How safe is our modern communications technology?

Originally published in icon Issue 2 2007

How safe is our modern communications technology?Blackwell

With a background in mobile communications research & development, Dr Grahame Blackwell has for some years provided expert advice and support at a national level on phone and mast health issues (website:  His focus of research now is on radically new scientific concepts - see

Mobile phone technology is the most popular innovation in the history of the human race.  The ubiquitous mobile is now woven inextricably into the social and commercial fabric of every nation, as is the cordless home/office phone, based on the same technology.  Another variant, WiFi (wireless broadband), is rapidly taking root in homes, schools, offices, even across whole cities.
But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there could be a serious down side to this wonderful enabling technology.  Those party-poopers who’ve been saying for years that mobile phones, and the masts that serve them, could pose a health hazard are now being backed up by establishment figures urging caution.  Reports of cancer clusters around masts are gaining credence and children are being warned not to use wireless laptops on their laps.
Why?  Hasn’t it been proved that the only possible health effects are heating effects, which can only occur at radiation levels way above official safety limits?
Well, actually, no.  Quite the contrary.  Though it’s not widely publicised, the Stewart Report for the government in 2000 and the follow-up NRPB Report in 2004 both warned of scientific evidence of “biological effects occurring at exposures below these guidelines” – i.e. the government ‘safety’ guidelines.
It’s for this reason that both reports advised a Precautionary Approach.  The government’s response was to adopt as their chosen ‘precaution’ exactly those guidelines whose reliability had been called into question.  The ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection) guidelines, as used in Britain, themselves state that they protect only against shocks and short-term heating effects and offer no protection against potential long-term effects “such as an increased risk of cancer”.
But hasn’t the World Health Organisation given phones and masts a clean bill of health?
It’s true that the WHO EMF Project, under the direction of Dr Mike Repacholi, has in the past issued reassurances as to the possibility of health effects from mobile phones and masts.  It’s also the case that there has been public concern, including an internet-based petition, regarding Dr Repacholi’s interpretation of research findings.  The internationally respected journal ‘Microwave News’ has published allegations of bias towards the industry, and of substantial funding of Dr Repacholi’s activities within WHO declared by the mobile phone manufacturers.
Dr Repacholi left the WHO last year and is understood to now act as an industry consultant.  Coincidentally, according to an Associated Press release a study published in The Lancet online this month (May 2007) is overtly critical of lack of evidence in WHO guidelines (not specifically in relation to EMFs).  One of the authors of the study is reported by Associated Press as saying "It’s difficult to judge how much confidence you can have in WHO guidelines if you’re not told how they were developed.  In that case, you’re left with blind trust."  Lancet’s editor is reported to have said, "This study shows that there is a systemic problem within the organization [WHO, that it refuses to put science first."
So what other effects might there be?
1.  Peer-reviewed replicated research shows that this type of radiation, below ICNIRP levels, significantly reduces the body’s production of melatonin, a sleep regulator and anti-cancer agent.  This would lead to sleep disorders and, in the longer term, increased incidence of cancer – both regularly reported by those living close to masts.
2.  Research also shows weakening of the blood-brain barrier, allowing toxins to pass into brain cells.  This would lead to dizziness, headaches, disorientation, and in the longer term brain cell degeneration leading to Alzheimers, Parkinsons and Motor Neurone Disease – again, reported at significantly increased levels around telecommunications masts.
3. A 4-year EU-funded study by twelve partners in seven countries reported multiple replications of single and double-strand DNA breaks, of the sort that lead to cancer, at levels below ICNIRP.  Intermittent exposure (such as from a phone or mast) was shown to have a stronger effect than continuous exposure (such as from, for example, a TV transmitter).  A follow-up paper on their results states: “Therefore we conclude that the induced DNA damage cannot be based on thermal effects”.  One key conclusion of this Report is that “there exists no justification anymore to claim that we are not aware of any [biological mechanisms which could be the basis for the development of functional disturbances and any kind of chronic diseases in animal and man.”  This specifically in respect of phone/mast radiation below official guidelines.
This last point is strongly backed up by Dr Andrew Goldsworthy, an honorary lecturer at Imperial College with many years of research experience.  In a paper, which can be seen at, Goldworthy gives comprehensive detail of likely effects of this type of radiation on living cells.
Another researcher, Dr John Walker, has correlated incidence of cancer clusters around masts with the projected directions of the main beams from those masts.  His findings are very graphic and disturbing in their consistency – three of his pictorial representations can be seen at
Of six research studies looking specifically at health effects of phone masts, every one found significant effects below international guidelines.  Half of them found significantly increased incidence of cancer in people living near a mast.
Two psychological studies have been mounted to test whether symptoms experienced by some people who consider themselves electro-sensitive may in fact be psychosomatic.  One, at Kings College, London, found that such volunteers reacted almost equally to real and sham exposure, leading to the view that “psychological factors may have an important role in causing this condition”.  It should be noted that electro-sensitives may very well be hyper-sensitised before they recognize the condition in themselves (just as fair-skinned people become hyper-sensitised to sunlight by over-exposure), so symptoms may be triggered by any one of a number of factors.
It’s not only humans that are affected.  Recent studies have indicated that reported losses of 60-70% of commercial bee populations in some areas could be due to phone mast radiation, as also could the halving of the sparrow population.  Other studies on animal and bird behaviour support this view, including a Bavarian study showing various serious disorders in dairy cattle. Psychosomatic?
The crunch has come, though, with indications that the health of the nation’s children is possibly being put at risk.  Switch on an AcoustiCom (designed by Alasdair Philips of PowerWatch) in a WiFi-enabled classroom and it goes off like a machine-gun.  This tells us that the classroom, like those in a rapidly increasing number of primary and secondary schools across the UK, is seething with pulsed microwaves of the sort reckoned by many to lead to a wide range of adverse effects.  As well as cancer and other health disorders these include poor concentration, increased aggression and recurring low-level infection – all increasingly prevalent in the school environment.
Professors Denis Henshaw and Alan Preece, both of Bristol University and both world-class experts on health effects of electromagnetic waves, have both expressed serious concern over the indiscriminate rolling-out of this technology.  They have been joined by no less a person than Professor Lawrie Challis, head of the government’s Mobile Telecommunications Health Research Programme, who has advised that children shouldn’t use wireless laptops on their laps.
Given that WiFi transceivers in laptops emit radiation at levels well within government guidelines, with no possibility of thermal biological effects, one has to ask “Why?”  The answer can only be increasing concern over possible non-thermal effects – and for non-thermal effects all bets are off as to what constitutes a safe emission level, it’s totally unknown territory.
Dr George Carlo, Chair of the Science and Public Policy Institute in the US, is proposing a radical Safe Wireless Initiative – a safer way of doing mobile communications.  Two things are certain: we can’t simply stick our heads in the sand and hope the problem goes away; and we can’t roll the clock back to a world that didn’t depend on mobile communications for every aspect of daily life, from top-level business deals to picking the kids up from a party.
The future solution to this worldwide problem may be more radical than even George Carlo has in mind.

Grahame Blackwell


  • Journal paper on non-thermal DNA breakage
    (From REFLEX researchers)

  • Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis
    Volume 583, Issue 2 , 6 June 2005, Pages 178-183
    Non-thermal DNA breakage by mobile-phone radiation (1800 MHz) in human fibroblasts and in transformed GFSH-R17 rat granulosa cells in vitro
    Elisabeth Diema¤, Claudia Schwarza¤, Franz Adlkoferb¥, Oswald Jahna¤ and Hugo Rüdigera¤

         ¤ Division of Occupational Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Waehringer  Guertel   18-20, Vienna 1090, Austria
        ¥Verum Foundation, Munich, Germany
    Received 30 May 2003;  revised 18 February  2005;  accepted 23 March 2005.  Available   online 24 May 2005.

  • Health Physics April 99 Volume 74 Number 2 page 496 Basis for limiting exposure. Study of the health of people living in the vicinity of mobile phone base stations. Santini et al. Pathol Biol (Paris) [Pathologie Biologie (Paris) 2002; 50: 369 – 73.

  • Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO)
    Study for the Netherlands Ministries of  Economic Affairs, Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment,and Health, Welfare and Sport
    “Effects of Global Communications System Radio-Frequency Fields On Well Being and Cognitive Function of Human Subjects With and Without Subjective Complaints”
    (September 2003).

    Oberfeld Gerd(1), Navarro A. Enrique(3), Portoles Manuel(2), Maestu Ceferino(4),
    Gomez Perretta Claudio(2)
    1) Public Health Department Salzburg, Austria
    2) University Hospital La Fe. Valencia, Spain
    3) Department of Applied Physics, University Valencia, Spain
    4) Foundation European Bioelectromagnetism (FEB) Madrid, Spain

    Ronni Wolf MD(1), Danny Wolf MD(2)
    1. The Dermatology Unit, Kaplan Medical Center, Rechovot, and
    the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, ISRAEL.
    2. The Pediatric Outpatient Clinic, Hasharon Region, Kupat Holim, ISRAEL.
    Published in:
    International Journal of Cancer Prevention Volume 1, No. 2, April 2004.

  • Naila Study, Germany (November 2004)
    Report by researchers (five medical doctors).

  • Austrian Study Press Release 1st May 2005.

  •  Melatonin reduction at night.
    Two relevant papers:
    Paper I, Authors: Burch JB, Reif JS, Noonan CW, Ichinose T, et al.
    Title:Melatonin metabolite excretion among cellular telephone users
    Journal Int J Radiat Biol 2002;78:1029-1036
    Paper II, Authors: Jarupat S, Kawabata A, Tokura H, Borkiewicz A.
    Title:Effects of the 1900 MHz electromagnetic field emitted from cellular phone on nocturnal melatonin secretion
    Journal J Physiol Anthropol 2003; 22:61-63.

  • Weakening of the Blood-Brain Barrier Title:Nerve Cell Damage in Mammalian Brain after Exposure to Microwaves from GSM Mobile Phones
    Authors:Leif G. Salford, Arne E. Brun, Jacob L. Eberhardt, Lars Malmgren, Bertil R.R. Persson
    Journal Environmental Health Perspectives, January 2003
    (Journal of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences)

  • Challis: Daily Tel  28/4/07 "WARNING ON WI-FI HEALTH RISK TO CHILDREN"

  • Henshaw & Preece:  Indep’t on Sunday,  29/4/07

  • Sparrows:  Sunday Times, 29/4/07 ‘Phone mast link to lost sparrows’


  • The REFLEX Project  Report by Dr G Blackwell  (1st Feb 2000 - 31st May 2004)

  • Microwave News July 5 2005, August 8 2005 and November 13 2006

  • On the Precautionary Approach and the Stewart & NRPB Reports Dr Grahame Blackwell .

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