Misleading With Science: The 2012 MTHR Study

The EM Spectrum

A newly released report (though, dated 2012) from the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR), found “no evidence” of negative biological or health effects resulting from the use of mobile phones. The MTHR Programme Management Committee incorporated 31 separate research projects.

ISPreview.com summarizes the study, thusly:

“People concerned that wireless radiation from mobile services operating in the electromagnetic spectrum (radio), such as those used for Mobile Phones and Mobile Broadband (e.g. 900MHz and 1800MHz), can rest a little easier today after an 11-year long and £13.6m UK study found “no evidence” of biological or adverse health effects.”

So, we can rest easier, right? Cell phones are safe, no?

Well, not quite.

mthr_phoneWhat I find most misleading in this summary, is that it makes it sound as though the included research studies are 11 years in duration. That does not seem to be accurate. It seems that this MTHR team worked for 11 years to compile multiple studies— but the studies themselves did not run for 11 years.

That’s a big difference.

In my review of research in this area, the vast majority of studies that examined 10 years or more of data have demonstrated correlation between EMF exposures and increased risk for cancerous outcomes. Such as this 2004 study, “Mobile Phone Use and the Risk of Acoustic Neuroma”.

As this 2010 San Francisco Gate article explains:

“The 13 studies that investigated cell phone use for 10 or more years found a significant harmful association with tumor risk, especially for brain tumors, giving us ample reason for concern about long-term use.”

So, while the MTHR Programme may have operated for 11 years, that does not mean each of these studies analyzed more than 10 years of data. As a result, the headline for the article that discusses the study (“11 Year MTHR Study Finds No Danger from Wireless Mobile Phone Radiation”) appears to be quite misleading. 

The MTHR study, and the media coverage of it, confuse the duration of the research program, with the duration of the included studies.

This is an excellent example of how easy it is to manipulate the presentation of this very complex science, and why it is so important to dive into the details of studies and reports such as this, to attempt to discern some truth in the findings.

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