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Radiation etc
These posts originated from the 'Baku Olympiad' thread

Re: Baku Olympiad
by amuir » Mon Aug 22, 2016 1:35 pm
Walter, food for thought there.
You seem knowledgeable about radiation risk. Is it safe to live under electricity pylons as our local school is now being constructed beside them ?
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m --> ... 7219277824
Is it safe to use a mobile phone regularly from the age of 10 ? Are there any definitive articles ?
I was just thinking that the cumulative effect of radiation is so much greater for people nowadays, say for a current junior playing regularly in international tournaments with all these x-rays to encounter.

Re: Baku Olympiad
by WBuchanan » Mon Aug 22, 2016 3:17 pm

The govt has gradually been acknowledging the link with low frequency and low level magnetic fields, in particular the outcome of the aggregation of numerous studies across the decades – that an exposure 0.4 microtesla (not untypical near pylons) is associated with a doubling of the child leukemia rate. Acknowledging in private that is, not so much in public, as it’s a bit loth to start paying for expensive solutions, like running the pylons underground.

Zhao Meta analysis on leukemia link <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m -->
Ahlbom <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m -->
Kheifets <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m -->

Child leukemia is still a rare occurrence so I wouldn’t panic and you are right to first consider this alongside other sources of exposure. The mobile is something you can more easily do something about (though the child might keep falling out with you until they turn 16 and then they can get one themselves if they want) – not just the industry the government has maintained the approach of kicking the issue into the ‘long grass’, studiously avoiding investigating the effects that are all but established. As I said in the first post, the evidence that EMF (at mobile-type levels) causes biological effects is overwhelming. Eg, see <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m --> ... eswari.pdf

There is no one article just the weight of evidence. It’s a complex area spanning numerous disciplines. Even the pylons risk may depend on the polarity of the magnetic field, according to some eminently respectable researchers. If you look at official pronouncements you will mostly see spin, which is not easy to debunk without some knowledge. I think the best thing to remember is that (so-called) safety guidelines were only designed to prevent sudden shocks, etc, due to heating effects from lower exposures - these guidelines expressly excluded cancer and other long term illnesses that could arise from low-level exposures . So when you read someone saying that some exposure level is well below safety guidelines you know there is fobbing off going on.


Re: Baku Olympiad
by Phil Thomas » Mon Aug 22, 2016 3:28 pm

Basing this upon Walter's quoted sources.
Great posts Walter much appreciated

A one in 10,000 risk is hard to measure. Looking for linearity or non linearity below 10 millisieverts (level assumed to give a one in 10,000 risk of cancer spread across a lifetime) is fraught with practical difficulties - trying to measure numbers very close to zero, its not easy

With the assumption of linearity. 1 hour subsonic flying time calculates to a 1 in 2 million risk level.
The dose from a scan at 0.1 microsievert equates to to radiation received during 1.2 minutes flying.
For me that is negligible. But as always the risk is not zero - calculates through to a 1 in 100 million extra risk of cancer sometime in one's lifetime.

When the national lottery first appeared the odds of winning were in in 14,000,000

For mobile phones (microwave radiation) and power lines (magnetic fields) multiple studies have been inconclusive. That means too low to measure accurately - inconclusive unless you cherry pick the data.

All this concern about miniscule levels of risk.........
Yet airports continue to sell tobacco products and we continue to inhabit granite rich areas (radon gas).

Public Health England publishes the following table showing the risk of lung cancer for smokers, non smokers and ex smokers. The results vary with radon level in Becquerels. (The simple radiation unit, 1 Becquerel equals one radioactive decay per second).

Columns not well alligned I'm afraid

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m --> should be a working link.

Indoor radon level (Bq m-3) Non-smoker Ex-smoker gave up at age 30 Ex-smoker gave up at 50 Current Smoker
20 Less than 1 in 200 1 in 60 1 in 18 1 in 7
200 1 in 190 1 in 48 1 in 14 1 in 5
800 1 in 100 1 in 28 1 in 8 1 in 3

So for a smoker, who quit at age 50, the risk of lung cancer increases from
From 1 in 7 in a low radon environment (20 Bq)
to 1 in 3 in a high radon environment (800Bq)

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m --> should be a working link to Public Health England data

In summary

The 1 in 100,000,000 risk does not worry me. (one airport X ray scan)
A 1 in 14,000,000 chance tells me that, with more than 95 % certainty, I won't win the lottery this week - not unless I buy more than 700,000 tickets
Less than 1 in 200 risk (non smoker low radon area) is unfortunate but can't be reduced.
1 in 3 to 1 in 7 chance (depending upon radon level in home) of getting lung cancer for smokers who quit at 50 tells me that

Smoking is dangerous.
Hi Phil.

Interesting about the radon thanks. Not sure whether to check my area or not Smile.

“For mobile phones (microwave radiation) and power lines (magnetic fields) multiple studies have been inconclusive. That means too low to measure accurately - inconclusive unless you cherry pick the data”

Some of the evidence to which I refer is hard to dispute, eg oxidative stress,
“In humans, oxidative stress is thought to be involved in the development of….” [long list of serious illnesses] <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m -->

The last time I looked at this a few years back, EVERY study I could find that investigated mobile signals and oxidative stress found (or perhaps noted generally) that the mobile signals cause the oxidative stress. At least thirty. There is no controversy over this, there are only cherries on the one side to pick. it’s spoken of by all the researchers as ‘a given’. It’s widely studied - not because any researchers believe this is in doubt, but (eg) to find treatments that might alleviate it.

I just took another look in Pubmed for mobiles and oxidative stress – the most recent studies to date, so these are new ones:
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""> ... +stress%22</a><!-- m -->

Browsing through these it looks like there another twenty, on the same side. By what rationale would anyone not conclude that oxidative stress is caused by mobiles?

For the other 'mobile effects' I mentioned (like melatonin reduction) the picture is more ‘mixed’. Because of political issues, something subjectively described as inconclusive by scientists can be (objectively) statistically overwhelming, even though the numbers might as usual need interpretation.

The p-value of less than 5% (ie 1 in twenty chance) that applies in most medical studies (as you obviously know of course :-) ), means that you should not necessarily count ‘the cherries’ equally as because the positive is harder to attain than the negative (and negative often means 'not proven') strong evidence can be counted on the other side. From previous posts, I expect you know all about this kind of thing too..

For example, if ten out of twenty comparable studies find a particular effect and ten don’t, it would surely be erroneous to conclude that the picture is unclear, as you would be extremely unlikely to get ten ‘one in twenty’ outcomes out of twenty attempts by chance – this outcome would have something like 1 in a billion probability of occurring by chance. Were the subject not so politically charged, it would be routinely chalked up, if not absolutely conclusive then at least 'almost conclusive' would be the working assumption that had to be made, at least as far as the numbers are concerned.

I won't put a figure on the melatonin outcomes etc from memory but I do think it was in the balpark of fifty-fifty. Just 'adding up' can oversimplify the picture of course, but the numerical findings and their statistical significance should not be lost in the crosstalk! I rather suspect you know much more about statistics than I do so I'd be interested in your comments.

Hi Walter,
thanks for the complementary words.
I was simply trying to put some numbers about risk into some context.
However it is you who has done the real work here. -seriously impressed am I

From your closing paragraphs:-
Personally I am always a little cautious in trusting conclusions from multiple published sources with conflicting conclusions. Inherently I suspect that work which is giving inconclusive results is less likely to be completed and less likely to be accepted for publication. Hope I’m wrong but…..

Ironic isn’t it that this subject arose on a chess forum on a thread which discussed X ray exposure at airports. Chess events must be one of the few crowded public spaces where there should be no active mobile phone within many metres.

Knowledge has moved on since I was last well informed on the area. The reviewed articles you linked do are make persuasive reading on quick skim through.
Seems very doubtful to me that any government would restrict mobile phones, or even take meaningful steps to reduce exposures.
Last I heard objections to siting of mobile phone masts on health grounds were routinely disallowed.

I get the impression that risk is perceived to be much lower than for Mobile phones. Would you agree?

I do have reservations about accuracy of Wikipedia articles on complex medical matters. Traditional peer reviewed articles for me ………any day.
Having said that- Intuitively, I would put more faith into this Wikipedia article.
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m -->
Of particular interest to me was the section on Antioxidants as supplements. Show how complex life is at the cellular level.
Personally I take sizeable amounts of vitamin C when suffering with a cold. Might not work but it’s a placebo with a good taste.

Figures in table were new to me too. I was aware many years ago that NRPB undertaking a survey and publishing results with expected findings. The Uranium within Granite produces hot spots in Cornwall and Aberdeenshire
Since then NRPB has metamporphsised into (part of) Public Health England (PHE)
Map showing high and low Radon levels is here.
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m -->
For any particular room the radon level and risk level will be heavily dependent upon ventiliation. Unsurprisingly – ground floors and particularly basements tend to have more radon present than 1st floor and upwards.
PHE offer assistance for measuring radon. I very much doubt if there has been a significant take up.

Go back half a century and companies /scientists with a vested interest were denying health issues with tobacco smoke and asbestos. I don’t think there is any chance at all that Mobile phones, Power lines, airport Xray devices will ever fall into that category.
Tobacco smoke has had much legislative attention – for decades. I don’t expect it to banned any time soon though
Radon, however, I expect to create mounting concern in the future. For NRPB/PHE to publish the table on Radon risks that I linked to …. They will have thoroughly reviewed the data and been convinced of the conclusions. The numbers might change later but the conclusions won’t.
Surprises me that anti nuclear energy lobby groups don’t seem to mentions the Radon issue.

There is a risk to everything we do in life including crossing the road – best not to do so while using a mobile phone. However mobiles are most dangerous when used while driving – so many well documented accidents caused that way.
Personally I refuse to use hands free when driving alone in the car – the world can wait until I park up.
Hi Phil – sorry for the tardy response, have been a bit busy, my excuse anyway Smile. Thanks for the kind words.

MOBILE PHONES “Ironic isn’t it that this subject arose on a chess forum on a thread which discussed X ray exposure at airports. Chess events must be one of the few crowded public spaces where there should be no active mobile phone within many metres.”

Yes ironic – though wireless technology is proliferating into virtually all aspects of life and chess will not escape without a change in awareness. Andy Howie has called for signal jamming to prevent cheating. And there’s wireless electronic boards but I believe CS now use wired ones.

“Last I heard objections to siting of mobile phone masts on health grounds were routinely disallowed.”

Yes generally true; well having coined in billions (about £9bn in the UK) from the mobile operator licenses, governments tended to use the same device to impose the masts on communities – passing legislation preventing councils from refusing phone masts on health grounds, while simultaneously proclaiming them safe, ignoring whatever evidence was offered to the contrary and pointing to the ‘safety guidelines’ which apply to microwave ovens not long term risks. A very small window for opposition was left ajar (though which some have successfully climbed), in that councils were allowed to ‘take public concern on health into account’. Essentially this meant that lots of people had to complain about things like visual unsightliness or the mast being proposed for ‘the wrong place’ while others expressed strong health concerns. If the campaign was organised and big enough, councils – which benefit financially from mast sitings in public areas – occasionally might refuse a mast on ‘visual’ grounds when it was really about the health fears. Most refusals were overturned on appeal however, or the mast application would move somewhere nearby with less resistance (repeat until resistance successfully bypassed). Or they doubled up the equipment on existing masts.

Powerlines risk vs mobiles – difficult question. Risk from powerlines is a subset of risks from low-frequency (electro)magnetic fields generally. These have been studied in the occupational context. For this I would like to show how the general picture is coloured (and no doubt add some colour of my own Smile ).

The high threshold (95% certainty) for recording a positive result combined with probably a similar threshold again having to be exceeded before cautious medical viewpoint (in conjunction with denialist governments and industry who strongly influence the research) will recognize when the quantity of evidence has gone past the point where opinion should change – this all forms a formidable barrier to recognition of what can be ‘obvious’ to anyone looking objectively at the overall research results. In the case of smoking (ionizing radiation is another) the industry succeeded by obfuscation in keeping the ‘statistical’ reality officially obscure decades after it was common knowledge amongst the relevant specialists. It might still be officially ‘inconclusive’ but for those pictures of discoloured smokers’ lungs we all saw years ago on TV... :|. Finally (to complete my grandstanding Smile) the first paper detailing the harmful effects of asbestos was presented to Parliament in Victorian times.

Back to EMFs...a very careful, measured review of the research (though a huge quantity of Russian research was ignored) on low-frequency EMF was done for the Californian government over 10 years ago (<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""> ... 02-04.html</a><!-- m -->). This review was intended to be kept secret but the threat of court action forced its disclosure. The experts compiling this thousand-page report expressed themselves as more than 50% sure that electromagnetic fields increase to some degree the risk of child+adult leukemia, adult brain cancer, miscarriage, ALS (a form of motor neurone disease). For those illnesses, the cautious wording masked collective p-values (for the studies included) that would have been off-the-scale – except the cautious wording has a compressing, logarithmic effect even before it reaches the politicians.

I find Wikipedia ok except for political (including scientific) controversies when it almost always sides with the mainstream view while trying to ‘knock out’ the alternative view with superficial swipes. With this caveat, it’s not a bad place to start, as it usually mentions the contrary view which can then be investigated further. In my view, it’s a bad place to stop, though! I only cited Wikipedia because the role played by oxidative stress (overwhelmingly found to be caused in some measure by mobile radiation) in most major illnesses is not a medical controversy. It is stated bluntly in medical studies eg “Imbalance between ROS/RNS production and elimination results in oxidative stress (OxS), which has been implicated in aging and in numerous human diseases, including cancer, diabetes or age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia)”. There is the question of quantification of any harm from these effects, but it would first be necessary to recognize the problem.

Antioxidants and ‘placebo with a good taste’ ( Smile ) – I’m neutral on supplementation myself as \I don’t know what works and what doesn’t.

I agree judgements have to be made, there is a risk to everything as you say – I’m just pointing out that the picture on which people naturally want to base this judgement is subject to considerable interference.

I’d better stop there for now Phil... appreciate your interest in my ramblings.


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