April 2003

Updates on electromagnetic hypersensitivity and on protective devices

COMAR is the Committee on Man and Radiation, a technical committee of the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers. Last year the Committee published two reports of relevance to cellular phones and health.

The first topic was "Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity". It discussed common associated symptoms and possible causes, and reviewed publications that had examined the condition. One publication, by Hietanen and colleagues (2002) explored the relationship between cellular phones and hypersensitivity. This paper is reviewed in "Research -Clinical - General Health Effects".

The second topic was the use of protective devices for cellular telephones.

The reports can be read at www.seas.upenn.edu/~kfoster/comar.htm

More on mice lymphoma

In the September '02 issue of "What's New" we discussed a study by Utteridge and colleagues that attempted to replicate the 1997 research by Repacholi. This latter study had suggested that RF radiation increased the incidence of lymphoma in mice genetically prone to develop that tumour.

Several letters in the February issue of "Radiation Research" challenge some aspects of the Utteridge paper. One of the main concerns related to the apparent difference in survival figures in the paper. In one figure all the mice appear to have died by 18 months, but in another, a weight gain curve, mice are still shown to be alive at 28 months. Utteridge and colleagues explain this discrepancy by stating that the survival figure related to days of exposure rather than absolute age. Since the animals were not exposed on weekends and other holidays the survival time appeared shorter than it actually was.

This controversy is discussed in the January/February issue of "Microwave News", and several researchers are quoted as saying that this way to present data is highly unusual.

To address these issues in more detail, we have added an addendum to the summary of the Utteridge paper in "Research - Toxicological Experiments - cancer studies".

Another paper from Swedish group

Hardell and colleagues from Sweden have published a fourth paper from the case-control study that they conducted in 1997-2000. This latest paper does not produce any new data from the case-control study. It states again that the odds ratio for vestibular schwannoma (VS) in those using an analogue phone was 3.45. This tumour is also known as acoustic neuroma. The authors also reviewed incidence rates for VS and other brain tumours in Sweden from 1960 to 1998. They found a significant increase for VS in the period 1980-1998, and for other benign tumours from 1960-1979. There was no increase for other benign tumours or for malignant tumours in the period 1980-1998.

Reference: Hardell L, Mild KH, Sandstrom M, Carlberg M, et al. Vestibular schwannoma, tinnitus, and cellular telephones. Neuroepidemiology 2003;22:124-129.

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