Environmental Health Impact: Professor David O. Carpenter’s Insights

Professor David O. Carpenter from Albany University is a world authority on environmental medicine and joins me to discuss the impacts of the environment on our health and why we should all care. We explore personal care products, chemicals, radiation, lifestyle as well as Covid19.

Professor David O. Carpenter – Environmental medicine & why we should all care Introduction

Today, we’re going to be talking about environmental medicine and why it matters. We can answer those questions. I think at the end of it, you will see that it’s something that we all need to be very aware of.

My guest today is a world authority in environmental medicine, Professor David O. Carpenter. I had the pleasure of meeting David. He’s from Albany University of Albany up in upstate New York. And I had the pleasure of meeting him at a recent online global conference from the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM), which I mentioned to you before, I have the honor of being on the board of, actually President of. And I had the pleasure of meeting David. And David is absolutely so knowledgeable in this area.

He has published over 370, published peer-reviewed journal articles, and he has written six books on the subject. So he is a world authority. If ever there was one and very generous in sharing his knowledge with us today. So it is with a great deal of pleasure that I welcome Professor David O. Carpenter to this show.

Podcast Transcript

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Unstress. I am Dr Ron Ehrlich. Today, we’re going to be talking about environmental medicine and why it matters. We can answer those questions. I think at the end of it, you will see that it’s something that we all need to be very aware of.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:00:30] My guest today is a world authority in environmental medicine, Professor David O. Carpenter. I had the pleasure of meeting David. He’s from Albany University of Albany up in upstate New York. And I had the pleasure of meeting him at a recent online global conference from the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM), which I mentioned to you before, I have the honor of being on the board of, actually President of. And I had the pleasure of meeting David. And David is absolutely so knowledgeable in this area.

He has published over 370, published peer-reviewed journal articles, and he has written six books on the subject. So he is a world authority. If ever there was one and very generous in sharing his knowledge with us today. So it is with a great deal of pleasure that I welcome Professor David O. Carpenter to this show. Welcome to the show, David.

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:01:36] Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:01:37] David, I had the pleasure of meeting you and listening to your lectures at the recent global online conference, which was done by the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine. And one of the things that surprised me whenever I told anybody we were running a conference like that was the first question I almost invariably got was what is environmental medicine? And I guess the follow on from that is why should we all why should we care? So I wondered if we could just start from some real basics because I know both. You would definitely know you’ve published so much and I am so into it that we kind of assume everyone knows what that means. What is environmental medicine and why should we care?

What is environmental medicine and why should we care?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:02:22] Well, I think environmental medicine is clearly how our environment, our exposure to chemicals, to radiation, to even personal lifestyles that increase our exposure to these environmental contaminants alters our health. So, you know, we know about certain things.

We know that too much exposure to ionizing radiation increases the risk of cancer. But also, we know that there are many, many chemicals that we’re all exposed to every day that also increase the risk of cancer. But most people don’t think about their exposure to chemicals when they develop cancer. That the other thing, and this has been the essence of my recent research, is that we’re finding that exposure to environmental factors increases the risk of a whole variety of other diseases. They affect our IQ even in old people.

Exposure to various chemicals will reduce your ability to learn, to remember to be functional. They alter diseases like diabetes and hypertension and heart disease. Diseases that are common in older age, they alter risk of asthma, of respiratory infections. In this day and age of Covid-19. Factors that we are exposed to, mainly chemicals, can suppress our immune system.

So if our immune system is suppressed, we’re more vulnerable to, number one, being infected by Covid-19 or any other virus or bacteria, or parasite and if we are infected, we’re likely to be more seriously impacted. So environmental medicine is the whole study of how exposure to environmental factors, chemicals, radiation, other factors in our environment, how they increase or affect our risk of various diseases.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:04:27] Yes, well, the word comorbidity is one that we’ve become very familiar with because we hear that comorbidity makes us more susceptible and I think comorbidities, another word for chronic diseases, of course. So this is all very much tied in with what we experience at the very best of times if you like. And these are certainly not the best of times. What are some of the you mentioned some of those? We’re going to go into some of the diseases, but let’s talk about the chemicals as a start. And, you know, we make assumptions about what we see on the shelf, what we buy in our products. But those assumptions are not necessarily we’re not necessarily we shouldn’t be making those kinds of assumptions. Should we?

Let’s talk about the Chemicals

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:05:14] That’s absolutely correct. And of course, there are some 80000 chemicals that are recognized in most countries. I think the number is actually up to about 86000 in the US now. And many of these have never even been studied in terms of what they do to human health. It’s interesting. Let me give you an example of where I see the real problem.

Our New York State Department of Health that I worked for for 17 years, although I have a lot of problems with them now. They did a study that identified four counties in New York State, New York State. It’s the state. Our counties are are are are subdivisions. And there’s something like sixty-seven counties in New York State. They identified four counties that had higher than average rates of cancer. And they tried to understand why those counties had these elevations and cancer.

Well, they concluded that it was because of smoking. Too much obesity, too little exercise. And their evidence for this was very weak. So I was asked by a community group to look at their report. What we found is we look county by county instead of what they had done, which is average all of New York state, that Warren County did not have elevated obesity. They didn’t have a higher rate of smoking than any other county of comparable size. And there was a total lack of consideration of chemical exposure.

Now, in this case, it was interesting because while they dismissed air pollution, they dismissed chemicals in water. There had been previous studies also done by the Department of Health that reported that there were high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls in Warren County and when I looked at the data, the cancers that were elevated in Warren County were with only one exception, cancers known to be increased by exposure to PCBs,  polychlorinated biphenyls.

So we have in the U.S. a general problem. This is true for our Centres for Disease Control. They tend to blame people for their own increase in risk of cancer. It’s your fault. You’re too fat. You eat too many fats, you smoke too much, you don’t exercise enough. It’s your fault you have cancer and they tend to ignore this fundamental issue of environmental medicine that things we’re exposed to in our environment. Often things that an individual has very little power to control because there’s contaminants in the air that they get in the water, they get in the food supply. There are things that an individual can’t really control and they do contribute to the risk of not only cancer but these other environmentally induced diseases.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:08:36] Yes. And you mentioned PCBs as an example of that. And there when we look at labels of even things we see when we talk about chemicals I think so many people just think about air pollution or water pollution and they don’t necessarily recognize that within their own home, within their products, that they surround themselves with, that some of these chemicals are present. Whether you like it or not.

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:09:05] That’s absolutely correct. And these chemicals are present in all of our homes. The air pollution, the water pollution, these are not trivial issues. And of course, an individual rarely has control over these things. You breathe 24/7 every day, multiple times, and you count on your government to protect the quality of air. The same is true for the quality of water. But there are chemicals in both air and water that are very dangerous and they’re not uniformly distributed. So some areas, some communities have more exposure than do others.

But again, even when you can’t really control these things. It’s important for individuals to understand that these are routes of exposure and it’s particularly important for my judgement for government agencies not to always blame the individual for their personal behavior when there are clear documentation that chemicals that are the responsibility of government to control, who contribute in a major fashion to this incidence of disease.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:10:23] So when chemicals are introduced into a product which inevitably will find its way into a water supply, but into a product. How are they? How are they tested? How are they? How are they regulated? How are they say yes we’ll allow that to go into your underarm deodorant, will allow that to go into your moisturizer with shaving cream or shampoo or this. How are they tested?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:10:51] Well, good question. And unfortunately, one of the conclusions that I would make is that often they are not tested. Now, you talk specifically about his personal care products. Well, let’s talk about those because. There are many chemicals in personal care products. And for some of these chemicals, the health hazards are still a matter of investigation and they’re somewhat debatable. But for example, phthalates. This is the class of chemicals that’s added into so many consumer products. They’re products of cosmetics. Almost every cosmetic, they’re incorporated into plastics. Bisphenol-A and other bisphenol compounds are also incorporated into plastics. And plastics are such a major part of our life.

Well, we know that both the phthalates and the bisphenols are endocrine, disruptive chemicals. That means they act like the female sex hormone oestrogen. Now, oestrogen, it’s a natural hormone. We all have oestrogen in our body, but excessive oestrogen is known to increase the risk of breast cancer in women. It’s known to reduce the fertility of men in excess. And these chemicals, the phthalates, the bisphenols, and many other chemicals that are in our everyday products.

There’s no warning when you buy a stick of lipstick that it contains phthalates or that when you buy a bottle of soda that there’s bisphenol A in the plastic that’s going to leach out and get into the fluid that you’re drinking. And it’s going to alter your hormonal balance. But these compounds, useful as they may be, have adverse biological effects. And then they’re basically not well regulated. Now, it’s interesting with, for example, the bisphenol-A is in the phthalates.

A few of the more advanced countries have been reducing and increasing regulation. But bisphenol-A is a perfect example. A lot of study of bisphenol-A. We know it’s a very dangerous compound. So countries are reducing, reducing the use of bisphenol-A but what the companies are doing then is going to bisphenol-S or bisphenol this or that compounds that are structurally related but have never been studied. So we don’t know how bad they are. But since they’re structurally related, the bisphenol-A, of course, it’s very likely they’re going to do exactly the same thing. Now, there are other chemicals that get into our air and our food supply.

A lot of my work, as I said, was with PCBs and chlorinated pesticides, DDT, many other chlorinated pesticides, dioxins, and furans, or the dioxins and furans were never intentionally manufactured, but they’re products of combustion. The PCBs and the chlorinated pesticides were intentionally manufactured.

Now, most developed countries have stopped manufacturers since the late 1970s. You and I and everyone else in the face of the earth still have these chemicals in our body. And while the levels had been going down because they haven’t been made for a long time, these are persistent chemicals and they don’t go away except very, very slowly. And the rate at which they’re declining is much less than the rate at which we increase our knowledge of how dangerous they are. So what my colleagues and I have shown with PCBs is they increased the risk of cancer.

They increase the risk of high blood pressure. They increase the risk of diabetes. They increase the risk of heart disease. They increase the risk of thyroid hormone suppression, hypothyroidism. They reduce IQ. Not just in children, but also in adults. So these are very dangerous chemicals. Now, how are we exposed to them? Well, they’re fat-soluble and all over the world. In every country, they are in all animal fats. You can’t eat an egg. You can’t use a slab of butter. You can’t eat a Big Mac or a piece of chicken or a piece of pork or whatever animal fat without getting some of these chemicals because they’ve been allowed to spread over the over the world.

And again, most people are oblivious to this. But how the degree to which exposure to this kind of chemicals influences human disease. That’s what environmental science, environmental medicine is all about. We don’t have a lot of the answers yet, but we do know that exposure to environmental agents is much more important than the medical profession. The general public and our political establishments recognize that presence.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:16:05] Wow, David. Well, you’ve got our attention. I mean, if you our listener, hasn’t sat up and had a little prick their ears there I’d be surprised because you’ve mentioned so many diseases that are so ubiquitous in our society.

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:16:18] Well, that’s one of the frightening things here, is that it’s just every disease you can think of. I have a doctoral student now who’s done a study on the risk of osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. You know, osteoarthritis as it’s thought to be old age. It’s wear and tear. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Nobody would think that exposure to chemicals would influence these diseases.

We’re finding that exposure to chemicals, PCBs, dioxins, chlorinated pesticides, increase the risk of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. We’re still studying, struggling to try to understand the mechanism. It’s related to other factors like obesity, exercise, things like that. But environmental chemicals alter even those diseases, which nobody in medicine would think of those as being related to environmental exposures. But they are.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:17:24] Part of the problem is the science in medicine, I think. That is, I think the gold standard we’ve been I would argue we’ve been hoodwinked into believing the gold standard in medicine is a randomised controlled study where you vary one thing at a time and you have the control and a placebo, et cetera, et cetera. And of course, in the real world, that is just an absurdly oversimplistic approach to what is somewhat the science in medicine really should be about. I mean, when we come to chemical exposure, it’s even worse isn’t really because we’re never exposed to chemicals one time. How would you even do the study to show that?

How do you study chemical exposure?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:18:10] Well, I think that I totally agree with you, the gold standard and really the minimal standard is a randomised controlled study. Now, what one can do with chemicals, since you can’t obviously feed people a chemical to see whether they develop a disease. So what we’re limited with there is usually studying a population where we look at risk of a particular disease in people that have a low exposure as compared to people that have a high exposure.

We’re not exposing people, but we’re looking in a population to see how the level of exposure which we can monitor by measurements in blood, in urine, other sometimes in fat content, how that relates to the incidence of disease. And that’s equivalent to a clinical trial. And that those studies have been done. And those are the studies that I’m involved in with a whole variety of contaminants. Unfortunately, the mainstream medical profession doesn’t read those studies.

They really don’t think about environmental exposures as being important in human disease. And that’s one of the battles I fight constantly. Even when I do a good study like that, I have difficulty getting the papers published in a truly clinical scientific journal. I mean, the whole host of environmental journals. And that’s like preaching to the choir because everybody that looks at those journals knows that chemicals cloud disease. But the people one wants to attract are the physicians that are dealing with patients, with arthritis, with diabetes, with hypertension. And often that doesn’t happen.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:20:02] Yeah. I mean, this is where the politics of public health and the influence of industry really hits the road, doesn’t it, where the rubber meets the road. And, you know, when we’re talking about gold standards also meta-analysis is another one. And it’s, I guess, quite easy for industry to fund studies which can confound those meta-analysis. That’s where they gathered together all the studies and find out what they all averaged out or what the general conclusion was. Is that something that’s happening in environmental medicine as well?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:20:37] Absolutely. And I’ve done some studies that have tried to look at exactly that. Studies funded by industry tend not to find effects. Studies funded by independent investigators often tend to find positive results. And the way that the industry proceeds to discredit it is to say, well, the results are inconsistent and inconclusive and therefore you shouldn’t pay any attention. Well, you know, this is an intentional attempt to try to distort the actual information done by independent investigators. So that is the real problem.

I think independent of that, it is important for physicians, for the public, for politicians to look at the source of funding who funded a particular study because if it was funded by it, by any organisation, any individual that has a conflict of interest in the result, you can depend on the fact that the interpretation is going to be distorted on the basis of that conflict of interest. Now, most scientific journals are very careful now to ask about conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, it’s very possible to, you know, say I have no conflict when you receive funding from Monsanto or whatever.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:22:03] But even if they do acknowledge a conflict of interest, is the Journal article then scored less? I mean, if we had to put an arbitrary score on the value of a research article and say something that was independent and reproducible would have a score out of 10 of nine or 10 and somebody that was into something that was industry funded immediately reduced the scoring. Is that kind of a system out there?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:22:30] No, it does not happen. No. The analysis portion of the article goes forward, there may be a statement that, yes, the author had a conflict of interest because they got lots of money from the industry. But just acknowledging that conflict of interest doesn’t change whether or not the manuscript is accepted for publication.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:22:54] Yeah. So it’s really just paying lip service to what we know is a problem, but we’re not acknowledging it. David, you also mentioned there about the chemicals that are endocrine disruptors. And, you know, to remind our listeners, the endocrine system is a really important regulator of our bodies. So endocrine disruptor immediately puts up the alarm bells there. And we talk about the half-life of a chemical of an exposure.

I mean, that is, you know, if something has a half-life of the year after year, it’s half that quantity there. But you mentioned that these chemicals have no half-life do have their very long half-life. What is the story there in things like PCBs and Bisphenol A’s and other endocrine disruptors? How does half-life work there?

How do Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Bisphenol-A (BPA), and other endocrine disruptors works?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:23:45] Well, it varies dramatically depending on the chemical things like phenols, phthalates, bisphenol A, these have a relatively short Half-Life. But the problem there is that we’re exposed to them every day. Plastic is a part of our life. Cosmetics are a part of our life. And so even though they don’t stay in the body very long because we’re exposed every day, they can have biological effects that are very profound.

Now, other chemicals, things like the dioxins, the PCBs, the polyfluorinated compounds, the brominated flame retardants. Many of these have very long half-lives, on average, half-lives between 7 and 10 years. So that means that if you ate a contaminated fish with all these chemicals last night for dinner, you’re going to have half of those chemicals in your body 10 years from now, you’re going to have a quarter of them in your body 20 years from now. And it just goes on and on. Now, these chemicals are not one single chemical, for example, PCBs are 209 different chemicals.

They all have a common structure, a  bisphenol ring with a different number of chlorines, at different sites on the molecule. So those that have relatively few chlorines tend to have half-lives that are relatively brief. A matter of weeks to months or maybe a few years, those with a lot of chlorines have half-lives of decades. So the average of the whole population is seven to 10 years. The same is true for the perfluorinated compounds.

And I’ve gotten very much caught up in this just in the last few days. This is the chemicals that are repellent stain repellents. They were used in Scotchgard in Teflon non-stick cookware. Everybody assumed that they stayed there. They don’t. Everybody in the earth has these chemicals in their body. Now, they also were used as firefighting foam.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:26:08] And we became very familiar with that in Australia.

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:26:12] Yeah. Well, just in the last few months, we found that a local incinerator in my backyard has that contract with the US Department of Defence to burn excess firefighting foam. Now, the idea that you would burn something that represses fire is ridiculous. And what we know about this is that while the major components in this firefighting form have a half-life, about seven years, when they’re heated, they change so that some chemicals with higher molecular weights, but mostly chemicals with lower molecular weights that still have similar structures are formed by the heating process.

And some of these compounds have even longer half-lives, whereas others have even shorter half-lives. And nobody has studied the health effects of these compounds. A perfect example of how stupid we are in terms of making chemicals that have not been studied and then trying to find ways to destroy them when we find out they’re dangerous and don’t even do that properly.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:27:31] Okay. Chemicals. Well, there’s another aspect to it, which I know I’ve been very familiar with in my professional life, and that is heavy metals, heavy metals and other environmental issues. Well, we had lead in petrol for a very long time. And the and I think they say when did they stop? And they banned lead in petrol in America. In the US.

Heavy Metals and other Environmental Issues

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:27:53] Yes. But it was in the late 70s. Early 80s. Later. Yeah. I think I said that the levels of lead in the population declined quite dramatically.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:28:02] Right. Right. And of course, they don’t have a Half-Life at all, do they?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:28:07] Not at all. Not at all. So so they do have a Half-Life in the human body. That half in blood is relatively brief, but the half-life in bone because lead like calcium gets deposited in bone, halflife and bone. It’s like 22 years. And also get restored and get pregnant. And your body is mobilising the calcium from your bone to develop the bones of the foetus. It mobilises the lead as well. So very dangerous scenario.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:28:40] Now, I know we are exposed to chemicals in our food, you know, through fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and all of that. But I know you’ve studied also farmed fish. Yes. And we’re hearing a lot of you know, I mean, obviously, this is in Australia. We have Atlantic salmon that comes to us not from the Atlantic but comes to us from Tasmania. And farmed fish is a very big and growing industry. What’s your view of farmed fish, David?

What’s your view of farmed fish?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:29:11] Well, it was very interesting. It was one of the nicest thing that ever happened to be. I had a call from the Pew Charitable Trust saying, how would you like two and a half million dollars? And I didn’t have too much hesitancy in saying you. Yeah. That be a good idea. But this was a grant that ended up being administered by six of us to look at contaminants in farmed salmon as compared to wild salmon.

Unfortunately, in our study, we didn’t look at Tasmanian salmon, although I knew about it at the time. So these studies were done about 20 years ago and there have been some changes since then. But what we found when we compared farmed salmon from Northern Europe, from the North America and from South America, but not from Australia, we found that the levels of persistent organic chemicals, that being dioxins, furans PCBs, chlorinated pesticides run average 10 times higher than those from the wild Alaskan salmon.

Now, all of the farmed salmon are Atlantic salmon. There’s no wild Atlantic salmon fishery anymore because we’ve depleted all of those. So we farmed them in Tasmania, in Washington state and Maine and other places. But what we what we found is that if you use the most recent cancer risk assessment guidelines, you could safely eat one farmed salmon from northern Europe every five months without increasing your risk of cancer. Right now, unfortunately, even the wild salmon are not Atlantic salmon, but various specific species, they do have the same contaminants. And using the EPA, EPA, cancer slope factors. Even those one should not eat more than once or twice a month because of the chemicals that accumulate in the fat of the salmon.

Now things have gotten a little better. Also a little worse since then, because what’s happened is that the contamination of the farmed salmon back in 2000 was because they were being fed a mixture of fish meal, fish oil that was derived by taking a big net and catching everything that swam and grinding it up. And in northern Europe, a lot of these trash fish were collected from the Baltic Sea, which is highly contaminated. So it was what the farmed salmon were being fed that caused their contamination.

Well, in the meanwhile, what we’ve done is depleted the ocean of fish, including these trash fish. So now getting this fish meal male fish oil from trash fish is more expensive than getting it from soybean oil and soybean meal plant-based. Well, plants don’t eat other plants. And so. Oil from soybean protein from soybeans are relatively clean in terms of these persistent organic chemicals. But the benefit of eating fish, according to everybody and studies I’ve done as well, comes from the Omega 3 fatty acids that are derived from seafood. Well, if you’re eating soybean meal and soybean oil, there’s almost no Omega 3 fatty acids. So the current situation is eating farmed fish is both less dangerous and less healthy. And you can’t win.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:32:58] You can’t win. Now, listen, knowing what you know. And let’s put aside the sustainability issue because I think we’re just important which is an important one. I mean, you know, we’re always told seafood is the best kind of don’t stay away from red meat because seafood is the thing. And I’ve always thought, you know, sustainability major problem. I mean, we raped and pillage the ocean. But knowing what you know, would you be you a big seafood eater? Because of, you know, the quality of the food that you would be caught wild?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:33:27] Well, I mean, I don’t eat farmed salmon. Very rarely. It was interesting because when the first studies came out, the European Food Association invited me to go to Europe for a conference on presenting my results on salmon. What they had as an hors d’oeuvres of farmed salmon.

What they had for the main course was farmed salmon, which sort of told me how willing they were to listen to my story. I like salmon. I eat salmon not super regularly, but often I buy wild salmon from a supplier in Alaska. I don’t eat farmed salmon because I don’t trust it. And you know, I think that. Unfortunately, we are going to an era where we’ve depleted seafood’s resources so much that we’re depending on aquaculture and aquaculture is not bad per se, but it’s if you don’t understand what’s put in the food that fish in the cage are fed, you’re not going to understand how safe or not safe they are for human consumption.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:34:45] Now, another thing that I wanted to talk to you about, because I know I listened to this at that global conference, I’m very aware of it that our listeners may not be… Electromagnetic radiation. I mean, we are you know, we are surrounded by it is ubiquitous again. What’s the issue there? What what do you think the issue is with electromagnetic radiation? Should we be concerned?

Should we be concerned about electromagnetic radiation?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:35:09] I think it is an important issue in terms of all the threats to our health. I, like some of my colleagues, do not think this is THE major concern. On the other hand, I think the evidence that excessive exposure to electromagnetic fields causes human disease is irrefutable. That evidence comes most strongly from people that have used mobile phones held to the ear for long periods of time, have a clearly excess risk of developing brain cancer. And probably also cancer of the thyroid gland, the salvia gland in the cheek.

Now evidence for thyroid cancer, thyroid gland in the neck. Evidence for benign tumours of the auditory nerve. Now, these are brain cancers, a life-threatening disease, not something to be treated likely. It’s not super common. There’s not a huge number of people that suffer from it. But if you suffer from it, you’re likely going to be dying because of it. There are other issues that are more widespread. One that is particularly controversial is a whole development of a syndrome called electro hypersensitivity.

This is that some people, not all, fortunately not me, respond to being in the presence of elevated exposure to electromagnetic fields, particularly the radio frequency fields that come from mobile phone towers, from Wi-Fi, from G.P.S., from smart metres. These people develop headaches. They develop brain fog fatigue, a general feeling of ill health. And this goes away when they get into a different environment where they are not exposed to these fields.

Now, the problem is that modern technology is increasing our exposure to all of these things. And the frequency of people that are subject to this syndrome is dramatically increasing. At the moment we think it’s maybe like five percent of the population in most developed countries, but it’s almost certainly increasing. And most people that suffer from these syndromes don’t even realise what the cause is.

So it’s something that deserves our attention. Very few countries support any research on this subject. I think that’s a real mistake. It is controversial. I think that is it’s something that is very important and that the evidence for harm is really very strong. However, again, relative to other sources of human disease, I’m not sure that I put it in the top category of the five most serious concerns. Albeit it’s something we should understand we should know about. We should research. We should try to determine how dangerous it is.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:38:24] I was disturbed to learn that the WHO, and I think it was in 2011 or 13, classified WIFI radiation as a class 2B carcinogen.

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:38:39] Correct.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:38:40] Correct. So that’s quite a big statement. Is it not?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:38:43] That’s a statement and it’s a statement that probably is an underestimation of what the classification should be.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:38:51] Can you remind us of those classifications?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:38:53] Well, WHO, this is the International Agency for Research on Cancer. They have a series of four different factually five different classifications. If it’s a known human carcinogen, that’s class one. If it’s a possible human carcinogen, it’s class two, 2A. If it’s a possible human carcinogen class 2B. If it’s not classifiable because it’s just not enough information, that’s class C and if it’s definitely not a carcinogen that’s class D.

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:39:29] Well, at the time that the WHO IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, made this statement that radiofrequency radiation was a class to be possible human carcinogen. There was strong evidence in humans that excessive exposure to mobile phone frequencies increased the risks of brain cancer. There was almost no evidence from animal studies. And that’s curious because usually when we study a cancer causing agents, we have a lot of evidence in animals and little evidence in humans. This was the other way around.

From my perspective, the evidence in humans should have driven the case. But since that time, we have two major studies. The US National Toxicology Programme exposed rats and mice for two years to mobile phone frequency radiation. They demonstrated an increase in the same two brain cancers we see in people. They also demonstrated that mobile phone frequency radiation damages, DNA damage to DNA is the basis of cancer.

In addition, the Ramazzini Institute in Italy did a similar study, but they used exposure levels that were comparable from what you would get from a mobile phone mast, cell tower and U.S. terminology. And those exposure levels were at least an order of magnitude less than those used by the National Toxicology Programme. They demonstrated exactly the same things. Elevation’s in gliomas elevations in this acoustic neuroma.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:41:24] Now,  David, glioma is that rare, for our listener, glioma is that a rare form of brain cancer?

Does Glioma a rare form of Brain Cancer?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:41:30] Well, it’s not that rare. It’s a form of brain cancer. And it’s interesting because the evidence is that gliomas are increased, whereas meningiomas, another common form of brain cancer, is either not increased or has not increased as dramatically. And the dramatic increase is with glioblastoma. This is a glioma that turns into being clearly metastatic. This is cancer that kills people. Almost nobody survives a glioblastoma. Glioblastoma rates are rising in most developed countries. And many people are attributing that increase to exposure from these radiofrequency radiations. Now, overall, the overall level of brain cancers are pretty much not increasing. But that’s because of a decline in the meningiomas rate. Right. So that’s a very important consideration.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:42:30] And are we seeing increases in lap based cancers? You know, because of laptops. You know, they sit in the lab.

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:42:40] What we are seeing there, it’s not so much cancer, although that’s a concern. There have been recent studies just appearing showing an elevation in GI (gastro-intestinal) cancer in people where they’re attributing this to people holding a wireless laptop on their lap. What we see very clearly there for which there is a good bit of evidence, is that men who hold a wireless laptop in their lap for hours will have a reduced sperm count and their sperm will have abnormal motility, their fertility be reduced. I’ve often made the statement, if you use a wireless laptop on your lap too long, you probably don’t have to wear a condom for a while.

But the point is that it has impact on human fertility. There is some evidence it’s less strong for also fertility issues in women. But this is an important area of investigation. Human fertility is going down for a variety of reasons. One is in developed countries we reproduce later in life. And as time goes on, fertility is more impacted. But it’s tragic when a couple can’t have a child when they want to. And the impact of radiofrequency radiation, that’s certainly at least one of the factors that’s important there.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:44:03] And what are some of the things that you’re doing, given your knowledge of this issue, to protect yourself from the effects, possible harmful effects of EMF radiation?

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:44:17] Well, I’m not. What should I say, I’m not excessive in this issue. I’m on Wi-Fi right now. I don’t hold my laptop in my lap all the way. I am of the age where my fertility probably is not a big deal anymore. I use my cell phone, but I use it on speaker and I don’t hold it to my ear. When I had a young child, I monitored the electromagnetic fields in his bedroom and I found that the magnetic fields from electricity on the side of the room where we had his bed were much higher than they were on the other side. I simply moved his bed to the other side. The magnetic fields from 50 and 60 Hz powerline frequencies do also increase risk of cancer, especially of leukaemia and especially in children.

So I think there are reasonable things that one can do without being excessive in these responses. Reduce your exposure when you can. Don’t hold your mobile phone to your head. Don’t use a wireless laptop directly in your lap. Keep it a little distance from your body. I’m at my desk of my laptop, which is wireless, is a foot from my lap. And that dramatically reduces my exposure to my abdomen. I think we’re going to find as greater studies are done that there is an increase in abdominal cancers. Already there was a report just a couple of months ago showing elevated in colorectal cancer in men that wear their lap. Their mobile phone in their pocket or on their belt. We know that brain cancer comes from holding your mobile phone to your head.

There’s evidence and some reports now that women that wear an active cell phone. That means turned on, not turned off, but not being used. They hold that in their bra. They’re an elevated risk of breast cancer. So it makes sense that men for women, for that matter, if they have their active mobile phone near their abdomen, they’re going to increase the risk of abdominal cancers. The evidence we have at the moment is for colorectal cancer. I would be very interested in studies on prostate cancer, testicular cancer. I’m not aware that those studies have been done yet. But I would bet you when they are done, we’ll find elevations in those cancers as well in men that use cell phones held close to the abdomen.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:47:10] Look, we’ve covered so many things here. And, I guess, I’ve always felt that with knowledge comes power. And while this may seem overwhelming in many ways, having the knowledge to make simple choices and take simple actions is is in itself a very positive step. I just wanted to finish up now. David, taking a step back from your role as a researcher for many years now and published lots of articles. We’re all on this health journey through life. And what do you think the biggest challenges for an individual on their health journey through life in our modern world?

The Biggest Health Challenge

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:47:48] Well, you know wonderful question. Difficult to answer in a few minutes. When I looked at your website and saw that a lot of this was on stress, it reminded me that just a few days ago I looked at a magazine article on Henry David Thoreau. I doubt that people in Australia know Thoreau. But this was a man in the early U.S. who had an active professional life, and then he sort of retired to a place called Walden Pond.

And he basically said, I just wanted to read one statement from him. Simplicity, simplicity. I say, let your affairs be as two or three and not a hundred or a thousand. We spend our whole lives wanting more. Never figuring out the basic arithmetic. We would be better off with finding a way to be content with less.

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:48:47] And I think that’s a wonderful statement. Now, I’ve been fortunate. I have a farm. I’m only 10 miles from my office. But I have farm. I have beef cows. I have peacocks and ducks and geese and chickens and a big garden. And so in this era of Covid 19, I can go out and pull weeds in the garden to go walking in my woods. And I don’t risk getting infected from my cows or my chickens. But I think that the solution for many of us is to.

Try to find ways to reduce the stress in our life and the stress comes from a variety of sources. And one of the things that contributes to stress is exposure to environmental chemicals. Most of the chemicals that we know when you’re exposed to them, they produce reactive oxygen species. They cause inflammatory immune system responses. And those are factors that increase our risk for so many of these diseases.

So, I mean, again, I’m unusually fortunate because I have the possibility of working from home, being out in nature in a way that many people don’t. I can’t imagine being stuck in a small apartment in a big urban area and be told you can’t go out. I don’t have that stress, but I think that communing with nature is a wonderful way to reduce stress for almost all of us. It’s also a way for reducing exposure to environmental contaminants from all of us. For most of us.

Now, that’s not to say that there’s clean air everywhere because there isn’t. And that’s not to say that clean food occurs everywhere, because it doesn’t. But I think that my personal strategy is find ways to reduce the stress in my life as much as I can. To accept and know about things that are dangerous in my life. Do not freak out about them, but to take rational steps to reduce exposure to the degree that I can control.

And to try to live a healthy lifestyle, that means get adequate sleep, eat healthy foods. I don’t smoke, I certainly drink, but I try not to drink in excess and try to enjoy life. Which, of course, for all of us, it’s not going to be immortal. But and all of these nasty things are going to reduce our mortality. But it’d be very nice to delay that point as long as possible. So I guess that’s my personal philosophy of life.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:51:52] Well, what a great note to finish on. And we are unusually fortunate to have had you as a guest on our show tonight. And thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and knowledge with us. Thanks so much.

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:52:02] Thank you, Ron. It was a pleasure. Take care.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:52:07] That was that was terrific. David, thank you so much.

Professor David O.Carpenter [00:52:11] My pleasure.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:52:13] Well, as I said, when we hear these things, we can’t un-hear them. These aren’t things that we are exposed to all the time, and we live in the real world. I’m a great lover of technology. I’m surrounded by it, but I think we need to have a healthy respect for it. Einstein once was famously said that every atom in the universe has both, both mass and energy. That’s what E=MC2 is all about.

And it’s a sobering thought to think that we are surrounded by energy all the time and to assume that that energy doesn’t have some kind of biological effect on us is naive at the very best and maybe negligent at the very worst because we should be cautious about how we interact with that. And of course, as far as the chemicals are concerned, by making informed decisions about the products that you buy and the food that you buy and consume and the things you choose to support, you can reduce your exposure to environmental chemicals by up to 80 or 90 percent. So it’s an empowering thing. And we’ve got lots of resources.

Now, don’t forget that you can download the Unstress with Dr Ron Ehrlich. You have to search that the app. We’ve got some really exciting things coming up, some great educational programmes and webinars available, and e-books. So stay tuned. And don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes. Always a good thing to get our ratings up and make us get this message out more. Which I think or I believe is really important. It’s actually why I’m doing this podcast, apart from learning a lot myself. I hope you do, too. So until next week. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well.


This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.