Monday, 17 June 2019

IARC classification unjustified, confusing and ambiguous says German radiation authority

IARC-PhoneThe German radiation authority disagrees with the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s classification of mobile phones as a possible human carcinogen and have developed a classification system they say is less confusing for the public.


In a paper published in Health Physics last month, Professor Norbert Leitgeb, member and former head of the German Commission on Radiological Protection’s (SSK) Committee on Non-ionizing Radiation said the ambiguity of IARCs wording - possibly carcinogenic - and putting radio frequency in the same IARC category as lead, DDT, coffee and pickled vegetables highlighted how confusing their rating system can be for the public.


“It was not surprising that this conclusion triggered quite different reactions ranging from welcoming the decision, to alarming media…to downplaying it by reassuring and highlighting what IARC did not, namely claiming that it did not conclude RF EMF was a definite or even a probable carcinogen,” Professor Leitgeb said.

“The confusion resulting from IARC’s recent classification once again demonstrates the difficulties in assessing evidence and the manifold pitfalls in communicating risk.”

The SSK evaluated all the research on microwave radiation and cancer under a new cancer risk classification system and concluded there is “insufficient evidence” that mobile phone signals can cause cancer and gave it an E0 classification.



“SSK does not agree with IARC’s classification of RF EMF cancer risk,” Professor Leitgeb said.

“The body of epidemiologic studies on microwaves was not considered convincing enough to conclude that they are ‘‘possibly carcinogenic,’’ in particular in view of insufficient support from the other scientific approaches.”

In contrast to the classification of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as group 2B “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by an IARC working group last June, the SSK ruled out data from large population studies that suggested heavy mobile users could be at a higher risk of brain cancer.

“In the mobile telephony range, the review of all the various scientific approaches provides insufficient evidence of causality,” the SSK’s Comparative Assessment of the Evidence of Cancer Risk from Electromagnetic Fields and Radiation said.

“Including multinational studies, there is still no evidence for any link between mobile phone use and cancer.”

“Some few epidemiological studies with inaccurate exposure data, memory bias and changes in mobile phone technologies during the study period reporting on possible brain cancer risk after more than 10 years of mobile phone use are not sufficiently reliable to justify changing this evidence classification.”

Professor Leitgeb questioned IARC’s decision to extend its classification to the whole spectrum of radio frequencies and exposures, including emissions from mobile phone base stations, when it had based its conclusion on mostly mobile phone handset studies.

“Although IARC had based its decision mainly on investigations limited to mobile telecommunication microwaves in the narrow frequency range of 0.9-2 GHz transmitted from cellular phones and locally exposing only a part of the human brain, it has gone far beyond this by extending its conclusion to the entire frequency range of RF EMF…irrespective of the kind of exposure and irrespective intensities,” Professor Leitgeb said.

However, Professor Leitgeb said it was important for health authorities to continue to independently assess the overall evidence of cancer risk using clear and transparent processes.

“Classifying evidence of risks is a challenging task, in particular in an already emotional situation with established frontiers between supporters and opponents such as in the field of mobile telecommunication. Even assessment by designated bodies may still depend on their composition of individuals, their background and bias and in worst case on their interests,” Professor Leitgeb said.

“Never before was it as easy as today to get access to information on almost any topic including risks of EMF exposure, however biased or unbiased, sound or delusive.”

“This enhances the importance of a rule-based, traceable and clear procedure of evidence classification.”

SSK Classification

Bookmark and Share