Risks, regulations and liability around exposing other people to wireless technology EMF radiation – A review of the UNSW Sydney ‘faculty of law’ program – part 1
The world is changing at a rapid pace. Not surprisingly then, there has been a rampant proliferation of home and business cordless transmission technology (e.g. mobile phone towers, smart meters, wi-fi cordless phones) that has vastly increased our exposure to radiation. Recent legal developments are causing the producers of this radiation overload to sit up and take notice, as the issue of costly liability and lawsuits is fast becoming a reality.
Radiation exposure everywhere
As an adjunct to the incredible network of phone towers in existence, nearly all workplaces, airports, libraries, cafes and shopping centres are contributing to this radiation exposure by having wi-fi available 24/7. We see wi-fi in buses now, wi-fi access points are replacing public telephones, and wireless internet is being rolled out across entire communities where the use of cables is judged too difficult. With the implementation of government satellites and balloons from Google that float in or above our atmosphere, not only cities but even remote areas are now blanketed with radiation.
There is an ever increasing body of research which demonstrates the detrimental health effects of this exposure, and more and more doctors and scientists are speaking out about it. This was recently demonstrated by an appeal to the UN made by well over 200 doctors and scientists.
It is estimated that 3-5 % of the world population is now developing what has come to be known as electrohypersensitivity or EHS. This means that they feel the effects of radiation exposure (also referred to as EMF) almost immediately. For some the effects are so serious that they are forced to restrict their movements within the community and even move to remote areas to avoid becoming unwell. They are the innocent victims of technological decisions made by individuals and businesses that have little understanding of the consequences of their actions.
For many years, professionals have been trying to raise awareness, not only about the health risks associated with EMF radiation exposure, but also about the links to serious health issues that take longer to develop… such as cancer, fertility concerns, autism and numerous other chronic health complaints. Fortunately, there is help at hand as research and product development have enabled shielding of bedrooms or shielding of entire homes.
In more recent times, even apartment buildings are being shielded to protect against radiation, so as to provide more health supportive accommodation to their occupants. The driving force behind a legal search for justice has predominately been the people who are immediately affected by EMF radiation exposure, together with the doctors supporting them.
Legal liability – Can you be sued for exposing others to wi-fi?
The search for justice and compensation has led to various legal battles in recent times, with more and more cases being concluded with favourable outcomes. Consequently, individuals and businesses responsible for exposing other human beings to EMF radiation from wireless technology are becoming, or should be becoming, seriously anxious about their liability. The scope of this liability includes not only the way they are affecting the lives of those more sensitive to radiation, but also the harm that may be done over the longer term to those who are not presently so sensitive.
UNSW Sydney faculty of law continuing education program – 14 October 2015
The educational program at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) was aimed at lawyers, school principals, union representatives and others with an interest in radiation exposure, its legal ramifications and liability. This seminar was the first of its kind to be held in Australia and attracted professionals from across the country. Presentations were made by the following experts on various subjects related to radiation exposure:
Paul Wentworth – Lawyer, Course Convenor UNSW Law
- Recent appeal to the UN and WHO
- EMR, what is it?
- What is non-ionising radiation?
- Regulatory Framework
Dr Mary Redmayne – Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Population Health Research on Electromagnetic Energy, Monash University
- What approaches to radiation exposure are being developed in other countries?
- What are the health effects and why do international standards differ?
- Can existing policy guidelines accommodate non-thermal effects?
- How can children’s exposure be limited?
Dr Priyanka Bandara – Health researcher/educator, former academic clinical researcher/molecular biologist, Advisor to Environmental Health Trust USA and Doctors for safer Schools
- Adverse biological effects of EMR
- Reference to damage to DNA, cell membranes, blood brain barrier and sperm – involvement of oxidative stress
- Neuro-behavioural and cognitive effects
Associate Professor Ray Kearney Oam – Immunologist, Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Department of Medicine, University of Sydney
- New environmental conditions
- Melatonin and where it is found
- Biological functions of Melatonin
- How is Melatonin production affected by exposure to EMR frequencies?
Jenne Tzavaras, Partner, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers and David Andersen, Partner, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers (This is covered in PART 2)
- Risks for employers – Workers compensation and Common Law
- Risks for occupiers
- Causation issues
- Due diligence obligations-managing risk
The event was chaired by Robyn Williams AM – Broadcaster, ABC Science Unit
The event opened with an introduction to the subject of EMF radiation exposure by Paul Wentworth for those in legal or schooling professions or unions not familiar with it. The video message of Dr Martin Blank was shown as a chilling wake up call about the health damage done by EMF radiation. Doctors and scientist are now so worried that they need to speak up about it against the guidelines of government and often their own employers.
ARPANSA, the Australian Government’s primary authority on radiation protection and nuclear safety was mentioned, and the fact that to this day ARPANSA still states that “there is no established scientific evidence that the use of mobile phones causes any health effects.“. Before handing over to the medical presentations, it was stressed that work health and safety guide lines are also to be taken into consideration when considering liability issues.
Radio frequency radiation exposure of children and workers
Dr Mary Redmayne, addressed those gathered about children’s and workers’ exposure to radio frequency radiation (RF), in particular the international approaches to policy and advise. She identified that there are personal devices that emit the high frequency radiation over which we have a great deal of control but often are not aware that these devices are potentially harmful to ourselves and our children. In addition there are the device in our environment that the individual does not have control over and are effectively pushed upon us by others. It was noted that in recent years the use of wireless devices had significantly increased, especially amongst younger people, and that Wi-Fi and BYOD (Bring your own device) are now very common in schools.
The approaches to prevent health effects in the population, varies greatly in different countries. Approaches can be in the least stringent category where research into thermal effects (the cells of the body need to show signs of temperature increases – being cooked) are the only research considered. Between the most and least conservative approach, the thermal effects are considered, plus some research on non-thermal effects, which produces a precautionary approach for public places like playgrounds for children and warnings or recommendations are given. Then there is also the most stringent approach where short term effects and biological effects are also taken in account and used to set policy.
The first catagory may say, ‘no need for extra protection for children’. The second, may promote advise to minimise exposure for children. This in contrast to the most stringent countries, where they may advise or have laws about how equipment should be used and involves very clear warnings. For example Taiwan has put a ban on wireless devices being used by under 2-year-olds.
It is interesting to realise that countries like the USA, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Japan and Estonia, in line with the World Health Organisation and European Commission base their approach with regards to permitted exposures on acute thermal harm only and this is just based on an average of 6 to 30 minutes of exposure(!). Countries like Denmark, Finland and Australia are not much better but they do issue some recommendations in regards to radiation exposure of children.
Lithuania, Luxembourg, Italy, Slovenia, Belgium and Israel then see fit to take the thermal harm into account, but they do have advice and/or laws to reduce or minimise children’s exposure to radiation exposure from personal devices.
The matter is taken much more seriously by the Republic of China, Poland and the Russian Federation, who look at biological effects and aim to prevent immediate thermal effects and chronic non-thermal damage.
Here are some laws and policies implemented and aimed at minors:
|Policy or Law||Country, City or Organisation|
|Ban on mobile phone advertising||France, Russia, Belgium, Childrens Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe (CEHAPE), ICEMS|
|Have SAR labelling by law||Israel, Russia, India and France (including baby monitors), Belgium and Korea|
|Ban the sale of children’s mobile phones by law||Israel, Belgium and France|
|Prefer wired over Wi-Fi/WLAN in schools and/or pre-schools||Israel, Austria, Bavaria, Switzerland, Frankfurt, Salzberg, France, Council of Europe (resolution 1815)|
|Use low emission phones||Switzerland, Russia|
|Do not use mobile phone except in emergencies||Russia, Toronto (<8), San Francisco|
|Use headset for calls||Israel, Germany, Finland, India|
|Have educational programs||Russia, Tunisia, Turkey, CEHAPE|
|Take steps to minimise exposure||Denmark, Israel, France, India, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Toronto, Health Canada, ICEMS, European Parliament, EEA|
|Recent Policy Laws||Country, City, Organisation|
|Wi-Fi banned in child spaces||Ghent, Belgium (2014)|
France (Jan 2015)
|Wireless internet access in elementary schools must be turned off when not in use||France (Jan 2015)|
|All use of electronic devices banned for under 2-year-olds||Taiwan (Jan 2015)|
In her presentation, Dr Redmayne also explained that Russia’s opinion is that exposure should not effect homeostases, meaning no effect should be found regardless if they produce illness or symptoms.
It was noted that epidemiological evidence suggests that adolescents with higher mobile phone usage have the following issues and that this is not accommodated for by the current Australian standards or even any advisory policies:
- Faster reaction times (simple and associated learning) (Abramson et al 2009, Thomas et al 2010)
- Make more errors (working memory) (Abramson 2009; 3G exposure: Leung et al 2011)
- Epidemiology regularly shows changes in alpha frequency and spectral power in the brain (Curcio et al., 2005; Croft eet al., 2008; Ghosn et al, 2015)
- and increased risk of headaches (Redmayne et al. 2013; Chiu et al, 2014, Augner et al.,2012, Hillert et al. 2007, Chia et al.,2000, Söderqvist et al., 2008)
Wi-Fi and BYOD (bring your own device) policy in NSW, Australia
The Australian state New South Wales (NSW) has currently the following aims; that secondary colleges have a Wi-Fi network accessable by centrally managed wireless access points in every learning space and library. This boiled down 22,000 access points (Pauli, March 2010). That means over a total of 521 high schools, there is on average 42 access points per school and so that would mean 1 access point per 9 students, which, when you think about it, seems an extremely high amount.
Stephen Wilson, CIO of the Department of Education and Training, NSW, proudly states that ‘It is the largest centrally-monitored network in the world.’ and that they are constantly neck-to-neck with the US Airforce.
Dr Redmayne also commented that the frequent use of internet by people can lead to a sort of addictive effect. Even the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) states “being connected 24 hours can lead to excessive internet use, which can have a negative impact on the wellbeing of the user and his/her friends and family. Attention to the issue of potential for harm to the user is increasing.”
Many phones base their safety rating on a distance of 1cm from the body
The recommendation was made that children, the school staff as well as the board, should be taught about some technical aspects of radiation and signal strength to create more awareness, which may also be an interesting school project. Knowing where to find the SAR rating on a device and how to set it to flight mode would be worthwhile skills to pass on. Many phones base their safety rating on a distance of 1cm from the body, which is a serious problem because most users including children have phones on their heads and bellies when using these radiation emitting devices.
Biological and Health Effects of EMR with a summary of some key findings
Dr Priyanka Bandara spoke about the biological effects of ‘low-level’ microwaves. She commented that the Russians were the pioneers when it comes to documenting the biological effects of this type of radiation. When considering the bioeffect we must realise that we ourselves are bioelectrical beings in which the cells have delicate electrical functions. Also the brain has much electrical activity, so it is logical to expect that the exposure to electricity or radiation from outside sources can have an effect on these. Our cells have to do 1000s of chemical reactions and it is evident that these processes are affected by EMR.
|Non-thermal biological effects of RF-EMR confirmed in cell culture studies (in vitro), Animal studies (in vivo) and populations studies (epidemiology)|
|Genotoxic effects (DNA damage)|
|Cell membrane damage|
|Hormonal and metabolic disruption|
Dr Bandara commented that there were now over 100 peer-reviewed studies showing DNA damage from RF-EMR exposure and we can no longer ignore that cells are affected by non-ionising radiation.
Elisabeth Diem et al, demonstrated in her research called ‘Non-thermal DNA breakage by mobile-phone radiation (1800 MHz) in human fibroblasts and in transformed GFSH-R17 rat granulosa cells in vitro’ that cells exposed to radio frequency radiation produced very comparable effects on the cell as cells exposed to gamma radiation.
Dr Bandare stressed upon the audience the evidence in available research showing that RF-EMR can cause:
- damages cell membranes,
- disrupts voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCC)
- disrupt the blood brian barrier
- damage human sperm
- Low fertility
- Increased risk of genetic defects in future generations
- Erectile dysfunction (impotence)
- increased risk of testicular cancer
- affect foetal and early childhood development
- alter brian development and behaviour
- neurological symptoms
- increase brain cancer risk (+100%) when using a mobile phone >10 years
Behavioral problems caused by radiation exposure
When it comes to behavioural problems, Dr Bandare brought the attention to a study done by Divan et al, showing Pre- and Post natal exposure to cell phones was associated with higher risk of behavioural problems and hyperactivity in children (full report). This was a study done involving over 13,000 mothers and children! Also another study by Aldad TS et al showed that Pre- and post natal exposure to cell phones caused structural and functional deficits in the brain of mice, and brought on ADHD like behavior, which is needless to say interesting when our society is finding a massive increase in the amount of children and families battling this issue. Also military reports of health effects that soldiers experienced were of interest (page 20, Radiofrequency Microwave Radiation Biological Effects and Safety Standards: A Review, US Air Force Materiel Command, New York, 1994), but the comment was made that the levels experienced by these soldiers can now typically be found in wirelessly enabled environments.
“Some of the health disturbance disappears immediately…”
Data from the Bamberg Doctors’ Report in 2005, which was signed by 175 GPs, investigated 356 patients and reported on the symptom experienced by those with exposure to RF radiation in their homes. It reported that the list of symptoms was extensive even at, what was considered, very low levels (<10µW/m2). Symptoms reported were:
“Sleep disturbances, tiredness, disturbance in concentration, forgetfulness, problem with finding words, depressive mood, ear noises, sudden loss of hearing, hearing loss, giddiness, nose bleeds, visual disturbances, frequent infections, sinusitis, joint and limb pains, nerve and soft tissue pains, feeling of numbness, heart rhythm disturbances, increased blood pressure episodes, hormonal disturbances, night-time sweats, nausea.” and it commented that “It is no way only a subjective sensitivity disturbance. Disturbances of rhythm, hearing problems, sudden deafness, hearing loss, loss of vision, increased blood pressure, hormonal disturbances, concentration impairments, and others can be proved using scientific objective measures.“
Increased cases of cancer near Radio/TV and Mobile phone transmitters (phone towers)
Dr Priyanka Bandara then elaborated on the research available in regards to transmitter towers (Radio, TV and cell phone towers) and their link to increase cases of cancer. There are many studies that confirm this, here are some:
|Country||RF-EMR research findings|
|USA||Increased childhood cancer near radio/TV tower San Francisco – Full Report|
Increased childhood leukaemia in Hawaii (Maskarinec, G., Cooper, J. 1993)
|UK||Increased cancer near radio/TV towers|
“The risk of adult leukemia within 2 km was 1.83”
|Australia||Decreased Survival for Childhood Leukemia in Proximity to Television Towers|
Bruce Hocking & Ian Gordon
“The 5-yr survival in the inner ring (4km radius) of municipalities was 55%, and in the outer ring (4-12km radius) was 71% (i.e., subjects in the inner ring were 23% less likely to survive than those in the outer ring); at 10 yr, survival in the inner and outer rings was 33% and 62%, respectively.”
|Sweden||Melanoma Incidence and Frequency Modulation (FM) Broadcasting|
Örjan Hallberg & Olle Johansson
“A correlation between melanoma incidence and the number of locally receivable FM transmitters was found. The authors concluded that melanoma is associated with exposure to FM broadcasting.”
|Germany||Increased cancer within 400m of MBS (Eger et al., Umwelt Medizin Gesellschaft 2004)|
|Korea||Radio-Frequency Radiation Exposure from AM Radio Transmitters and Childhood Leukemia and Brain Cancer|
Mina Ha, Hyoungjune Im, Mihye Lee, Hyun Joo Kim, Byung-Chan Kim, Yoon-Myoung Gimm and Jeong-Ki Pack
“A total of 1,928 leukemia patients, 956 brain cancer patients, and 3,082 controls were analyzed. … The odds ratio for all types of leukemia was 2.15 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.00, 4.67) among children who resided within 2 km of the nearest AM radio transmitter as compared with those resided more than 20 km from it.”
|Brazil||Mortality by neoplasia and cellular telephone base stations in the Belo Horizonte municipality, Minas Gerais state, Brazil|
Adilza C. Dode et al
“Base Station (BS) clusters and deaths by neoplasia in the Belo Horizonte municipality have been identified. The mortality rate has been higher for the residents within an area of 500 m from the BS.” (Base Station means transmitter tower)
Wireless communication radiation exposure, like Wi-Fi, can promote cancer
Not only are there many studies linking radiation exposure to possibly causing cancer, but there are also studies linking the exposure to RF-EMR to the promotion of cancer. A US study found low level exposure over 2 years to a frequency of 2.45Ghz (WiFi) caused 4 times more cancers in rates that were exposed to it. There immune system, hormonal function and metabolism were also affected. (Chou, CK., et al, Bioelectromagnetics, 1992)
The situation gets particularly alarming with studies also highlighting that the tumor promotion was worse at lower levels of exposure vs high levels of exposure. Meaning increasing you distance for from the sources of radiation a little might not be a good thing.
It is also clear that more developed areas of the world have far higher cancer rates than under developed countries.
3 to 5% of the world population expected to be Electrohypersensitive (EHS)
More and more people are experiencing symptoms when exposed to radiation and the severity can vary greatly. For those worst effected, their symptoms and experiences are nothing short of horrific. Dr Bandare brought the attention to some high profile individuals who fall into this catagory:
Dr. Gro Bruntland, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) 1998 – 2003
Dr. Alexander McDonald (CSIRO Melbourne) – Australia’s first worker compensation case – 2013
Dr. Maree-Therese Gibson (Principle – Tangara Girls’ School)
Prof. James McCaughan (Dept. Physics, University of Sydney)
Legal battles have been fought on the subject of Electrohypersensitivity (EHS) of which some recent ones are the case of Marine Richard in France who had the courts recognise her EHS as a disability which enable her to receive disability payments. Then there is the case of parents in the US suing the school over the allergic reactions experienced by their son when exposure to the school’s WiFi system.
It was mentioned by Dr Bandare that;
- the WHO does recognise electrohypersensivity (EHS) but has no established diagnosis for it.
- It is compensated for in Sweden as being a functional impairment
- most studies on the subject are poorly conducted
- the Austrian Medical Association has developed diagnosis guidelines for it
- as well as more recently, the diagnosis criteria from France (Prof. Dominique Belpomme, MD, PhD)
EHS symptoms can be considered similar to Acute Radiation Syndrome, about which the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention states the following:
Dr Priyanka Bandara ended by praising the work of Dr Alice Steward (1906-2002) who highlighted that X-rays on pregnant women increased likelihood of cancer which was ridiculed by established medicine at the time. It took another 30 years for this to be recognised.
Melatonin’s major role in fighting disease and cancer under threat by EMR exposure
Associate professor Ray Kearney OAM then spoke and started with a personal experience. His daughter had headaches frequently when it was discovered, by use of a guass meter (example), that the nearby meter box and associated supply cable was producing significant levels of electromagnetic fields (EMF). He then went on the educate those attending on the subject of the effects of EMR and give an insight on Melatonin in health and disease, but first stressed that ‘Groupthink’ should be recognised so that groups of people do not automatically promote the misconceptions they are laboring under. Even the opinion of an expert can be wrong as it is formed on the information collected by that person.
Professor Kearney gave a heart felt address about the working of Melatonin and highlighted the following:
- EMR is known to inhibit/suppress Melatonin
- Inhibition of Melatonin production can cause severe suppression of the immune response, including production of antibodies. This can be restored by taking Melatonin supplements, BUT anyone who has underlaying auto-immune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, should not supplement with Melatonin as it will make it worse as it will increase the levels of auto-antibodies.
- Melatonin slows breast-cancer growth by 70% at night
- Women with low levels of Melatonin are more at risk of breast cancer
He impressed upon those present that the biggest acceleration of tumor growth is inflammation, especially if Melatonin is suppressed. Medication can also affect melatonin, like beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers and calcium antagonists.
The law: When is a employer or school liable for the health effects imposed on others from their wireless technology
Read on about legal view points on the risks, regulations and liability around exposing other people to wireless technology EMF radiation in PART 2