Radiation literature survey
The radiation literature survey provides updates on published literature related to radiation (both ionising and non-ionising) and health.
Published literature includes articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, scientific-body reports, conference proceedings, etc.
The updates on new radiation literature that are of high quality and of public interest will be published as they arise. For each update, a short summary and a link to the abstract or to the full document (if freely available) are provided. The update may also include a commentary from ARPANSA and links to external websites for further information. The links may be considered useful at the time of preparation of the update however ARPANSA has no control over the content or currency of information on external links. Please see the ARPANSA website disclaimer.
Explanations of the more common terms used in the updates are found in the glossary.
The radiation literature that is listed in the updates is found by searching various databases and is not exhaustive.
The intention of the radiation literature survey is to provide an update on new literature related to radiation and health that may be of interest to the general public. ARPANSA does not take responsibility for any of the content in the scientific literature and is not able to provide copies of the papers that are listed.
Visit the National Library of Australia Australian Government Web Archive to access archived information no longer available on our website.
Study does not find a link between living near Mobile Phone Base Stations and Self-Reported Health Disturbances
Martin, S et al
This cross-sectional study investigated the possible association between radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) from mobile base stations and self-reported non-specific and insomnia-like symptoms. A total of 354 participants were recruited from 5 cities in France that lived within 250 metres of a base station that had been operational for over 2 years. The participants had RF-EMF measurements completed at their homes following the completion of a questionnaire via the telephone which collected data on environmental concerns, anxiety and non-specific and insomnia-like symptoms. The study found no association between measured RF-EMF from base stations with self-reported non-specific and insomnia-like symptoms. However, a significant interaction was found for insomnia-like symptoms between RF-EMF exposure from base stations and environmental concerns. Overall, the authors concluded that this study shows no adverse effect from residential RF-EMF exposure from base stations on non-specific and insomnia-like symptoms.
This study further contributed to the growing body of evidence that RF-EMF exposure from mobile base stations does not cause adverse health effects. This is in line with ARPANSA’s view that there is currently no substantiated scientific evidence that exposure to RF-EMF from telecommunications infrastructure at levels below the limits set in the ARPANSA Standard (RPS 3) cause any adverse health effects. Some people have reported experiencing a range of non-specific symptoms that they attribute to exposure from EMF. This is sometimes referred to as Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS). However, there is no established evidence the EMF at levels below the exposure guidelines causes EHS. More information on EHS can be found on our factsheet.
Study reports that exposure to solar UVR reduces breast cancer risk
Yilun Li, Li Ma
PubMed, Nov 2020
This was a meta-analysis of 6 case-control studies that examined the relationship between solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure and breast cancer. Three of these case-control studies were also used to assess a possible dose-response relationship between solar UVR exposure and breast cancer. The study reported a statistically significant reduced risk of breast cancer with UVR exposure (relative risk, RR: 0.7, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.65, 0.75). The study also reported a statically significant decrease in breast cancer risk as UVR exposure increased in women aged 20 to 30 years (RR: 0.92; 95% CI: 0.90, 0.95). In women over 40, the authors reported a linear dose-response relationship that for every 1000 mW/m2 hours of sunlight there is a 10% reduction in breast cancer risk. Overall, the authors report that solar UVR reduces the risk of breast cancer in women.
Despite the overall conclusion of the authors, when specific breast cancer subtypes were examined there was no reduced risk for estrogen receptor-negative and progesterone receptor-negative breast cancers (RR: 0.87, 95% CI: 0.67, 1.11). The study included relatively few studies (6), which limits any conclusions that can be made on the reported reduced risk of breast cancer with UVR exposure.
While this study suggests that solar UVR exposure may reduce the risk of breast cancer in women, UVR exposure remains one of the major risk factors for development of skin cancers. Skin cancer accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia each year (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016). In 1992 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified solar UVR as a Group 1 carcinogen (IARC, 1992). ARPANSA recommends that all Australians limit their UVR radiation exposure, however, if you are in the sun, it is recommended that a combination of sun protection measures is used including clothing and sunglasses, shade and sunscreen. For more information see the ARPANSA factsheet, Sun exposure and health.
Mexican study examined exposure to ELF EMF and the risk of childhood leukaemia
Nunez-Enriquez et al
Bioelectromagnetics, September 2020
This case-control study examined the effects of extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic field (MF) exposure on the incidence of B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (B-ALL). The study included 290 cases and 407 controls who were under 16 years of age and recruited from public hospitals in Mexico City. Participants exposure was assessed by measuring the ELF MF in their bedrooms over a 24-hour period. The study reported statistically significant associations between B-ALL and ELF MF at ≥ 0.4 µT (odds ratio (OR) 1.87 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.04–3.35) and ELF MF at ≥ 0.6 µT (OR 2.32 95% CI 1.10–4.93). The authors concluded that exposure to ELF‐MF ≥ 0.4 μT may be associated with the risk of B‐ALL.
The results in this study are limited by the small number of subjects classified as exposed; only 29 cases and 27 controls and 19 cases and 15 controls at ELF MF ≥ 0.4 µT and ≥ 0.6 µT, respectively. A recent meta-analysis by Crespi et al (2019) reported that exposure to ELF MF above 0.4 µT was not associated with childhood leukaemia. Further, there are a number of factors that could be influencing the observed association between childhood leukaemia and magnetic fields including, selection bias, misclassification and other confounding factors (WHO, 2007). There is also no substantiated mechanism that has been identified from experimental studies that could explain a possible association between ELF MF and childhood leukaemia (SCENIHR, 2015). This, together with shortcomings of the epidemiological studies, limits any conclusions being made on reported associations between ELF MF and childhood leukaemia.
German studies suggest moderate, responsible solarium use is safe – but is it really that simple?
Burgard and Reichrath, and Reichrath et al.
There have been two separate reviews published by the same study group which have examined the literature on solarium use and the risk of melanoma. These reviews were conducted as a supplement to a meta-analysis of the same body of evidence published by Burgard et al in 2018. ARPANSA had previously reviewed this meta-analysis and provided comment. Briefly, in the 2018 meta-analysis, the authors included 2 cohort and 29 case-control studies and reported overall risk factors supporting an association between varying degrees of solarium exposure ranging from moderate to heavy use and a risk of malignant melanoma. Further, the risk of melanoma increased with higher use of solariums suggesting a dose-response relationship with ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure. Despite these results, the authors pointed to weaknesses in the included studies being a major cause of bias and thus concluded that there was no substantiated evidence of moderate solarium use being a causal factor for the development of malignant melanoma.
The current 2020 reviews provide further critique regarding the quality of the studies that form the basis of solarium use as a risk factor for melanoma. Specifically, they focus on “moderate” sunbed use being used as the criteria to question the scientific basis of current mainstream advice that the use of solaria is carcinogenic from exposure to artificial UVR, which is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The reviews discuss the impact of confounders including solar UVR exposure, age of exposure and smoking status and argue that the risk of bias presented by these factors would most likely lead to an overestimation of the risk. In relation to the criteria of “moderate” sunbed use, the authors argue that there is no strong evidence for melanoma development at UVR exposures below levels sufficient to cause erythema (sunburn).
Despite the critiques of the studies reporting an increased risk between solarium use and melanoma provided within the reviews, the included studies revealed a consistent relationship despite some of their weaknesses.
The authors’ assertions about the safety of moderate solarium use present the question about how ‘moderate’ is defined and, further, how use can be monitored and enforced. Before the total ban of commercial solaria in Australia by 2016, the solarium industry was guided by a voluntary code of practice which focussed on limiting use of sunbeds by factors such as age and skin type of the client. A 2011 study by Makin et al. demonstrated poor adherence by solarium operators to the requirements of this code when accepting clients.
Despite the conclusions of these reviews, the positive associations consistently demonstrating an increased risk between solarium use and melanoma in epidemiological studies continue to support Australia’s nation-wide policy to ban all commercial solaria as a strong health protection measure.
Review of Microwave Weapons in the Cold War: The Moscow Embassy Study
Elwood J. M.
Environmental Health 2012
The ‘Moscow signal’ incident occurred during the Cold War between 1953 and 1976. The former USSR reportedly irradiated the US embassy with a 2.5 – 4 GHz microwave beam with a maximum reported exposure of 15 μW/cm2 for 18 hours a day (Lilienfeld et al., 1978). This paper reviewed the evidence of adverse health effects to staff working in the US embassy. Based on medical records and a Health History Questionnaire, there were no observed differences to total mortality or in ‘mortality from cancer’ between the Moscow group and the comparison group (staff who served in other eastern European embassies). Likewise, the results for morbidity found no differences in health status between the Moscow exposure group and the comparison group except for an increased rate of protozoal infections in males, and a slightly increased frequency of common health conditions. However, hundreds of morbidity comparisons were made, and these are likely chance findings. The paper concludes that no adverse health effects related to increased exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) from the ‘Moscow signal’ incident were found. This supports the findings of the original report by Lilienfeld et al. commissioned by the US Department of State.
The exposure experienced by staff in the US embassy in Moscow is low compared to the current ARPANSA RF exposure standard. Further, there is no substantiated scientific evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to RF EME below the limits set by the ARPANSA RF Standard. The exposure limits are underpinned by several reviews of the body of scientific literature including: the ICNIRP review of RF EME and health, and The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR)’s opinion ‘Potential health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF)’. The results of this study contribute further to the growing body of evidence supporting no adverse health effects from RF EME below the set exposure limits.
Study investigates the effects of RF EMF exposure on the hearing function of rats
Hakan et al
Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine 2020
This in vivo study examined the effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) on the reaction of rats to auditory stimulus. The study exposed rats to RF EME or sham for 2 hours 5 days a week over either a 1 or 10 week period. The RF exposure had a specific absorption rate (SAR) of 0.66 W/kg to the head and 0.005 W/kg to the body. After the exposure period, each animal’s hearing function was tested by measuring its auditory brainstem response (ABR). The authors reported no difference in the ABR threshold values between any of the groups. They did report a statistically significant increase in the latencies of the ABR in the one week exposure group and a decrease in the 10 week exposure group. The study also reported statistically significant changes in the concentration of some biomarkers in the brains of the exposed mice that could indicate changes in the concentration of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and imply oxidative stress.
While there were some changes in biological indicators this did not result in any physiological effects. The effect of RF on ABR has previously been examined in newly born mice Kim et al, 2019. Kim et al also found that RF exposure for 5 days had no significant effects on ABR.
While there were changes in the concentration of biological indicators of ROS, a link between RF EME exposure and altered ROS production has not been substantiated. When the total body of available research on ROS production is considered there are no consistently demonstrated health risks to humans (SCENIHR, 2015).
Study reports on the symptoms experienced by US Government Personnel, in Cuba, following a reported auditory stimulus
Swanson, R. L., 2nd, Hampton, S., Green-McKenzie, J., Diaz-Arrastia, R., Grady, M. S., Verma, R., Biester, R., Duda, D., Wolf, R. L., & Smith, D. H.
This study is a retrospective case series of staff from the US government embassy in Havana, Cuba, who reported experiencing an auditory stimulus that was associated with the onset of various health effects. The stimulus reported by the staff had differing physical characteristics such as high (n=18) or low (n=2) pitch and pressure (n=9) or vibrations (n=3). Of the 24 individuals with suspected exposure, 21 were evaluated 203 days after the reported exposure. The persistent symptoms reported by these individuals were highly variable and included cognitive (n=17), balance (n=15) and visual (n=18) effects, and auditory dysfunction (n=15), sleep impairment (n=18) and headaches (n=15). Different individuals reported various combinations of these health effects. MRI neuroimaging was conducted for the 21 individuals and only three showed changes outside of the normal range. Of these three cases, the authors mention that the changes observed could possibly be attributed to other pre-existing conditions or risk factors.
It is not known how an auditory stimulus or any other exposure, including radio waves, could cause the health symptoms that US government personnel reported. Neither sound in the auditory range or exposure to radio waves is associated with any of the reported symptoms. Further, ARPANSA is not aware of how any other type of radiation exposure could cause the reported symptoms. As discussed by Swanson et al. (2018) the symptoms could possibly be due to a collective delusional disorder, such as a type of mass psychogenic illness. However, Swanson et al. (2018) states there is little evidence for this, and other occurrences of mass psychogenic illness don’t usually result in persistent symptoms. However, a report by Bartholomew et al. (2018) suggests a mass psychogenic illness is the most likely cause and that such occurrences have been reported before. Bartholomew et al. (2018) further suggests that the sound that was perceived was likely just the normal sounds of the city and was conflated with the reported symptoms.
A review examines the correlation between RF EMF exposure and EHS symptoms
New Zealand Medical Journal, July 2020
This review examined the scientific evidence of a connection between exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) and non-specific symptoms by individuals who identify as suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). EHS individuals reported a wide range of non-specific health problems, which they attributed to RF EMF exposure. This study reported that short-term symptoms have been commonly examined using double-blinded provocation studies. These studies have used either typical environmental exposures (e.g. mobiles phones and wi-fi) or sham exposures on both non-EHS individuals and those that report to have EHS. The studies reported no difference in reported symptoms between real or sham exposure. These results suggest that it is the perception of exposure to RF EMF and not the exposure itself that triggers the symptoms reported by EHS individuals. The review also reported on the outcome of cohort studies and meta-analyses of cross-sectional studies that examined the long-term symptoms from RF EMF exposure. When examining the meta-analyses this review reported that lower quality studies or studies where participates were aware of their exposure more commonly reported positive associations between RF EMF exposure and EHS symptoms. In contrast, high quality cohort studies that measured exposures objectively, and compared this to the occurrences of symptoms in EHS individuals, did not demonstrate associations between RF EMF exposure and EHS symptoms. Overall, this review concluded that the symptoms experienced by EHS individuals are closely associated with perception of RF EMF exposure. This suggests that the symptoms experienced by those who report to be EHS are likely because of a nocebo response.
This review contributes to our understanding of the evidence surrounding RF EMF exposure and the occurrence of EHS symptoms. ARPANSA has previously reviewed the evidence of an association between RF EMF exposure and EHS in technical report 164 and continues to review research on EHS to stay up to date on this topic. The symptoms experienced by people who report to have EHS are real and can have disabling effect for the affected individual. However, the scientific evidence suggests that exposure to RF EMF is not the cause of these symptoms. In 2017, ARPANSA published technical report 178 on the research needs for RF EMF and health. This report outlined a number of research aims for scientific investigation that will further elucidate the connection between EHS symptoms and RF exposure.
Study investigates breast cancer gene expression and exposure to environmental radon
Peng et al
BMC Cancer, 2020
This study was the first to examine the possible association between exposure to radon and the expression of particular genes within breast cancer tumours. The study included 874 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer from two large cohort studies of nurses in the US (Nurses’ Health Study I and II). Breast cancer tumours were excised from each case during treatment and gene expression was analysed. Each participant’s radon exposure was estimated by using a combination of their geographical location and a US indoor radon model. The authors did not find any statistically significant gene expression differences in the tumour tissue between cases with high and low radon exposure. However, they did report some differences in adjacent tissue cells, but these were not statistically significant.
A previous study by the same research group also reported no significant association between risk of breast cancer and radon exposure (Vopham et al, 2017). The internal dosimetry models for radon exposure from the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) have recently been updated. These models predict how radionuclides move through the body, and which organs will receive the greatest exposure. The findings from these studies are consistent with the ICRP models that show radon and its progeny do not expose the breast to significant amounts of radiation.
It is important to note that radon exposure is an established risk factor for lung cancer, however, in Australian homes the average concentration of radon is low. For more information about radon, please see the ARPASNA factsheet on Radon exposure and health.
Ecological study on induction heating cookers shows no effect on birth outcomes in Japan
Sato et al
AIMS Public Health, June 2020
This Japanese ecological study investigated a possible association between exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) from the increasing use of induction stoves between 2009 and 2014 and adverse pregnancy outcomes. The use of induction cookers was assessed based on data from a government national survey of family income and expenditure. The authors reported a positive but not statistically significant correlation between the use of induction stoves and the rate of fetal death after the 22nd week of pregnancy (p-value = 0.07). The authors concluded that there was no significant association between exposure to EMF from induction cookers and pregnancy outcomes, however, due to limitations of this ecological study other epidemiological designs should be considered to further demonstrate their safety.
Few studies have specifically examined the effects of EMF from induction cook tops or even other sources in the home on pregnancy outcomes. Typically, research has been conducted on exposure to EMF from electrical appliances in and around the home during pregnancy. However, these studies have not reported consistent results and there have been issues with their methodology. Similarly, this study by Sato et al has similar limitations, including confounding and small sample size (n=47). Overall, it is the assessment of ARPANSA and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) that based on the body of scientific evidence, exposure to EMF found in the home, including those generated by induction cookers does not increase the risk of adverse health effects, including pregnancy outcomes.