Interagency Committee on the Health Effects of Non-Ionising Fields
Notes from the Meeting held on 13 February 2020 at the Ministry of
Health, 133 Molesworth Street, Wel ington
Peter Berry (Electricity Engineer’s Assoc.), Veerendra Bhim (Energy Safety Group, WorkSafe
NZ), Ben Blakemore (Telecommunication Carriers Forum), Simon Cooke-Willis
(Telecommunication Carriers Forum), Martin Gledhill (Ministry of Health – Acting Secretary),
John Dockerty (University of Otago), Kimbal McHugo (Ministry of Education), Adam Tommy
(Kordia), Matthew Walker (Transpower New Zealand Ltd), Rose Feary (Ministry for the
Environment), Dave McLean (Massey University) Andrea t’Mannetje (Massey University),
Isobel Stout (local government), Saerom Shin (Ministry of Health, Of ice of Radiation Safety).
Andreas Markwitz (Ministry of Health, Office of Radiation Safety), Richard Jaine (Ministry of
Health – Chair), Marie Gibson (DHB Public Health Units), Sally Gilbert (Ministry of Health), Sue
Chetwin (Consumer NZ)
Due to the absence of Richard Jaine and Sally Gilbert on Corona virus duties, Dave McLean
took the chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting and led a round of introductions.
Finalise the agenda
The agenda was confirmed. A discussion a recent meeting with Darius Leszczynski and a
National Radio item on wireless earbuds were added under “Other business”.
Minutes of the previous meeting
The minutes of the meeting held on 22 August 2019 were confirmed as an accurate record of
Al action points have been attended to.
New Zealand Information on ELF and RF
Industry Update on Engineering and Technical Developments
under the Official Information Act 1982
Peter Berry said that the electrical distribution sector had had few EMF enquiries.
Ben Blakemore spoke to his report. There was a small typo – 5G spectrum in the 3.5 GHz
band (not 2.6 GHz band) is to be auctioned.
Adam Tommy said that Dense Air, a new mobile operator, has started in New Zealand. They
Released mobile network capacity and coverage through smal cells on 2.6 GHz
spectrum they own, with backhaul to the providers over existing networks.
Mathew Walker reported that Transpower receives about two EMF enquiries per week. In
November 2019 Matthew and Peter Berry hosted a visitor from the Japanese EMF Information
Centre (JEIC) who was interested to find out how the change to a 200 µT limit had gone in New
Zealand, and how Smart Meters had been accepted. The JEIC has 6 staff and participates in
the EMF Portal. They also have a rapid response group of scientists around the world to help
summarise new research papers of interest. They receive about 80-120 EMF queries per
month. There is an ELF meter loan service – many borrowers report that the readings were
lower than they expected, and that having used the meter has alleviated concerns.
There is no new information on the MobiKids study.
The InterOcc work is complete and this wil be removed from the standing agenda items.
Public Health Units
There was no report from DHB public health units.
Isobel noted that she receives the odd query if a new cellsite goes up, which almost always
asks about 5G. There was a brief discussion as to why the new technology was causing such
concern compared with previous generations. The ease with which material is passed around
social media was raised as one possibility.
Ministry of Education
Kimbal McHugo said that Education is about to start replacing all wireless infrastr
schools with WiFi 6 equipment.
Ministry for the Environment
Rose Feary said that there were no significant updates, but MfE are keeping an eye on the
NESTF. There have been some queries on 5G. A discussion document on the Renewable
Electricity NPS has been released.
Simon Cooke-Wil is requested than if and when the NESTF is reviewed, consideration be given
to including laser data links in the scope. These are sometimes used as an alternative to an
RF link, and the class of laser they use is such that it could be hazardous if viewed through
Energy Safety Service/Worksafe
There have been no queries received.
Ministry of Health
The correspondence on 5G has decreased a little so far this year. The Ministry has signed an
MoU with ARPANSA for the exchange of information and cooperation in NIR protection. It
allows for sharing guidelines and standards and undertaking cooperative research and
Radio Spectrum Management
There were no items to raise at the Committee.
Update on Standards
Martin Gledhil spoke to his paper on the IEEE/ICES revised exposure Standard, and
mentioned that IEEE/ICES is also working on an updated exposure assessment Standard.
ICNIRP has submitted its revised RF guidelines for publication, but there is no word on when
they may be published.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority, which regulates exposures from personal
devices such as mobile phones, has proposed the temporary use of IEC TR 63170:2018 –
Measurement procedure for the evaluation of power density related to human exposure to radio
frequency fields from wireless communication devices operating between 6 GHz and 100 GHz
as the test method for devices operating at frequencies >6 GHz until the corresponding IEC
Standard is finalised.
Australian Information on ELF and RF
The report from ARPANSA was tabled at the meeting, and taken as read. There was a
typographic error in the item on EME funding: the amount available is $9 mil ion, not $49 mil ion.
The committee also noted Ken Karapidis’ appointment to ICNIRP, and the appointment of
Rodney Croft of the University of Wollongong as ICNIRP chair.
International Information on ELF and RF
International Reports (ELF)
John Dockerty spoke to the abstracts that he had circulated. They cover the period since
February 2019, when he last attended a meeting.
• Martinez – a second look at the US Moscow embassy microwave study (first reported on
by Lilienfeld in 1978).
• Carpenter – Claims that source of funding influences the results reported for ELF field
epidemiology studies, and that there is strong evidence for effects on adult cancers.
However, the paper does not present evidence to support the assertions, and goes beyond
• Swanson et al – Non-significant decline in risk over time in ELF field-childhood leukemia
studies. There are suggestions of higher risks in studies looking at higher exposures and
with better exposure assessment.
• Migault et al – Overall the data are not suggestive of a risk between ELF field exposure and
prematurity or being smal for gestational age.
• Crespi et al – Findings suggest that magnetic fields are not a sole explanation for the
association between distance from a power line and leukemia risk in children, and some
other factor associated with power lines may be responsible.
• Gervasi et al – There was a weak, non-significant association between living within 50 m of
transmission lines and risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Latency may be an
• Talibov et al – This study pooled data from several previous studies on childhood leukemia,
including John Dockerty’s. A comprehensive job-exposure matrix was used to assess
parental occupational ELF field exposures but there was no association with childhood
• Sorahan – Individual exposures were not assessed, and overall there was evidence for the
“healthy worker” effect. People in the study were involved in a wide variety of work, which
explains the diverse outcomes found.
• Peters et al – ELF fields and electric shocks were both associated with risk of ALS. There
was no dose-response for ALS. Dave McLean noted that he is involved with a similar study
that finds risks associated with electric shocks but not ELF fields. Previous studies,
however, have found risks associated with ELF fields.
• Bodewein et al – Studies on intermediate field (IF) exposures are very heterogeneous, and
for most endpoints are insufficient for drawing conclusions. Future studies should take a
more systematic approach.
International Reports (RF)
Martin Gledhil spoke to the abstracts which he circulated to the meeting. The discussion
included comments that:
• Vienne-Jumeau et al – review primarily based on published meta-analyses, and notes the
low quality of some work and problems defining exposure/dose.
• Brzozek et al – proposal to improve dosimetry in cellphone studies.
• Luo et al – This is a re-analysis of data already analysed by the authors in a paper which
found no association between cellphone use and thyroid cancer. There did not appear to
be any a priori hypothesis, and the statistical methods used look as though they would
throw up many chance correlations. The authors note that replication is needed to confirm
any findings, and further evaluation is needed. Dave McLean noted that there is a genetic
component in many diseases.
• Liu et al – Associations between mobile phone use and depressive symptoms appears to
be linked to screen time and sleep disturbance rather than RF exposure.
• Miller et al – Call for a re-evaluation of RF by IARC, and systematic reviews by WHO of
non-cancer outcomes. Both of these are in hand.
• Elwood et al – This was a response to the Pocket viewpoint published at the end of 2018.
A subsequent letter to the NZMJ editor and response by Prof Elwood, discussing the NTP
rat and mouse study, have also been published.
• Mireku et al – A further study linking night time use of devices and poor sleep, which again
suggested the device use was the factor of interest.
• Brzozek et al – More sophisticated analysis of data on the effect of mobile phone use on
cognitive function resulted in weaker associations for those outcomes where associations
had been found.
• Pall – Claims to find that various microwave exposures cause diverse neuropsychiatric
effects, mediated by actions of microwaves on voltage-gated calcium channels in cells.
Cites a previous paper by the same author as the basis for the proposed mechanism but
this only had one reference on the ef ects of microwaves. Previous papers on interaction
mechanisms have discounted the ability of RF/microwaves at the levels being discussed
by Pall to have any effects. No explanation of how the studies cited were selected and no
assessment of study quality.
• Scmiedchen et al – Finds that many studies on IEI-EMF (EHS) have methodological
limitations that could have given rise to false positives or negatives. The studies with good
methodology indicate that effects unlikely.
• Houston et al – Finds damage in mouse sperm after exposure to moderately high levels
and suggest this could be a sensitive tool for evaluating effects of exposure.
• Nakatani-Enomoto et al – Exposure to 4G-type signal produced enhanced EEG waves in
some frequency bands, but they could be explained by subject’s drowsiness. No harmful
• Velghe et al – Found that exposure surveys where participants were personal exposimeter
give reproducible results. Highest mean total exposure was found in Brussels, but highest
mobile downlink exposures were found in Antwerp.
• Migault et al – Describe another job-exposure matrix based on INTEROCC covering
frequencies from 100 kHz to >10 M
• Vijaylaxmi et al – Analysed publications on genetic damage from RF and found that only
9% acknowledged funding by industry (vs 53% by government sources and 26% not
mentioning funding source). Industry-funded studies scored better in a quality evaluation.
• Vanbergen et al – No clear evidence as to whether RF fields pose a threat to insect
pollinators – there is only one good study available, and that one reports both positive and
• Narayanan et al – Appear to suggest that little research has been done, which is far from
the case, and conclusions at odds with those of health and scientific review groups.
• Yu et al – Suggest that exposure to 4G signals affects male fertility, but very poor dosimetry.
• Panagopoulos et al – Suggests that exposure to 3G signals is genotoxic but very poor
• Broom – Found behavioural effects on mice – effects at moderate exposure were the
opposite of those at high exposure.
• Simko et al – Reviewed in vivo and in vitro studies on effects of RF between 6-100 GHz.
While many effects reported there were no consistent relationships between effects and
power density, exposure duration or frequency. Study quality needs to be improved.
• Smith-Roe et al – This paper describes part of the NTP study. Assessed DNA damage and
found increases in some organs for some modulations in either rats or mice. Vijaylaxmi et
al questioned the methods, statistics and conclusion that RF is associated with DNA
Damage. Smith-Roe et al defended the methods and transparency of data handling.
• Perov et al – Found that low RF exposure stimulated adrenal gland activity, which could be
indicative of a stress response.
• Bosquil on de Jenlis et al – Hypothesised that RF + noise would lead to significant ef ects
on sleep in rats, but found that only RF exposure caused changes in sleep parameters –
the addition of noise made no dif erence.
• Kim et al – When exposed to high levels of RF, mobile rats showed no temperature increase
but non-mobile anaesthetised rats had large body temperature increases.
• Furman et al – High intensity pulsed microwaves had no effect on physical, physiological
or behavioural status of mice.
• Habash et al – Concluded that more epidemiological research is needed to clarify currently
inconclusive data on effects of ELF fields.
• Tognola et al – Identified residential characteristics associated with high ELF field exposure
• Paakkonen et al – found low ELF fields in petrol, hybrid and electric cars. Found that all
levels were low, and levels in electric vehicles were (just) the lowest. Martin Gledhil
commented that other studies have found higher levels in all types of cars. Magnetic fields
in petrol vehicles come from magnetised steel in tyres, fans etc.
• Lai – Discusses cellular free radicals associated with ELF and static fields and the types of
effects they might have. Notes that there is no credible hypothesis or mech
Act anism that could
explain any effects of fields on free radicals.
• Brech et al – Found increase in DNA damage in cells exposed to high levels of IF-EMF.
Meeting with Darius Leszczynski
An invitation to a meeting with Dr Darius Leszczynski had been circulated to the committee in
November. This was attended by Dave McLean, Rose Feary and George Slim (who provides
policy advice to the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor (PMCSA)).
Dave considered that Dr Leszczynski was familiar with the literature but had a different
understanding of its implications than himself, and was selective in his choice of literature.
Dr Leszczynski was on the 2011 IARC panel that assessed RF, and there was some discussion
about this. Dave considers that IARC is highly credible, and for that reason was disconcerted
when he heard a radio interview with t
the he PMCSA in which she noted that she:
“believes people also get confused, because radiofrequency radiation is classified as a
"possible" human carcinogen. Out of five levels, that puts radiofrequency radiation in
the same category as pi
under ckles and dry cleaning…. "Possibly carcinogenic means we
can't rule it out, but it is a very low risk”.
This indicates a misunderstanding of IARC’s work, which classifies agents according to the
quality and reliability of the evidence, and not the magnitude of any risk that may or may not be
present. The meeting considered that the Ministry of Health should write to the PMCSA to
express the Ministry’s confidence in the IARC evaluation process, and ensure that she fully
understands the IARC classification scheme.
Dave also asked whether there would be benefit in widening representation on
the Interagency Committee.
Item on National radio about wireless earbuds
There was an item on National Radio recently where Jim Mora interviewed Joel Moskowitz,
who has suggested that high SARs from wireless earbuds could cause health effects, and Ken
Karapidis of ARPANSA who maintained that exposures are low and we are protected by current
safety standards. Martin Gledhil noted that Apple Airpods are Bluetooth 3 devices, which mean
that they can transmit at up to 100 mW power, but also use power control to reduce that to
what is needed to maintain a wireless connection. The SAR at full power is 0.46 W/kg.
The Committee noted the reports received and advised that there was nothing in the research
considered at the meeting that would lead the Commit ee to consider that any change in current
policy was required.
The next Commit ee meeting is proposed for Thursday 13 August 2020, in the afternoon.
18 February 2019