Questions raised by our Tech Safety Quiz by NZ Skeptic administrator refuted
Our quiz at the Go Green Expo was designed to raise questions and for those reading it to go and do their own research. This is exactly what the NZ Skeptics society's administrator attempted to do, albeit coloured by a rage at our assertions. Lets look at bit further at his supposed debunking. https://skeptics.nz/newsletter/safe-ict-nz
What is the most common password on the Internet?
Skeptic's response: Okay, this first question is actually okay, and hopefully reminds people to use strong passwords. The answer appears likely to be 123456
Our response: Great you get the point ,it is a wake up call to use more responsible passwords all of these are bad.
2. Blue light
Blue light is emitted by computer/phone screens, televisions and blue LED lighting. Is it a problem?
Blue light at night stops the production of sleep hormone melatonin
Sunlight in the middle of the day is 100,000 times brighter than a computer screen, so there isn't any problem.
Skeptic's response: question's obviously looking for the answer 1. Despite some scaremongering online about the dangers of blue light near bedtime (often used as a way to sell a “harm reducing” product), there's no good evidence that blue light stops melatonin production - it does have some effect in suppressing it a little, but it appears unlikely that this is enough of an effect to cause people problems with sleeping. As for the “wrong” answer, a quick google shows that phone screens vary up to about 1000 nits (candlepower per square metre) brightness, although most these days will significantly reduce their brightness at night. The sun at midday is over 1,000,000,000 (1 billion) nits, so the ratio given here is actually lower than in reality. However, obviously the midday sun isn't conducive to sleep, so this answer's a little nonsensical.
Our response: Your single article with the single paper found to supposedly refute this, does bring up questions about our knowledge on this, however the very article you cite refers also to Anne Marie Chang's paper on actual human's versus mice, who are active in the night and discusses the harms in detail, mainly much more alertness at night, making it difficult to sleep and hours to become fully awake in the early morning. Chang's paper found that, compared with reading a printed book in reflected light, reading a LE-eBook in the hours before bedtime decreased subjective sleepiness, decreased EEG delta/theta activity, and suppressed the late evening rise of pineal melatonin secretion during the time that the book was being read. When the volunteers read from electronic devices, they had shorter REM sleep, the stage in which memories are consolidated and the brain refreshes itself, than when they read from printed books. https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.1418490112
What happened to bee colonies when exposed to mobile phone frequencies (900 MHz) for 10 minutes a day for 10 days?
The exposed bees did not return to the hive
The bees continued on as usual
Skeptic's response: quick search found several articles about testing the effect of radio frequencies on bees. Now, I'm not an expert and I don't expect to be able to read these articles and figure out whether they're trustworthy or not, but I don't have to. Luckily other people have done the work for me, and have debunked the study from two Indian researchers that appears to be the source of this claim, as well as other studies:
Our response: Agreed, that this area can be complex science. Also we did give only one example of the research. But you haven't used a credible source to refute it, the writers are obviously not in a position to peer review this, whereas the paper we have here shows the actual research, it also references 17 other papers on similar research.
4. Absorption of radiation by our bodies
How far from your head do you need to keep your cell phone to keep to adsorbed radiation guidelines?
3mm from your head
This varies from phone to phone, but at least 5mm - 15mm. Researchers (ANFR) have found the majority of phones tested emit radiation 3x higher than safety standards, so triple the distance on your phone's safety guidance: 1.5cm - 4.5cm.
Skeptic's response: we assume they mean absorbed rather than adsorbed, then it appears that 3mm should be fine. There's some good information about how this is scaremongering from both our own Ministry of Health and the US National Cancer Institute:
Our response: Firstly, the fact that you have to hold you phone away from your head at all, is not highlighted by our Ministry of Health as it should be, daily we see people totally unaware of this fact. The IEEE report: corroborates our claim that many cell phones do not adhere to the International safety emissions guidelines (such as they are) and that it is difficult to comply with this. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8688629 The NIH reference cited would be assuming phones to comply with the regulations.
When our Ministry of Health decided to go with the ICNIRP guidelines, peer review of their reports was done by Professor Cherry arguing that they should not accept the advice of ICNIRP, there is further information on our site under New Zealand Safety Regulations and the report for your attention. (Regarding adsorption versus absorption we might concede that, since absorbing tends to be a more entire volume process and adsorbing is more surface one, and there are papers that show our skin's structures transport radiation further in.)
5. Eyes while looking at a computer screen
1. Our blink rate halves from twelve blinks a minute down to six blinks a minute and dries our eyes.
2. Our blink rate goes up to twenty four blinks a minute and wets our eyes.
Skeptic's response: first paper (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24413278/) found when searching for this suggests that neither are true, and that our blink rate when staring at a screen is pretty much the same as when we stare at, and focus on, a piece of paper. It goes on to give some reasons why previous studies may have reached different conclusions.
Our response: The papers we have been looking at weren't corroborated by your paper, however, in the paper you cited, it is clear that there is still visual fatigue, concluding a significantly higher percentage of incomplete blinks was observed for the computer condition (7.02 vs. 4.33%; p = 0.02). Our statement was oversimplified. The main point here is that computers do give us eye strain, The optometrists association is warning people about this. "Fact: Actually, prolonged usage of digital devices is a main cause of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), otherwise known as Digital Eye Strain. Digital eye strain can cause significant discomfort— sore or tired eyes, blurry vision, dry eyes, headaches, and even neck or shoulder pain". .://www.optometrists.org/vision-therapy/guide-to-vision-therapy-for-adults/what-is-computer-vision-syndrome/digital-eye-strain/
In addition they say: corrective eyewear cannot always prevent the effects of prolonged screen time. However photochromic lenses that change with light intensity and anti-reflective coatings can be worn to reduce the symptoms of the condition.
6. Is BlueTooth safe?
It is not very powerful so isn't dangerous.
BlueTooth uses very similar frequencies (2.4 - 2.4835 GHz) to a cell phone's ones (400 MHz - 2 GHz), But because it blasts at full power all the time, the risk may be worse or equal to a cell phone's (when its BlueTooth and GPS are off).
Skeptic's response: Like other technologies that our technology devices use, Bluetooth emits only low levels of non-ionising radiation, so it's considered safe to use:
Our response: Has the writer considered that if Blue-Tooth frequencies can make electronic devices do things, why would it not also effect our electrical beings, since each and every one of of our hundred trillion cells has voltage gate? Even the articles you cite bring up additional problems such as exposures to more than one frequency at a time. Here is a discussion on the dangers of Blue tooth ear buds which expose users to sometimes more radiation than a cell phone and usually for longer. https://www.saferemr.com/2016/09/airpods-are-apples-new-wireless-earbuds.html
7. Is Wi-Fi safe?
It is non-ionising radiation, without enough power to take an electron off an atom, so therefore it is safe.
Research on animals exposed to Wi-Fi has found problems with sexual and fertility cell development, compromised immunity, cancer, and other negative health effects.
Skeptic's response: Here we go again, more mentions of “research” and yet not a single link, or study name, is given. I'm happy to concede that there likely are studies out there that claim each of the things listed in answer b., but that doesn't mean these are real effects. What we do know is that these kinds of results are implausible given what we know of non-ionising radiation.
The science of the effects on our bodies from wireless radiation is complex, and is often subtle. For example the first exposure to cell phone frequencies strengthens the body against further exposure by making stress proteins, but for chronic exposure it is a different and complex story. There are real risks, particularly to children, and to the developing embryo, the assumptions of safety were overturned by scientists studying ionising radiation who found surprises in results which made them relook at assumption of safety from the low power of ionising radiation.
It is now well proven to have biological effects, evidence of this is provided in the European Union's Reflex report. https://itis.swiss/assets/Downloads/Papers-Reports/Reports/REFLEXFinal-Report171104.pdf
The aim of REFLEX project was to apply advanced methods and procedures developed in toxicology and molecular biology to investigate the basic mechanisms in cellular and sub-cellular systems that are possibly triggered by exposure to electromagnetic (EM) radiation, e.g., from power lines and communication systems. Investigating the effects of EMF on single cells in vitro at the molecular level below the energy density reflected by the present safety levels. The consortium was led by REFLEX coordinator Prof. Franz Adlkofer of the VERUM Foundation, and included eight biological laboratory partners plus the engineering partner, the IT'IS Foundation. The results of this have had push back from military, and industry.
In the Reflex report you can find the Comet assay tests that show DNA damage. Rat were exposed to ionising radiation and non ionising radiation and of course protected from both as a control as well. When you look at the comet assays of the rat's brain cells, the tests where the cells had there oily membrane washed off, then were placed in an electric field to draw out the broken DNA particles, the comet tail of broken DNA from both types of DNA were quite similar, both types broke single and double strands of DNA. Drs Lai and SIngh originally preformed this work which has been replicated. You can see pictures of what I am talking about here: https://www.washington.edu/news/2004/02/18/exposure-to-low-level-magnetic-fields-causes-dna-damage-in-rat-brain-cells-researchers-find/#:~:text=Lai%20and%20Singh%20hypothesize%20that,including%20DNA%2C%20lipids%20and%20proteins.
For many of the papers on immunity and sexual and fertility cell development, compromised immunity, and cancer we suggest you read (in the pdf format on our books page) Frequencies used in Telecommunications. A radiobiological Assessment by Yuri Grioriev. https://www.safeictnz.org/books These are peer reviewed papers and in some cases award winning science.
8. Safety of Wireless trackers (on endangered species)
Are wireless trackers proven safe?
No. There is no research proving safety. The same frequencies have been tested on chickens and proven harmful to their developing embryos, so they're unlikely to be safe for other birds either.
Yes. If they weren't safe we wouldn't be using them.
Skeptic's response: wireless trackers I assume they're talking about (AirTag, Tile, etc) basically use Bluetooth (specifically BTLE - BlueTooth Low Energy) - so see question 6 above, as these are safe to use. The devices rely on other people's devices to report your tracker when it's in range, which is a clever solution that works especially well in areas with a high population density. Eventually trackers might start using something that doesn't rely on other people's phones to find your device, like LoRaWAN, but that could only happen once there's a comprehensive, accessible national network available.
We were actually referring to the trackers used on endangered species being researched, sorry that wasn't clear. Alfonso Balmori did a review and could not find any testing to see whether these were actually safe. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26615484/ Tiny levels of electromagnetism used by bees and flowers interacting for example, are not catered to by the existing guidelines which are inappropriate for trans-species sensitivities and different non-human physiology https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36505009/
9. Pacemaker safety
How far away should you keep your phone from a pacemaker to be safe?
More than 3cm.
More than 15cm and more than 30cm while charging.
Skeptic's response: what I can find online, the risk to pacemakers from a mobile phone is very low, and newer generation networks (3G, 4G and beyond) tend towards being lower power than their predecessors, so modern phones are even less risky than older ones. But, for anyone who wants to be cautious, here are some decent guidelines: https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/cell-phones/potential-cell-phone-interference-pacemakers-and-other-medical-devices
Our response: The very paper you refer to from the FDA advises to"hold the phone to the ear opposite the side of the body where the pacemaker is implanted to add some extra distance between the pacemaker and the phone". Why bother advising this if there is no risk? Is an older person with a pacemaker always going to have the latest supposedly less risk phone, is it actually going to comply with the radiation levels it is meant to?
10. Google collecting wireless data
When filming for Google maps did Google also collect wireless data, including complete email messages, in New Zealand?
Skeptic's response: we finish off on another accurate question/answer. Yes, Google messed up and ended up storing data from some unencrypted WiFi access points as its Google Street View cars were driving around New Zealand. Google was using their cars to scan WiFi access points and record their SSIDs (the names of the wireless networks), with the plan being to use them to allow people's phones to figure out someone's approximate location even if they couldn't get a useful GPS signal, or didn't have GPS in their device. But an engineer ended up adding code to capture data if it was being sent openly, without any encryption. Here's what New Zealand's Privacy Commissioner had to say about the debacle: https://www.privacy.org.nz/publications/commissioner-inquiries/google-s-collection-of-wifi-information-during-street-view-filming/
Okay, stop the clock. It's now 2:15am - so it took just over an hour to show that most of the expected answers are just flat out wrong. Here's the reverse of the quiz sheet, which it turns out has all of their expected answers: In looking into these questions I learned a little more about technology, which is cool, but I also saw many reputable sites saying the same thing: The technology we use today isn't using any electromagnetic frequencies that are likely to be affecting our physical health. In fact, the real danger to physical health from devices like mobile phones doesn't come from their “radiation”, it comes from human stupidity - in this case people using their devices while driving, and becoming a danger on the road to others.
We think it is important to realise that wireless data is less private and safe than many people realise.
Also, that Google has an influence on our lives that is not transparent to everyone. The very influencing of the information that comes first on our web searches has huge potential power, that can influence many spheres including elections. Google did this, and for most of us, without our knowledge, or consent.
We are all for digital access, We would however, like people to lower their risks, and to use wired tech as much as possible. Wired tech, while being inconveniently tethered, has the convenience of speed and reliability. We believe that if you truly look at the research you will be willing to make these small changes and to help us spread the word about this risk.