Problems in evaluating the health impacts of radio frequency radiation

Paul Ben Ishai, Devra Davis, Hugh Taylor, Linda Birnbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In an effort to clarify the nature of causal evidence regarding the potential impacts of RFR on biological systems, this paper relies on a well-established framework for considering causation expanded from that of Bradford Hill, that combines experimental and epidemiological evidence on carcinogenesis of RFR. The Precautionary Principle, while not perfect, has been the effective lodestone for establishing public policy to guard the safety of the general public from potentially harmful materials, practices or technologies. Yet, when considering the exposure of the public to anthropogenic electromagnetic fields, especially those arising from mobile communications and their infrastructure, it seems to be ignored. The current exposure standards recommended by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) consider only thermal effects (tissue heating) as potentially harmful. However, there is mounting evidence of non-thermal effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation in biological systems and human populations. We review the latest literature on in vitro and in vivo studies, on clinical studies on electromagnetic hypersensitivity, as well as the epidemiological evidence for cancer due to the action of mobile based radiation exposure. We question whether the current regulatory atmosphere truly serves the public good when considered in terms of the Precautionary Principle and the principles for deducing causation established by Bradford Hill. We conclude that there is substantial scientific evidence that RFR causes cancer, endocrinological, neurological and other adverse health effects. In light of this evidence the primary mission of public bodies, such as the FCC to protect public health has not been fulfilled. Rather, we find that industry convenience is being prioritized and thereby subjecting the public to avoidable risks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115038
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2024


  • EHS
  • Electromagnetic radiation exposure
  • FCC
  • Mobile communications
  • NTP
  • Non-thermal effects
  • Precautionary principle


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