sufficient evidence of an increased risk from expo- sure to Electro-Magnetic Fields comes from epidemiological studies, in particular regarding adverse acute effects and even long-term carcinogenic effects that cannot be attributed to chance, bias or confounding.
The MUOS (Mobile User Objective System) station in Niscemi (Sicily, Italy) is part of a worldwide network of telecommunications of the U.S. Army: the network consists of three other similar stations (two in the U.S. and one in Australia) and a fleet of satellites.?Our study presents the results of electromagnetic radiation models in that area and documents the scientific reasons why the MUOS system should not be installed in Niscemi for safety reasons.
Recent and very recent scientific literature shows that both biological and health effects of EMF radiations – from the extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF/ EMF) to the high and very high radiofrequencies (RF/ EMF) – are clearly established and occur even at very low exposure levels. Reference will be made, in this paper, to some of the most relevant studies, such as those in [1-18]. Overall, however, there are now almost 4.000 experimental studies that report a variety of short and medium-term effects of EMF, which support the biological plausibility of the increased risks of their long-term genotoxic, carcinogenic and neurodegenerative consequences on exposed human populations .
Many of these effects can reasonably be presumed to result in adverse health effects if the exposures are pro- longed or chronic. This is because they interfere with nor- mal body processes (disrupt homeostasis), prevent the body from healing damaged DNA, produce immune system imbalances, metabolic disruption and lower resilience to dis- ease across multiple pathways [4, 17, 18]. Essential body processes can eventually be disabled by incessant external stresses (from system-wide electrophysiological interference) and lead to pervasive impairment of behavioral, metabolic and reproductive functions. There is good evidence to suggest that many toxic exposures may have detrimental consequences, and may lay the seeds of health harm that develops even decades later .
Existing ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) public safety recommended levels are not sufficient to ensure adequate protection of public health, in particular for the young subjects – embryos, fetuses, neonates, very young children – and for those which are exposed to ELF and RF/EMF for long time.
Sufficient evidence of an increased risk from expo- sure to EMF comes from epidemiological studies, in particular regarding adverse acute effects and even long-term carcinogenic effects that cannot be attributed to chance, bias or confounding [2-15]. Therefore, according to the Recommendations of IARC , such exposures can be classified as Group 2A “possible carcinogenic agents for humans”, even if some scientists and epidemiologists believe that the classification as “probable carcinogenic for humans” would be more correct.
Resolution 1815 of 27.05.2011 of the Council of Europe “on the potential harm caused by electromagnetic fields and their effects on the environment”1 is even more explicit in pointing out the failures, the risks and the necessary precautionary measures on this issue: “The Parlia- mentary Assembly has repeatedly stressed the importance of the commitment of Member States to preserve the environment and human health from environmental hazards, such as exposed in many documents, meetings, statements and protocols since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Health and the Stockholm Declaration (Stockholm 1972). The Assembly refers to its previous work in this field, namely Recommendation 1863 (2009) on the environment and health, Recommendation 1947 (2010) on noise and light pollution and, more generally, the recommendation 1885 (2009) on drafting an additional protocol to the European Conference on Human Rights concerning the right to a healthy environment and Recommendation 1430 (1999) on access to information, public participation in decisions that affect the ‘environment and the possibility to access to justice with the support of the Aarhus Convention.”
According to the Resolution 1815 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) 27.05.11: 2
- “The possible health effects of ELF-EMF emitted by power lines and electrical devices (classified in 2001 by IARC as 2B “possible carcinogen for humans”) are the subject of ongoing research and of important public debate. According to the WHO, the electromagnetic fields of all frequencies represent one of the most increasing pollutants in the environment, about which anxiety and speculation are widespread. All populations are now exposed to varying degrees of EMF, the levels of which will continually grow according to technological developments.
- While electric and electromagnetic fields in certain frequency bands have shown to produce beneficial effects and they are applied in medicine, other non-ionizing extremely low frequencies, resulting from power lines or certain high frequency waves used in the fields of radar, telecommunications or mobile telephony, appear to have potentially harmful non-thermal effects, on plants, insects, animals and humans even when exposed to levels that are below the law limit values.
- With respect to standards or threshold values for emissions of electromagnetic fields of all kinds of frequencies, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recommends that the ALARA principle (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) is applied or “so low as reasonably practicable” for both the so-called thermal effects and non-thermal biological effects of electromagnetic radiation. Also, the Precautionary Principle should be applied to, when scientific evaluation does not allow to determine with sufficient certainty the risk, especially given the con- text of increased exposure of the population, including particularly vulnerable groups such as young people and children, which could lead to economic and human ex- tremely high costs due to the inertia, if the first signs of alarm are denied.
- The Assembly regrets that, despite repeated references to the precautionary principle and despite all the recommendations, declarations and a number of legislative and statutory provisions, there is still a lack of reaction to known or emerging risks to the health and environment and virtually systematic delays in adopting and implementing effective preventive measures. The expectation of clinical and scientific evidence of the highest level before taking action to prevent well- known risks can lead to very high economic and social costs, as it happened in the case of asbestos, lead in petrol and tobacco.
- In addition, the Assembly notes that the problem of fields or electromagnetic waves and the possible consequences on the environment and health has clear parallels with other current issues, such as authorizations for medicines, drugs , pesticides, heavy metals and genetically modified organisms. It is therefore clear that the need for independence and credibility is crucial to make a trans- parent and balanced assessment of potential negative impact on the environment and human health.
Between late 2012 and early 2013 three important positions papers were published, which reaffirmed the urgent need to adopt extremely strict decisions to restrict the exposure to EMF:
1) A “draft resolution” of the European Parliament was approved by a large majority in The Committee of Employment and Social Affairs on 06.12.2012 on “best protections for workers in the Eurozone exposed to electromagnetic fields”, it was addressed to those workers exposed to high risk, e.g. workers in heavy industry (metallurgy) and those workers who work for long periods in the radio and television stations, radar installations near or repeaters for mobile telephone network.
2) An update to the BioInitiative Report , authors 29 scientists from 10 different countries, states that 1,800 new studies on the effects of EMFs report harmful to human health, in addition to the more than 2,000 references in 2007, are now available. According to the authors, the epidemiological evidence indicates that the RF should be classified as probable carcinogenic to humans. Therefore the safety limits of exposure to RF established more than 20 years ago by the European Union and WHO, and other international agencies are inadequate to protect human health. There are now much stronger evidence than 6 years ago that the risks from exposure to EMFs affect millions of people. Therefore, the status quo is no longer acceptable.
3) A new report from the EEA, named Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation. Lesson 2. (EEA Report No 1/ 2013), reiterates the imperative need to reduce the misuse of telecommunications TM.
Any decision by the regulatory bodies responsible for public health must take into account two fundamental principles governing the Community legislation: in particular the Precautionary Principle and the Principle of Proportionality.
The Precautionary Principle, due to its difficulty of interpretation, was the subject of a specific communication from the Commission of the European Communities (EC) on February 2, 2000. In particular, the controversial issue was summed up in this sentence: “Policy makers are constantly faced with the dilemma of balancing the freedom and rights of individuals, industry and organizations with the need to reduce the risks of adverse effects to the environment and to the health of humans, animals and plants. Finding the correct balance, so as to enable the adoption of non-discriminatory, proportionate, transparent and consistent measures, requires a structured decision-making on the basis of objective and detailed information of a scientific or otherwise.”
The extreme version of the precautionary principle would lead to the blocking of any innovation on the basis of a “you never know”, while the other extreme would mean any minimized risk could be acceptable. The Com- mission noted that: “However, there are situations where the scientific data are not sufficient to allow one to apply these elements of prudence, in which the lack of modelling parameters does not allow any extrapolation, in which the cause/effect relations are suspected but not been demonstrated. In these situations the decision makers face the dilemma to act or not to act. ”
It follows that the task of scientists – and in this case in particular – is to provide all elements that are reasonably useful for decision makers, particularly considerable scientific studies – and elements derived from these – to evaluate the involved risks, in terms of serious and significant effects on the public health and on the environment.
On the other hand, according to the 2000 Communication of the EC, to govern the administrative activities according to the Principle of Proportionality means, in practice, that “this principle finds applications not only in the judicial review on the misuse of administrative discretion, but it is a constant benchmark for the public administration. The act which must be, therefore, constantly proportionate to the objective pursued by the provision conferring the power. And this proportion is only possible to search for it through the identification and comparison of all the competing interests at stake. This means, in practice, the duty of the administration to constantly investigate all possible alternatives to its actions: in order to always seek the most appropriate solution not only to the pursuit of the public primary, but also the most gentle among those at his disposal, in view of the criterion of necessity. But what about the criterion of proportionality in the strict sense, in this sense, the administration’s goal should be to reach a settlement of the interests at stake that, through a balanced offering of the different interests from the public primary, proves, precisely as proportion ate. Otherwise, the sacrifice of the interests other than in the primary will not be justified and the administrative action will be contrary to the principle of proportionality and as such reprehensible.”
- THE MUOS CASE STUDY.
The MUOS (Mobile User Objective System) station in Niscemi (Sicily, Italy) is part of a worldwide network of telecommunications of the U.S. Army: the network consists of three other similar stations (two in the U.S. and one in Australia) and a fleet of satellites . The network consists of three other similar stations (two in the U.S. and one in Australia) and a fleet of satellites.
The MUOS in Niscemi should become the most important telecommunications hub of the U.S. military forces in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It could be located however elsewhere in those continents.
Initially, its implementation was planned within the perimeter of the military airport of Sigonella; however, the project was eventually moved to the military telecommunications facility NRTF of the U.S. Navy (Naval Radio Transmitter Facility) in Niscemi. A study of 2006 , in fact, commissioned by the U.S. Army, showed that the strong electromagnetic emissions implied interference risks and accidents for military flights. The project was then presented for its siting in NRTF, together with an insufficient environmental impact study .
Recent studies show that the same problems would occur for civilian flights, since 4 airports are located with- in 70 km from the MUOS site in Sicily. A large portion of that Region should become a no-fly zone.
The telecommunications station NRTF-Niscemi, in- stead, operates since 1991, just 4 Km from the centre of the small town of the same name. Within NRTF-Niscemi, 46 large antennas are present: as stated by the U.S. military, only 27 of them are actually operational, 26 of them emitting in HF (High Frequency) band, at frequencies be- tween 3 and 30 MHz, and one in the LF (Low Frequency) band, at 46 KHz. The emissions of the MUOS should therefore be added to those generated by the existing antennas .
The MUOS transmission system involves two TACO H124 helical antennas, operating in VHF-UHF band (transmission frequency 240-315 MHz, transmission power 105 W, maximum antenna gain 16 db, and three parabolic antennas (diameter of 18,4 m) operating in the Ka band of microwaves (transmission frequency 30-31 GHz, transmission power 1600 W, maximum antenna gain 71,4 db). Some important data has been omitted in the original project (like the horizontal and vertical gain pattern of the parabolic antennas and their near-field emissions): it is therefore impossible to set up a model to foresee the expected electromagnetic emissions from the MUOS antennas.
At the time when the base-NRTF Niscemi was built in 1991, the Italian legislation for radiation protection against electromagnetic emissions of radio frequency was lacking, and therefore just a gross preliminary environmental assessment was carried out.
|TABLE 1 – Italian law safety thresholds (DPCM July 8, 2003)
Safety thresholds for acute effects (“Limiti di esposizione”)
|Frequency||Electric field||Magnetic field
|100 Khz – 3 MHz||60 V/m||0,2 A/m||–|
|3 MHz – 3 GHz||20 V/m||–||1 W/m2|
|3 GHz – 300 GHz||40 V/m||–||4 W/m2|
|Safety thresholds for long time exposure effects (“Valori di attenzione”)|
|Frequency||Electric field||Magnetic field||Power flux|
|100 Khz – 300 GHz||6 V/m||0,016 A/m|
Currently, the situation is very different: in fact, Italy has now an updated legislation, starting from 2001. These principles were implemented in the “Electronic Communications Code” (Italian Law 1 August 2003, n. 259), which defines a procedure to authorize the installation of repeaters and radio-transmitters (Radio Base Station), dealing with a detailed collection and processing of technical data in order to verify safety conditions for the exposure of workers. The safety for public exposure to electromagnetic fields have been addressed instead by the Italian Law no. 36 of 2001 and subsequent Decrees (DPCM July 8, 2003), which set out the safety thresholds for the population summarized in Table 1. For these reasons, in October 2008 the Regional Government of Sicily has asked to the regional environment agency ARPA-Sicily (ARPAS) to prepare a preliminary assessment on the installation project of the MUOS in the NRTF facility in Niscemi.
According to the existing regulations, ARPAS stated that “Assessing the overall distribution on the territory of the electromagnetic field generated by the transmitters in use, and the MUOS has be realized”. This task requires detailed knowledge of technical data relating to all radiant systems, present and future. ARPAS, however, was not able to accomplish the task because of the lack of data provided by the U.S. Army.
During the preliminary investigation, some measure- ments were also performed dealing with the field emitted from the NRTF-Niscemi facility . Measurements has been performed by the agency ARPA-Sicily, both in HF and in LF band, since 2009: the results can be summarized as:
– a first evaluation of the maximum e.m. emissions due to NRTF-Niscemi has been performed in the 26 of January 2009. Narrow band measurements has been performed in 7 points, around the military area, by the spectrum analyzer Narda EHP-200 (bandwith 9 Khz- 30 MHz, uncertainty ±10,4%). In LF band one single frequency peak (at 46 KHz) has been detected, the electric field was found over 20 V/m close to the boundaries and over 6 V/m in the flat roof of the houses nearest (less than 1 Km) to the military area. In HF band dozen of single frequency peak has been detected, with amplitude between 0,2 and 1 V/m (frequency between 3 and 30 MHz), the rms value, resulting by the superposition of all the single HF emission, was close to 6 V/m in all the investigated points.
– Measurements were then carried on until recently by the broad band electric field detector Narda 8055 (bandwith 100 Khz-3 GHz, uncertainty ±10% for frequency lower than 300 MHz). Due to the reduced bandwith, only the HF band emission has been detect- ed. One only detector was placed in the flat roof of an house very near to the military area (N 37° 07′ 56”, E 14° 26′ 00”, WGS 84 coordinates). Continuous detections in 2009 show that the electric field level was close to 6 V/m during the most part of the day (as obtained also by the narrow band HF measurements of 26/1/2009), lower levels (0,5 – 3 V/m) has been detected between February 2011 and July 2012, while, since July 2012 up to now, the detected field level raised to 6-7 V/m.
– A second evaluation of the maximum e.m. emissions due to NRTF-Niscemi has been performed recently (8 May – 21 June 2013), by the same spectrum analyzer Narda EHP-200 used in the previous 2009 measurement. The results in LF band was very similar to the previous, obtained in 2009 (an electric field over 30 V/m has been detected close to the boundary and 6-7 V/m has been detected in the house near the military area), but the HF band measurements results completely different. Only 10-15 single frequency peak has been found in HF band, with amplitude one order of magnitude lower (between 0,04 and 0,1 V/m) than what has been detected in 2009. Those completely different results in HF band emission are actually unexplained, our hypothesis is that the emissions parameters of NRTF-Niscemi facility in 2013 and in 2009 tests were not the same (less active antennas and lower transmission power in 2013 test). ?Investigations of ARPAS in years 2009-2013 showed that safety limits for population are exceeded, with the system in its current configuration already. ?Actual evaluation of the NRTF-Niscemi facility emissions are already affected by great uncertainty: a global model of the NRTF emission still lack; during the measurements the ARPAS technician have not the fully control of the RF sources: it cannot be explained the great differences observed in the measurements (for instance during the 2009 and the 2013 tests); the only point in which continuous monitoring has been performed in the last five years is not enough to check the emission of a telecommunication facility that occupies more than one square Km of surface, surrounded by residence and naturally protected areas: at least 10 Km2 of surface has to be monitored. ?The great difficulties put into evidence in the measurement and evaluation of the electromagnetic emission of NRTF-Niscemi facility, indicate that a different approach is necessary. A direct evaluation of the biological effects of the e.m. radiation is suitable and can be performed by experiments of exposure of cultured cells and subsequent analysis of exposed and not-exposed cells, to prove differences in viability, grow rate and apoptosis .
In Niscemi, population is contemporarily exposed to many different frequencies of electromagnetic fields. Here we point out that, besides the MUOS and NRTF exposure pattern described here, people are also exposed to the usual 50 Hz ELF of the household appliances and of electrical power transport lines (classified by International Agency for Cancer Research IARC as Possible Carcinogen for Humans in 2001). Moreover, people are exposed to Wi-Fi, mobile telephones emissions and their base stations which result in a complex pattern of carcinogenic exposures. This means that the same subjects are exposed to multiple EMF that sum up in the organisms.
We should evaluate the complex health impact of all electromagnetic fields on the people of Niscemi with a particular stress on their synergistic potential effects. It is with this aim that we have set up an experimental campaign, to cultivate cells in different houses of Niscemi around the NRTF- MUOS in order to determine the effects of the environmental pulsed radar signal on the cultured cells exposed in the houses. The preliminary results show significant changes in the proliferation rate (shown by the MTT Test) confirmed by morphological observations at microscopic optic and electronic level.
At optical level a higher and significant number of apoptotic figures can be detected while at electron micros- copy level the different steps of apoptotic commitment can be observed. The data from this morphologic approach have been confirmed by Western Blot analysis which show that apoptotic genes, like caspase-3, have been also activat- ed by the exposure to the MUOS-NRTF electromagnetic field. Using everyday life environmental EMF conditions to expose cell cultures is appropriate, since people can be damaged by such exposure.
Studies on the potential health effects due to exposures to electromagnetic fields have focused also on genotoxicity. Although there is not a general consensus on the EMF effects on organisms at the level of organs, tissues, cells or molecules, the prevailing paradigm about the potential health effects of exposures have focused on DNA damage and mutations.
The exposure to EMF can produce high damage to DNA though the production of different types of reactive oxygen species, which might explain the relationship between this source of radiation and childhood leukemia [23-24].
Epigenetic modifications are chemical alterations of the DNA and of the histones within the nucleosomes that do not involve changes in the nucleotide sequence. Recently discovered non-coding RNAs are also part of the epigenetic regulation of the genome.
Alterations in DNA methylation patterns and the re-expression of LINE-1 and other repetitive sequences have been reported as important epigenetic alterations caused by exposure to EMF. Re-expression of LINE-1 and ALUs transposable elements is a source of strong chromosomal instability and an important cause of mutagenesis of genes critical for preventing or driving malignant transformation.
Our preliminary data indicate that in hematopoietic cells exposed to RF-EMF there is an alteration in the expression of LINE-1 sequences.
These biological effects on cells can be furthermore related to the epidemiologic data and to the power density environmental signal in order to assess the possible role of the radar radiations to the people health risks in Niscemi.
Strictly speaking, therefore, not only one cannot grant permissions for more transmitting stations, which lead to additional emissions, but one should rather proceed to the immediate reduction of emissions of the existing station (according to the procedure of “reduction in conformity” required by Italian Law, DPCM 8 July 2003-RF art. 5 and Annex C).
For the same reasons, ARPA Sicily could not quantitatively assess future emissions for the MUOS system, that anyway should be added to the existing ones, and therefore be in total beyond limits. For these reasons, it can be said that the MUOS project should not be authorized, since it would violate the existing law to protect Italian population against exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Other risks due to MUOS installation were not evaluated by the ARPAS assessment, such as that of direct exposure to the beam emitted by MUOS in case of pointing error, due to plane crash, accidental irradiation of aircraft during normal operation, harmful effects on the surrounding environment.
On the basis of the elements above exposed it may be concluded that, in order to safeguarding the health of the population and the environment, it should not be allowed any further installation of electromagnetic field sources at the station NRTF Niscemi, and indeed is necessary to plan a rapid reduction of current emissions, according to the procedure “reduction in conformity” under Italian law in force: emission from the MUOS system may cause serious accidents and damage to health of the population and the environment, due to the realization at a distance of just a few Km from densely populated areas, such as the town of Niscemi.
The authors have declared no conflict of interest.
Received: June 05, 2014 Accepted: June 13, 2014
CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Massimo Zucchetti
DENERG – Politecnico di Torino?Corso Duca degli Abruzzi 24 – 10129 Torino ITALY