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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Many of you will have heard me talk before about the lovely and wonderful Dr Olle Johansson, one of the leading academic scientists fighting the electrosensitivity cause and one of the authors of the Biotinitiative Report. (For the un-initiated – A Rationale for Biologically-based Public Exposure Standards for Electromagnetic Fields)
Apart from producing endless papers and reports, speaking all over the world and being on everyone’s interview list, he runs an unofficial one-man news agency, dispersing emails on (mainly) ES related topics to his huge mailing list, on which I am fortunate enough to be. And among this week’s batch was the following:
I have been away for a few days visiting Amsterdam. (To be electrohypersensitive in The Netherlands is not easy, trust me.)
I also spent a few hours during my visit at the Anne Frank House, located on the Prinsengracht canal in Amsterdam. It was in the Achterhuis (Dutch for “back house”) or Secret Annex that Anne Frank and her family hid. It is the rear extension of the building, concealed from view by houses on all four sides of a quadrangle. Though the total amount of floor space in the inhabited rooms came to only about 500 square feet (46 square meter), Anne Frank wrote in her diary that it was relatively luxurious compared to other hiding places they had heard about. They remained hidden here for two years and one month until they were anonymously betrayed to the Nazi authorities, arrested, and deported to their deaths in concentration camps.
When I walked through the museum I learnt that they had (in the evenings and very early mornings) access to water, a gas stove and some electricity for single light bulbs. While standing in the kitchen I suddenly realized that if this had been today, the Frank family would not have stood a single chance; they would have been caught within a few hours. Why? Well, the very moment they would have used the water tap above the kitchen sink, or put on the gas stove, or lit the electric light, the water, gas, and electricity smart meters of the building would immediately have signalled additional use to the Gestapo. The Gestapo would have loved smart meters!!
Why would the CEO of Belgacom, Belgiums’ equivalent of BT, have banned wifi from his 27th floor office, preferring to use wired connections, ask callers to call him back on his land line rather than his mobile and warn children that they should turn off their mobile phones at night and not use them as alarm clocks? (See here if you don’t believe me!) Could it just be that, even at the heart of the telephone industry, they are getting worried about the possible fallout from the stratospheric growth in wireless technology – and the man-made electromagnetic radiation to which is it subjecting us all?
They should be. Well, they should be if they pay attention to the ever growing mountain of peer-reviewed research papers suggesting that excess electromagnetic radiation could have dire public health consequences for those who are subjected to it. Many of these papers are referenced in the recently published Bioinitiative Report 2012, the work of 25 odd top scientitists, public health and public policy experts who have ‘assessed scientific evidence on health impacts from electromagnetic radiation below current public exposure limits with the purpose of evaluating what changes in these limits are warranted now to reduce possible public health risks in the future.’ They have looked at over 1800 new studies published in the last five years, all of which report adverse health effects at exposure levels ten to hundreds or thousands of times lower than allowed under safety limits in most countries of the world.
The possible link between mobile phone use and brain cancer is now well known, if not always accepted, but that is only one of a myriad of adverse health effects that have been logged. One of the scariest, as far as I am concerned, is the mounting evidence that just carrying a mobile phone in your pocket or on your belt, without even using it, can damage human sperm and their DNA beyond repair. I quote:
Human sperm are damaged by cell phone radiation at very low intensities in the low microwatt and nanowatt/cm2 range (0.00034 – 0.07 uW/cm2). There is a veritable flood of new studies reporting sperm damage in humans and animals, leading to substantial concerns for fertility, reproduction and health of the offspring. Exposure levels are similar to those resulting from wearing a cell phone on the belt, or in the pants pocket, or using a wireless laptop computer on the lap. Sperm lack the ability to repair DNA damage.
Several international laboratories have replicated studies showing adverse effects on sperm quality, motility and pathology in men who use and particularly those who wear a cell phone, PDA or pager on their belt or in a pocket (Agarwal et al, 2008; Agarwal et al, 2009; Wdowiak et al, 2007; De Iuliis et al, 2009; Fejes et al, 2005; Aitken et al, 2005; Kumar, 2012).
Other studies conclude that usage of cell phones, exposure to cell phone radiation, or storage of a mobile phone close to the testes of human males affect sperm counts, motility, viability and structure (Aitken et al, 2004; Agarwal et al, 2007; Erogul et al., 2006).
Animal studies have demonstrated oxidative and DNA damage, pathological changes in the testes of animals, decreased sperm mobility and viability, and other measures of deleterious damage to the male germ line (Dasdag et al, 1999; Yan et al, 2007; Otitoloju et al, 2010; Salama et al, 2008; Behari et al, 2006; Kumar et al, 2012).
There are fewer animal studies that have studied effects of cell phone radiation on female fertility parameters. Panagopoulous et al. 2012 report decreased ovarian development and size of ovaries, and premature cell death of ovarian follicles and nurse cells in Drosophila melanogaster.
Gul et al (2009) report rats exposed to stand-by level RFR (phones on but not transmitting calls) caused decrease in the number of ovarian follicles in pups born to these exposed dams.
Magras and Xenos (1997) reported irreversible infertility in mice after five (5) generations of exposure to RFR at cell phone tower exposure levels of less than one microwatt per centimeter squared (μW/cm2).
Then of course there is the increased risk for children and the foetus, the growing likelihood that excess electromagnetic radiation (EMR) may be implicated in the huge rise in cases of autism, the possibility that EMR may be breaching the blood-brain barrier (not to mention the blood-ocular, blood-placenta, blood-gut and blood-testes barriers). And what about the significant number of studies linking EMR with genotoxic outcomes, neurological conditions, childhood leukemia, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease……
If you want to know more you can download the whole report for yourself from www.bioinitiative.org
Not, of course, that even this mountain of evidence will convince everyone. ‘Unbelievers’ will point (as does Dr James Rubin in his 2010 ‘review of provocation studies’ and as did Dr Ben Goldacre in a much quoted blog from 2007) to the fact that, in numerous ‘provocation studies’, so-called electro-sensitives have been unable to tell the difference between a ‘live’ mobile phone and a dummy one. Therefore, although the symptoms from which they suffer may be perfectly genuine symptoms, they are not caused by electromagnetic radiation. The trouble is that the premise on which the studies were based was totally misbegotten.
If someone has a raging outbreak of eczema and is itching all over, asking them to stroke a cat to see whether cat dander triggers their eczema is pointless. They will already be itching so much, and the outbreak may have been set off by so many different triggers, that it would be completely impossible to assess whether stroking the cat has made any difference. If you want to test whether cat dander triggers their eczema they need that eczema to be totally dormant and for there to be no other possible eczema triggers present – and then ask them to stroke the cat and see what happens.
Similarly, if someone is suffering from symptoms which have been caused by excess electromagnetic radiation, their symptoms are going to be, like the itchy eczema sufferer’s, so overwhelming that adding one extra trigger (be it cat or live mobile phone) is going to make very little difference to their level of symptoms. But, in these studies, the ‘test’ of whether or not the subject is genuinely reacting to electromagnetic radiation is whether they react to a ‘live’ mobile phone but not to a dummy one.
Further more, unless the environment in which the test is carried out is totally electrically ‘clean’, there is no way of knowing whether the subjects are reacting to the mobile phone or to some other source of EMR in the vicinity.
Even if these provocation studies were done in an electrically clean environment (which I doubt that they were) they most certainly were not done with symptom-free electrosensitives.
As with the eczema sufferer and the cat, the only way that you can genuinely test whether an ‘electrosensitive’ is reacting to the ‘live’ mobile phone is by ensuring first that they are symptom free, so that that any symptoms/reactions they suffer do not get confused with any pre-existing symptoms or reactions, and then by ensuring that the test is done in a virginally electrically clean environment so that if there is a reaction to can be attributed to the mobile phone and not to some other EMR-radiating device in the vicinity.
That would be a study that was well worth doing and which would have some validity.
Meanwhile, if you want to know more about electrosensitivity, there is a mass of information on the FoodsMatter site here – where you will also find links to the many other organisations providing information and support for electrosensitivity sufferers.
So, what is all the fuss about Smart Meters? What is wrong with your utility company checking your meter via a radio controlled meter rather than sending round a man to read it, or asking you to read it yourself and tell them what you have used? Sounds rather efficient…
Well that is what the energy companies are telling us anyhow, adding that it will help them and us to be ‘greener’ in our use of energy. ‘By understanding how we use our energy, this will help us all to find ways of reducing our consumption and also help make our individual contribution to the overall carbon reduction targets….’
But….. And there are lots of buts. For much more detail on smart meters, their possible effects and who is doing what elsewhere in the world, see articles and research on the FoodsMatter site. However, for a very brief introduction – the ‘buts’, fall in to three main sections.
Energy companies claim that smart meters will enable them to save costs as they will not need to employ meter readers (can this really be regarded as a virtue in these times of high unemployment?) and that the readings will be more accurate and will allow them to plan and monitor usage so as to make more efficient use of energy. In fact, the experience of several states in the US where smart meters have already been installed and where bills have suddenly soared into thousands of dollars, have suggested that this may be far from the case.
There are huge concerns about the data that will be collected: how it will be stored and how it could be used. The meters will be operational 24/7 and will collect data an ongoing basis or at very frequent intervals. So that if you choose to get up in the middle of the night to go to the loo, make a cup of tea, watch TV, or work in your workshop because you can’t sleep, that information will be logged via your smart meter.
In a comment on a Which? blog on smart meters, the NPower Press Office says:
‘Customer privacy and data security is key to the work being done in the industry and we are working with Ofgem to ensure that the appropriate customer protections are in place when the mass rollout starts next year. There are already customer protection mechanisms in place, such as the Data Protection Act, European Convention and Human Rights and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, that will ensure data is used in an appropriate way and that marketing information is only sent to those customers who have agreed to receive such messages.’
Ouch – that does not sound reassuring. Who decides what is appropriate? And do we really want them to have the information anyhow? Seems to me that Big Brother has finally found the ideal tool for monitoring our every move and I, for one, do not have faith that those ‘customer protection mechanisms’ are sufficiently robust to prevent me being harassed by sellers of everything from roof insulation to garden mowers.
But even if one believes in the integrity of the utility companies, what is to stop a hacker with more malign motives accessing the information – information such as when you are normally out so it would be a good time to burgle you could be deduced from your power usage. Or, on a much larger scale, a hacker could successfully bring the whole country to a standstill by breaking into the system and just turning it off! The energy companies maintain that their systems are ‘secure’ but history suggests that no system is truly secure against a determined and skillful hacker. (For more on this see this article in the Denver Post.)
Health risks – more electrosmog
For anyone who is already electrosensitive – and potentially for all of us – smart meters pose a greater hazard than having Big Brother breathing down your neck; they will effectively ‘irradiate’ your house or flat 24 hours a day and you will have no way of turning them off. Although in some countries (such as Italy) the information is sent down a cable network, the proposal for the UK (along with much of North America) is to use a wifi or wireless network. This effectively means that every dwelling in the UK that uses energy and has a meter will be connected through a wifi network to a hub in the street which will then pass the information on to a central data processing centre. It is even possible that some meters may act as relays to boost the system, in which case they will be using an even stronger signal.
A wifi smart meter system is already up and running in Canada and its emissions are currently significantly higher than the international Bioinitiative safety limit for mobile phones. Indeed one calculation suggests that, working at two thirds of its maximum capacity, one meter would give off the same amount of radiation per day as the recent Interphone study suggested would be enough to increase cancer risk over a period of 10 years.
In some countries (such as the Netherlands) you can opt out – although opting out yourself will not protect from the emission from your neighbours which, if you live in a flat, could be very high. However, as it stands, in the UK there will be no opt out on health or any other grounds, so we will all have the ambient electrosmog in which we are forced live to dramatically increased, with whatever health consequences that may have.
As far as those who are already electrosensitive are concerned, they know only too well what the consequences will be: considerable extra expenditure to try and shield themselves from the emissions and an almost inevitable decline in their health as it will not be possible to entirely exclude the meter emissions from their homes. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, the effect will largely depend on whether theories like Andrew Goldsworthy’s (outlined in my previous post) that conditions such as autism are directly related to the increase in man-made electromagnetic radiation, prove to be true – in which case it could be catastrophic. Certainly, the low level reactions (headache, fatigue, ear tingling, general malaise etc etc) that many people who are not overtly electrosensitive already experience to excess mobile phone or computer use, compact fluorescent bulbs, dirty electricity, power lines etc are likely to get worse with the resultant loss of population-wide productivity and general well being.
So, what to do?
Well, in the US, where the grid is far more advanced than ours in the UK, there are a number of groups, such as Stop Smart Meters and the Center for Electrosmog Prevention campaigning vociferously, and in some cases successfully, to stop the roll out or even to have smart meters removed. In the UK MCS-Aware, ES-UK, The Radiation Trust and Wired Child have joined together to petition the government to install a fibre-optic wired network instead of a wifi one and to allow an opt out on health grounds for those who are electrosensitive. This obviously does not address the larger concerns of the invasion of privacy, security and efficiency raised by the universal installation of smart meters, but it certainly does address the main health concerns.
If you feel you should get involved – and you should – they have set up a website, www.SmartMeterPetition.org from which you can sign the petition. They also give you templates for letters and emails to be sent to your MP, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and anyone else who could be relevant, lots addresses plus suggestions as to how you can protect your own home against smart meters.
For other ideas as to why the government should think again about their Smart Meter roll out, check through some of the other articles on the Foods Matter site. Even though it is unlikely that they will actually take it on board, you might also want to quote Dr Goldsworthy’s appeal to the Nuremberg Code; it might at least make them think!
‘One thing that I did not mention in my original communication, but is very relevant, is that the enforced introduction of wireless smart meters is a clear contravention of the Nuremberg Code which forbids the performance of experiments on human beings without their consent. Insofar as the long-term safety of continual irradiation from these devices has never been tested and many people (including many eminent scientists) believe that it is potentially harmful, the whole nation is being made a part of an uncontrolled experiment on their electromagnetic safety.
In fact, it doesn’t matter whether they turn out to be harmful or not; the fact that the experiment is being performed at all without the expressed permission of the consumer is a contravention of the Nuremberg Code. If we are to adhere to the Code, no consumer should have a wireless smart meter fitted without their voluntary consent after being warned that some scientists believe them to be a health hazard. Furthermore, should the property change hands, any new consumer should have the right to ask for the meter to be removed and replaced by a conventional one.’
For those of you who have not yet met ‘smart meters’ they are, or at least they are sold as, the energy companies’ and the government’s way to help you reduce your energy consumption and allow the whole country to become greener and more sustainable. Anyone who has had an energy audit by their local council will already have been offered a version of smart meter – a neat little electronic device that will monitor your energy usage in each room of your flat or house and thus allow you to minimise your energy consumption – and reduce your bills! The only problem for those of us who are already electrosensitive (and possibly for many of the rest of you too, since our numbers seem to be growing all the time) is that the way that meter or monitoring device communicates with your energy supplier is via a wifi system running though your house.
Likewise a smart meter. In its case, it sends information about your energy consumption, on an ongoing basis, via a wifi network, to a local ‘hub’ that, in due course, remits it onward to a central database. This allows the energy provision companies to monitor your energy consumption 24/7 and to send you bills without having to send out that irritating meter-reading man to ring your door bell. (Good for their profits – maybe not so good for the employment statistics in these times of shrinking employment.) [Read more…]