#005: Why the Double Standard?

 Why the double standard?

Inglis, L.P. 1970.  Why the double standard? – A critical review of Russian work on hazards of microwave radiation.  IEEE International Symposium on Electromagnetic Compatibility, July 14-16.  1970.


Continued interest in the determination of appropriate national levels of exposure to microwave fields has directed attention to Soviet work in this field.  The vastly different standards adopted in the two countries have aroused much speculation as to the reasons.  In this paper the Russian work is reviewed, and the major individuals identified.  An explanation for the different exposure limits is offered, based partly on the difference in national organization.


This document is written by Leo P. Inglis, who worked for Atomics International Division, North American Rockwell Corp.– a company involved with the early development of nuclear technology for commercial and government applications.

In “Why the double standard?” Inglis tries to tease apart the reasons for the much lower radio frequency standards used in the USSR compared with those used in the USA.

A much quoted paragraph, and the focus of this document, is the following:

In the U.S., the thermal effects are generally believed to be the only ones of significance; other contentions are usually dismissed as lacking a provable basis.  In the USSR, non-thermal effects are considered the most significant and are overwhelmingly the ones most studied.

Several interesting concepts are presented based on Russian research.

  1. Biological effects of radio waves are reduced with an increase in wavelength (i.e. at lower frequencies) and that this might be true when comparing different regions of the spectrum, but within the microwave band this general regularity may not exist.
  2. There is a possibility of resonant absorption of microwaves by complex protein molecules, particularly enzymes.  The result of such absorption could change molecular structure and when protein structure changes so does its function.
  3. Pulsed and modulated radiation are more harmful than continuous waves and may stimulate the nervous system as shown by studies with rabbits that document changes in brain wave activity as measured by EEG, occurring within 10 seconds of microwave exposure (in the absence of heating) and lasting 10 to 15 minutes after irradiation ended.

The results that I found most intriguing were those by Drogochina and Sadchikova (1965), who studied, for several years, individuals exposed to microwave radiation in the course of their work. They investigated the development of various symptoms (which we would today call electrohypersensitivity or EHS) resulting from exposure to radio frequencies in the centimeter wavelengths (high MHz and low GHz frequencies similar to mobile phones and WiFi).  These symptoms fell into three stages.

The initial stage symptoms usually appeared within 3 to 5 years of exposure.  Most characteristic is the asthenic syndrome [note: Asthenic syndrome describes a person characterized by low energy, susceptibility to physical and emotional stress, and a diminished capacity for pleasure], which develops because of the exhausting action of the radio frequencies on the central nervous system, and results in increased fatigue, headaches, and sleepiness during work hours.  Among the biological effects that occur are bradycardia [heart rate less than 60 bpm], changes in heart conduction on the electrocardiograph, weak development of dermographia [development of welts where someone scratches the skin], and hyperhydrosis [excessive perspiration] of the wrists.  Often there is a slight enlargement of the thyroid gland and a tendency towards increase in the leukocyte [white blood cell] count and histamine content of the blood.  All these changes are unstable and can be eliminated by a brief interruption of the work involving exposure.

The second stage develops if exposure continues.  Patients suffer prolonged headaches, pain in the region of the heart, bradycardia, increased blood pressure, pronounced changes in the appearance of the electrocardiogram, a lowered olfactory response, and often such trophic disturbances as loss of hair and brittleness of the nails, and a decrease in sexual potency [Does the surge in the use of Viagra and other drugs to enhance male performance relate to microwave exposure?].  Some medical treatment is required and temporary transfer to other work is mandatory.

The third stage is poorly described in the article.  Symptoms include strong recurring headaches, vertigo and fainting, heart pains, shivering and trembling, gastrointestinal disturbances, pronounced dermographia and hyperhydrosis.  Symptoms can remain even a year after the individual had changed jobs, although at a reduced level.

In the discussion, Inglis quotes from testimony presented by Dr. Charles Susskind (UC Berkeley) before the Senate Committee hearings on “Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1967.

Dr. Susskind recommends that much basic research at lower power densities should be performed before “. . . we can decide whether we should adopt the much stricter safety level of the Soviet Union.” He also suggests that “non-ionizing radiation might ultimately prove to be a greater problem than ionizing radiation.

According to Inglis, “If that prophecy should prove correct, I am sure the Russian literature will one day be weighed more carefully than it is at present [i.e. 1970].”  We are fortunate that Dr. Glaser kept these documents.

Others have also expressed concern about the proliferation of microwave radiation.

In a 1973 report submitted by JA Tanner from the Division of Mechanical Engineering and co-authored by faculty  in the Department of Anatomy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, the authors conclude:

In view of the expected proliferation of MW [microwave] devices in many different applications, a substantial increase in MW background activity is feared that may endanger human health.  On this basis strict control of the use of these devices must be introduced while present safety standards are revised and extensive research is conducted into long term effects of exposure to low intensity MW radiation.  In particular, a study of the possible accumulative effects of MW radiation (directly or indirectly) through sensitization must be conducted.

A few years later, Robert O. Becker (MD) stated the following:

I have no doubt in my mind that at the present time, the greatest polluting element in the earth’s environment is the proliferation of electromagnetic fields. I consider that to be far greater on a global scale, than warming, and the increase in chemical elements in the environment.’

Inglis (Rockwell Corp.), Susskind (UC Berkeley), Tanner (Mechanical Engineering, Queen’s University) and Becker (Orthopedic Surgeon and Professor SUNY, Syracuse) can’t all be wrong.  So why weren’t they listened to?

It is now 2010.  Forty years have passed yet the thermal debate is alive and well in many developed countries.  The symptoms of asthenia or electrohypersensitivity are becoming more prevalent in society as is our exposure to microwave radiation.  When once this was an occupational illness it has become a societal illness and one that is likely to get worse as we continue to install smart meters on homes, Wi-Max in communities and WiFi in schools.

As I write this biblical images come to mind.

I image the sea level rising as Noah gathers his family and the animals on his boat. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights and we have had at least 40 years of knowing this technology is harmful.

Today, instead of water, levels of microwave radiation are rising and many have already suffered from exposure.  Complaints of insomnia, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, allergies, depression, anxiety, heart problems, cancers, reproductive problems, neurological disorders, diabetes are on the rise and studies show these are the symptoms associated with electrosmog.  Countless people will die as the technology invades our homes, schools, and communities.  The Noah equivalents call themselves electromagnetic refugees.  They find safe havens and ensure their homes and communities are electromagnetically clean.

I also image Moses descending from Mount Sinai seeing his people dancing around a calf made of gold, a false god.  Is the thermal standard not a false god that governments have fabricated and are worshipping?  What will it take for the blind to see and the deaf to hear what governments and industry have been hiding and negating for the last 40 years? Moses didn’t live to see the promised land and many of my colleagues wonder if they will see what happened to cigarettes also happen to wireless technology during their lifetime.

What we need is labelling and awareness raising of the hazards of this type of radiation.  We need more protective guidelines in those countries still falsely worshiping the golden calf and stating that heating is the only effect of microwave exposure.  We need a shift to wired technology, especially fibre optics that is much faster, more secure, and safer than wireless.  We need to change behaviour and limit places where wireless is allowed.  We can all built a boat to carry us to safety or we can have the levels of microwave radiation recede to levels that are tolerable to the most sensitive in our society.

The choice is ours but it will take a monumental effort to achieve.