December 2004

Nordic countries issue joint statement

The Danish National Board of Health, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland, and the Radiation Protection authorities of Iceland, Norway, and Sweden have issued a joint statement about cell phones and health. They state:
"The Nordic authorities agree that there is no scientific evidence for any adverse health effects from mobile telecommunication systems, neither from the base stations nor from the handsets, below the basic restrictions and reference values recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)".

The authorities go on to make a plea for more research, and state that "the prevailing scientific uncertainty justify a certain precautionary attitude regarding the use of handsets for mobile telephony".

The statement can be read at

Debate about value of SAR level as safety standard

In a recent Comment, Blank and Goodman of Columbia University in New York outlined an argument that the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is an inappropriate basis for safety standards for radiofrequency (RF) fields. They argue that research has shown that both extremely low frequency (ELF) and RF fields stimulate the same non-thermal pathway in studies of the stress response. They state:

"Since the same biochemical reactions are stimulated in different frequency ranges with very different specific absorption rates, SAR level is not a valid basis for safety standards".

In a reply, Ron Peterson, Chair of the IEEE International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety, states that the studies quoted by Blank and Goodman "have not been confirmed by research in independent laboratories". He goes on to point out:

"The substantive number of long-term RF exposure studies, including lifetime exposure, of rats and mice shows no evidence of health levels below the established adverse effect threshold (4W/kg)".

Reference: Blank M, Goodman R. Comment: A biological guide for electromagnetic safety: the stress response. Bioelectromagnetics 2004;25:642-646.

Reply: Petersen R. Bioelectromagnetics 2004;25:647-648.

Standardization of methods for SAR determination

A working group of IEEE has been created to develop recommended practices for determining SAR in the head by computational techniques. The past and present chairs of the working group have recently reviewed the difficulties that have arisen in this area of research. They propose a protocol, developed by an IEEE standards group, as an initial step in alleviating the problems.

Reference: Beard BB, Kainz W. Review and standardization of cell phone exposure calculations using the SAM phantom and anatomically correct models. BioMedical Engineering OnLine 2004;3:34, Oct 13 (Epub ahead of print).The article can be found at

UK program announces new research awards

The Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) has announced three new research awards. One is an extension to an existing study investigating whether emissions from mobile phone base stations can elicit a variety of symptoms in those exposed to them. The other studies involve evaluation of a new exposure meter, and the assessment of possible biological effects following exposure to pulsed signals. More information on the program can be found at "Research Programs " on this site, or at

RF exposure does not affect rat anxiety levels

A research group that was mentioned in "What's New" last month (Cassels and colleagues) have published another paper that explores the behaviour of rats exposed to radiofrequency radiation (RFR) at cell phone power levels. They found that in a plus-maze test, a standard test of animal anxiety, rats exposed to RFR behaved no differently than sham-exposed rats. For more, see "Toxicological experiments - brain function" - link to the summary of the Cosquer article from the reference in the section.

Reference: Cosquer B, Galani R, Kuster N, Cassel JC. Whole-body exposure to 2.45 GHz electromagnetic fields does not alter anxiety responses in rats: a plus-maze study including test validation. Behav Brain Res 2005;156:65-74.

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