Mobile operators dismiss radiation health warning report

South African mobile heavyweights, Vodacom and MTN, have criticised a report warning against the harmful effects of using mobile phones.

The report, conducted by the BioInitiative Working Group 2012, warns that evidence for risks to health from electromagnetic fields and wireless technologies (radiofrequency radiation) has “substantially” increased since 2007.

The report, which reviewed over 1,800 new scientific studies, says that mobile phone users, parents-to-be, young children and pregnant women are at particular risk. It points to an increased risk of getting a brain tumor, while dozens of new studies have also linked mobile phone radiation to sperm damage.

The study covers EMF from powerlines, electrical wiring, appliances and hand-held devices; and from wireless technologies (cell and cordless phones, cell towers, “smart meters”, Wi-Fi, wireless laptops, wireless routers, baby monitors, and other electronic devices).

MTN responds

Robert Madzonga, chief corporate services officer at MTN SA, says that the mobile operator is of the view that the 2012 BioInitiative Report continues to be an “informal commentary on a selective sub-set of the available scientific information on electromagnetic fields (EMF)”.

Madzonga notes that the report is broadly critical of both of the internationally accepted and widely adopted EMF exposure standards that have been developed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

These standards have, in turn, been endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (ICES) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

“The report does not contain any new scientific data – but reflects individual authors’ interpretations, and is consistent with these authors’ statements in various forums in the past,” Madzonga said.

He said that the views of the BioInitiative authors – and their scientific work of possible biological effects – have been considered along with those of their scientific peers over the years.

Importantly, this has not resulted in any change in the conclusions arrived at by well over 100 expert group reviews, reports and government statements that have been published in this area from countries around the world, including many reviews published in 2012.

“Those documents have arrived at very similar conclusions, essentially — that there is no established evidence that EMF exposure within the internationally accepted limits causes any adverse health effects,” he said.

MTN says it follows the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) guidelines on limiting exposure to electromagnetic fields, more specifically as it relates to the base stations it operates.  The body only considers studies published in peer review scientific journals, it says.

“Considering all literature and publications on the topic, all of these government sponsored scientific reviews have concluded that there is no reason to believe that exposure to EMF at levels typically found around base station sites is detrimental to the general public’s health,” Madzonga said.

Vodacom responds

Richard Boorman, executive head of corporate communications at Vodacom, says that scientists and public health officials assess risks to human health based on the entire body of evidence, rather than individual scientific studies. The evidence is considered by panels of experts in this field.

According to Boorman, the BioInitiative report doesn’t fall into the category of an expert review.

“We look to such expert reviews for advice on mobile devices, masts and health. We only consider the opinion of panels commissioned by recognised national or international health agencies, for example, the World Health Organisation (WHO), The Health Council of the Netherlands (HCN), The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) (formerly the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority – SSI) and The UK Health Protection Agency (HPA).”

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Mobile operators dismiss radiation health warning report