Professor Yuri Grigoriev and Russian Safety Standards
The towering figure in electromagnetic field research, Professor Yuri Grigoriev has died this year in Moscow aged 95. Grigoriev’s research covered radiation of all types. He was responsible for ensuring the safety of Russian cosmonauts from cosmic rays, even determining the radiation risk for a journey to Mars. As he put it in his own words, he was “helicoptered into hell,” which was Chernobyl a few weeks after the nuclear melt-down, to help with the care of victims there. He was also involved in the way Russian workers would be protected while making the sarcophagus for the Chernobyl reactor.
Initially he worked with ionizing radiation, but during this work on researching the effect of x-rays on rabbits’ brain activity, the research team realized (and then published) that there were dramatic effects found in the control animals, stemming from non-ionizing radiation coming from a nearby transformer. He continued his research in the area of non-ionizing radiation for forty years publishing over 400 peer-reviewed papers. It was Yuri Grigoriev that founded the Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (RNCNIRP).This organisation, with 38 scientists and two representatives from the Russian Ministry of Health, is responsible for setting the standards in Russia. Their standards, unlike most of other countries, take into account actual chronic exposure, and are based on measurable effects on the nervous and immune systems; not simply six minutes of thermal effects.
He was the first scientist to realize the sensitivity of children to radiation. Russian researchers have found that child mobile phone users are likely to have in their nearest future: disruption of memory; decline of attention; diminishing learning and cognitive abilities; increased irritability; sleep problems; increased sensitivity to stress, and increased epileptic readiness—not to mention the long term effects of potential depression etc. Yuri Grigoriev fought to have safety standards adopted for non-ionising radiation based on real world exposure that is long term, repeated, simultaneous and of a typical prevalence, including for pregnant woman and children, and on the science of immune and nervous system damage. Not simply from six minutes of heating.
In his latest years, Yuri Grigoriev focused on trying to protect children, who he believes are suffering the same exposure as occupational workers with none of the safeguards in place. The RNCNIRP’s advice to the Russian Health Ministry was adopted as the official opinion in Russia. Among other things it advises that children should not be able to get a cell phone until the age of eighteen and pregnant women should not use one.
As of 2020 RNCNIRP recommended a ban on Wi-Fi and wireless Internet connections for primary school, a ban on smartphones for purposes of education, and using books for home study, rather than computers. They also advised against locating mobile network base stations (cell towers) on school grounds. Usefully, the latest Russian guidelines (put out during Covid 19 lockdown) also recommend the following time limits for screen usage (during extracurricular time): for students 6 to 8 years old, a “one to three”ratio of screen time to non-screen time (eg 90 minutes of recreation for every 30 minutes of work); for 9–15 year-olds, a “one to two” ratio (eg 60 minutes to 30 minutes); and for teenagers over 15 years old, a “one to one” ratio (30 minutes screen to 30 minutes non-screen).
Grigoriev believed that the risk from exposure to unnatural electromagnetic radiation is not much lower than the risk to the children’s health from tobacco or alcohol. He stated that “Children should use mobile phones for emergencies only and also use hands free.”
On one of his last research reports his final appeal was one we should all take to heart: that we not let children’s health be placed at risk by our inactivity.