Article publication date:
Ishai et al
This narrative review provides an overview of the potential harm caused by radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) based on a variety of studies, including epidemiological, in vivo, in vitro, and mechanistic. The authors claim that there is a causal relationship between RF EME and various health outcomes such as cancer, developmental issues, and reduced fertility. They attribute these negative health outcomes to the build-up of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the activation of voltage gated calcium channels (VGCC) in cells. The review also discusses the findings of large studies, such as the 2018 U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) study and the 2018 Ramazzini Institute study, which both exposed rats and mice to high levels of RF EME and reported on cancer outcomes . The authors conclude that there is an established link between RF EME and adverse health outcomes and call for increased funding and research on RF EME and health, as well as an immediate moratorium on 5G mobile telecommunications.
Problems in evaluating the health impacts of radio frequency radiation
Commentary by ARPANSA
This review claims many health outcomes and relies on criticized research to draw its conclusions, particularly the NTP study, the Ramazzini Institute study, and the epidemiological studies and reviews conducted by the Hardell group.
The NTP and Ramazzini Institute studies have been criticized by many researchers, including both ARPANSA and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP), the peak international organization providing science-based advice on limiting exposure to non-ionizing radiation. Both organizations reported that neither study provides consistent, reliable evidence that RF EME at levels below the ARPANSA RF health standard can cause health effects in humans. This conclusion was based on methodological and statistical failures in both studies, such as high levels of exposure, failure to use appropriate statistical analysis, and inconsistencies in the health outcomes of the animals. For more information, please see the ARPANSA analysis of the NTP study and the analysis of both studies by ICNIRP.
When the authors reviewed the evidence of the association between RF EME from mobile phones and glioma, they relied heavily on the conclusions previously made by the Hardell group. The authors did not examine evidence from recent major studies, such as Karipidis et al. (2018), Villeneuve et al. 2021, Elwood et al. 2022, Little et al. 2012, Deltour et al. 2022 and Choi et al 2021, which reported no change in brain cancer incidence since the introduction of mobile phones in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, America, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Korea.
The review reports that there are two mechanisms by which RF EME could cause various health issues: production of ROS and activation of VGCC. However, the review's discussion of how RF EME could cause ROS production is limited and fails to address any evidence from experimental studies that actually measured ROS production from RF EME exposure. It relies on evidence from the criticized NTP study (Smith-roe et al 2020), which again did not actually measure ROS production and previous review articles. For more information on the Smith-roe et al (2020) paper see the analysis by Vijayalaxmi et al, (2020). The authors also miss evidence provided by Wood and Karipidis (2020) that reviewed the literature from the last 50 years of how RF EME could activate VGCC, and the authors report that the experimental studies have not validated that RF affects calcium transport into or out of cells.
The review claims to use the Bradford Hill criteria to establish causation for RF EME and cancer, but the authors do not apply the criteria themselves and only report on opinions presented in a previous review by Carlberg and Hardell (2017).
Overall, this review appears to be strongly influenced by confirmation bias with the authors relying heavily on other reviews that supported their conclusions rather than assessing the evidence themselves. There are higher quality reviews of RF EME and health available that have reviewed the evidence, such as the reviews by Karipidis et al (2021) and Wood et al (2021), and reviews by large organizations such as Public Health England and The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). The World Health Organization is also currently conducting systematic reviews on many different topics related to RF EME and health (link to report).