The Other Side Of The Coin: Ivo Vegter and The Daily Maverick, Part 1

“To inform the public usefully and honestly, you need to interview specialists in the many fields and consult often long, complicated reports, websites and books. Therefore the public is, in a sense, the victim of the journalist’s choice of sources. But to what end? This remains a question anyone reading Vegter’s columns need to ask.”   The quote is from an article by Don Pinnock (21st of June 2016) “Calling out Ivo Vegter’s fractious fulminations”

In a review of Vegter’s book ‘Extreme Environment’ the Mail and Guardian’s environmental writer Sipho Kings took him to task for cherry-picking facts to support his argument and world view.

The following article is a sterling example of the issues Mr Vegter stands accused of: ”The Campaign against killer radio waves”

As pointed out in Pinnock’s criticism, Vegter relies on unscientific sources and cherry-picking to support his claims. Generalised statements and lack of proper research are the two main culprits.

Let’s look at some of Vegter’s statements:

Vegter: “Some people steadfastly believe that radio waves from cell phone towers, electrical wires and microwave ovens make them sick. They cite symptoms such as insomnia, headaches, muscle pain, and nausea. Some say they cause cancer. And all these people are wrong.”

“They cite symptoms such as insomnia, headaches”

Yes they do Mr Vegter, and they are not the only ones. These facts are well recorded in studies. 

One example of many: (ALAZAWI 2011, SHAHBAZI-GAHROUEI et al. 2014). The frequency of health symptoms was compared between residents living within 300m of the cell antenna site to those living farther away than 300m. The identical results of both studies: Most of the health complaints such as nausea, headache, dizziness, irritability, discomfort, nervousness, depression, sleep disturbance, memory loss and lowering of libido were statistically significantly more often reported by residents living near a base station (≤ 300m distance) compared to those living in a distance of more than 300m to a base station. The authors suggested that mobile phone base stations should not be sited closer than 300m to residences to minimize exposure of the residents(EMF-Portal on the study by SHAHBAZI-GAHROUEI et al. 2014).

Why do you ignore the many cell tower studies that indicate harm, Mr Vegter? Are you unaware that these studies, published in medical journals exist or do you deliberately choose to ignore it? Willful ignorance perhaps?

The 2004 Naila cell tower study (EGER et al. 2004) (again, not the only one) showed an increased cancer risk.

Vegter: “Some say these cause cancer”

Yes indeed Mr Vegter! There are studies which found a significant link between exposure to non-ionizing radiation and cancer. We believe you disregard and discredit the preliminary findings of the NTP cell phone radiation study, the final results of which will be published beginning 2018.  (More about that in Part 2.)

So, we will exlude it and refer you to: Correspondence: Global Patterns  Cancers of the Brain and CNS: Global Patterns and Trend Incidence

Bortkiewicz et al. have recently performed a meta-analysis and reported that their findings supported the hypothesis that long-term use of mobile phones was linked to increased risk of intracranial tumors.

Another meta-analysis performed recently by Wang and Guo showed a signicant association between mobile phone use (> 5 years use) and the risk of glioma. Furthermore, Yakymenko et al. have previously reviewed the published data on the carcinogenic effects of long term exposure to low intensity microwave radiation. They stated that there were reports indicating that exposure to low intensity microwaves could lead to cancer progression in laboratory animals and humans. They also stated that the carcinogenic effect of these radiations was more prominent for long term exposures (> 10 years).

Moreover, as Miranda-Filho et al. had claimed, in the case of low frequency fields there are no firm conclusions at present, it is worth noting that the findings of a case-control study performed by Carlberg et al. on occupational exposure to extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields and glioma found an increased risk in late stage (promotion/progression) of astrocytoma grade IV. There are scientists who believe that we cannot see the fingerprint of any increase in brain cancer incidence at population-level. They focus on the point that mobile phones were introduced 30 years ago and became ubiquitous 20 years ago or so. Therefore, we should be high on the shoulder of any brain cancer temporal risk distribution by now, and if that risk were real and significant we should be able to see it, while we cannot. Based on the current evidence, it can be claimed that the fingerprint (increased brain cancers) is indeed visible now! “Mobile phone use has been increasing in Western developed societies (de Vocht et al., 2011;Khurana et al., 2009) as well as worldwide (Khurana et al., 2009), and in parallel, the incidence of certain types of brain cancers has also been increasing in the previous decades (Dobes et al., 2011; Zada et al., 2012)”. EMF-induced cancers cannot be limited to brain and CNS cancers and other cancers (e.g. thyroid cancers) should be taken in to account “This study has shown an increasing incidence of thyroid cancer in Sweden and the Nordic countries. Better diagnostic imaging cannot solely account for the increase”…

So while the debate is ongoing about carcinogenity, one fact is crystal clear; We cannot state that radio waves do NOT cause cancer. Mr. Vegter, your statement And all those people are wrong” is also wrong.

Not all scientists perceive EHS to be “all in the mind” as you suggest. Study the work of Dr Belpomme, President of ARTAC, (Association of Treatment Against Cancer).

Yael Stein, Resident Anesthesiologist at Hadassah Medical Center & Student Researcher at Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

A Disabled Population Deprived of Work, Home, Slideshare.

See what the study below has to say about real/sham exposures.

“At that time (this dates back to 2011), we concluded that psychological factors are possibly involved in EHS (S. M. J. Mortazavi et al., 2011). It is worth noting that this conclusion was flawed due to the limitations we had in our previous studies, and when we obtained sufficient data, we realized that EHS was not linked to psychological issues.”

A Multilayer Perceptron Neural Network–Based Model for Predicting Subjective Health Symptoms in People Living in the Vicinity of Mobile Phone Base Stations

The microwave syndrome or electro-hypersensitivity: historical background.

Microwave frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression.

Mary Redmayne,PhD, presenting at the World Congress on Public Health 2017

There are many scientists in the EMF field that you fail to mention: Oleg Grigoriev, Leif Salford, Mikko Ahonen, Lennart Hardell, Martin Blank, Olle Johansson, Darius Lescynski, Trevor Marshall, David Carpenter, Devra Davis, S.M.J Mortazavi , Joel Moskowitz,  to name but a few.

Would it not be ethical to inform your readers that there are alternative views on the topic?

Mr Vegter, you stated: “Wi-Fi is not dangerous”

Deutsche Telekom about the topic:

“The integrated antennas of your Speedport send and receive radio signals for the provision of your WLAN (wireless network). Avoid setting up your Speedport in the immediate vicinity of sleeping, children’s rooms and lounges in order to keep the exposure to electromagnetic fields as low as possible.”

Telekom warns of (its own) Wi-Fi router Speedport.

Please read the letters at the link below:

 Letters From Doctors on WiFi in Schools And Cell Towers On Schools

Another unsubstantiated statement: “Whatever the case, the science is clear: electromagnetic radiation of frequencies lower than visible light cannot plausibly cause significant harm to the human body”

They disagree with you, Mr Vegter. 235 scientists from 41 nations, in fact.

EMF Scientist Appeal:

Mr Vegter, you state: “…the mobile phone signals, which operate at similar frequencies to wi-fi and microwaves. As we’ve established, there is no plausible mechanism by which they can cause harm.”

As to the mechanism consider:  DNA breaks, DNA damage, oxidative cell stress, the formation of free radicals, the polarization of cell membranes, opening of the blood-brain barrier, calcium voltage channels, thermal and non-thermal effects. For example: a broad biological potential of ROS and other free radicals, including both their mutagenic effects and their signaling regulatory potential, makes RFR a potentially hazardous factor for human health(YAKYMENKO et al. 2015, p. 12). The EMF exposure-related increase in oxidative damage already occurs, according to Yakymenko et al., “at levels thousands of times below the exposure limits in the non-thermal range at a power density of 0.1 μW/cm2 (= 1000 μW/m squared) and specific absorption range (SAR) of 3 μW/kg.1 These levels are well below exposure limits and exposure levels users experience during normal operation of mobile devices, routers, cell towers, and Wi-Fi hotspots.”

Another unsubstatiated statement: “This means that to be harmed by a cellphone tower, you’d have to climb up the tower and position yourself directly in front of the transmitter.”

No words necessary. Read the above.

Vegter: “All the evidence, published in academic journals rather than popular magazines, supports the conclusion that radio waves, cell phone transmissions, and microwave ovens are entirely harmless.”

All the evidence? In other words, Mr Vegter, you state that there is not one single study published in a medical journal that indicates harm?

What a sad day for journalism in South Africa.

Some facts to consider:

In most studies only the impact of a single frequency is examined, but in real life all living organisms are exposed to a mixture of frequencies.

Radiation from wireless communication technologies results in combination effects with other environmental exposures like amalgam, nitric oxides, fine particulate matter, lead, glyphosate, aluminum, fluorides, cadmium, plasticizers. Combination effects between ionizing and no nionizing radiation are also to be considered as a possible cause of multiple disease phenomena, which can be observed in soldiers and staff members of radar facilities. (MÄMPEL et al. 2015)  We have to keep in mind therefore the  role of electromagnetic radiation as an environmental pollutant.

(GIBSON 2016):To psychologize persons with electromagnetic hypersensitivity is discriminatory.

Information for your readers to peruse:

From the European Academy of Environmental Medicine, with over 300 references-

EUROPAEM EMF Guideline 2016 for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of EMF-related health problems and illnesses:

Electromagnetic Radiation Safety

We leave you with this quote:

“The entire earth turns more and more into a huge laboratory in which we, depending on our attitude and profession, observe with eagerness or horror which global impact the mass use of chemicals, electromagnetic fields, genetically manipulated organisms will have – only we cannot clean up this laboratory quite as easily when we realize the experiment went wrong” (NEITZKE et al. 1994, p. 319).


Alazawi SA, Mobile phone Base Stations Health Effects

Bortkiewicz A, Gadzicka E, Szymczak W. Mobile phone use and risk for intracranial tumors and salivary gland tumors – A meta-analysis. Int JOccup Med Environ Health. 2017;30:27-43. doi. org/10.13075/ijomeh.1896.00802. PubMed PMID: 28220905

Carlberg M, Hedendahl L, Ahonen M, Koppel T, Hardell L. Increasing incidence of thyroid cancer in
the Nordic countries with main focus on Swedish data. BMC Cancer. 2016;16:426.

s12885-016-2429-4. PubMed PMID: 27388603. PubMed PMCID: 493757

 Carlberg M, Koppel T, Ahonen M, Hardell L. Case-control study on occupational exposure to extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields and glioma risk. Am J Ind Med. 2017;60:494-503. PubMed PMID: 28394434.

de Vocht F. Inferring the 1985-2014 impact of mobile phone use on selected brain cancer subtypes
using Bayesian structural time series and synthetic controls. Environ Int. 2016;97:100-7. doi.

org/10.1016/j.envint.2016.10.019. PubMed PMID: 27835750

Eger H, Hagen KU, Lucas B, Vogel P, Voit H Influence of proximity to mobile telephony transmitters on cancer incidence

Gibson PR: The Hidden Marginalization of Persons with Environmental Sensitivities, ECOPSYCHOLOGY, VOL. 8, NO. 2, JUNE 2016, DOI: 10.1089/eco.2016.0003

Mämpel W et al.: Unterschätzte Gesundheitsgefahren durch Radioaktivi-tät am Beispiel der Radarsoldaten, ed. by Otto-Hug-Strahleninstitut, 2015

Mortazavi, SMJ,  Ali Reza Mortazavi, Maryam Paknahad  Correspondence: Cancers of the brain and CNS: global patterns and trends in incidence-Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) and Cancer (PDF Download Available). /316059480_Correspondence_Cancers_of_the_brain_and_CNS_global_patterns_and_trends_in_incidence-Electromagnetic_Fields_EMFs_and_Cancer

H. Parsaei,1 M. Faraz,1 and S. M. J. Mortazavi 2,3 A multilayer Perceptron Neural Network-Based Model for Predicting Subjective Health Symptoms in People Living in the Vicinity of Mobile Phone Base Stations. eco.2017.0011

Shahbazi-Gahrouei D, Karbalae M, Moradi HA, Baradaran-Ghahfarokhi M Health efffects of living near mobile phone base transceiver station (BTS) antennae: a report from Isfahan,Iran.

Wang Y, Guo X. Meta-analysis of association between mobile phone use and glioma risk. J Cancer Res Ther. 2016;12:C298-C300. doi. org/10.4103/0973-1482.200759. PubMed PMID:28230042.

 Yakymenko I, Sidorik E, Kyrylenko S, Chekhun V. Long-term exposure to microwave radiation provokes cancer growth: evidences from radars and mobile communication systems. Exp Oncol.

2011;33:62-70. PubMed PMID: 21716201.

Copyright © 2017 EMFSA

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