BioInitiative 2012

A new report by the BioInitiative Working Group finds increased evidence of risk from electrical and wireless sources.

The 2012 Report by the BioInitiative Working Group has concluded that evidence of risk from EMR-emitting technologies justifies new standards that greatly reduce public exposure.

‘There is now much more evidence of risks to health affecting billions of people world-wide. The status quo is not acceptable in light of the evidence for harm,’ said Dr David Carpenter, co-editor of the 2012 Report.

The 21-chapter Report is an updated version of the original BioInitiative Report, published in 2007. It reviews over 1800 new studies published since that time.

‘Overall, these new studies report abnormal gene transcription; genotoxicity and single- and double-strand DNA damage; stress proteins because of the fractal RF-antenna like nature of DNA; chromatin condensation and loss of DNA repair capacity in human stem cells; reduction in free-radical scavengers—particularly melatonin; neurotoxicity in humans and animals; carcinogenicity in humans; serious impacts on human and animal sperm morphology and function; effects on offspring behaviour; and effects on brain and cranial bone development in the offspring of animals that are exposed to cell phone radiation during pregnancy.’

The Report was produced by 29 independent scientists and health experts from around the world, including the Chair of the Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation and a Senior Advisor to the European Environment Agency.

The Report says that children are more vulnerable than adults and that other sensitive populations should be considered, for example the foetus, people with other chronic diseases, the elderly and those with electromagnetic hypersensitivity. The authors consider that sperm should be included in the population deserving special protection.

The Report includes a table of studies and the levels at which harmful effects have been observed. These show that harmful effects have been found to occur at levels that are thousands of times lower than those permitted by current safety standards. The Report suggests that these standards are outdated and inadequate and recommends that exposure be kept to ‘the lowest levels at which effects are not seen’.

Whereas the 2007 BioInitiative Report recommended limiting cumulative outdoor exposure to 0.1 uW/cm2 (equal to 100 nanowatts/cm2), the 2012 Report recommends reducing it to ‘three orders of magnitude lower .’ It recommends ‘a scientific benchmark of 0.003 uW/cm2 or three nanowatts per cm2’.

For sensitive populations, the levels should be reduced even further, the Report says.

It says, ‘Health authorities and regulatory agencies that set public safety standards ... should act now to adopt new, biologically-relevant safety limits that key to the lowest scientific benchmarks for harm coming from the recent studies, plus a lower safety margin.’

Regulators do not consider the cumulative exposure of people to multiple sources of wireless radiation, even though this radiation has an additive effect, the Report warns.

One chapter of the Report contains the precautionary advice of various health agencies and groups of physicians and precautionary political decisions that have been implemented throughout the world.

‘The great strength of the BioInitiative Report is that it has been done independent of governments, existing bodies and industry professional societies that have clung to old standards. Precisely because of this, the BioInitiative Report presents a solid scientific and public health policy assessment that is evidence-based.’ said Dr David Carpenter and his co-editor Cindy Sage.

The 2012 Report shows even more evidence of risk than found previously.

Wireless phones and brain tumours

The two primary sources of evidence for the mobile phone/brain tumour.

After reviewing this evidence, the authors of this chapter conclude, ‘there is a consistent pattern of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma associated with the use of mobile phones and cordless phones.’

They refer to the conclusion of the Italian Supreme Court that mobile phone radiation was responsible for causing a businessman’s brain tumour (reported last issue).

The authors consider that the evidence of risk is sufficient to justify classifying mobile phone radiation as a human carcinogen and that current safety standard are not sufficiently protective.

‘New public health standards and limits are needed,’ they say.

Childhood cancers

The Report says that childhood leukemia is the most common childhood cancer and the incidence increased early in the 20th century, possibly due to electrification.

The IARC classified magnetic fields of 4 mG as a class 2B carcinogen 2001, based on the many studies showing a link between childhood leukemia and magnetic fields. It did not classify it as a carcinogen based on the lack of supporting animal and mechanism studies.

The Report concludes that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that magnetic fields cause childhood leukemia, irrespective of a mechanism having been identified, and that confirming animal studies are not possible because there is no animal model for the most common form of childhood leukemia. These exposures, it says, should be classified as a group 1 carcinogen.

‘Typically, if an agent is classified as a Group 2B carcinogen, precautionary measures are taken at workplaces and special care is recommended if it is present in consumer products (eg lead, styrene, benzofuran, welding fumes).’ However, this has not happened in the case of EMR.

International exposure guidelines protect only against immediate effects (‘such as nerve and muscle excitations’) and are not providing adequate protection. Precautionary measures should be put in place and exposures from powerlines should be kept below an average of 1 mG, the authors say.

Fertility and Reproduction

According to the Report, ‘Use of electronic household items and cell phones are reported to decrease fertility potential in men by decreasing sperm count, motility, viability, inducing pathological changes in sperm and testes morphology, and so on.’

Among the reproductive problems it identifies are:

  • changes to sperm motility
  • reduced testicular weight
  • miscarriage
  • DNA damage
  • increased risk of urinary tract abnormality
  • excess of abortions
  • increase in DNA fragmentation
  • early development of embryo
  • abnormalities in sperm head
  • reduced ovarian size (fruit flies) and
  • reduced sperm count.

It suggests these problems may be caused by oxidative stress and free radical action.

As well as impeding fertility, sperm damage may possibly damage embryos, the authors suggest.

‘Overall, the evidence from various laboratories studying fertility and reproduction effects over the last ten years is important enough [to] raise questions about possible public health consequences of chronic, long-term exposure to mobile phone use, and when carried on the body close to the reproductive organs.’

Fetal and Neonatal Effects

The Report says that young children can be chronically exposed to many sources of EMR, yet there has been little research on how they are affected by this exposure.

Some studies have found that prenatal exposure increased the risks of children developing leukemia, asthma and behavioural problems and hyperactivity. Others found that:

  • those who used mobile phones had a higher rate of brain tumours
  • those exposed to magnetic fields had higher rates of leukemia.

Babies and fetuses have large numbers of stem cells which appear to be more susceptible to EMR than other (differentiated) cells.

Common-sense precautions should be adopted to protect the very young, for example educating pregnant women and modifying the design of incubators to reduce magnetic fields.

‘New, biologically-based public exposure standards are critically needed,’ the authors conclude.

Neurological effects

Both EMF and RF cause changes in the nervous system, the Report says. Of the new studies, 63% show effects from RF and 93% show effects from EMF.

‘The nervous system is an electric organ. Thus, it should not be surprising that exposure to electromagnetic fields could lead to neurological changes.’

Among the changes it reports are:

  • changes in the electrical activity of the brain after mobile phone use
  • effects on sleep
  • changes to cognitive function
  • memory effects
  • hyper/hypo-activity and
  • changed emotional states.

Free radical damage may be one factor that contributes to these effects, the Report says.

‘There is no definite data showing that these effects are detrimental to human health. However, since effects have been observed, it is advisable that one should limit one’s exposure to EMF.’

Genetic effects

The Report updates the 2007 data on the genetic effects of EMR. It says that 63% of the new studies show genetic effects from RF and 81% show effects from EMF and the effects of both EMF and RF are similar.

‘Increase in free radical activity and changes in enzymes involved in cellular oxidative processes are the most consistent effects observed in cells and animals.’ The authors say there are several hundred studies showing such effects.

According to the Report, EMR has a synergistic effect with other environmental agents, including ionizing radiation, chemical mutagens and x-rays. ‘Most of the compounds that interact with EMF are mutagens.’

Studies have found that the genetic effects of EMR may depend on the type of cell that is exposed and the type of wave that’s used. For example, some DNA breaks occurred when cells were exposed to a modulated but not continuous signal.

The Report concludes, ‘not very much of the cellular and animal genetic research data directly indicate that EMF (both RF and ELF EMF) is a carcinogen. However, the data show that EMF can possibly alter genetic functions and thus it is advisable that one should limit one’s exposure to EMF.’

Stress Response

The authors say that cells have been shown to release stress proteins when exposed to both EMF and RF, even at low levels of exposure. One of the reasons this occurs has to do with the shape of DNA.

’It appears that the DNA molecule is particularly vulnerable to damage by EMF because of the coiled-coil configuration of the compacted molecule in the nucleus. The unusual structure endows it with the self similarity of a fractal antenna and the resulting sensitivity to a wide range of frequencies.’

EMF harms cells at levels a billion times lower than caused by heating. Therefore, existing standards need to be replaced with biologically-based standards ‘that could be developed from the research on the stress response.’

Blood-brain barrier

There are no definite conclusions about whether EMR harms the blood-brain barrier that can be drawn from the scientific literature at present, the Report says. However, there are indications of harm.

‘The fact that an abundance of studies do show effects is an important warning. This is true even if it can be summarized that the effects most often are weak and are seen in about 40% of the exposed animals.’

The authors refer to studies that found a breaching of the blood-brain barrier at levels that would be found about a meter from a mobile phone or 150-200 metres from a mobile phone base station.

‘A single 2-hr exposure to cell phone radiation can result in increased leakage of the BBB, and 50 days after exposure, neuronal damage can be seen,’ the authors say.

Melatonin, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease

The Report says that 11 of 13 published studies show that magnetic fields decreased melatonin production and the remaining two appear to be flawed.

Nine of 12 studies show that magnetic fields contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia and the three remaining studies have flaws.

The authors conclude that EMF increases amyloid beta which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease and reduces melatonin which is protective against the disease.


The Report discusses parallels between the way in which EMF and RFR affect the body and physiological characteristics of people with autism. These parallels include changes to genes, developmental changes and ongoing changes to brain function.

The authors say there is a need for research to consider the evidence for EMR contributing to this condition.

In the meantime, they recommend precautions to protect children. ‘Reducing or removing EMF and wireless RFR stressors from the environment is a reasonable precautionary action given the overall weight of evidence.’

Hypothesis for effects

The Report considers the hypothesis that radiofrequency radiation may cause biological problems by disrupting the synchronization of electrical signals in the brain.

‘Synchronous biological oscillations in cells (pacemaker cells) can be disrupted by artificial, exogenous environmental signals, resulting in desynchronization of neural activity that regulates critical functions (including metabolism) in the brain, gut and heart and circadian rhythms governing sleep and hormone cycles,’ it says.

‘RFR exposures in daily life alter homeostasis in human beings. These exposures can alter and damage gene expression and cause de novo mutations that prevent genetic recovery and healing mechanisms. These exposures may interfere with normal cardiac and brain function; alter circadian rhythms that regulate sleep, healing, and hormone balance; impair short-term memory, concentration, learning and behavior; provoke aberrant immune, allergic and inflammatory responses in tissues; alter brain metabolism; increase risks for reproductive failure (damage sperm and increase miscarriage risk); and cause cells to produce stress proteins. Exposures now common in home and school environments are likely to be physiologically addictive and the effects are particularly serious in the young,’ the Report says.

  • ‘Health agencies and regulatory agencies should act now to adopt new, biologically-relevant standards.’
  • ‘Men of child-bearing age should not wear mobile phones on their body to protect the integrity of sperm DNA.'
  • ‘Commonsense measures to limit both ELF-EMF and RFR in the fetus and newborn infant are needed.’
  • ‘Pregnant women should be strongly cautioned not to use wireless devices during pregnancy.’
  • ‘Children should not use wireless devices except in the case of emergencies.’
  • ‘Children should not … be exposed on an involuntary and chronic basis to wireless in their living, sleeping or learning environments.’
  • ‘Wireless laptops and other wireless devices should be strongly discouraged in schools for children of all ages, and wireless systems already installed should be replaced with wired (cable) alternatives.’

The BioInitiative Report can be found at

from 'EMR and Health' March 2013, vol 9 no 1