How ICNIRP, AGNIR, PHE and a 30 year old political decision created and then covered up a global public health scandal


Who are ICNIRP?

The International Committee on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) are a private self appointed body or NGO who together with the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) and Public Health England (PHE), have somehow ended up effectively setting microwave radiation exposure ‘safety’ standards for the populations of large parts of the world since the 1990s.

In May 2011, Mr Jean Huss from the EU Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs in a report entitled  “The potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment” made the following statement on the credibility of ICNIRP.

The rapporteur underlines in this context that it is most curious, to say the least, that the applicable official threshold values for limiting the health impact of extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields and high frequency waves were drawn up and proposed to international political institutions (WHO, European Commission, governments) by the ICNIRP, an NGO whose origin and structure are none too clear and which is furthermore suspected of having rather close links with the industries whose expansion is shaped by recommendations for maximum threshold values for the different frequencies of electromagnetic fields.

An organisation whose origin and structure is none too clear and which is suspected of having rather too close links with the interests of the industries it notionally ‘regulates’.  Indeed, how do such bodies mysteriously come about in the first place?  NGOs may technically be  non-governmental organisations but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily non-political organisations, so called scientific ‘objectivity’ is always shaped and influenced to some degree by political and economic considerations and NGOs are subject to corporate capture and corruption just as much as a sporting ruling body such as FIFA.  How is it that a group of people manage to self appoint themselves as the reliable regulatory body which takes upon itself to decide what is supposedly safe for the rest of us or not?

Was ICNIRP funded, established or captured by the very industries it was designed to ‘regulate’?  Given the endemic corruption which is the hallmark of Neoliberal deregulation in general one would have to say that in all probability: yes.

Anthony J. Swerdlow, who was the ICNIRP Chair of the standing committee on epidemiology contributed to a paper of 2011 which concluded that ” the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumors in adults“.  Swerdlow on this occasion, declared in a mere footnote and not any statement of interests or conflict of interests that “A.J.S. holds shares in the telecom companies Cable and Wireless Worldwide and Cable and Wireless Communications. A.J.S.’s wife holds shares in the BT group, a global telecommunications services company. ”  Should the chair of the supposedly ‘independent’ body setting the guidelines of microwave radiation protection and also his wife – really be holding shares in the very same companies he is supposed to be regulating?  How is this not an extreme conflict of interests?

Why is the origin and structure of ICNIRP so opaque when the decisions it has made have had direct impacts on the health of billions of people?  This is something which is far more than ‘curious to say the least’ and should be a matter of thorough public investigation considering what is at stake in all of this in terms of global public health.  Billions of people may well have been adversely effected by the extremist decisions of this self appointed scientific oracle of health and safety to which the whole world seems to have meekly deferred to without asking any real questions.

In terms of its philosophy, it turns out that ICNIRP is something of a closed ideological shop,  in that in order to be accepted or invited to become a member of ICNIRP, one is preliminarily required to strictly adhere to the thermal paradigm in terms of radiation health and safety.  This paradigm in terms of its followers and their beliefs, asserts that only short term, extremely high exposure to non-ionising microwave radiation that produces a large thermal effect is deemed to be hazardous to human health.  Once one adopts that position, then all non-ionising radiation that falls below these levels is automatically and universally assumed to be benign.  Once this paradigm is also accepted by government and other bodies such as Public Health England, then the burden falls on those subjected to such now completely unregulated sources of radiation to prove that far lower levels of exposure are indeed harmful, whereas conversely, there is no burden on the industry to irrefutably demonstrate that such exposures are completely and utterly safe.  Because in the real world there are no control groups on account of the universal exposure of all the population to such radiation sources then proving irrefutable links between illness and exposure is intensely problematic.

In taking this highly selective approach ICNIRP have effectively inverted the conventions of environmental risk assessments.  Don Maisch describes this reversal of principles in the ‘Procrustean Approach’.

Risk assessment for chemicals reversed for non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation

It is important to note that when it comes to risk assessment that serves as the basis for Western radiofrequency and microwave (RF/MW) standards there is a fundamental departure from conventional risk assessment as used for chemicals. In their 1995 review of risk assessment of environmental chemicals, Fan, Howd and Davis point out that when assessing human exposure to chemicals, environmental levels are the focus. In other words, protecting the public from toxic effects of chemicals in the environment involves consideration of possible mechanisms of low-level toxicity and likely biological effects at low levels of exposure. In addition, the potential for cumulative (long-term), irreversible effects, such as cancer induction and neurotoxicity, are important considerations. There may be debate over what is the lowest level at which a hazard from a chemical may exist, but calculations are aimed at determining the lowest-dose toxic effects to provide human health protection. The obvious adverse effects from high level exposures are not usually a focus of risk assessment as there is no uncertainty on hazards at high-level exposure. Just the reverse applies to the risk assessment of possible hazards from human exposure to non-ionizing radiation from extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMF) to RF/MW electromagnetic radiation (EMR), as examined in this thesis. This thesis explores reasons why a risk assessment paradigm developed in the so-called ‘Western world’ that only provides protection from obvious adverse effects at high-intensity (acute) exposures unlikely to be encountered in the environment. The possibility of cumulative effects, cancer induction and neurological effects arising from low-intensity exposures that could be encountered in the environment are not a consideration in assessing human health risks [Under ICNIRP’s terms]. This has been pointed out in a Swiss government agency publication ‘Electrosmog in the Environment’ where it is stated “Exposure limit values [in Western standards/guidelines] ensure protection against recognised, acute effects, but they do not protect against suspected effects at lower radiation intensities, especially with long-term exposure”. This thesis proposes that such a radical departure from accepted risk assessment practice is based on reasons that primarily are to ensure the continuing development of both corporate and military technology at the expense of public health considerations. This assessment is in agreement with Michaels & Monforton in their observations that both corporate and a revisionist political influence in the risk assessment process has affected the outcome of supposedly scientific risk assessments to marginalize the interests of the public, while at the same time maximizing the influence of the vested interest corporate sector.

The Procrustean Approach – Setting Exposure Standards for Telecommunications Frequency Electromagnetic Radiation




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