An Author’s Credentials
Any blog needs credibility and that comes from knowing who the author is and his/her credentials, so let me tell you a little about myself. That’s an artist’s impression of me, below: a humble electronics engineer.
My entry into the world of electronics was more chance than planning and started when I became a Medical Physics Technician in a large London teaching hospital in the early 1980’s. Although morally satisfying, the lack of challenge in that position and my desire to expand my own knowledge of electronics led to my decision to return to full-time education and I secured a place at one of the UK’s well-respected technical universities to study the physics of electronics. Successfully graduated, I moved on through various sectors of the electronic development business, starting with TV and video, through jet-engine controllers, telecommunications and avionics and ending twenty years later with the design and development of microprocessors and ICs.
My first encounter with microwaves came as I had the privilege of working on fighter plane avionics along side some former RAF engineers. As young men, these guys had worked on the early radar systems at the end of World War II and in the post-war years. One such engineer took great pride in telling how they had fried their eggs for breakfast in front of those prototype antennae. Seemingly, they were also frying parts of their bodies. Reports of temporary infertility and hair-loss were not uncommon in radar personnel and there were other complaints, referred to more generally as “microwave syndrome”.
Around this time I directly experienced microwave energy in my kitchen in the form of my first (and only) microwave oven. It’s important to note that although the principle of the Faraday cage is sound, its practical implementation in household microwave ovens is not so convincing. I was surprised to find out that, in line with American guidelines, older models are “allowed” to leak up to 50W/m2 of microwave radiation at a distance of 5cm from the oven. Using a simple calculation, that’s about equal to a 25W light bulb. Doesn’t seem like much, so why be concerned?
One reason might be that Russian RF power safety limits (including microwave ovens and mobile phones) are approximately 100 times lower than ours (ICNIRP 2009, Public = 10 W/ m2; SanPin 2003, Public = 0.1 W/ m2). And what’s more, starting in 1976, workers there were required to wear protective goggles for a twenty minute exposure at levels equal to the new American limit for microwave ovens of 10W/m2 and that’s a 5W bulb! The Russian regulations were fully reworked in 1996 and again in 2003, but the figure of 0.1 W/ m2 for public exposure has been largely unchanged in that time. To this day, the Russians continue to take a more cautious approach, as do the Swiss, and perhaps we should too.
Phones – Mobile or Otherwise
Less energetic microwaves followed with the mobile phone. I bought my first one twenty years ago and subsequently had several more as a requirement of my job. My own good sense or engineering intuition suggested back then that it was possibly not the best thing to have a microwave transmitter (however small) jammed against the side of my head and I chose to use my phone with a hands-free headset as much as possible.
Some years later, when I started using a DECT phone at home without a headset, I noticed a light headache and warming to the side of my head following long telephone conversations. That set me questioning whether our RF wireless technologies might not be as harmless as the manufacturers and authorities might have us believe. In about 2010, I started reading around the subject and it took me six years of deliberation before concluding that the hypothesised link between RF microwave radiation and a wide range of possible effects on human health could actually be genuine, however limited the extent may be.
Radio Frequency Risk?
During that time, the IARC (the World Health Organisation’s cancer research group) decided to classify RF radiation as “possibly” carcinogenic, as they already had done with power lines in 2002. Some of the panel responsible for that decision now believe there is sufficient evidence for a reclassification to “probably carcinogenic”, or even “carcinogenic”.
However, this isn’t just about the possible risks of cancer associated with radio frequency electromagnetic fields. Even if it turns out that EMF doesn’t directly cause cancer, there seems to be evidence enough to suggest that it might promote mechanisms that do, making it co-carcinogenic or a promoter. Just as important is the fact that a lot of scientific studies have shown a wide range of biological effects which may well be linked to other health effects (you can read more here http://www.isar-energetics.de/Biological_effects.html in English and German).
Regarding mobile phones, the latest guidelines from the Russian radiation protection authorities (RNCNIRP) require that the manufacturers issue a statement in the “User Guide” saying that their product is a “source of harmful RF EMF” and that the use of a mobile phone by children under the age of 18 and pregnant women is not recommended. Furthermore, in the long term, they reportedly expect to see an increase in “brain tumors, tumors of acoustical and vestibular nerves (in the age of 25-30 years), Alzheimer’s disease, “got dementia”, depressive syndrome, and the other types of degeneration of the nervous structures of the brain (in the age of 50 to 60). “, as a result of children now using mobile phones.
To wrap up this post I’d just like to say, I’ve never been a „technophobe“ nor a „techno-geek“. I see the benefits of technology, and helped to create some of it, but I see the pitfalls too. Additionally, I’ve become more aware of a possible disconnect between corporate business ethic and man’s well-being. The subject of how EMF affects mankind is multi-disciplinary, spanning physics, biology and chemistry equally, and presents us with the most complex of equations. So far they remain unsolved. But were a mobile phone manufacturer to tell us that there is no risk from “non-thermal” effects from radio frequency radiation, we could perhaps liken that to how the tobacco industry informed us about the risks of smoking back in the 1960s, or the lead industry about its products in the decades before.
My microwave oven was consigned to the scrap heap long ago but I still own two mobile phones………one lives in the glove compartment of my car, for emergencies, and my very first one now sits by the front door to our house as a monument to the past. We now run our businesses, quite happily, from desktop computers with email and landline telephones with cables and an answer-phone and I’ve no intention of changing that for the foreseeable future.