To the Editor: More on 5G

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More on 5G

In the November Crozet Gazette, Ms. Cruickshank, in her letter to the Editor about 5G, stated that exposure to radiofrequency radiation (RFR) is “taking a toll on our health (and that) we must look at the science and educate ourselves on this issue.” To that point she provided a list of articles, one of which was published in Scientific America (SA); We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe by Joel Moskowitz, in support of her position that Radiofrequency Radiation (RFR) is harmful. However, she ignored the rebuttal to Moskowitz’s article that SA published a few days later: Don’t Fall Prey to Scaremongering about 5G (blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/dont-fall-prey-to-scaremongering-about-5g). The author of the rebuttal is a cancer researcher and a physicist. Back to Moskowitz’s article. He commented that “we are seeing increases in certain types of head and neck tumors in tumor registries, which may be at least partially attributable to the proliferation of cell phone radiation” (no reference provided).Based on cancer incidence data published by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), there was an increase in brain and other nervous system cancers from 1975 to 1986 (before cell phones became common), but since 1987 the incidence rate was unchanged until a slight decrease over the last few years (seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2017/browse_csr.php?sectionSEL=3&pageSEL=sect_03_zfig.02). Additionally, in a paper published in Neuro Oncology titled The epidemiology of glioma in adults: a “state of the science” review, the following was reported: “Many analyses have examined the incidence rates of glioma to assess whether rates are increasing. The results of these have generally shown the incidence of glioma overall and glioma subtypes to be fairly stable over the time periods assessed” (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4057143). Although this paper is somewhat dated (it was published in 2014), its findings are consistent with the NCI’s findings for the period ending in 2017.IF cell phone use did cause brain cancers, one would expect a measurable increase in the incidence rate of these cancers because BILLIONs of folks are using them and the number of users continues to increase (www.bankmycell.com/blog/how-many-phones-are-in-the-world ). Furthermore, if exposure to RFR was a health risk, then individuals with occupation exposure would be more likely to suffer. However, a recent occupational study found no clear association of cancer with occupational exposure  (www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412 01830196X?via%3Dihub). Moskowitz also cited a study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) and wrote that it had “found ‘clear evidence’ that two years of exposure to cell phone RFR increased cancer in male (but not female) rats and damaged DNA in rats and mice of both sexes.” What Moskowitz did not report was that the NTP study used exposure levels that were MUCH higher than what humans would be exposed to when using their phones.

Furthermore, the test animals’ exposure to RFR began while they were in utero (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/ntp-temp/tr595_508.pdf). Additionally, all male-exposed rats lived longer than the controls, while exposed and control females had similar survival (pg 65 of the report). By living longer, exposed male rats had a natural increased risk of cancer because it is more common in older individuals (www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/cancer-and-tumors/causes-of-cancer). The Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has additional comments on the NTP study (www.mskcc.org/news/do-cell-phones-cause). NTP has not listed RFR as a carcinogen (ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/assessments/cancer/roc/index.html). Moskowitz also reported that International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at the World Health Organization classified RFR as “possibly carcinogenic to humans in 2011 (and that) based upon the research published since 2011 …, the IARC has recently prioritized RFR to be reviewed again in the next five years.” Updated reviews by IRAC are not unusual and can result in a declassification. For example, in 2016, IARC downgraded their classification of coffee from possibly carcinogenic to humans to not classifiable as to carcinogenicity (www.coffeeandhealth.org/hcp-resources/coffee-and-iarc-what-are-the-facts/). Of note is that even though alcohol (think wine, beer & spirits) has been classified as carcinogenic to humans by IRAC (and other agencies), much of the world’s population continues to consume alcohol. Cruickshank also noted that 5G will be more powerful than prior systems. However, more power does not mean more harm according to a  Sloan Kettering Cancer Center site article. Specifically, “Cell phones …. are characterized by the frequency of the radiation they use. Early models (2G and 3G) used radiofrequencies in the range of 800 megahertz (MHz) to 1.9 gigahertz (GHz). The 4G range is 700 MHz to 27 GHz. The 5G range will be 600 MHz to 39 GHz. Radiofrequencies in the higher range are actually less able to penetrate the body than lower radiofrequencies, so the risk of these waves doing damage to internal organs is also lower” (www.mskcc.org/news/do-cell-phones-cause). While Ms. Cruickshank’s words “we must look at the science and educate ourselves on this issue” are meaningful, to accomplish that goal requires looking at all relevant scientific studies while recognizing that not all are equally valid. 

Phil Sandine
Crozet

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