The piece was written
by Kenneth Foster, an emeritus professor of bioengineering at the University of
Pennsylvania. Foster is a member of a committee that sets exposure limits for
wireless radiation and consults for industry and government. His article discussed
the controversy about the rollout of 5G based upon widespread concerns about
the adverse impact of this technology on our health. Foster argued that
exposure to radio frequency radiation (RFR) from 5G will be similar to, or
lower than, current levels because of the deployment of many “small cell”
antennas. Hence, 5G exposure will comply with current RFR exposure limits that
protect against “excessive heating of tissue.” 
Although Foster admitted that research
on the effects of long-term exposure to 5G millimeter waves was lacking, he
restated the FDA’s position that “[t]he available scientific evidence to
date does not support adverse health effects in humans due to exposures at or
under the current limits.” Thus, “the request to ‘stop the distribution of 5G
products appears too drastic a measure. We first need to see how this new
technology will be applied and how the scientific evidence will evolve.’”
In the eleven years
that I have been writing about the effects of RFR exposure, I
anticipated that my response to Foster would provoke an attack by
industry-affiliated scientists so I began my piece as follows:
“The telecommunications industry and their experts
have accused many scientists who have researched the effects of cell phone
radiation of “fear mongering” over the advent of wireless
technology’s 5G. Since much of our research is publicly-funded, we believe it
is our ethical responsibility to inform the public about what the peer-reviewed
scientific literature tells us about the health risks from wireless radiation.”
I laid out the evidence that rebutted many points in the
Foster piece and concluded:
should support the recommendations of the 250 scientists and medical doctors
who signed the
5G Appeal that calls for an immediate moratorium
on the deployment of 5G and demand that our government fund the research needed
to adopt biologically-based exposure limits that protect our health and
originally informed me that they would not publish a
rebuttal to Grimes, but in January 2020 they invited me to submit a rebuttal. Two weeks after submitting my rebuttal, Scientific American sent me the following message:
again for your recent submission, but we’ve decided against running it. You
raise some valid points, but this is clearly a field where we’re a long way
from definitive answers and the editors here have agreed that continuing this
point-counterpoint argument in our opinion section is not the best way to serve
our readers.
we’ve decided to do instead is to commission an independent journalist to look
at all of the evidence gathered so far and give readers an objective sense of
what we know, what we don’t know, why uncertainty exists, and how scientists
are trying to gather the evidence that governments and consumers need to make
the most informed decisions possible.”
My unpublished rebuttal to
Grimes, “5G, Public Health and
Uncomfortable Truths
” appears below.
5G, Public Health and
Uncomfortable Truths
Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D.
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley
February 19, 2020
there really is no research ongoing. We’re kind of flying blind here, as
far as health and safety is concerned,”
proclaimed U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, chastising
the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) in a Senate committee hearing on the future of 5G last
year. This quote captures the reason why more
than 270
scientists and medical doctors have signed the
5G Appeal,
a petition calling for a moratorium on the deployment of 5G technology until we can establish safe exposure
limits.  It is also one reason why I
wrote about the status of the research and government and industry spin in “
We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe.”
In an opinion piece that attacks my article, David
Robert Grimes, a physicist, claims the research that finds radio-frequency
radiation (RFR) is harmful is based on “low quality studies,” and that the
weight of the evidence shows “no risk.” He repeats the mantra I have heard from
other physicists in the ten years I have been studying the effects of cell
phone radiation: “there is no known plausible biophysical mechanism of action
for harm.” Grimes argues that my article “pivots on fringe views and fatally
flawed conjecture, attempting to circumvent scientific consensus with
arguments suffer the same biases he projects onto others (e.g.,
His narrow perspective on the “mechanism of action for harm” seems shaped by a physics paradigm that can explain health risks from ionizing radiation (e.g., X-rays), but not from RFR (e.g., microwaves or cell phone radiation) which is non-ionizing. However,
biologists have proposed
various mechanisms that
explain RFR effects
If not for his gaslighting and misrepresentations of published data, I might be
charitably inclined to appreciate this debate. But Grimes aims to deny reality
and discredit the preponderance of peer-reviewed science which finds
low-intensity RFR can be harmful to our health.
differences between the physicist’s and biologist’s perspectives could have
been resolved decades ago had military and Telecom industry interests not
interfered to ensure that RFR would be minimally regulated by policy makers.
Microwave News has reported about these influences on
scientific and policy developments since 1981. A recent
Harvard monograph exposes how industry controls the FCC,
the agency responsible for regulating RFR exposure from wireless technology in
the U.S.
It is untrue, as Grimes argues, that
RFR from cell phones cannot harm us because there is no mechanism.
Numerous scientific studies
provide evidence about mechanisms by which low-intensity RFR causes biological
effects, including
DNA damage in humans as well as animal models.
For example, scientists who study RFR acknowledge that
oxidative stress, an imbalance between free radicals and
antioxidants, is a common mechanism by which RFR harms living cells. The uneven
number of oxygen-containing electrons in free radicals allows them to react
easily with other molecules.
A review of 100 experimental studies on the
oxidative effects of low-intensity RFR found that in 93 of these peer-reviewed
studies “RFR induces oxidative effects in biological systems” leading to
“cancer and non-cancer pathologies.” The review concluded, “the oxidative
stress induced by RFR exposure should be recognized as one of the primary
mechanisms of the biological activity of this kind of radiation.”
In an ideal world, I would agree with Grimes that “science
is not conducted by petition or arguments to authority; it is decided solely on
strength of evidence.” However, health authorities and policy makers have for
decades relied upon industry-funded scientists who provide them with biased
analyses that dismiss the peer-reviewed evidence unless it supports their
sponsors. This is why independent scientists have sanctioned collective action.
More than 240 scientists from over
40 countries have signed the
International EMF Scientist Appeal, a petition that raises concerns
about the public health impacts of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF),
especially from wireless technology. All have published peer-reviewed research
on EMF and biology or health – totaling over 2,000 papers and letters in
professional journals. Based upon solid evidence of harmful effects, these global
experts urge public health leadership organizations, such as the World Health
Organization (WHO), to establish more
EMF guidelines and precautionary measures, and perform public education about
health risks, particularly to children and developing fetuses.
Grimes cites the WHO’s current position that “no adverse
health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
Setting aside the politics and limitations of that specific WHO declaration, note
that the WHO’s own cancer research agency, the International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC), classified RFR as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”
in 2011. Last year, an IARC advisory group of 29 scientists examined the
peer-reviewed research for RFR cancer risk published during the previous eight
years and
RFR for re-review
. Hence, the IARC will likely upgrade the carcinogenic classification of RFR in the
next five years.
Cited by Grimes is the one major cell phone radiation study
conducted in the U.S. since the 1990’s. In 1999, the FDA recommended that the
National Toxicology Program (NTP) research the carcinogenicity of cell phone
radiation. The
results of this $30 million study were published in 2018 after extensive peer review by EMF
and toxicology experts. The

“clear evidence” that cell phone radiation caused heart
cancer and “some evidence” that it caused cancer in the brains and adrenal
glands of male rats. The study also found significantly increased risk of
damage in rats and mice
of both sexes exposed to cell phone
Whereas, most toxicologists consider the NTP methods the “gold standard,” Grimes erroneously implies that
the NTP study’s “methodology and low power” would increase the likelihood that
the study obtained spurious results. Statistically, a “low power” study has the
opposite effect. Low statistical power means a study would be less likely to
detect a real effect, not more likely to yield spurious effects. Grimes has
thus repeated an industry-promoted canard about the study which reflects a
complete misunderstanding of this basic statistical concept.
Characterizing the Interphone study among “large and robust
trials, with careful controls and large sample groups” Grimes nevertheless
misrepresents the study’s results. Careful reading of Interphone reveals a
statistically significant increased risk of
glioma and acoustic neuroma  among
long-term heavy cell phone users. The researchers found that the excess glioma
risk held up when the data were subjected to many different analyses (Appendix
1). Additional analyses that corrected for a bias in the study demonstrated a
dose-response relationship between glioma risk and mobile phone use (see Appendix
Followup papers using the Interphone study data found that the excess
tumors were primarily located on the side of the head where people held their
phones, and in the part of the brain where cell phone radiation exposure was
greatest, the temporal and frontal lobes.
Although three sources of case-control data  have found an association between ten years of
heavy mobile phone use and glioma risk, glioma incidence may no longer be the
best potential correlate of increased mobile phone use as Grimes implies.
Long-term heavy mobile phone use is associated with various head and neck
tumors in case-control studies including
acoustic neuroma, meningioma, and tumors of the
thyroid and parotid glands. In
some countries glioma rates have increased in
certain subgroups (e.g., older age groups, specific types of tumors or anatomic
locations), if not overall. In many countries, including the U.S., thyroid
tumor incidence has increased in recent years, and
two case-control studies provide evidence
that cell phone use may be responsible.
Bigger is not necessarily better. Besides the large
Interphone study, Grimes cites the
Danish cohort study
as evidence that cell phone use is safe. However, this study has
serious methodologic problems
due to a wholly inadequate exposure assessment. Hence, the results from this
study are not reliable.
There is room to disagree about the implications and quality
of scientific studies, but it is disingenuous to disparage other scientists and
employ industry talking points in the process, as Grimes does. The public has a
right to know about the health risks of RFR. As Senator Blumenthal
“I believe that Americans
deserve to know what the health effects are, not to pre-judge what scientific
studies may show, and they also deserve a commitment to do the research on
outstanding questions.”