The Tnuda Center’s research field is expanding…

health effects of non-ionizing radiation

 

What are the boundaries of the debate concerning the range of health effects?

  • Should health effects that are not necessarily associated with radiation exposure be examined?

  • Can we differentiate between effects related to exposure and those related to technology usage?

 

Alongside the rapid development of communications technologies and the growing use of devices emitting non-ionizing radiation (NIR), scientific research has begun to examine the effects of this radiation on human health. In 1996, the International EMF Project, a World Health Organization expert committee, established that, “There continue to be inconsistencies with regard to evidence of carcinogenic hazard of RF  exposure …  Research, in particular epidemiological studies, should be carried out to determine whether cell phones could cause adverse health effects.” Despite the growing number of studies examining this issue, science is not managing to “keep up with the rate of technological advance”, and as a result, policy decisions are often made under conditions of uncertainty.

 

The Tnuda Center was established in 2013 following a governmental resolution that there is a need to establish a national knowledge and research center. Its goal is to identify, collect and summarize up to date scientific information in order to constitute the professional knowledge infrastructure that will be relied upon when making decisions.

 

 

One of the challenges facing The Tnuda Center in its first years was mapping out the subjects that need to be researched in order to estimate the effects of radiation emitting technologies on health.

 

All the professional organizations currently active in this area focus on two main effects of NIR on human health:

  1. Thermal effect – tissue warming that occurs mainly in the range between 30 Mega-Hertz to 300 Giga-Hertz (radio waves frequency). This is the most well-known and proven NIR effect. However, given the power of most non-ionizing radiation emitting devices in personal use, the heating effect is minimal and does not constitute a danger of significant harm.
  2. Non-thermal effect that is not associated with increase in tissue temperature (namely the heating effect), but with other tissue change caused by the frequency, wavelength, amplitude and electric or magnetic field.

The question of non-heating effects has been evaluated, and, at present there is no unequivocal answer. Regarding cancer, the World Health Organization classified ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) magnetic fields (in 2001) and RF (Radio-Frequency electromagnetic fields) (in 2011) as possible carcinogens. Under this classification, most countries, including Israel, adopted the precautionary principle, which states that precautionary measures should be taken when there might be possible risk, even if a causal association has not been scientifically proven.

 

Accordingly, the Tnuda Center’s early work focused on the possible health effects of radiation exposure. For example this included subjects such as radio waves and the development of brain and salivary gland tumors among adults and children, radiation from the electric grid and childhood leukemia, the effect of radio waves on sperm cells, the effect of radio waves on human hearing etc.

 

At the same time - due to an increase in the extent of usage of communications technologies, the breadth of their applications and their spread to public places like schools, parks and public transportation - the question of what are the boundaries of the discussion regarding the scope of health effects, arose. Can we differentiate between effects related to exposure to technology and those related to technology usage? For example, in the case of sleep disturbances and attention deficit problems, regarding which the causative mechanism has not yet been established, it is possible that they are influenced both by radiation and by other factors such as sleep deprivation or multitasking. Should subjects that are clearly unrelated to radiation be evaluated, such as noise and privacy, addiction to cellphones, and traffic accidents (caused by distraction due to use of cellphones while driving)?

health effects of non-ionizing radiation

The concept of health, as defined by the World Health Organization, refers to a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. According to this definition, the effects of new technologies should be evaluated within these wider parameters.

 

    The current opinion of The Center is that alongside evaluation of the effects of radiation exposure, it is worthwhile and necessary to evaluate physical, social and psychological effects that are not necessarily associated with this exposure. It should be considered that although these issues are no less important in their effect on the “user’s” health, they do not always merit appropriate attention from various interested parties (decision makers, medical, educational and environmental bodies, the general public, the media etc.). Since our interest is in health in its broader sense, it has been decided that within the framework of the Center’s activities, prominent emphasis will also be placed upon other health effects of radiation emitting communications technologies, even if they were not caused, directly or at all, by exposure to radiation.    

 

Date update: 31/10/2017