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PREVENTABLE RISKS TO HEALTH AND WELL-BEING FROM RADIO FREQUENCY RADIATION
EMITTED BY CELLPHONES AND OTHER WIRELESS DEVICES: A POLICY BRIEF

(posted April 18, 2018)

Rationale for undertaking this Policy Brief

The International Network for Epidemiology in Policy (INEP) strives to bring clarity to the science of epidemiology, paving the way for rational evidence-based policy. We work to minimize delays in the implementation of policies impacting health.

Because independent scientific evidence has demonstrated harms to health from exposure to radio frequency radiation (RFR) emitted by cellphones and other wireless transmitting devices (WTDs), more than a dozen countries have issued advisories about reducing exposures; so have the departments of public health in the states of California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Since the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (2011) classification of RFR as a Group 2B (a possible) carcinogen, researchers have accrued further evidence of carcinogenic and other negative health effects from electromagnetic radiation (EMR), also referred to as non-ionizing-radiation (NIR). The risks to children are greater than those to adults because children absorb twice the radiation that adults absorb and their bone marrow absorbs 10-fold more radiation than adults.

Increased risk of gliomas of the brain and auditory neuromas (vestibular Schwannomas) from RFR exposure has been reported from independent peer-reviewed epidemiologic studies including dose-response relationships. Further, age-specific rates of glioma are increasing in younger persons that began using cellphones earlier in life. Additionally, the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) has recently reported significantly increased incidence of glioma and malignant schwannoma (mostly on the nerves on the heart, but also additional organs) in large animal studies —similar cancers to those seen in association with RFR exposures in epidemiologic studies. The Ramazzini Institute (RI) in Italy has reported from its even larger animal study, using exposures that were 60 to 6,000 times lower than exposures in the NTP study, a statistically significant increase in Schwannomas of the heart in male rats exposed to the highest dose, and an increase in heart Schwann-cell hyperplasia in male and female rats. An increase in malignant glial tumors in female rats also was detected, though this finding was not statistically significant.

Current 20-year-old exposure limits are based on the assertion that the only adverse health effect from RFR is heating from short-term (acute), averaged exposures. Non-thermal aspects are ignored; long-term (chronic) effects are explicitly excluded. This must be corrected. There have now been numerous published studies that confirm biological damage (oxidative stress, damaged DNA) from exposure to RFR. Growing evidence that long-term exposures induce adverse (chronic) health effects continues to emerge, while an increasing number of people have developed symptoms and are unable to tolerate exposure to RFR, a syndrome now termed Microwave Sickness or Electric-Hyper-Sensitivity (EHS).

Further, numerous cross-sectional studies have found that men who keep their cellphones in their pocket have reduced sperm quantity and quality. Both in vivo and in vitro studies with human sperm confirm adverse effects on the testicular proteome, and other indicators of male reproductive health. Additionally, disorders of behavior are being reported, especially in children.

The rapidity of changes in technology present exposure assessment challenges in epidemiologic research. Strengths and weaknesses of current assessment techniques will be reviewed in relation to the limitations that these pose for different epidemiology study designs. The planned 4-page Policy Brief will address the current state of scientific evidence on health risks from RFR exposures and the implications for translating knowledge about health effects into evidence-based health and social policy.

The Writing Group
After invitations to Board members to join the Writing Group, as on March 21, membership was closed with the following:

Lead: Colin L. Soskolne
Co-Lead: Mark Oremus
Expert Advisers:

  • Anthony B. Miller, Cancer Epidemiologist, Canada
  • Devra Davis, USA (a co-Fellow with me in the Collegium Ramazzini)
  • L. Lloyd Morgan, USA (Senior Research Fellow, Environmental Health Trust)
Disclosure Statements for each of the above Expert Advisers were approved by the Board on March 21 2018, and appear under the ABOUT US tab on the website.

The Terms of Reference for the Writing Group can be found here.


INEP AND FIREARM VIOLENCE PREVENTION

(posted February 24, 2018)

On the Role of Epidemiology in Firearm Violence Prevention: A Policy Brief

The problem of firearm violence has been growing and now is escalating into a worsening public health challenge by virtue of its increasing frequency. As we witness yet another massacre of people resulting from firearm violence in the USA, the need for our profession’s engagement becomes ever more pressing. Our sympathies and support are extended to the families and communities directly affected by the most recent tragedy in Florida. INEP is taking action and has been working on a Policy Brief concerning how epidemiologists might contribute much needed evidence to guide policies to address this preventable public health problem. As an international network, we can learn from our members across the globe about what could help in the prevention of harms to public health from firearm violence.


INEP AND ITS CONFLICT-OF-INTEREST AND DISCLOSURE PROCESS

(posted May, 2014; updated March, 2015)

Why this topic has gained priority INEP attention:

INEP, being the international policy voice for epidemiological societies, recognizes that vexing issues of conflicting interests and disclosure exist in the daily work of epidemiologists and other related public health researchers and practitioners. As public health professionals, we see this as a significant challenge that we need to address.

The focus by epidemiologists on Conflict-of-Interest (COI) and Disclosure is not new. Indeed, concerns about COI and Disclosure (COI&D) have been addressed by a number of our professional organizations. For instance, the American Public Health Association (APHA), the American College of Epidemiology (ACE), the Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CSEB), and the International Epidemiological Association (IEA) either have COI guidelines, or they have begun to develop such guidelines to help inform their members in order that they may successfully avoid COI pitfalls.

More recent efforts on the development of COI guidelines were driven by the need for our member societies to determine guidelines for disclosure while INEP was developing its 2012 Position Statement on Asbestos. At that time (2011 – 2012), our member societies depended on inconsistent and unclear policies to address the challenges related to COI and disclosure. This variation is illustrative of the need for INEP to take a proactive approach in developing a Position Statement on Conflict-of-Interest and Disclosure with proposed policies, disclosure guidelines and templates that could be either adopted or adapted by interested member societies.

INEP is taking the proactive step of addressing the issue of COI and Disclosure (COI&D), not only to help us as professionals to understand and navigate our way through COI&D questions, but also to maintain the trust of the public, as well as of our federal, state/provincial, and international governing bodies. We are working to maintain our professional credibility so that our voices on policy matters will continue to be respected, embraced and valued.


INEP’s plan of action for addressing COI&D:

INEP comprises representatives from a growing number of epidemiology societies. It is therefore in a position to work with these epidemiology societies to develop a Position Statement on Conflict-of-Interest and Disclosure through a consensus-building process.

INEP initially appointed a Working Group with Interim Working Group Leader, Colin Soskolne, Chair of INEP, Manley Finch, Secondary American Public Health Association Board representative and Secretary to INEP, and Eduardo Franco, Primary International Epidemiological Association Board representative. The Working Group was then expanded to include Leah Phillips, an Interested Party on the Board, as Co-Chair with Colin Soskolne. Working Group Members were added as follows: Carl Cranor, Secondary Collegium Ramazzini Board representative; Fiona Sim, Primary Royal Society for Public Health Board representative; Amy Davis, Tertiary American Public Health Association Board representative; and Bruce Lanphear, Primary International Society for Children’s Health and the Environment Board representative. A student representative is expected to be added to the Working Group in March 2015. The goal of this Working Group is, in the next year, to develop a Position Statement on Conflict-of-Interest and Disclosure with guidelines, policies and disclosure document templates that will harmonize and modernize approaches to address COI&D for epidemiologists. It is anticipated that this Position Statement will be of use across INEP member societies, as well as other professional public health-related societies. A working version of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Working Group was finalized in March 2015.

Member societies of INEP are welcome to submit anything that relates to the topic of Conflict-of-Interest and Disclosure.

Please send your material/suggestions to the Working Group Co-Chair at chair@epidemiologyinpolicy.org.

It is anticipated that other public health societies having an epidemiologic component and that are not yet members of INEP may see great advantage in some level of collaboration as we work on this project. Such collaboration would be welcome.

The need for epidemiologists to be reminded of their mission (i.e., to protect the public interest over any other interest) gains focus through several examples that have recently entered the public domain. We bring this topic forward to encourage discussion with a view to thoughtful consideration about what, if anything, we should, can and/or need to do in order to conform to ethical norms that will advance epidemiology at the research-policy interface.


What can each of us do at this stage?

Kathleen Ruff, INEP Expert Adviser, published an article Scientific journals and conflict of interest disclosure: what progress has been made? in Environmental Health. The article made it to the top 10 of 2015 articles read in Environmental Health.

As noted above, submissions from member societies of INEP relating to the topic of conflicting interests are greatly appreciated and should be sent to the Working Group Co-Chair at chair@ijpc-se.org.