Kaiser Permanente Research Division: “Unknown does not mean safe”

De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, MPH, is a senior research scientist at the Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California.  Dr. Li was invited to provide his professional opinion concerning the safety of Smart Meters.  In this letter, Dr. Li clearly states that there are no national or international standards for safety levels of radiofrequency and explains how the current “guidelines” (not standards) only deal with thermal effects, which are “irrelevant and can not be used for any claims of SmartMeter safety” when addressing non-thermal effects of RF.

Dr. Li goes on the state that “Safety standards for RF exposure related to non-thermal effects are urgently needed to protect the public from potential adverse health effects from RF exposure that are increasingly prevalent in our daily life due to installation of ever powerful wireless networks and devices like SmartMeter” and goes on to say “The bottom line is that the safety level for RF exposure related to non-thermal effect is unknown at present and whoever claims that their device is safe regarding non-thermal effect is either ignorant or misleading.”

In summary, we do not currently have scientific data to determine where the safe RF exposure level is regarding the non-thermal effect. Therefore, it should be recognized that we are dealing with uncertainty now and most likely for the foreseeable future. The question for governmental agencies, especially those concerned with public health and safety, is that given the uncertainty, should we err on the side of safety and take the precautionary avoidance measures? Unknown does not mean safe. There are two unique features regarding SmartMeter exposure. First, because of mandatory installation, it is a universal exposure. Virtually every household is exposed. Second, it is an involuntary exposure. The public that are exposed to SmartMeters do not have any input in deciding whether they would like to have the SmartMeter installed. The installation is imposed upon the public. Governmental agencies for protecting public health and safety should be much more vigilant towards involuntary environmental exposures because governmental agencies are the only defense against such involuntary exposure. Given the uncertainty of the SmartMeter safety, one rational first step of public policy could be to require household consent before installation of SmartMeters. Finally, because of the nature of universal exposure, many susceptible and vulnerable populations including pregnant women and young children are unknowingly exposed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Usually, the threshold of harmful level is much lower for susceptible populations.

Read the letter here (contains excellent explanation of why FCC “guidelines” are irrelevant >>

About Dr. Li
Dr. Li completed his medical training and master’s degree in public health at Shanghai Medical University, Shanghai, China. He then received his PhD in epidemiology from the University of Washington, Seattle. Dr. Li has conducted research in the areas of pregnancy outcomes, sudden infant death syndrome, women’s health, breast cancer, pharmacological effects on pregnancy outcomes, genetic etiology, and occupational exposures since 1984. His research interests include: reproductive, perinatal, and pediatric epidemiology, such as etiology of miscarriage, sudden infant death syndrome, preterm delivery, preelcampsia, low birth, infertility, cerebral palsy, birth defects, pediatric diseases (including childhood cancer and neurological disorders), autoimmune diseases in relation to maternal-fetal interaction, breast cancer, and risk factors for low semen quality. Dr. Li’ research areas also include pharmacoepidemiolgical effect of medication use during pregnancy, genetic determinants of adverse pregnancy outcomes, the effect of electromagnetic fields on adverse pregnancy outcomes and low sperm quality, and the effect of endocrine disruptors, specifically Bisphenol A (BPA), on male and female reproductive systems. He is currently the associate editor of the American Journal of Epidemiology. Dr. Li has participated in a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) sponsored panel evaluation of “Back to Sleep” campaign and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome risk. He has also served as a member on the Ad Hoc Committee reviewing the NICHD program project, and on several Special Emphasis Panels at National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and National Institute of Environmental Health and Sciences reviewing grant proposals. He has served as a member of the Policy Committee at the American College of Epidemiology. He was invited by the National Academy of Science to participate as a panel member in the U.S.- China Roundtable on Collaboration of Biomedical Research. In addition, he teaches at Stanford University and supervises doctoral students from the departments of epidemiology at UCB (University of California, Berkeley) and UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles).

Dr. Li has published extensively with 29 first-authored publications. He has obtained, as the principal investigator, numerous grants, ranging from $600,000 to $ 3.49 million from various federal agencies of the National Institutes of Health, as well as the California Public Health Foundation. Many of his publications have been widely reported by the national, international, and local news media including recent studies of caffeine intake and miscarriage, pacifier use and use of a fan in relation to SIDS risk, and depression during pregnancy and preterm delivery. Other examples of work receiving wide media coverage include the risk of miscarriage associated with EMF exposure, NSAID use and the risk of miscarriage, hot tub use during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage, and maternal-fetal HLA compatibility and the risk of preterm delivery.

Current Position(s):

  • Research Scientist III, Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California
  • Lecturer, Stanford University, Department of Health Research and Policy

Primary Research Interests:

  • Reproductive, prenatal, and pediatric epidemiology, such as etiology of infertility, miscarriage, preterm delivery, preeclampsia, sudden infant death syndrome, cerebral palsy, birth defects; pediatric diseases, including childhood cancer and neurological disorders; autoimmune diseases in relation to maternal-fetal interaction, and breast cancer.
  • Health effects of electromagnetic fields
  • Pharmacological effects of medication use during pregnancy on pregnancy outcome
  • Genetic determinants of pregnancy outcome
  • Risk factors for poor semen quality
  • Health effect of endocrine disruptors, especially Bisphenol A (BPA), on male and female reproductive systems
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