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The UK Health Protection Agency


Considerations on the work, stance and function of the UK Health Protection Agency Radiation Protection Division

This page is not here to attack and criticise individuals. We take issue with HPA employees who seem to have lost their scientific curiosity and freedom of thought, in the midst of their convictions or persuasions that the human experience of physiological reactions to EM fields is an erroneous mistake for psychological collapse.

 Witness this statement ‘Chromosomal and other blood tests for exposure to chemicals and radiation’ from the HPA on their website in November 2005. (Note the link at the end is to testing for exposure to ionising radiation.) We understand that this statement was prompted primarily in response to the development by German LaboTech scientists of a complex blood serum redox test. It is an inadequate understanding of the German test, and more to the point, recognises no risk from free radicals as a result of non-ionising radiation.

Response to this HPA statemet, sent to Jill Meara at HPA

Jill Meara addresses the issue of chromosomal damage only, not trace element constituent balances in the blood as indicators of causes. Common to both ionising and non-ionising radiation (as well as the other causes mentioned) is the production of free radicals, though perhaps through different mechanisms. Free radicals cause oxidative stress that leads to chromosomal damage, among other effects.

Whilst it is true that many things cause oxidative stress, this is no indicator that all the pointers to EMR causing this should therefore be invalid.

It is true that there are protective enzymes, but it must also be observed that certain effects that have been noted actually affect the operation of these enzymes. For example, EMR has been noted to influence the activity of nitric oxide synthases. The product of this is over expression of nitric oxide. The NO competes with superoxide dismutase for superoxide and produces peroxynitrite, itself an oxidizing free radical. NO toxicity is linked to this ability to combine with superoxide anions (O2-) to form peroxynitrite (ONOO-), that can cause DNA fragmentation and lipid oxidation. In the mitochondria, ONOO- acts on the respiratory chain (I-IV) complex and manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), to generate superoxide anions and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), respectively. H2O2 in the presence of iron is catalysed further via the Fenton reaction into hydroxyl free radicals.

It therefore cannot be said that non-ionising radiation does not lie alongside other causes of free radical generation, as a candidate for oxidative stress. Other enzymes affecting oxidative stress as well as the NOS family have been observed to be affected by EMR, including ornithine decarboxylase, but it is the implication for nitric oxide imbalances that appears particularly significant.

NO is implicated in development of serotonin to melatonin, a free radical scavenger, it is absorbed in haemoglobin which would also otherwise be scavenging free radicals. NO regulates REM sleep, which in turn also compromises the immune system, as does its action in T-cells. NO is involved in cell apoptosis and cancer regulation.

NO plays a vital role in so many physiological functions, and is one unifying explanation for all the diversity of symptoms in hypersentitivities such as MCS, CFS and EHS. It is a connecting factor for the wider attribution to EMR damage resulting in, or exacerbating, neurological disorders including Alzheimer's and MND, thyroid problems, possibly asthma, and cancer.

The implications for NOS disturbance alone are so far reaching that to exclude this mechanism would appear to be most unwise without urgent focused research.

 On 3 November 2005 the UK Health Protection Agency Radiation Protection Division (HPA-RPD) published Dr Neil Irvine’s 40 page review Definition, Epidemiology and Management of Electrical Sensitivity, covering English-language scientific references only, almost exclusively prior to the advent of mobile phone infrastructures. It is a very limited and incomplete study, but will be used as some kind of definitive statement on the matter. Let’s look at the timeline of the review’s appearance.

This review had been heralded as an observational study of electrical sensitivity (ES/EHS), and was complete in May 2005, with the HPA saying: ‘It acknowledges ES as a multi-faceted syndrome, sets the scene for it being a recognised valid diagnosis and calls for more research into treatment and causes.’ The proposed date of publication was June/July 2005.

This was an interesting comment in the light of a statement from Dr Jill Meara, Assistant Director, Public Health at the HPA, to the WHO conference on Electrical Hypersensitivity in Prague in September 2004: ‘An acceptance that EMF has a causal role in ES would have widespread implications for future policy on prevention and management.’ So all eyes were on the July report. We subsequently learnt that the report would be published in August or September.

On September 11, the UK Sunday media carried the story of the forthcoming report, stating: ‘Britain will follow Sweden where electrosensitivity was recognised as a physical impairment in 2000. About 300,000 Swedish men and women are sufferers. The acknowledgement may fuel legal action by sufferers who claim mobile phone masts have made them ill.’ The media story was repeated on the Monday morning, and by mid-morning the HPA had issued a retraction, claiming they are not qualified to say whether EHS is a medical condition. (Who had told what to the press, and who said ‘stop that story!’?) The report, it said, would now be due in October.

In all this time, it is apparent that the mobile operators already had sight of the report, and in September the Mobile Manufacturers’s Forum published a statement ‘supporting WHO’ and recommending psychological assessment for people who say they suffer from EM fields.

On October 3, Alastair McKinlay from the Health Protection Agency attended as a member of a 20-strong task group from 17 countries, assembled by Michael Repacholi, the head of the WHO EMF project, to ‘finalize an Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) document, which is designed to guide the development of standards for extremely low frequency (ELF) EMFs all over the world. It will likely represent WHO’s official position on EMF health risks for years to come.’; How could the UK HPA now differ from that position?

On 28 October, the HPA published another report Health Protection in the 21st Century that included (chapter 5): ‘A small percentage of the population may express an increased sensitivity to a range of electric and magnetic fields with symptoms including: skin sensitivity, dizziness, headache and fatigue. This has not been quantified but the symptoms and increased levels of stress and anxiety will contribute to health costs.’

And so finally we have the Irvine review in November, now bearing the additional word ‘definition’ in its title, whilst completely omitting any concept of possible causality, and lacking any comment on mobile phone masts or modulated microwaves. The HPA says: ‘In the peer reviewed scientific literature electrical sensitivity and its synonyms largely refer to symptoms attributed to exposure to power frequency electromagnetic fields. Hence the conclusions of the review are applicable primarily to these fields rather than those from radiofrequency transmissions.’ Let’s see if this review is ever used in support of there being no EHS due to mobile phones and masts ... And, whilst noted, there is no curiosity about the similarity with multiple chemical sensitivity and possible common mechanisms. Only a conclusion that the answer is not avoidance, but cognitive behavioural therapy. Perhaps, just perhaps, the indirect biological stress response to getting over-focussd on EHS makes it worse, for the same reason as the direct biological trigger from EMF in the first instance. (The clue, over-expression of nitric oxide, is at the end of our EHS links page.)

unsightly but harmless? Unsightly but harmless? Is that all there is to be concerned about? 50,000 mobile masts in the UK may be more than we can take. And TETRA has special concerns of its own.

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