Keywords: ICNIRP, WHO, EU, ICES, SSM, Eric van Rongen, conflicts of interest, telecom, 5G, guidelines, cancer, DNA
Original title: Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten anlitar jäviga experter
Published: 18 August, 2020
By: “Strålskyddsstiftelsen”, the Swedish Radiation Protection Foundation
Translated via Google into English; edited by Multerland
In April this year, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, published a new report from its scientific council. As in all previous years, the risks associated with radiation from wireless technology and low-frequency magnetic fields are dismissed. No representative of the majority of researchers who, on the contrary, believe that there is growing evidence of health risks and that people need to be better protected has been included. During all the years since 2002, SSM’s expert group has been dominated by people with disparities and ties to the telecommunications companies, who benefit from the group’s conclusions that there would be no health risks.
The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, has, during all the years since 2002, when it appointed an allegedly “independent” international expert group, investigated the issue of health risks with mobile radiation and low-frequency magnetic fields with the help of a group of experts such as:
- Not been a representative of the research world’s perception. SSM has never included any researcher or expert as a representative of the large group of researchers who believe that there is such strong evidence for health risks that people need to be informed about the risks and better protected (emfscientist.org)
- For the most part, they have been disqualified through membership in ICNIRP and / or who have received funding from the telecommunications companies. ICNIRP is the organization based in Germany that has recommended the reference values for permissible radiation that are favorable to and supported by the telecommunications companies, but which are severely insufficient as protection against proven harmful health and environmental effects.
The latest report, which was published on the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority’s website in April 2020, discusses results published between April 2018 and December 2018. SSM’s experts draw the following conclusions:
- No new secured relationships between exposure to EMF (electromagnetic fields) have been identified. In general, the incidence of brain tumors has not been shown to be associated with mobile phone use. If there is a connection, it seems to be so weak that it cannot be detected in studies of incidence trends.
- Studies have often shown affected cognitive ability and behavior among children and adolescents who have used wireless technology, but more studies are needed “to draw robust conclusions”.
- Studies have shown an increased incidence of oxidative stress, but more needs to be investigated if this has any significance for human health.
- Some animal studies have shown that exposure to radiation from wireless technology leads to impaired sperm survival, lower sperm count and affected testosterone levels. But the extent to which this also affects people needs to be investigated further.
- A meta-analysis showed a slightly increased risk of ALS for workers with increased exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields.
- The results of this review do not give any reason to change current recommendations and reference values (from the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and ICNIRP).
The majority does not agree
These conclusions are the exact opposite of those reached by the majority of researchers working in the field, for example expressed in 5G Appeal, EMF Scientists Appeal, now signed by 253 scientists who have all published scientific articles on the effects of radiation on health and biology:
“Many new scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increased harmful free radicals, genetic damage, structural and functional changes in the reproductive system, impaired learning and memory, neurological diseases, and adverse effects on general well-being in humans. Injuries do not only affect people, as there is a growing body of evidence of damage to both plant and animal life. ”
In a presentation of the appeal, Dr Martin Blank called for international limit values to be tightened to protect against the real impact of radiation on our bodies, especially on our DNA:
“The times that we only research health effects, are gone. We need to reduce exposure.”
In EMF Call from the autumn of 2018, more than 250 doctors, scientists and organizations stated that current reference values are unscientific and protect telecommunications companies but not human health:
The ICNIRP guidelines only protect against the acute effects of warming from very short and intense exposure. The guidelines do not protect against the harmful effects of low-intensity and long-term exposure, such as cancer, reproductive damage or effects on the nervous system, although these effects have convincingly been shown to occur after chronic exposure at intensities below ICNIRP guidelines.
The members of the expert group
The following external experts participated in the most recent report with a conflict of interest indicated in parentheses. Of the seven external experts, five are current or former members of ICNIRP:
- Anke Huss (member of ICNIRP, financed by telecom via FSM, a Swiss foundation)
- Aslak Harbo Poulsen (co-author of a Danish study on the risk of brain tumor due to mobile phone use (Danish cohort), originally funded by Danish telecom companies; co-author of a study on children’s risk of brain tumor due to mobile phone use (Cefalo), funded by telecom via FSM, a Swiss foundation )
- Clemens Dasenbrock (ICNIRP member)
- Eric van Rongen (Chairman of ICNIRP 2016-2020 and member of IEEE / ICES an industry organization)
- Heidi Danker-Hopfe (funded by telecom via FSM, a Swiss foundation)
- Maria Rosaria Scarfi (former member of ICNIRP, funded by telecom for research)
- Martin Röösli (member of ICNIRP, financed by telecom via FSM, a Swiss foundation)
- Lars Mjönes former employee at SSM and Leif Moberg, also from SSM, were secretary and chairman of the expert group. Lars Mjönes has since 2003 been diligent in dismissing health risks with radiation from wireless technology, among other things he has compared the radiation from base stations with that from a light bulb, something that also Eric van Rongen, chairman of ICNIRP, has dealt with.
This composition of people who are members of ICNIRP and / or funded by telecom leads to the conclusions not objectively reflecting the research world’s view of the issue. In 2016, Mona Nilsson from the Radiation Protection Foundation asked Eric van Rongen why the Swedish people should trust him more than the over 200 scientists behind EMF Scientist appeal who do not have the same problem as van Rongen to draw conclusions from available research? The answer was that it is up to the Swedish people to judge for themselves who they want to trust:
ICNIRP is not independent of the telecommunications companies
According to a review by ICNIRP commissioned by two EU parliamentarians Michèle Rivasi (Europe Écologie) and Dr Klaus Buchner (Ökologisch-Demokratische Partei), ICNIRP is not independent of the telecommunications companies – on the contrary. Just over half of the members have received funding from the telecommunications companies. In addition, several members of the industry organization ICES are within the IEEE. ICES also issues guidelines on permissible radiation in line with ICNIRP’s view that there are only immediate heating effects – nothing else. Within ICES, representatives from telecom, military and energy companies are actively involved in the decision-making processes. This relationship between industry and ICES was also shown in 2008 in an investigative documentary from the Norwegian NRK.
According to the Karolinska Institutet’s ethics council’s assessment in 2008, ICNIRP is a potential conflict of interest that should be stated whenever Anders Ahlbom and thus other members of ICNIRP comment on health risks with electromagnetic fields and radiation from wireless technology, as a representative of an organization other than ICNIRP.
“Independent” group not independent
In 2002, the former Director General of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, Lars-Erik Holm (until 2008, the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute) appointed the first set of this expert group to submit annual reports on the state of scientific research. Anders Ahlbom, a member of ICNIRP, was appointed chairman, and Maria Feychting, a close associate of Karolinska Institutet, a secretary of ICNIRP since 2008, has been his secretary. Since its inception, the expert group has always been dominated by ICNIRP members and several members have also had other conflicts of interest in the form of funding from the telecommunications companies.
Between 2003 and 2010, the expert group was called the agency’s “independent” expert group (International independent expert group) despite the fact that the majority of the group had clear ties to ICNIRP and the industry, which inlfueced the conclusions. This was the composition of the group in 2005:
- Anders Ahlbom (member of ICNIRP, financed by telecom companies, brother lobbyist for Telia in Brussels)
- Maria Feychting (employee of Anders Ahlbom, financed telecom company, member of ICNIRP from 2008)
- Jukka Juutilainen (member of ICNIRP, funded telecommunications company)
- Bernard Veyret (member of ICNIRP, funded telecommunications company)
- Harri Vainio
- Leeka Kheifets (member of ICNIRP, funded by EPRI – an energy industry organization)
- Eduard David
- Malcolm Harrington
Brother was a lobbyist for Telia
After 2011, the group is no longer called “independent”. This name change may be due to the fact that it became clear that the group was not “independent”. In 2011, Anders Ahlbom’s conflicts of interest received international attention. During all the years Ahlbom has been chairman of the group, he had hidden that his brother was also a lobbyist for Telia and had also started a consulting company in 2010 that directed his services specifically to the telecom industry. Anders Ahlbom sat on the company’s board and he was therefore kicked out of the IARC’s international expert group that would evaluate cancer risks in 2011. The IARC then classified the radiation as “possibly carcinogenic“, which Anders Ahlbom opposed. A year later, he claimed that there was no reason to even suspect that the radiation could have any health effect:
At no time since the start in 2002 has the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority’s expert group included a representative of the majority of researchers active in the field who, on the contrary, believe that there is sufficient evidence to revise and sharpen the reference values and take precautionary measures and inform the public about the risks.
Given the group’s composition of known risk deniers and people with connections to ICNIRP and telecom, the conclusions are always the same and predictable. It does not matter what the research has shown in terms of health and environmental risks, they are still dismissed or ignored.
With another more balanced composition that better reflects the position of the research world, the conclusions would be completely different.
WHO also dominated by ICNIRP
Like the SSM’s Scientific Council, the WHO is also dominated by ICNIRP members when it comes to evaluating the risks of radiation from wireless technology.
In the draft health risk assessment published in 2014, five of the six most influential experts in the WHO’s expert group were members of ICNIRP, which means total dominance. These five experts are also experts in several other expert groups, including SSM. Eric van Rongen is an example: he is the chairman of ICNIRP, a member of IEEE / ICES, a member of the WHO expert group and the SSM expert group. Maria Feychting is another example, a member of WHO’s core group, a member of ICNIRP and an expert for the Swedish Public Health Agency 2017 (Environmental Health Report) and between the years 2002 and 2011 a member of SSM’s expert group.
In addition, the WHO has for many years been funded by telecommunications companies for its work on this issue. The project manager for WHO’s work is also an electrical engineer who has received funding for his work in developing antenna technology from telecom companies. From 1995, under the auspices of ICNIRP’s First President Michael Repacholi, the WHO was transformed into a public relations body for telecommunications companies and ICNIRP’s reference values.
The oncologist and researcher Lennart Hardell and his colleague Michael Carlberg write in a recently published scientific article that the lack of a correct and objective risk assessment (of the 5G expansion) means that people are exposed to risks. In addition, there seems to be a cartel of individuals who have monopolized expert groups and in this way reinforces the perception that there would be no risks.
Hardell and Carlberg published a table that shows how a small group of experts recur in several expert evaluations. The diagram also shows that the EU Expert Evaluation (SCENIHR) also to a majority consists of ICNIRP members or persons financed by telecommunications companies, which the Radiation Protection Foundation described in 2015.
Major financial interests
The issue of risks with radiation from wireless technology and low-frequency magnetic fields is characterized by strong economic interests being affected very negatively if health risks are recognized. This applies to an increased risk of cancer, mental illness, neurodegenerative diseases, injuries during the foetal stage and damage to wildlife and the environment. For many years, telecommunications companies have opposed recognition of risks and that the public and decision-makers should receive objective information about the risks. These are manufacturers of base stations, mobile phones, tablets, computers, telecom operators. It also concerns the activities of multinational energy companies, such as power lines and the military industry, which also uses microwaves. Most of these companies’ annual reports warn of the consequences that the recognition of health risks and stricter regulations if permitted radiation would entail for profit development.
These companies have enormous financial resources to lobby, research and fund publicity campaigns. Ericsson and Telia are at the top of the list of companies in the world sentenced to the highest fine for corruption.
Therefore, it is of course extremely important that authorities, which have to handle all issues objectively and impartially according to the requirements of the Public Administration Act and the form of government, do not hire experts with disparities in the form of ties to these strong economic stakeholders and also listen to researchers representing the majority of researchers. – not like now a minority. Expert groups must have a balanced composition.