The exposure limits supposed to protect the people from radiofrequency radiation are the result of institutional corruption

Invited by Lawrence Lessig from the Harvard Law School Franz Adlkofer held a lecture. An extended version is now available.

The exposure limits supposed to protect people from radiofrequency radiation are the result of institutional corruption
Extended version of a presentation at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics of the Harvard Law School

Franz Adlkofer, MD


There is no technology that made its way as quickly and as extensively into people’s daily life like wireless communication. In only 30 years, the number of cell phone users has increased world-wide from zero to about five billion. Since our knowledge on possible adverse effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields is still rather poor, it is obvious that at present the biggest biophysical experiment of mankind is under way – with an uncertain outcome.

This assessment is based on the state of knowledge about biological effects of radiofrequency radiation to which I have contributed during the past 15 years. Before that time, I held a leading position in tobacco research in Germany for about 20 years. In both areas it did not escape me, how through violation of scientific principles, financial profit has been maximized at the expense of disease and premature death of people. Exactly the same as what happened with tobacco may now recur with the reckless application of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields for technical purposes. And as in the past with tobacco, truth about the increasing state of knowledge is again systematically suppressed.

My personal story within the history of research on electromagnetic fields is only a tiny, but certainly drastic episode that shows how far the industry is willing to go in order to defend its vested economic interests. Under

“Research in Action” on the Safra Center for Ethics website, I read that institutional corruption tends to involve mostly legal practices that occur within social norms. I do not doubt this, however, I have to add, that institutional corruption may also involve illegal, even criminal practices if there is a good chance that their use can be concealed.

First, I will show on how the European Union (EU)-funded REFLEX study was treated when its results were in contrast to what the wireless communication industry expected. Then, I will look at the quality of research data when funding is provided jointly by industry together with governments. Finally, I will demonstrate that from the medical point of view the exposure limits for radiofrequency radiation are based on pseudo-science. These three examples may illustrate which role has been and still is assigned to science by the decision-makers in industry and politics. Science is obviously thought to pave the way for the assertion of economic-political interests through rendering health-political interventions unnecessary. The problem is that this goal can only be achieved with the practices of institutional corruption – at the cost of society.