Fun With Non-Ionizing Radiation

By Neuroskeptic | December 6, 2016 1:29 pm

Does non-ionizing radiation pose a health risk? Everyone knows that ionizing radiation, like gamma rays, can cause cancer by damaging DNA. But the scientific consensus is that there is no such risk from non-ionizing radiation such as radiowaves or Wi-Fi.

Yet according to a remarkable new paper from Magda Havas, the risk is real: it’s called When theory and observation collide: Can non-ionizing radiation cause cancer?

There are a few remarkable things about this paper but chief among them is its ‘graphical abstract’. Behold:

 

1-s2-0-s0269749116309526-fx1

Here at Neuroskeptic I have written about research on the psychology of emoji’s, but this is the first time I’ve seen an emoji-based scientific illustration. Wow.

The paper itself goes on to explain that non-ionizing radiation is able to cause cancer and other problems by interfering with antioxidant (the yellow “kisser” depicted above) production in cells:

The body produces free radicals during metabolic activity and it also produces anti-oxidants as part of its natural repair mechanism. If the anti-oxidant repair mechanism is impaired free radical damage can result… The damage is generated not by direct ionization of atoms and molecules but rather by interference with anti-oxidant repair mechanisms.

The trouble is, Havas doesn’t say anything about how the disruption of anti-oxidants happens, and it’s not clear how it could. Non-ionizing radiation such as radiowaves and microwaves consists of photons, just like visible light, but at a lower frequency. Because the energy of a photon is proportional to its frequency, very high frequency photons (like gamma rays) have enough energy to disrupt atoms producing those dangerous, zombie-like, green free radicals.

But visible light can’t do this, and still less can microwaves or radiowaves. There’s no known mechanism by which such low-energy photons could harm living tissue – except that they can heat tissue up in high doses, but the amount of heating produced by radio and wireless devices is tiny.

Havas concludes that

The rapid deployment of wireless technology needs to be reconsidered. The potentially harmful effects of Wi-Fi in schools; smart meters on homes; the 5G network, as well as previous generations of cellular telecommunication have not been adequately tested for biological compatibility.

I don’t think we need to get into the debate over whether there is a statistical link between non-ionizing radiation sources and cancer. Some studies report an association, but if there is no physical mechanism that could explain it, my conclusion remains as follows: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

(h/t Smut Clyde).

ResearchBlogging.orgHavas, M. (2016). When theory and observation collide: Can non-ionizing radiation cause cancer? Environmental Pollution DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2016.10.018

CATEGORIZED UNDER: controversiology, papers, select, Top Posts, woo
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  • Nick

    The author has a web page at http://www.magdahavas.com/ which is, um, “interesting”.

    David Carpenter, the co-editor of the journal who “recommended… acceptance” of Havas’s article/letter, is the co-author of pieces such as this http://www.globalresearch.ca/cell-phones-wifi-devices-hotspots-smart-meters-the-health-impacts-of-low-intensity-electromagnetic-radiation/5535780 which appears on a site that has an entire section dedicated to 9/11 “truth”.

    • smut clyde

      I had forgotten about Carpenter’s co-editorial role in the BioInitiative Report —
      https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/picking-cherries-in-science-the-bio-initiative-report/

    • DOUBTING THOMAS

      “…interesting”? You are way too polite!
      Was this meant as code for “worthless pseudo-scientific opinion from crackpots” ?

      • Smart Meters Suck

        Of course NASA scientists would go to the trouble of patenting a technology that is worthless. You’re the crackpot.

      • smut clyde

        You are too harsh. Confirmation bias and cherry-picking can happen to anyone.

        • Smart Meters Suck

          If 1000 studies show nothing and 1 repeated study shows results, it renders the 1000 studies invalid. If you don’t understand this, you don’t understand how science works, but that’s quite typical, so don’t feel bad. Cherry picking is not a valid criticism in this case.

          • Evan85

            No it doesn’t. Heard of meta-analysis?? Systematic review?

          • Smart Meters Suck

            If a study shows no results, it proves nothing. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

          • DOUBTING THOMAS

            I’m afraid you are the one who does not understand how science works. If 1000 studies have negative results, the null hypothesis is confirmed, becoming part of the body of science. It takes a lot more than 1 replicated study to change the consensus.

            You need to do a lot more reading to cure your ingnorance. Good luck with that!

          • Smart Meters Suck

            No, it means those 1000 studies each had a flaw that prevented discovery
            of the phenomenon proven by the repeatable study. 1000 people not
            seeing a black swan in a flock of mostly white swans thinking they’ve
            proven that “no black swans exist” is trumped by one person recording
            evidence of one black swan in the flock. QED.

          • Evan85

            So only a positive result can ever be believed?? The key there is ‘repeatable study’. If there truly was a black swan, science says there would be more than one study finding evidence of it and over time, the proportion of studies finding swans would become the majority.

          • Smart Meters Suck

            There are thousands of studies showing harm from non-ionizing radiation. Isn’t it interesting that for non-industry funded scientific studies, about 70% find evidence of harm below SC6 (same as FCC) levels, but the proportion is exactly reversed when industry funded studies are examined. This is obvious evidence that industry funded studies are biased towards not finding results, so your assumption is incorrect, especially since industry has the funding and vested interest in not finding evidence of harm. Fortunately, real scientists understand that “weight of evidence” is meaningless when scientific fraud is the order of the day.

          • Evan85

            Saying that results can be biased by the researchers is not your original premise that all studies showing no results prove nothing.

            “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” This statement is true but not in the way you’ve used it. ‘Absence of evidence’ is if NO studies were completed. Studies showing no results are LITERALLY evidence of absence. Whether the evidence is credible or not is something else entirely.

          • Smart Meters Suck

            Studies showing no results should be examined for flaws if other studies show results. This is an extremely complicated topic and slight differences in experimental procedure can mask very real effects (in some studies) that have been proven to exist. You wrote about the proportion of studies showing swans. The “proportion” is meaningless if scientific fraud is involved, as it demonstrably is here, just like during the debates over the toxicity of tobacco smoking. History repeats.

    • Derek Ward

      But PEMF therapy was on Dr. Oz so it must be true 😉

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

        Wait, so electromagnetic fields can cure diseases now? I thought they caused them!

        • DOUBTING THOMAS

          We should not be surprised by this – the measure of dose in toxicology is vitaly important. It is quite possible that a large exposure to an agent can have an adverse effect – and that a small exposure to the same agent can have a therapeutic effect. In the words of the 16th-century physician Paracelsus:

          “All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison.The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.”

          • Smart Meters Suck

            And if you had a clue about the subject matter, you would know that it is now proven without a doubt that there exists a “window effect” when it comes to modulated microwave radiation where a stronger dose can have lesser effect than a weaker dose.

          • DOUBTING THOMAS

            Too crazy for words!!

          • Derek Ward

            Do you think “Bob Bichen” has a new alias?

          • Smart Meters Suck

            Is that all you’ve got Derek? No pathetic attempts at denying what rock
            solid, repeated, peer-reviewed scientific studies have proven?

          • Smart Meters Suck

            This repeated study, repeated by a sceptic expecting to disprove the previous iteration, ended up confirming the hypothesis:

            http://microwavenews.com/news-center/rf-animal-cancer-promotion

            Worse than crazy, you’re wilfully ignorant!

          • DOUBTING THOMAS

            The study you reference exposed mice to a whole-body SAR of 2 W/kg. But, the maximum permissible exposure limit for
            humans is 0.08 W/kg. Therefore, the test subjects received a dose which was 2,500% higher than the established safe limit. Furthermore, the study author concluded that “…metabolic changes are responsible for the effects observed.”

            This study does nothing to refute the current consensus that no scientific evidence establishes a causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses – provided that exposure does not exceed regulatory limits.

            Follow the link for expert opinion: http://www.ices-emfsafety.org/expert-reviews/

          • Smart Meters Suck

            As usual, you’ve been proven wrong about the subject matter at hand, so
            you attempt diversionary tactics. Well it didn’t work. The accepted dose
            response of toxicity DOES NOT APPLY to microwave radiation. That has
            been proven. And you call me crazy for demonstrating that proven fact.

          • Smart Meters Suck

            Furthermore, the study I referenced showed a 200% increase in cancer
            rates at 0.04 W/kg, HALF the SC6 exposure limit compared to the control
            while at the rate you quoted: 2 W/kg, the cancer rate was only 50%
            higher than the control. And remember, this was an experiment that was
            by a sceptic with a long history of ridiculing health problems being
            associated with microwave radiation attempting to prove the earlier
            results wrong, so it’s fair to say he didn’t enter it with a bias
            towards finding negative health effects. The vast majority of your
            ridiculously labelled “expert opinion” (mostly industry tainted
            organizations) were released before this study confirmed the previous
            iteration’s results. Finally, cancer is only one of dozens of negative
            health effects from chronic low-level microwave radiation.

          • Robert Quickert

            Yeah, here’s what the science about PEMF says. For bone healing — which comes to anti-radiowave activists like Havas from the research of the late Robert. O Becker—the reviews are negative: it doesn’t work. See Mollon et al (2008), or the Cochrane Review by Griffin et al (2011).

            The only other use is Transcranial magnetic stimulation. The magnetic field strengths used are 2 to 3 tesla (T). I don’t know what frequency is used for the stimulative pulses, but the ICNIRP guidelines for the general public for say 1900 MHz are .0046f^½ μT = .2 μT, and actual, real-world values are much lower. So the suggestion by some in this thread that there is a window may be possible, but that window is more than 10,000,000 times higher than typical exposures.

          • Smart Meters Suck

            Robert, you obviously didn’t read about the repeated study which was the
            subject of the article on Microwave News that I posted. And
            electromagnetic fields (which is what microwave telecommunications
            fields are) are not measured in teslas. Magnetic fields are measured in
            teslas, so you are lacking a basic understanding of the subject matter. A
            200% increase in cancer incidence was found with an electromagnetic
            field exposure half the intensity of the supposed “safe limit” indicated
            in Safety Code 6 (the same as FCC guidelines.)

          • Robert Quickert

            SMS, you really need to think about the word “electroMAGNETIC” means before you suggest that I lack an understanding of the subject matter. Facepalm.

          • Smart Meters Suck

            Robert, you missed it again. The study is about telecommunications which uses EM fields. You can’t have a pure magnetic field if it’s modulated. It’s physically impossible, so you don’t measure telecom signals in T, you measure them in W/m^2 since they are ALWAYS EM. You have no clue. Facepalm squared. Due to your cluelessness, you are probably also unaware that modulated EM fields are far more damaging to mammals than unmodulated EM fields.

          • Robert Quickert

            No, SMS. It’s electromagnetic. (And modulation is irrelevant). In another case of having to lead the clueless, please read ER-Wave Model at Wikipedia. Then see the ICNIRP Guidelines from 1998, page 19 of the PDF file/page 511 of the journal article. Lays out the relationship for you well.

          • Smart Meters Suck

            Robert, (not so) Quickert, I’m well versed in the properties of EM fields which is what is under discussion here. You don’t seem to understand that. They are different from pure magnetic fields. Modulation is everything when it comes to bio-effects of EM radiation. Study and learn before you make a fool of yourself further.

          • Robert Quickert

            No, SMS, you’re not. Radiocommunications uses radio waves — for WiFi and mobile telephony specifically microwaves — which are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. They’re called electro-magnetic because they have both an electric field E and a magnetic field B, which exist in a mathematical relationship. This is a fundamental principle of nature! Thus, they can be measured by their E or B fields, typically in volts per metre (V/m) and tesla (T) respectively, although other units of measurement are possible. That’s why the ICNIRP table I suggested has equivalent standards for both fields. There is no point in indulging in gish galloping away on other points unless you understand this point first. Accept this point, yes or no?

          • Smart Meters Suck

            Incredible, in a classic case of projection, you’re the one that “gish galloped” off into TMS in an attempt to deny the proven “window effect” with respect to the strength of EM (that’s EM, not pure M) fields and their health effects. Put away your mindless condescension and acknowledge that I’m right. The repeated study that I posted a link to proved the window effect at exposures below those that that the FCC (or SC6) guidelines consider to be “safe” SARs.

          • Robert Quickert

            1. Presumably you are able to distinguish between “Nick”, who brought up the subject, and me? (even bringing this up, however, is avoiding the question I posed 2. How many times do I have to say this: no one is talking about “pure” (whatever that means) magnetic fields, except for you. I have no idea why. Maybe you can explain. 3. Radiowaves are electromagnetic with both electric and magnetic fields in a defined relationship, hence safety levels can be expressed in terms of both. You do understand this right? I mean, it’s a fundamental property of nature.

          • Smart Meters Suck

            You are a slow study, but I’ll try once more and then I give up, while you continue to thrash your straw man. You tried to dismiss the window effect of microwave radiation (an EM field) with these words, specifically referencing TMS: “So the suggestion by some in this thread that there is a window may be possible, but that window is more than 10,000,000 times higher than typical exposures.” By pure magnetic field, I mean a static magnetic field with no electric field. It is you who is not differentiating between EM and M fields while accusing me of the same.

          • Derek Ward

            Robert – you should know by now that Bob (SMS) is always right (in his own mind) and you can’t change his mind with facts.

  • smut clyde
    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      At Trent University, she teaches a course on scientific communication:

      “This course is designed to help students develop an ability to
      communicate scientific information effectively to nonscientific
      audiences, including the general public, the media, policymakers,
      community stakeholders, businesses and others. The emphasis is on written and oral communications, including print, multimedia and Internet-based formats. Assigned exercises involve a variety of formats, including written articles, oral presentations, magazine writing and visual design.”

      Perhaps one of her students came up with the emoji abstract?

      • Kamran Rowshandel

        I have no doubt she does. There are more people like this than normal people.

    • Nick

      N=4, two each with T1 and T2 diabetes. Seems totally legit.

      • smut clyde

        I am convinced, and I intend to route my electricity through the bathtub in future to ensure its cleanliness.

    • Derek Ward

      She is also a big supporter of David Stetzer and his Graham/Stetzer filters to fight “dirty electricity”.

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

        Ah, so there are conflicts of interest at play too?

        • Smart Meters Suck

          Good thing the telecommunications industry doesn’t have a conflict of interest in the many billions of dollars it makes from peddling its toxic microwave emitting devices.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Terahertz radiation (re Officially safe airport scanners) eats DNA.
    DOI:10.1364/BOE.4.000559, 10.1016/j.physleta.2009.12.077, and Quantum Electronics 44(3) 247 (2014).

    • smut clyde

      On the other hand, near-infrared light restores mitochondrial function and repairs brain damage when focussed up through a nostril so as to illuminate the brain!
      I read it at Frontiers so it must be true.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Non-ionizing radiation mucks with genetics. Good or bad is still up for grabs.

        Given the ubiquity of large volume 1+ tesla magnetic fields (e.g., MRI scanners), grow plants in there. Photosynthesis is rich with free radical and unpaired spin chemistries. A chemical bond is antipaired spins. Magnetic alignment turns off bond formation. Perhaps DC magnetic radiation mucks with metabolism.

        MRI/NMR is proton spins, about 6 ppm population inversion at room temp in a 1 tesla field, 64 ppm in a 9.4 tesla field (Boltzmann equation, (N_high)/(N_low) = (e^[-h(nu)/kT]). EPR is electron spins. The Bohr magneton is 1836 times larger. ppm become percents. It could measurably matter. LOOK.

        • smut clyde

          Perhaps DC magnetic radiation mucks with metabolism.

          I am bumfuzzled. In the case of DC there is no radiation.

          • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

            Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 80(2) 609 (1983)
            “The course of chemical reactions involving radical pairs may depend on occurrence and orientation of nuclear spins in the pairs.”

            A magnetic stir bar (~900 gauss, intensity as 1/r³) causes substantial fractionation. A tesla MRI tunnel is 10,000 gauss with no radius dependence. For violent field gradient and divergence, do it at the open ends. Unpaired spin effects are 1836 times larger energy gap for starters.

  • Kamran Rowshandel

    If Discover gave me ablog, I sure wouldn’t be posting this trash with such a good history of knowledgeable post on my own blog

  • David Konerding

    Wow, you’re really closeminded. Once you have high quality reports that show an association, and you can’t explain those reports another way, you have to conclude that your physical theory is lacking. Anyway, there are many mechanisms by which nonionizing radiation can cause all sorts of cellular damage (heat shock being the first one), which is one of the hallmarks of early cancer cells.

    (I have a PhD in Biophysics. Feel free to look up my work, I studied DNA structure and used NMR, which uses nonionizing radiation).

    • DOUBTING THOMAS

      Of course non-ionizing radiation can cause adverse health effects – including death! But, only at extremely high exposure levels – which are not encountered by ordinary use of wireless devices that comply with the maximum permitted exposure guidelines established by regulatory bodies like the FCC, Health Canada, etc.

      Do not confuse unsubstantiated speculation with established science. Check out what real experts have to say:

      http://www.ices-emfsafety.org/expert-reviews/

      • David Konerding

        There’s plenty of biophysical evidence in cellular models that low-dose non-ionization radiation has negative health effects. This is not in doubt. The issue is that the health effects are stochastic and they violate the assumptions of linear no-threshold models, so it’s not easy to study.

        • DOUBTING THOMAS

          Plenty? Not in doubt?

          “A number of studies have investigated the effects of radiofrequency fields on brain electrical activity, cognitive function, sleep, heart rate and blood pressure in volunteers. To date, research does not suggest any consistent evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to radiofrequency fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating.
          Further, research has not been able to provide support for a causal relationship between exposure to electromagnetic fields and self reported symptoms, or electromagnetic hypersensitivity”. (from WHO factsheet 193)

          • David Konerding

            That says “no evidence to fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating”. I’m talking about levels that cause tissue heating (milliwatts/cm**3). There is well established evidence in cellular models, where these things can be studied scientifically. It’s entirely possible that the studies failed to observe a causal relationship, still do not have the ability to say that there is no effect. Anyway, the underlying cellularl biophysics of low-dose non-ionizing radiation are pretty clear at this point, it does cause health effects in cells. I’m not arguing that there is a lack of evidence at the body level, but those kinds of studies are association studies which can only demonstrate correlations.

          • DOUBTING THOMAS

            Okay then, we are in agreement on this.
            But, I took it that your comments were related to the article under discussion, which involves Wi-Fi, smart meter, cellphone, etc. exposures. Re-read the neuroskeptic comments and the Havas paper.
            Neuroskeptic was dead on target, and your criticism was misplaced.

          • David Konerding

            My criticism is about this sentence:
            Some studies report an association, but if there is no physical mechanism that could explain it, my conclusion remains as follows: ¯_(ツ)_/¯

            There’s no viable reason to through up your arms if there’s no physical mechanism to explain an observed phenomenon. It’s a call to design better experiments. Pretty much all of physics from 1750 to 1915 was exactly that. Radiation was discovered inadvertently by a scientist who was working with photographic plates and phosphorescent materials; they couldn’t understand why the negative control experiment, without phosphorescent materials still showed exposure.

        • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

          >There’s plenty of biophysical evidence in cellular models that low-dose non-ionization radiation has negative health effects

          OK, but how? In terms of photons interacting with atoms, how does this happen?

          • David Konerding

            It’s a really good question. Biology is complicated with many feedback regulatory systems. I don’t (and nobody else does either) know for certain. It is well-understood that cells that are heated consider the heating to be damage and they mount a response (expression of heat shock proteins, as well as other things), which bind to DNA and activate various cell repair mechanisms. Unfortunately, cellular repair isn’t perfect and can often cause damage (changing DNA sequences, etc). It also activates the immune response. It’s not clear how these sorts of things could cause cancer, but I could easily imagine any number of testable hypotheses based on existing theories of cellular damage.

  • Smart Meters Suck
    • Smart Meters Suck

      Funny how everyone is silent when proof that non-ionizing radiation is damaging to the processes of the mammalian body is provided here. That charlatan from the telecommunications industry, DOUBTING THOMAS, has nothing to say about it because he’s been proven wrong. And the author of the story is demonstrably ignorant of the subject matter and should retract his false story.

      • DOUBTING THOMAS

        Your issues have been fully addressed through the comments here, but appear to be beyond your understanding. It’s kind of like trying to explain algebra to a cat! I’m moving move on now. Bye!

        • Smart Meters Suck

          You couldn’t stand the heat, so you got out of the kitchen! Wise move, because you’ve lost the argument. And good riddance!

          • Derek Ward

            No, he got out of the kitchen because you never met a study that came up with a possible biological effect, no matter how poorly done or how tentative the results, that you didn’t love and ignore any arguments that try to show this. You are also like the everready bunny – you never run down.

          • Smart Meters Suck

            Not accepting the scientific method puts him at the disadvantage in this
            argument. Are you agreeing with him that a repeated and peer-reviewed
            experiment that confirms the results of the former experiment is of no
            value and that anyone who believes the results is crazy because it
            disagrees with his own (and your) bias? I don’t know how to respond to
            that.

        • ERicardo

          More like trying to play chess with a pigeon.

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Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.

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