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Conflict of interest in IARC, funded by telcos.

Conflict of interest in IARC, funded by telcos

This is copy of a mail sent to David Collingridge, editor of the Lancet Oncology.
Original article:

Dear Dr. Collingridge,

The paper ‘Carcinogenicity of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields’ [The Lancet Oncology, 2011, 12(7):624-6] is an IARC statement summarizing a report concluding that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) were ‘possible carcinogens’ (group 2B). Many experts argue that RF-EMF should have been classified as ‘probable carcinogens’ (group 2A).

The IARC statement contains a lengthy declaration of conflict of interest (COI) by the experts invited to the discussions (at IARC, Lyon, France, May 2011), but is it complete? This is a matter of considerable importance. The IARC carcinogens classification has a huge impact on the public perceptions and policies regarding mobile phones heath effects. The COIs of the IARC experts should be nonexistent (ideally) or, at the very least, accurately disclosed.

I listed below the COIs presented in the Lancet Oncology IARC statement and/or the associated IARC monograph. I then added information that readers of the IARC statement could have found helpful: undeclared COI and specifics of the funding sources omitted in the original COI declaration.

Overall, 13 in 30 members of the IARC working group and 2 in 2 invited specialists have had ties with the telecommunication or defense industries (overall 44%). Eight of them declared some COI. Ten failed to declare at least one COI, including 7 who did not declare any. Four failed to mention the specific sources of funding they received. These numbers are most probably underestimating the extent of COIs as they are based on public information available on the Internet, which do not include consultancies and other non-public sources of COI.

A good start to understand the wider context and motivation of the present letter (i.e. the long history of the militaries and the telecom industry in funding RF-EMF-related health research and setting exposure standards) is the PhD dissertation of D. Maisch (see link below).

I am blowing the whistle anonymously because going as an individual against the interest of the powerful telecom and defense industries incurs some obvious risks. (But you can still reach me by e-mail at

It is of course up to you and your colleagues to decide if the undeclared COIs breached any Lancet Oncology policies and if further action needs to be taken. But whatever your decision, I want the debate on COI in the RF-EMF field to happen in the public space, therefore this letter is mirrored on and has been CC’ed to the editors of Retraction Watch and two EMF-related blogs ( and and, of course, to the IARC director’s office.

Sincerely Yours.


Here are the specific findings (relevant details and hyperlinks are provided at the end of the document):

IARC working group members with known COI

Elisabeth Cardis
Declared COI: travel and accommodation expenses for presentations organized by France Telecom.

Clemens Dasenbrock
Undeclared COI: research funding from the GSM Association and the Mobile Manufacturers Forum.

René de Seze
Declared COI: received significant research support (more than 100.000€, ceased in 2009) from Fondation Santé et Radiofréquences, a research foundation created under the leadership of the French Ministry of Research and with public interest status. Half of the budget is State funded, the other half is provided by industry. The Foundation’s independence and the transparency of its operations are guaranteed by its Ethics Charter. In 2009, René de Seze has prepared a report for a plaintiff’s lawyer on the association between radiofrequency fields and brain cancer.

Unspecified funding source: R. de Seze had multiple research programs funded by France Télécom and Bouygues Télécom. He also obtained funding through the CoMoBio program sponsored by Alcatel, Bouygues Télécom, Cegetel, France Télécom.

Jukka Juutilainen
Undeclared COI: had numerous research programs funded by Nokia, Benefon, Sonera, Elisa, FINNET, the GSM Association and the Mobile Manufacturer Forum.

Simon Mann
Undeclared COI: received research funding from the GSM association, the Mobile Manufacturer Forum and the UK’s Mobile Telecommunication and Health Research Program (MTHR). MTHR received funding from Vodafone.

James McNamee
Undeclared COI: received research funding from Hydro Quebec and the Canadian Department of Defense.

Meike Mevissen
Declared COI: receives research funding for gene-pathway effects of radiofrequency EMF from Forschungsstiftung Mobilfunk, a non-profit-making research foundation at the ETH Zürich. Neither industry, nor NGOs are represented on the Scientific Board of the Foundation.

Unspecified funding sources: Forschungsstiftung Mobilfunk is sponsored by Orange, Sunrise and Swisscom.

Junji Miyakoshi
Undeclared COI: received research funds from NTT DoCoMo.

Martin Röösli
Declared COI: receives research funding for studies on adverse health effects of mobile phone use from Forschungsstiftung Mobilfunk, a non-profit-making research foundation at the ETH Zürich. Neither industry, nor NGOs are represented on the Scientific Board of the Foundation. He also serves as a Member on the Board of this foundation.

Unspecified funding sources: Forschungsstiftung Mobilfunk is sponsored by Orange, Sunrise and Swisscom.

Undeclared COI: Martin Röösli also got funding from the Electric Power Research Institute.

Malcolm Sim
Declared COI: owns stock (less than 5.000 €) in Telstra, an Australian telecommunication service provider.

Tomoyuki Shiria
Undeclared COI: received funding from the Association of Radio Industries and Businesses, Japan.

Luc Verschaeve
Declared COI: research institute received a small research grant (less than 5.000 €, ceased in March 2011) from the GSM Operators Forum on environmental effects of mobile phone base stations.

Undeclared COI: Luc Verschaeve is president of the Belgian BiomelectroMagnetic Group, which is sponsored by power grid operator Elia. He also received research funding from Belgacom.

Undeclared COI: received funds from the US Air Force and Forschungsgemeinschaft Funk (Research Association for Radio Applications, Germany)

Invited specialists

Anders Ahlbom
Declared COI: served (until May 2011) on the Board of Directors of Gunnar Ahlbom AB, a consulting firm in the domains of EU affairs, especially within telecommunications.

Note: his collaboration with Gunnar Ahlbom AB was apparently not known from IARC until it was revealed in the Swedish media, just ahead of the RF-EMF expert summit in May 2011. It has been considered significant enough for IARC to remove A. Ahlbom from the main working group.

Undeclared COI: A. Ahlbom is member of the Swedish chapter of the Cosmos project, which received funds from TeliaSonera, Telenor and Ericsson.

Niels Kuster
Declared COI: Director and Board member of the non-profit IT’IS Foundation that performs exposure assessments for industry and governments and he is President of the Board and shareholder of Near-Field Technology AG, a holding controlling the two companies SPEAG and ZMT that are active in development of near-field measurement instruments, simulation software and medical test equipment.

Unspecified funding sources: Neils Kuster, received research funds from the Mobile Manufacturer Forum and Swiss Telecom. IT’SI sponsors include most mobile phone manufacturers like Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and many other players in the mobile communication industry.

Links to evidence

IARC monograph and related Lancet Oncology statement

PhD thesis of D. Maisch (background information on COI in RF-EMF research)

IARC experts

Clemens Dasenbrock,



René de Seze

France Telecom/CNET, CoMoBio, France, RAMP, EU 5th Framework, Europe, FSR, France

France Telecom/CNET, CoMoBio, France



France Telecom

Comobio et Bouygues

Comobio partners: Alcatel, Bouygues Telecom, Cegetel, ENST de Paris et de Brest, France Télécom, IRCOM Limoges, Sagem, Supélec, universités de Bordeaux, Marseille, Nîmes, Orsay, Rennes

Jukka Juutilainen


nokia, benefon, sonera


Nokia, sonera, elisa, finnet

Finnish mobile phone manufacturers and operators

history of his research and funding since 1998 here

James McNamee


Canada DOD

Simon Mann

HPA (NRPB), UK, MMF, MTHR (NRPB), UK, GSM Association, DTI, UK

MTHR and Vodafone

Junji Miyakoshi


Niels Kuster

Member of mthr

head of IT IS

IT’IS sponsors


MMF, Swiss Telecom

Martin Röösli

Tomoyuki Shiria

ARIB Association of Radio Industries and Businesses[], japan

Luc Verschaeve




US Air Force

Research Association for Radio Applications