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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.
ICNIRP statement on the 2013 human exposure guidelines for lasers
Health Physics, April 2020
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has produced a statement on its 2013 laser exposure guidelines. The statement provides clarification and additional guidance for application of the guidelines. While this statement provides further information and guidance on the application of the laser guidelines, it does not amend the exposure limits. The statement also mentions ICNIRP’s intentions to update the laser guidelines at a later date with an outline of additional data and research that may assist in informing the revision of exposure limits.
In Australia, the use of lasers by the public that emit light that exceeds 1 milliwatt is prohibited. However, lasers that are more powerful are used in many industries including the medical, cosmetic, construction and entertainment industries. The use of lasers in these settings is regulated by the Australian State or Territories where the activity takes place through either specific legislation or though Work Health and Safety requirements. There are also a number of Australian and New Zealand standards for the safe use of lasers (see ARPANSA technical report 182). ARPANSA provides information on laser safety. ARPANSA recognises the importance of ICNIRP’s guidelines and further research for strengthening knowledge about laser hazards.
ICNIRP statement on the potential health effects of Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
Health Physics, April 2020
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) have produced a statement on the safety of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). The statement assesses evidence of health effects from a range of LEDs and discusses a range of factors that could influence the potential hazard. These include viewing distance and duration, brightness, glare and specific properties of their emission such as infrared (IR), ultraviolet (UV), and blue-rich light content and correlated colour temperature (CCT). The statement indicates that LED lighting installed in accordance with good lighting principles should pose no more risk of eye damage than traditional lighting sources. While the long-term effects of LEDs, particularly blue-rich types, are not fully known, there is some evidence that children and the elderly are more sensitive and no health risk is expected under reasonable viewing conditions. While there is also some community concern of the potential hazard of exposure to bright LEDs from computer and/or mobile phone displays, as long as these screens remain comfortable to view, they should not be considered harmful or sleep disruptive when viewed during the day. The statement indicates that the only strong evidence for hazard is from temporal light effects (e.g. flicker) which can induce distraction and generally arise from inappropriately installed lighting systems.
Due to advantages over traditional florescent and incandescent lighting, LED lighting will likely become standard for all artificial lighting in the near future. The long-term effects of LED lighting on the retina remains unclear, however, no adverse effects are expected if appropriate LED lighting is installed in accordance with good lighting principles. Further research is needed to understand if young children or the elderly are more at risk from bright LED lights. Both the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER, 2018) and the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES, 2019) have previously reviewed the evidence of the effects of LEDs on human health and have reached similar conclusions based on the current body of evidence. ARPANSA‘s review of both of these reports is available on our website.
An Australian study finds that sunscreen is the best method to reduce the impact of skin cancer
Gordon et al
BMJ Open, February 2020
This study compared the economic cost-effectiveness of two different intervention strategies for reducing the burden of melanoma and keratinocyte skin cancers in Queensland, Australia. The strategies compared were early intervention by daily sunscreen use to prevent skin cancer versus early detection through regular skin checks by physicians to allow early treatment. The study compared these intervention strategies with a control scenario where neither were used to prevent or manage skin cancer. The study then used models to project both the economic cost and incidence of skin cancers in Queensland for the next 30 years. This was based on data from other scientific studies on incidence of skin cancer, the effect of high and low sunscreen use and the clinical outcome and costs by using early detection measures. The study reported that daily sunscreen use would result in 1055 fewer melanomas and 16 977 fewer keratinocyte skin cancers per 100,000 people and save 38.7 million dollars in treatment costs. It was also reported that the early detection strategy would identify an additional 21 melanomas and 793 keratinocyte skin cancers per 100,000 people. However, the economic burden would result in an additional of 171.9 million dollars in treatment costs. The study concluded that daily sunscreen use would be the most effective strategy for protecting the Queensland population from skin cancers.
The study used data from a number of different studies that used different populations and methods and then applied this to the Queensland population. Although this may affect the skin cancer projections in the model, this is likely to result in an underestimate of the economic impact due to the study population being comprised of mostly fair skinned individuals with higher risk of skin cancer. Despite this, the study still provides valuable information regarding skin cancer prevention and resulting economic benefits. Overall, the results reported by the authors support ARPANSA’s sun protection messaging and those of Cancer Council Australia to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide to prevent excessive solar UV exposure.
French study examines exposure to ELF EMF during pregnancy and the effects on pregnancy outcomes
Migault et al
Occupational Environmental Medicine 2020
This was a pooled-analysis that combined data from two population-based birth cohorts established in 2011. The study examined maternal occupational exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF EMF) during pregnancy and the risk of key birth outcomes. Occupational exposure to ELF EME was assessed for 19,894 woman using a job exposure matrix. The study examined adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth and born small for gestational age. The authors reported statistically significant increased risks of prematurity in the lower ELF EMF exposure category at gestational ages (GA) 224 days (odds ratio (OR) was 1.16 with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.03 – 1.30). However, at the highest ELF EMF exposure category there were no statistically significantly increased risk of preterm birth. The study also reported a statistically significant results of an increased risk for born small for gestational age in the highest ELF EMF exposure category at GA 224 days (OR of 1.25 with a 95% CI of 1.02 – 1.53). However, at all other ages and ELF EMF exposure categories there were no statistically significant increases in risks of an adverse pregnancy outcome. The authors concluded there was no clear evidence of an effect of ELF EMF on the risk of preterm birth or born small for gestational age.
This study reported some increases in the risk of preterm birth and born small for gestational age with maternal occupational exposure to ELF EMF during pregnancy. However, the vast majority of the result showed no increased risk. Due to the lack of consistent results throughout the study, this paper does not establish that ELF EMF during pregnancy has any effect adverse effects on pregnancy outcomes. The authors proposed that uncontrolled confounders, such as occupational exposure to other agents, could explain these inconsistent results. A review by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks in 2015 (link) concluded there is no evidence that fetal exposure to ELF magnetic fields is associated with adverse developmental outcomes. This is in line with ARPANSA’s advice that there is no established scientific and health evidence for adverse health effects from exposure to electric and magnetic fields from electrical devices and power infrastructure.
ICNIRP outlines future research needs for low frequency fields
Health Physics, April 2020
This statement by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) provides information on areas where further research is needed on exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and health. Specific areas where future research should focus on as recommended by ICNIRP include neurodegenerative disorders, pain perception, childhood leukemia, ELF EMF dosimetry, and the possible mechanisms by which ELF EMF can cause adverse health effects. The paper also provides guidance to researchers on how to conduct research to fill these gaps.
Power lines and other electricity supply infrastructure, such as transformers and substations, as well as other electrical sources such as electrical wiring and common appliances produce ELF EMF. For further information on ELF EMF and health, see the ARPANSA fact sheet: Electricity and health. The scientific evidence does not establish that exposure to ELF EMF found around the home, the office or near power lines and other electrical sources is a hazard to human health. However, it is important to continue research in this area and ARPANSA supports ICNIRP’s recommendations for future research.
Risk of CNS cancers among survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb blasts
Brenner et al
This cohort study investigated the risk of central nervous system (CNS) cancers among the atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki based on their estimated radiation exposure. Between 1958 and 2009, there was 285 cases of CNS cancers out of a cohort of 105,444 atomic bomb survivors with radiation dose estimates. The study examined the risk of these cancers as excess relative risk (ERR) per gray (Gy) (ERR/Gy). The authors reported ERR/Gy for glioma as 1.67 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.12 to 5.26), for meningioma 1.82 (95% CI: 0.51 to 4.30), for schwannoma 1.45 (95% CI − 0.01 to 4.97), and for all CNS tumours combined 1.40 (95% CI: 0.61 to 2.57). Further, the authors reported a trend of increasing rates of CNS tumours with increased radiation exposure, with an apparent linear dose response. The authors concluded that the radiation exposure from the atomic bombs is associated with elevated risks of CNS tumours in general, and was significant for glioma and meningioma. There was a higher but non-significant association with schwannoma.
The study reported a significant association with CNS tumours. However, the results also highlight the difficulty of examining the risk of radiation exposure at low levels, especially when examining the occurrence of rare diseases such as CNS tumours. Interestingly, in this study the unexposed control group was reported to have a higher rate of CNS cancers overall than that of the exposed groups with assigned dose of less than 1 Gy. The study attempts to show that at low radiation doses there is still a linear dose response; however, the limitations and inconsistencies in this study prevent this conclusion. Overall, the results of this study are unclear at low levels. This is consistent with the position held by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) that states at low levels (less than 100 milligray) the possible increased risk of cancer from radiation exposure is uncertain (UNSCEAR, 2017).
The risk of childhood leukaemia in children whose parents are occupational exposure to ELF MF
Talibov et al
Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2019
This meta-analysis examined the possible link between parental occupational exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF MF) and the risk of childhood leukaemia in their children. The study considered 11 case-control studies, which when combined included 9723 cases of childhood leukaemia and 17099 controls. Parents had their occupational exposure to ELF MF estimated using a job-exposure matrix. The study found no increased risk of either acute lymphoblastic leukaemia or acute myeloid leukaemia at any exposure level of the parents. For maternal exposure during pregnancy of greater than 0.2 microtesla the odds ratios (OR) for their offspring developing acute lymphoblastic leukaemia was OR 1.00 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.89 to 1.12) and for acute myeloid leukaemia OR 0.85 (95% CI 0.61 to 1.16). The authors concluded that this study provided no evidence of an association between parental occupational exposure to ELF MF and childhood leukaemia.
The findings of this meta-analysis are consistent with a previous study by (Reid et al, 2011) who also found no increased risk of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia with parental occupational exposure to ELF MF. The international guidelines for exposure to ELF MF set by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection set exposure limits to protect the public from all known established risks of exposure to ELF MFs.
The US FDA recently reviewed the effect of radio waves on cancer
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2020
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published a review examining the possible effect of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) on tumorigenesis. The review examined 37 in vivo and 69 epidemiological papers published between 2008 and 2018 and also reviewed the National Toxicology Program (NTP) 2018 reports on RF exposure to rats and mice. The review concluded that, based on the evidence from the in vivo studies, including the NTP study, that there is no clear evidence that RF EMF has any effect on tumorigenesis. The review also reported a number of limitations from the in vivo studies including lack of animal temperature assessment and issues with the methods, sample handling and sample evaluation. The review further states that due to the limitations of the in vivo studies they cannot be used to draw conclusions on the impact of low powered RF EMF on humans. Further, the review discussed some of the inherent limitations in epidemiological studies including accurate exposure assessment and recall bias. Based on the epidemiological evidence the FDA review concluded there was no causal association between RF EMF exposure and tumorigenesis.
This review by the FDA contributes to our understanding of the evidence of RF EMF exposure and health. It demonstrates the importance of considering the totality of evidence and understanding that methodological limitations affect the outcomes of scientific reviews. The timing of this review is particular topical as there is currently some heightened public concern regarding RF EMF and health with a particular focus on the roll out of the 5G telecommunications network. Other health agencies such as the World Health Organisation and the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection have previously considered the possible health effects of RF EMF exposure and have reached conclusions similar to those in the FDA review. In Australia, the ARPANSA RF exposure standard sets limits to protect the public and workers from any harmful exposure to RF EMF. This standard is based on scientific research that shows the levels at which harmful effects occur and it sets limits, based on international guidelines, well below these harmful levels. The standard is designed to protect people of all ages and health status against all known adverse health effects from exposure to RF EMF.
An Australian study examined the effects of RF EMF on mice sperm
Houston et al
Scientific Reports. 2019
This study examined the effects radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) had on mice sperm. Mice received a whole-body RF exposure at 905 MHz with a specific absorption rate (SAR) of 2.2 W/Kg 12 hours a day for 1, 3 or 5 weeks. The study reported statistically significant decreases in sperm vitality and motility. Further, the study reported statistically significant increases in sperm mitochondrial reactive oxygen species and oxidative DNA damage. There were no changes reported in the fertility of the RF EMF treated mice. The authors concluded that sustained whole-body RF EMF is capable of inducing oxidative damage in sperm DNA.
This study exposed mice to very high levels of RF EMF. The public whole-body average SAR limit is 0.08 W/kg. This means the study exposed these mice to RF EMF that was over 27 times higher than the human public exposure limit. The study did not investigate the effect of heat stress or measure the temperature of the exposed mice. Another study investigating the effect of heat stress on fertility of mice reported similar results on sperm (Pérez‐Crespo et al, 2008). This indicates that the reported results likely occurred as a result of heating rather than being a sub-thermal effect. The ARPANSA radiofrequency exposure standard RPS3 gives limits for exposure that protect against any known biological effects. The only established effect of exposure is heating of biological tissue. The limits set for both public and occupational exposure are many times below the level where any measurable heating occurs, ensuring a large degree of conservatism within the standard.
Study reports a possible association between mobile phone use and thyroid cancer for specific gene types
Lou et al.
Annals of Epidemiology, December 2019
This population-based case-control study compared mobile phone use with the incidence of thyroid cancer diagnosed between 2010 and 2011 in Connecticut. The study included 440 cases of histologically confirmed incident thyroid cancers and 460 controls, with genotyping information for 823 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 176 DNA genes. All participants, including cases and controls, were interviewed using a standardized questionnaire to collect information on mobile phone use and the responses were used to classify cases and controls as users or non-users. Blood samples were provided for DNA analysis. The authors reported that the study found a statistically significant association between cell phone use and thyroid cancer for certain SNPs, implying a genetic susceptibility to thyroid cancer due to mobile phone use.
This study built upon a previous study by the same authors (Lou et al, 2019) that found no association between mobile phone use and thyroid cancer in the same study group. One of the advantages of using a study group within the period 2010-2011 was that it is much easier to separate mobile phone users from non-mobile phone users. A disadvantage of using this study group was that the exposure data had to be gathered through surveying the participants. The information required was from a point in the distant past where recall bias may effect some of the results. The control group consisted of a higher proportion of males to females than the case group. This may have significant implications on the reliability of the results due to the higher occurrence of thyroid cancer in of woman. Further, mobile phones were not the only exposures to radio waves during the time of exposure assessment. A good example of this was the widespread use of cordless phones which are used in the same manner (held to the head) and have a similar level of exposure.