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Safety Standards for consumer products using microwave frequencies
Before a product, any product is put on the market, it should be shown to be reasonably safe, it is then authorised and that product becomes the norm within society. Telecom manufacturers and government regulators normally provide evidence between themselves that the product is safe in use and organisations like OFCOM (UK) and FCC (USA) provide a 'slot' within the electromagnetic spectrum for these products to operate. That is usually the norm but in the case of mobile phones and all the other microwave-enabled gadgets out there, this authorisation process has been circumvented. Anyone using microwave-enabled gadgets will at some stage of their life become adversely affected by these gadgets, just like the use of DDT, smoking, Agent Orange, Thalidomide, lead (Pb) and countless other wonders of our industrial world. What on earth went wrong?
Simply put, the only safety standards currently used by state regulators the world over relate to thermal skin heating effects only. That said, safety testing protocols for skin heating experiments leave a lot to be desired. it's almost as if the telecoms industries were given a green light to introduce these technologies regardless of any safety concerns. Nearly all the organisations involved in regulating, carrying out safety experiments i.e. the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non Ionising Radiation & Protection), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) are all private organisations with no medical or scientific expertise whatsoever. The Federal Communications Commission - USA (FCC) basically signed over the microwave bands to industry to do what they want. This unholy alliance has led to a set of circumstances that has resulted in a total disregard for consumer safety from all devices that use the microwave frequency band. These products include mobile phones, smart phones, smart meters, WIFI routers, D.E.C.T. phones, Bluetooth products and baby monitors etc.
Hall of shame: organisations responsible for setting safety standards and or implementing policy regulations
Firstly, both American National Standards Institute and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers are primarily private organisations. Neither organisation is qualified within the medical nor biological sciences. Their so-called expertise is related to the use of electricity, not its safety in use. Similarly, the primary responsibility of the Federal Communications Commission is to regulate the services that utilise the electromagnetic spectrum of airspace within America. They have no expertise nor responsibility for matters related to consumer safety.
It gets worse when you consider that the UK regulatory body for the safety of services and products authorised for use within the microwave bands, the Health Protection England (HPE) relies in its entirety on 'guidelines' issued by another private organisation called the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The primary responsibility of Health Protection England is to issue safety advice to the general public and to other government departments in the United Kingdom on standards of protection for exposure to ionizing and non-ionising radiation. This advice relates to electric and magnetic fields. Astonishingly however, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection has no medical or biological expertise within its personnel. This state of affairs has not stopped it producing numerous exposure 'guidelines' for a range of electrical users and products. The U.S.A. and the European Union also rely on these 'guidelines' when formulating and setting exposure levels from microwave radiation. I will discuss in detail the workings of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection later because allegedly, their primary focus and internal expertise is to serve the legislative needs of the telecommunications industries.
Secondly, and even more significant than the fact that safety standards were historically formulated and set in stone according to industry perspectives, is the fact that biological or non-thermal effects of microwave exposure experiments were not included in the authorisation process. In other words, safety standards were set on the basis of thermal effects only i.e. the heating of skin tissue when exposed to certain levels of microwave radiation. This omission is the sole reason why radiation experts from many countries disagree on what constitutes a safe level of microwave radiation exposure. The US and UK exposure values are hundreds or thousands of times higher than that set in parts of Russia and Germany. Simply check out global microwave exposure limits and see for yourself which countries pro actively protect consumers from the harmful effects of microwave radiation.
The scientific consensus or legislative paradigm states that the energy within microwave radiation does not carry enough energy to ionize atoms or molecules to completely remove electrons from biological tissue. Simply put, radiation from alpha particles are defined as ionising because they have this ability to 'shakeup' the electronic structure of molecules and induce cancerous effects within biological tissue. Yet so-called non-ionising radiation is OK because these types of emissions supposedly do not have this effect. The real world is much different to the theoretical world of cause and effect and none of this makes sense from a consumer safety point of view. The real issue here is that the telecommunications industries and key regulators have been aware of the adverse biological effects of microwave radiation on workers and members of the public from experiments carried out from the 1940s onwards. There are numerous reviews and reports within this site on just how dangerous microwave radiation is from the historic use and development of radar since World War II. Non-thermal or biological effects are the pink elephants in the living room.
That more or less sets the scene for what is discussed next which looks at a typical experimental setup to assess skin heating effects from specific exposures to microwave radiation. From a cursory glance at these procedures it is clear that the experimental protocol was designed to minimise the skin heating effects from microwave radiation in order to justify as high as possible, product or base station /antenna transmitting power. A critical analysis of the assumptions and procedures used in these tissue-heating experiments are taken from an excellent paper (here) and this too can be downloaded from the 'download section' of this site.
In order to obtain authorisation for a product to operate within the microwave bands, industry provides a dossier which includes experimental results from the skin heating effects of specific levels of microwave radiation on a mannequin, or artificial head. This mannequin is formally known as a 'Specific Anthropomorphic Mannequin' (SAM) and its head size plus other features are somewhat unusual (see image below). The experimental method is to pour a liquid into an opening at the top of the head, irradiate the head with a cell phone transmission and then measure any change in temperature from a probe mounted on a robotic arm. The experimental method is to produce data based on the specific absorption rate (SAR) of a mobile phone transmitting at a specific frequency and power into a 'simulated' human head. The resultant heat increase inside the head can be plotted versus transmitter power to derive an SAR graph of temperature rise versus transmission power. Besides all these obvious experimental design flaws coupled to the fact that these data are not representative of the general public nor can they be used in their present form to more accurately assess exposures for difference in male, female form, head size, body weight, differences in physiological development, skull thickness etc, the experimental protocol allows itself up to 30% tolerance. In other words if exposure equals 6 watts per kilogram of body tissue, the actual exposure can be as high as 7.8 watts per kilogram of tissue and still be within SAR 'specification'!!
Typical SAM setup
The experimental setup is completely flawed in many areas and these are detailed in Gandhi et al (2011). The head size of the mannequin is based on data obtained from US military army recruits. The 90th percentile of head size was used including a body weight of 220 lbs and a height of six foot two inches. This one mannequin sized head was physically representative of 10% of army recruits yet the data from these studies is used to set exposure levels for the general population. Note that this 'one size fits all' SAR exposure data theoretically includes babies, toddlers, young children etc. The actual reality is somewhat different, because all those individuals with a smaller head and body size than SAM proportionally receive a higher dose. In other words, these data are representative for anyone the same or bigger head size than this mannequin and for no-one else. Other flaws relate to reproducibility. The experimental setup is fairly easy to replicate providing you have access to calibrated probes and transmission powers. The fluids that are poured into the top of the head however, should be suitably defined and characterised for electrical conductivity and permittivity. I am unsure whether or not different laboratories use a standardised mix of fluids to aid reproducibility. Clearly, using one size of head with defined electrical and permittivity characteristics indicate all individuals within the population who are smaller in size or physiological development i.e. babies, toddlers and young children will receive a much higher dose of microwave radiation. Gandhi indicates that the dose to 5 - 10 year old children can be up to 153% higher than the dose measured for the typical SAM model. There are also problems in measurement geometry because a plastic spacer is used instead of a replicated ear. This has the effect of moving the mobile phone a couple of centimetres away from the head. In the small print related to SAR found within all mobile phones it does state that there should be a distance between the head and phone. By implication, this means the SAR for that phone is exceeded every time you put the phone next to your head.
The experimental setup for measuring SAR is therefore deeply flawed and conceived in such a way that the highest possible transmission powers are used to power these devices. Also note that no scientific research has been carried out on those sectors of the population not defined as the 90th percentile of the US army. This includes men, women and children and all in between. Inherent within the methodology worked out by the ANSI/IEEE standards committees is the fact that occupational dose is also the same as the dose to the population. In other words and in other fields, you would expect the dose to be higher for those who work in this sector. You should not expect the same high dose to be calculated for ordinary members of the public simply because we are not occupationally exposed to high signal intensities of microwave radiation.
The second part of this article relates to the private organisation with no qualification or expertise in medical and biological qualifications that produces 'guideline' exposure levels to governments around the world, particularly Health Protection England. I wish to address both bias and conflict of interest in this organisation and I start with its chairman when incepted in 1992. That man's name is Michael Repacholi.
I have not met this man in any capacity other than what I uncovered looking at the aims and objectives of the organisation that he headed from day one. This organisation is the same one that produces 'guideline' exposures which are used to justify and legitimate microwave exposure to the general public. Theoretically, this organisation should be free from bias towards industry and also be financially independent in order to carry out unbiased research and offer neutral guideline exposure levels based on the best available science. Unfortunately, and this information is easy to source via the internet, this organisation is far from neutral and from where I sit, appears to exist to legitimate both legislatively and morally the insane idea that consumer gadgets can be authorised and licensed to operate within the microwave bands.
It has been my displeasure to meet similarly placed individuals in other spheres of scientific endeavour who I characterise below. If there is an equivalent classification of an academic psychopath I would include the following traits:
(1) They head an organisation with multiple income streams in which not all monies are easy to track because of 'holding' organisations that act as fronts to obscure details about the identity of the main industry benefactor.
(2) Every word they utter, every paper they present, holds true to what this organisation wants you to believe, regardless of the contradictory scientific data to hand and its safety consequences to the general public. They appear to have no sympathy or empathy for anyone outside their select ring of financial and status-driven benefactors.
(3) Their entire reason for living is to bask in the status and adoration of those they serve. They appear to have no shame nor regret in what they do because their real agenda lies elsewhere. That agenda is to embrace the system they have set out to defend with all their logical thought and reasoning power. In its turn, the system 'rewards' these individuals with professorial 'chairs' at universities and advancements into and onto the world stage of regulation, authorisation and legislation.
(4) Time after time, these individuals occupy positions of high power for very short periods before they are ousted. Yet in the time they are in office, they produce many profound changes to the legislative and safety regime of the activities they are supposed to champion.
(5) In their 'retirement' they are usually found in universities propping up the alumni bar or start up their own consultancy. By this time, they have been used by their respective 'masters' and are of no further use to them. They sort of exist in a twilight zone in which they are not trusted by friends and family and at this stage I always wonder what really goes through their minds and how they view themselves.
(6) They usually die holding onto the secrets they cannot afford to let out because if this information was published, everything they have worked towards would vanish in an instant.
I reproduce below a typical powerpoint presentation from Repacholi which more or less defines his mind set when defending the activities of the telecommunications giants.
Notice he mentions thermal heating effects but nothing on biological or non-thermal effects. It is all about setting boundaries for those areas of discourse he is interested in talking about. This same spiel is also used by regulators to justify their policies and decisions on consumer safety in relation to microwave radiation.
By the time Repacholi had made these slides, he had left the ICPIRN and put in charge of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) International EMF Project. It is here in 1996 onwards that he became very influential because he became the star attraction and centre of the world stage for all things EMF. He started to issue many guidelines and fact-sheets on all sorts of EMF-related issues. As always, these sorts of people have short shelf lives because accountability within these global organisations is probably a little easier to keep an eye on. Before Repacholi left there were many rumblings of his WHO group receiving industry funding for projects Repacholi was directly responsible for. Eventually the truth came out and of course, massive funds were paid by the telecoms giants to enable Repacholi to carry out their particular brand of 'research'.
Finally, check out the link below to understand the ways in which scientific work is funded, managed and disseminated. The telecoms industries fund many, many researchers and research teams to carry out work for them. Over 95% of industry-funded studies invariably do not find any correlation between microwave radiation and adverse biological effects. If you have no idea how scientists are funded, it is very simple. Heads of university departments are usually promoted to their position because of the number of papers they get published. This number is not related to quality. The PR people in the telecoms industries are always on the lookout for research teams who need work and cash to carry out their projects. If the research team gives its benefactors exactly what they want, it is immediately rewarded with further work. A positive cycle is initiated between the telecoms PR team and the university research teams. This mutual backslapping continues until the research team reports data not favourable to the telecoms PR team. In most cases, the research team is disbanded, work stops on any projects and industry funds dry up. Universities always but always encourage their researchers to publish as much as they can because it fills their coffers with monies and academic status that enables the university to attract the brightest and best students onto their courses. That is the short of it and left out of this equation are the issues that need to be addressed: how safe are these technologies and what must we do in order to safely live out our lives? Welcome to Big Science!!
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