This is not a new story but with the ever more urgent push to bathe us all in 5G radiation, both from the telecoms industry and government who are raking in the license fees, it is worth revisiting.
I was reminded of it by a colleague who pointed me to an article in Principia Scientific International (of which more anon) – but the issue has been on the minds of insurers for ten years. Back in 2010 in their report, Electromagnetic fields from mobile phones: recent developments, Lloyds were already drawing the parallels with asbestos. As a result they were wary about accepting too trustingly the assurances that exposure to electromagnetic radiation was harmless. Note the cautious tone of the conclusion to their 20 page report:
The large bulk of scientific evidence shows that exposure to EMF from mobile phones does not cause cancer, with the exception of exposure over ten years where there are some indications of an increased risk of certain types of brain cancer, namely acoustic neuromas and gliomas. Similarly, other health problems, such as self-reported symptoms do not seem to be caused by EMF. However, the lack of long-term data coupled with the long latency periods of many cancers means that further long-term studies are needed to confirm there is no health risk from long-term low EMF exposure.
With regards to the implication to insurance, as the current scientific evidence stands, it is unlikely that insurers will be liable for compensation for bodily injury on product liability policies. However, as asbestos has shown, new scientific developments coupled with a small number of key legal cases can change the situation very rapidly.
10 years later
Now, nearly 10 years later, a great deal more scientific evidence has accumulated as to the possible health risks, especially to children, of man-made electromagnetic radiation (see the Bioinitiative Report’s latest 2019 updates). Meanwhile the use of the technology has proliferated massively. As a result insurance companies are increasingly nervous about the possible financial implications for them.
Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, in their Emerging Risks Insight in 2013, class the possible ‘overall impact’ as ‘High’ within a 10 year time frame:
Unforeseen consequences of electromagnetic fields
The ubiquity of electromagnetic fields (EMF) raises concerns about potential implications for human health, in particular with regard to the use of mobile phones, power lines or antennas for broadcasting. Over the last decade, the spread of wireless devices has accelerated enormously. The convergence of mobile phones with computer technology has led to the proliferation of new and emerging technologies. This development has increased exposure to electromagnetic fields, the health impacts of which remain unknown.
Anxiety over the potential risks related to EMF has risen. Studies are difficult to conduct, since time trend studies are inconsistent due to the still rather recent proliferation of wireless technology. The WHO has classified extremely low-frequency magnetic fields and radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as radition emitted by cell phones, as potentially carcinogenic to humans (Class 2B carcinogen). Furthermore, a recent ruling by an Italian court suggested a link between mobile phone radiation and human health impairment. Overall, however, scientific studies are still inconclusive regarding possible adverse health effects of EMF.
If a direct link between EMF and human health problems were established, it would open doors for new claims and could ultimately lead to large losses under product liability covers. Liability rates would likely rise.
And now Lloyds of London and its underwriters, CFC Underwriting, in their 2015 Policy Document for Architects and Engineers (P.7) include claims arising out of
32. Electromagnetic fields –
directly or indirectly arising out of, resulting from or contributed to by electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic electromagnetism, radio waves or noise.
in their list of ‘exclusions’ – eg claims that they will not cover.
If an insurance company will not cover a risk that is because they regard it as a genuine risk with a credible likelihood of claims that will cost them a lot of money.
Badly burnt by asbestos, they see all too many parallels between it and EMR: a heavy push by industry and government to use a new technology, initially very little research on the health risks, a growing scientific and public concern over these risks backed by more and more credible evidence – but denied by industry and governments now heavily invested in the technology. What the insurance industry envisions is that the refusal to apply the precautionary principle may end in a pandemic of EMR-related illnesses, potentially far more costly than asbestos which was at least limited to one, albeit fatal, condition.
If they are worried, should we not be worried too?
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Although they have not had quite the coverage that they had for the mega ‘sit-ins’ that they staged back in April, Extinction Rebellion‘s July Uprisings in London, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds and Glasgow have garnered both headlines and strong reactions.
Having ‘processed’ through the cities the movement’s signature boats, each one named after a climate change leader, have now been banned from blocking the highways. In London, the ‘Polly Higgins’ started the week outside the Royal Courts of Justice in support of the protesters arrested in April. She was then parked up outside the Old Vic in Waterloo, across the road from a week long Extinction Rebellion camp in the Millennium Park. But she was not allowed by police to process back to Parliament Square for this week’s final rally on the grounds that it would cause too much disruption to those ‘wishing to go about their daily lives’.
But that, of course, is exactly what Extinction Rebellion and civil disobedience is all about. XR believe that unless you disrupt lives and break the law you will simply not be listened to. And they have a point. In 2003 nearly two million of us marched politely through London to protest against going to war in Iraq – and what good did it do us? None. We were totally ignored.
Extinction Rebellion would claim that however bad the Iraq war may have been, the cause for which they are fighting is FAR more serious and catastrophic and that extreme measures, which most certainly include severe disruption, are therefore totally justified.
Of course, that is the claim made by every protest movement from the dawn of time. And no doubt they have all sincerely believed that their cause was right and their actions justified. But in the case of climate change and global warning, this no fringe group of weirdos promoting some wacky cause.This is the vast majority of scientific community whose warnings are being proved right on an almost daily basis by the catastrophic weather events that are already happening around the globe.
So, let us assume that you accept that the cause is right, where do you stand on disruption?
Below is an extract from an article in the Guardian in May by Roger Hallam, one of the founders of Extinction Rebellion. And, as a campaigner, Hallam has form.
In 2017, in response to his disruptive actions, King’s College London removed £14million worth of investments from fossil fuel companies and pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025.
He wrote: ‘The only way to overcome entrenched political power (which he holds responsible for the failure to address global warming with sufficient urgency) is through extensive campaigns of large-scale nonviolent direct action……
The strategy is based upon three observations.
- Firstly that only through disruption, the breaking of laws, do you get the attention you need.
- Secondly only through sacrifice – the willingness to be arrested and go to prison – do people take seriously what you are saying.
- And thirdly only through being respectful to ourselves, the public and the police, do we change the hearts and minds of our opponents, which makes it easier for them to negotiate with us.
Which is fine but….. Disruption does not only affect ‘entrenched political power’ – it affects everyone.
I did go and ‘rebel’ this week, although only in a low-key, non-sacrificial, handing-out-leaflets sort of a way. But it was noticeable how many people took a leaflet and either said ‘we support what you are fighting for, but not how you are doing it’ – or stopped to tell me about how their businesses or their lives had been seriously impacted – sometimes actually damaged – by the XR actions. On Wednesday, in Bristol, a man told BBC Radio Bristol he had been unable to get to the city’s Royal Infirmary before his father died because of the blockade – which is certainly not what anyone would want. The movement did issue a statement apologising and saying how sorry they were that a protest should have resulted in such a distressing outcome.
But the fact remains that blocking the M32 – or Waterloo Bridge – or Oxford Circus – not only guarantees you headlines but forces everyone, from the highest to the lowest, to focus on your cause. The skill, and the oh so narrow knife edge to tread, is causing sufficient disruption to make everyone sit up and pay attention, without damaging their livelihoods to the point that they turn against your movement, no matter how just its cause.
While it is widely recognised that XR campaigners so far have indeed been respectful and caring, have cleaned up after themselves and proved themselves to be good citizens, it is not clear yet whether they are still on the right side of that knife edge. A couple of friendly policemen I was chatting to during leaflet distribution this morning felt that the movement had overstepped the mark and had lost public support. But I am not sure that that is really the case.
XR would certainly not accept that it had and have every intention of not only continuing, but escalating, their actions.
If you want to join them – or even just to find out a it more about the movement – check in to their website at rebellion.earth.
Meanwhile I need to decide whether next time round I will put my money where my mouth is and agree to be arrested, not just take the easy route and hand out leaflets…..
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How many others had, like me, their climate change complacency ripped way by the the BBC’s Climate change – The Facts last week?
In fact, my ‘awakening’ had started a week before with the FT magazine’s article, The Rise of Extinction Rebellion. But the shock was that much sharper as when I read, and I watched, I was enjoying a perfect lush, fresh, green English spring in the heart of the Dorset countryside.
How could that turn into the scorched desert that global warming threatens? But that is the issue, isn’t it? Until you are actually hit by that storm or that heatwave, there is no visible sign that anything is wrong.
The BBC, Extinction Rebellion and the media, by the coverage they have given XR protests, are certainly doing their best to make us understand the scale of the threat – and spur us to action. And that whatever about all of the other issues (loss of biodiversity, loss of species etc etc etc) it is global warming that is the key – global warming has resulted from our excessive use of fossil fuels.
The BBC certainly has a good track record in spurring us into action – 80% of those who watched the plastic horrors of Blue Planet 2, it seems, have ‘modified their behaviour’ as a result. But how much difference, the very reasonable argument goes, will a few million of us in the UK ‘modifying our behaviour’ to reduce our carbon footprint make to the global situation? And of course, the answer is – infinitesimal. But….
A massive oak starts as a tiny acorn and every global movement has started with a few people and a crazy idea. Not that combatting global warming is a few people and a crazy idea – brilliant brains and technological ingenuity have been focused on it for years and already much has been done. What is lacking is the political will to carry through the changes that are needed – which is where we come in. Not just ‘we’ in the UK but ‘we’ worldwide.
If enough of us refuse to fly long distance, drive when we could walk and buy food that has been flown round the world – apart from reducing our own carbon footprint* it will bring pressure on those industries which will in turn bring pressure on the politicians. (It will, of course, also bring down our own personal carbon footprint and on the ‘every little helps’ principle, no matter how little it is, that has to be good thing.)
Similarly, if enough of us support grass roots movements such as Extinction Rebellion – and Greta Thunberg‘s school protests – that all adds to the political pressure which, as we have seen, time and time again can be all powerful, even in non-democratic regimes where some of the worse polluters are found.
And I know this sounds a but wacky but, I do believe that if enough people are actually thinking about this stuff and focusing on how potentially catastrophic the situation really is, we will create a zeitgeist, a spirit which will carry the movement far beyond its original imaginings.
Well, I sincerely hope so anyhow as, if not, the outlook is indeed grim.
So, attempting to follow my own principles, I have just, regretfully, cancelled my planned trip to California in June to go to the Ojai music festival and to visit my good allergy gardening friend, Tom Ogren. The carbon footprint of flying to LA and back is 2.42 tonnes – 18% of my annual carbon footprint (approx 13 tonnes) on just one flight…. And then I was going to hire a car to drive up Route 1 from LA to San Franciso adding I-did-not-even-bother-to-calculate how much more.
Hey ho. June in Hampstead is just delightful. Why would I need to be anywhere else?
* If you do want to add your mite to the general effort, the BBC programme did offer some suggestions as to how you could do so:
- Insulate your house in any way you can to minimise the amount of fuel used in heating it.
- Do not throw out household equipment before you need to – huge resources, each with significant carbon footprints, go into making every washing machine, every food processor. Ideally, if you have to buy new, buy better quality equipment that will last.
- Eat everything you buy! Food production is ‘carbon expensive’ so do not waste food.
- Do not buy foods that have been flown across the world – their carbon footprint is huge. Buy local.
- Do not eat intensively farmed, methane-producing beef and lamb
- Do not buy cheap throw away clothes and only wear them once. Re-use your clothes or, if you want to buy ‘new’, buy second hand!
- Above all, do not fly across the world unless you absolutely have to! Well, ideally, don’t fly anywhere – trains have a lower carbon footprint – and are much more enjoyable to travel on!
It is scary having a new baby, especially if it is your first. But how much more scary does it become when, even though you are breast feeding and doing all that the books tell you to do, your baby is obviously in constant pain, is not sleeping, is covered in eczema and is patently ‘failing to thrive’. But your GP dismisses your concerns as those of a ‘first time mum’ and tells you that it is all, perfectly normal.
And assuming that you get past those first few horrendous months, what happens when you get to weaning? And your child refuses to eat or vomits up the foods you try to feed him or her. Worse, what if your child reacts by gasping for breath and suffering what you will come to know as anaphylactic shock?
All of these things happened to Emma Amoscato, not just with her son but then with her daughter. She battled with GPs, combed the internet for information and learnt ‘on the hoof’. But how she longed for just one book, one source of information, which could answer all of her questions.
What are allergies? Why does my child suffer from them when I don’t? Will my child outgrow them? How can I find out what foods my child is allergic to? Can they be cured? How do I get a doctor to believe me? How do I cope with an anaphylactic reaction? How do I explain to family and friends about my child’s allergies and how careful they have to be? Do I have to get rid of the dog? Where can I find ‘safe’ food? If my child has a nut allergy should I only send him or her to a nut-free school? How do I prevent my child becoming food phobic? How do I cope with my child being ‘allergy bullied’? How can I manage my child’s, and my own, anxiety about the risk of a serious reaction? How do I prevent their siblings from feeling left out?…..
The questions seem endless because, actually, they are. But there are answers to most, if not all of them. Emma has put all of those that she has come up with into Living with Allergies. And not only her answers but answers, suggestions and comments from a dozen allergy specialists who have contributed short sections on specific aspects of allergy management, and over 30 fellow ‘allergy mums and dads’ all of whom have followed similar paths with their allergic babies, toddlers and now, school age children.
The result is an excellent, simple but comprehensive primer for the parents of allergic babies and children. It covers what allergies are, both food and environmental; the relationship between food, skin and respiratory allergies; allergy medication and, most important of all, allergy management.
This includes what you need to do to your home; what and how you can feed your child; managing outside the home; going to school and then on, eventually to further education and university, and managing the psychological impact of allergy on both the sufferer and their family and friends.
Sensible, down to earth, informed and practical – a seriously invaluable book for any allergic family.
Published by Pen & Sword, Living with Allergies is available from all good bookshops for £19.99 or here on Amazon.
Not my words but those of Susan Crawford, John A. Reilly Clinical Professor at Harvard Law School, author of Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution—and Why America Might Miss It; Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, and co-author of The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance. She is writing in Wired magazine this week.
She draws the parallel between global warming and the current hype around 5G as the solution to all our problems. In each case we are required to trust in the power of ‘technology’ to solve the massive problems that both threaten.
‘As with climate change, where denial rhetoric has been driven by companies interested in maintaining the status quo, the wireless industry is vitally interested in assuring us that 5G poses no issues—or that there’s an unresolved debate, so we should trust the existing radio-frequency exposure standards.’
But…. ‘What if transmissions to and from 5G cells, which will need to be everywhere, and much closer to us than traditional cell towers, pulsing out very-high-frequency radio waves at high power levels, pose real risks to human health?’
What indeed? Susan Crawford’s article, which is well worth reading, goes on to explore these ‘very real risks’.
Meanwhile, the good burghers of Brussels – well, specifically Céline Fremault, Minister of the Government, responsible for Housing, Quality of Life, Environment and Energy – have already rejected 5G because they are worried about the health effects of the technology.
‘I cannot welcome’, said Ms Frenault, ‘such technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected, 5G or not. The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit. We cannot leave anything to doubt.’
Not that health effects are many governments’ main concerns about 5G. They are more bothered about the security risks that the proposed 5G networks may pose, especially if they use products made by Huawei whose links with the Chinese government they deeply suspect. For this side of the argument, see this article in the Financial Times last month.
No problem. Those of us who worry about the long term health effects of man-made electro magnetic radiation do not care why the-powers-that-are start to worry about it too – as long as they do.
Once 5 G is up and running and powering ‘the internet of things’, not only will you be able to programme your car to pick you up and take you home, your oven to turn on ready for you to cook your ‘oven-ready-created-for-you’ dinner and your steaming hot relaxing bath to run awaiting your arrival but:
- your baby’s nappy can be wireless-ed up to tell you when it is wet
- your loo seat can be wireless-ed up to monitor your heart rate while you are reading your daily dose of fake news on your tablet – since obviously you will no longer take an actual newspaper to the loo (image courtesy of Karl Q. Schwarz On IEEE Spectrum)
- your tampon can be connected, via a bluetooth ‘string’ to an app which will tell you when you need to change it
- your condom can be set up to wireless-ly measure your ‘performance’
(Thanks to Whatis5G.info for the links.)
OK, so these are the wackier possibilities on offer. However, 5G does offer genuine advantages in terms of wireless technology such as more rapid rates of wireless data transfer thanks to its higher frequencies thus improving mobility. But at what cost?
The issue is that we really don’t know. And many people – scientists, medics and members of the potential 5G using public – believe we need to understand more before we roll it out across the world.
We need independent enquiries before buying in wholesale
OK – this is only the UK and the issue is a worldwide one but, you have to start somewhere. And Hayley Hughes has, by creating a petition asking the government to launch an urgent and independent enquiry into the health and safety risks of 5G.
You can sign here. (It is already at nearly 10,000 signatures which means that the government has to at the very least respond to the petition.) It is accompanied by a link to a recent article in the Daily Mail setting out some of the concerns.
For those who would like to know a bit more, the following is an extract from an article by Ronald Powell, a retired U.S. Government career scientist (Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University) who, over his career, worked for the Executive Office of the President, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
What is the evidence of the harm caused by radiofrequency radiation?
There are thousands of archival biomedical research papers, published in peer-reviewed journals, that have shown that radiofrequency radiation is harmful to the body in one way or another. These have been collected and reviewed in a number of summary documents. Here are just two examples: (1) BioInitiative 2012, draws on about 1800 publications; (2) EUROPAEM EMF Guideline 2016 for the Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment of EMF-Related Health Problems and Illnesses, draws on 308 references. (“EMF” stands for electromagnetic fields, a term inclusive of radiofrequency radiation.)
In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization classified radiofrequency radiation as a Group 2B Human Carcinogen (“possibly carcinogenic”), naming explicitly “wireless phone” radiation (cellular radiation), based on the increased risk for glioma. Glioma is a malignant type of brain cancer that is usually fatal. It most recently took the life of Senator John McCain and Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden.
In 2018, a massive study by the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health linked cellular radiofrequency radiation (RFR) to cancer of the nerves of the heart (schwannomas), to cancer of the brain (glioma), and to multiple other health effects in test animals.
In 2015 and continuing, 247 scientists from 42 nations signed an appeal to the United Nations, described below. These scientists have “published peer-reviewed papers on the biological or health effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields” (which are inclusive of radiofrequency radiation).
“Address the global public health concerns related to exposure to cell phones, power lines, electrical appliances, wireless devices, wireless utility meters and wireless infrastructure in residential homes, schools, communities and businesses.”
For more information on the health effects of radiofrequency radiation, please see the website of the Environmental Health Trust, especially the Science tab.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of 5G?
5G has some genuine advantages. 5G is expected to employ higher radiofrequencies than those currently in use in cellular systems in the United States. Those higher frequencies will permit more rapid rates of data transfer compared to current wireless technology. And, as a wireless technology, 5G will support mobility.
But wired technology, especially fiber-optic technology, is superior to 5G in so many other ways. Fiber-optic technology produces NO radiofrequency radiation, so it poses NO health hazard. Fiber-optic technology is safer, faster, more reliable, more cyber secure, and more private than any wireless technology, including 5G. (See whatis5g.infofor a detailed description of the limitations of 5G.)
So users of wireless technology, including 5G, will have to decide if mobility ALONE is more important for their particular application than any other factor, including their own health and the health of their families and colleagues.
When listening to the hype about 5G, consider the following:
- Is the hype coming more from potential providers of 5G, who hope to profit from 5G, or from potential users, who will have to pay for 5G
- Is the rush to implement 5G more about staking out claims to small cell sites in right-of-ways than about providing services that customers really need?
- Is the rush to implement 5G driven by the growing awareness of the public and its representatives that radiofrequency radiation is harmful to health, and thus the providers feel that they must act quickly before resistance builds further?
- What scientific studies, from impartial sources, can the providers of 5G identify that prove that 5G has NO adverse health effects on humans?
The burden of proof is on the providers.
When questioned by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal in a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (February, 7, 2019), the representatives of industry could name no existing studies and none in progress.