong stuff indeed.
She protects herself from criticism by assuring us in her turn that she is neither a conspiracy theorist, nor that she is ranting. But she is indeed rehearsing the tropes of a conspiracy theory. The idea of this conspiracy theory, as Carol Craig repeats, is that the government is ignoring evidence that mobile phone radio telephony is causing a widespread public health epidemic of brain tumours and other cancers, as well as a range of less easily definable ills such as fatigue, headaches, irritability, brain fog and insomnia.
This is false. Our government is not ignoring the results of research in this area, and this is also true of the US and other governments, as well as a range of other institutions. The results of this research and its various methodologies are not secret; it's out there for anyone to have a look at.
There are two major kinds of research being done. One is epidemiological. Tracking mobile telephone usage and comparing it with the incidence of disease, eg, if cancers of the brain and central nervous system were seen to be increasing over the past 30 years, during which mobile phone usage has rocketed, we could at least say that the two things were correlated. But cancers of the brain and central nervous system are not
increasing. They have always been rare compared to other sorts of cancer and they continue to be so. There is no upward trend to match mobile phone usage. The research is easily found online, as well as in various peer-reviewed scientific journals. Try this one in the official journal of the international Society for Neuro-Oncology: Brain cancer incidence trends in relation to cellular telephone use in the United States
. It includes straightforward charts comparing mobile phone use with rates of brain cancer and can be found here.
I also suggest looking at the COSMOS project. This is an enormous Europe-wide project (Denmark, Finland, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) which first started in 2007 and is now tracking the health and mobile phone usage of 110,000 people in the UK alone. It's not secret. The UK part of the project is being run by Imperial College London. There is a lot of information on its website
The other type of research is laboratory experiments to see the effect of electromagnetic waves on small mammals and cell cultures. Again, there are a lot of these experiments being done. In 2018, the US National Institute of Health Sciences published a report on rat and mouse studies. The $30m studies took more than 10 years to complete. The results did not establish that mobile phone usage was likely to cause cancer in humans. There was no identifiable statistically significant effect on female rats or mice of either sex.
Male rats showed statistically significant increases in cancerous tumours, and this was after their whole bodies had been been irradiated at levels of up to four times the maximum permitted for mobile radiotelephony for nine hours every day, 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off, beginning while they were still unborn and continuing for up to two years, i.e. most of their natural lifetime. (Their life span was, curiously, statistically significantly longer
than male rats that had not been irradiated. The experimenters attributed this to the irradiated rats having a reduced rate in chronic kidney conditions which often cause the death of older rats.) You can see the report here
You will also see that further research has been commissioned to monitor the effects of later generations of mobile phone radio frequency radiation. Many people complain that proximity to mobile phone base stations (MPBS) or high frequency power lines causes them illness, so many studies have been carried out to discover if there is indeed such a link. Reviews of these studies reveal the problems encountered by researchers. A diagnosis of 'electrosensitivity' relies on self-reporting of a variety of different symptoms by sufferers.
A Systematic review on the health effects of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from mobile phone base stations
, published in the bulletin
of the World Health Organisation in 2010, makes it clear that pinning down a relationship between exposure to MPBS radiation and reported symptoms is not an easy matter. But researchers are still trying. This year, in the journal of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, an article
was published on EMF exposure and non-specific physical symptoms: a new approach of studying electrosensitivity
. Once again, there are no firm conclusions.
We shouldn't be surprised. I haven't been able to trace any statistics on the matter but fatigue, headaches, irritability, brain fog and insomnia, were all familiar to our parents and grandparents long before mobile phones were even thought of. It's difficult to pin down the causes.
I have been picking these articles almost at random. There are tens of thousands of pieces of research on the possible dangers of mobile phone telephony and its infrastructure, but none of them demonstrate the 'smoking gun', i.e. credible evidence that there is harm being caused to humans.
There is enough evidence from the laboratory studies for the International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation as a Group '2b' carcinogen. '2b' means that it is 'possibly carcinogenic to humans'. It reached that conclusion in 2011 'in view of the limited evidence in humans and in experimental animals'. Since 2011, the results of much more research on the subject have continued to be published but nothing has prompted a change in this classification.
If mobile phone telephony can be shown to be injurious, it would be a very important public health issue, and governments and other concerned people are well aware of that. The research is being done, as it should be. There is no cover up. There is no conspiracy.
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to email@example.com