In the last post, we saw how Motorola managed to war-game Drs. Lai & Singh, ending their careers along with their credibility. But that was the 1970s. How is the situation today? Have wireless companies continued to suppress EMF information?
Sadly, yes. And part 3 of The Business of EMF Science is all about that. We’ll look at the different ways wireless companies manipulate, control, and suppress EMF information even today.
So, let’s begin.
In part 2 of this series, we saw how, after successfully war-gaming Drs. Lai & Singh, Motorola hired Jerry Phillips to do the same study, hoping to get different results. But when they didn’t like Phillips’ conclusion, they fired him and went on a hunt for someone who could give them the result they wanted.
That’s when they found Battelle Labs, which, through minor changes to their study, could come up with conclusions more favorable to Motorola.
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But this was not just a favorable result. This was the beginning of something more frightening.
After this, the wireless industry continued funding researchers from whom they could extract results that favored them. One of those funds went to Drs. Joseph Roti-Roti and Robert Malyapa.
Drs. Roti-Roti and Malyapa
Drs. Roti-Roti and Malyapa were researchers from Washington University in St. Louis. After the unsuccessful effort with Dr. Jerry Phillips, they funded this duo, who then published their findings in 1997.
Contrary to the findings of Drs. Lai, Singh, and Phillips, their results demonstrated that exposure to 2G radiation did not increase DNA strand breaks in cultured cells. Besides that, they also claimed to have been unsuccessful at identifying any changes within the brains of rats exposed to non-ionizing radiation.
But here’s the juicy part. As you recall from the last post, Dr. Jerry Phillips wanted to replicate Lai’s work to see if he would get the same results. And to do this, the first thing he did was to send his researchers up to Lai’s laboratory.
According to the experts, this is a desirable protocol and is commonly followed in the scientific community to increase the accuracy of replicated scientific experiments.
Roti-roti and Malyapa did not do this. And neither did Battelle Labs.
Different Methods – One Works, One Doesn’t
Roti-Roti, in his study, used a different technique to measure the rate of DNA strand breaks to the one Lai and Singh used.
Lai & Singh, disputing their claims, said that it’s impossible to detect EMF-induced DNA damage with the technique used by Roti-Roti & Malyapa.
So, we really can’t cite Roti-Roti’s study as evidence to doubt Lai’s work because their testing conditions weren’t the same, and by design, they were testing two different things.
But anyhow, regardless of the researchers’ intent, they gave Motorola precisely what they wanted.
2006 Danish Study
Another example of how minor changes in experiments significantly impact the results comes from a well-known and frequently-cited 2006 study conducted in Denmark. This study examined the health effects of cell phone use and was massive in scope.
They tracked the cell phone usage history of more than 420,000 subjects. And for subjects with the longest history of cell phone use, they recorded 21 years of health history following their first exposures to cell phone radiation.
From their analysis of this extensive data set, the researchers concluded:
We found no evidence of an association between tumor risk and cellular telephone use among either short-term or long-term users. Moreover, the [high degree of statistical accuracy of our data] provides evidence that any large association between cancer risk and cellular telephone use can be excluded.
But Dr. Carlo Has Something Else to Say
You may remember Dr. Carlo from the first post in this series. He headed the CTIA’s WTR program and its $25 million study to understand the potential health effects of radiofrequency and microwave radiation.
Dr. Carlo said that “this study, funded by the telecommunications industry, was clearly created in order to produce a positive, low-risk finding. And the Danish Cohort Study was epidemiologically designed to produce a pre-ordained positive outcome”.
Faulty By Design
Now, one would absolutely question Dr. Carlo’s comments and even accuse him of being baseless.
These scientists examined the medical records of more than 420,000 cell phone users. And if they didn’t find anything, certainly, there isn’t anything. That’s what the logic says. At least until we dig deeper.
An in-depth review of the Danish study revealed that the researchers defined a cell phone user as someone who used their cell phone at least once a week.
As Carlo explains, “finding a cell phone-related cancer risk among this group would be akin to identifying excess lung cancer risk among people who smoked one cigarette a week—similar to finding a needle in a haystack.”
And this analysis also doesn’t account for the amount of time spent on the phone, which was very low in the late ’90s. The participants averaged 17 to 23 minutes per week of cell phone usage. And if we compare that number to today, that’s the amount of time many of us spend just on phone calls every day.
But that, too, is not the end; there’s more.
Although a cursory review of the study shows 420,000 subjects, a detailed review reveals that the researchers actually dropped 200,000 subjects because they were corporate customers, and no individual data were available for them. So, this represents the loss of a group reputed to be the heaviest users.
In other words, the actual heavy users were treated as if they didn’t use cell phones at all.
The Funding Bias
So far, private industries, including firms like Motorola and the trade organizations like CTIA, have funded tons of studies to answer the EMF question.
And research needs money. A lot of it. So, since private sources are now essentially the only type of funding for these types of studies in the United States, it’s nearly impossible for scientists to perform research just to chase the truth.
Dr. Gene Sobel, who concluded that there is “strong epidemiological evidence” that exposes a potential link between EMF and Alzheimer’s disease, explains that “it’s next to impossible to get money to do these studies.”
And, as we’ve already seen, private funding ends up in the hands of researchers who produce results favorable to the profits of the wireless industry. As Lai says, “The mechanism is funding… You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. The pressure is very impressive.”
As a result, the science of EMF’s impact on human health has been subject to a significant funding bias.
The same thing happened with bisphenol A, or BPA, 15 years ago.
The BPA Story
Exposure to Bisphenol A, a chemical used in plastic products, has been linked to health problems like increased blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
In 2008, The Washing Post reported that “more than 90 percent of the 100-plus government-funded studies performed by independent scientists found health effects from low doses of BPA, while none of the fewer than two dozen chemical-industry-funded studies did.”
And a review of studies on drug trials in the pharmaceutical industry noted that “company-funded trials are four times more likely to find evidence in favor of the trial drug than studies funded by other sponsors… As a result, it is largely impossible to reliably assess the benefit and harm of medical drugs on the basis of published trials.”
So, how does this relate to the EMF industry?
Similarities in the EMF Industry
Through the decades, we’ve seen the same kind of funding bias that favors researchers who produce results that align with businesses’ interests in the EMF industry.
Dr. Henry Lai has been tracking studies on EMF’s biological impact since 1990. And so far, he has hundreds of such studies in his database. Of those, approximately 30% are wireless industry-funded, and 70% are funded from other sources, presumably more independent.
Of the industry-funded studies, only 27% say that EMF can cause harm to human health, whereas 68% of the non-industry-funded studies show that EMF harms humans. As Lai explains, “A lot of the studies that are done right now are done purely as PR tools for the industry.”
In My [Profit’s] Defence
These reviews reveal the success of another of the wireless industry’s tactics in its scientific battle to defend its profits.
After attacking, defunding, and discrediting scientists who publish results that are unfavorable to their profits, all they have had to do is shift their funding to someone who can produce data more in line with their image.
Now, there’s one section of EMF science the wireless industry can’t control. And that’s the independent research studies.
But even though independent researchers may produce results against the wireless industry’s interest, they have a foolproof way of saving their image. And it’s hidden in how they present these studies.
When presenting EMF science to the public, they simply count the number of studies and present the issue to the public as a simple scoreboard.
As Joe Farren, CTIA’s director of public affairs, explains, “Any official precautionary measures need to be based on the science. The majority of studies have shown there are no health effects.”
Scientific Study or PR Effort?
So far, the wireless industry has maintained this narrative – that they have more science on their side, and therefore, cell phones are safe.
But, let’s go ahead and call out this “science” that’s on their side for what it is – a marketing tactic.
This well-funded messaging has heavily influenced the public discourse, as we see in an April 2012 article in UK’s The Telegraph, which reassuringly explained:
Two years ago, the INTERPHONE study [discussed in another post in this series] reported that the heaviest users could be at a 40 percent increased risk of developing glioma, a common type of brain cancer. Most studies have found no such association, though. (Emphasis added)
The Hidden Conflict of Interest
How do you get more credibility in your message? Well, of course, you get a credible person to say it. But what if that credible person has a huge conflict of interest that causes them to favor the message they’re delivering? Now, would they be telling the truth – the absolute truth?
The big names, famous faces that publicly support the wireless industry and discredit EMF’s biological effects, gaining the trust of millions – do you know reviews have found many of these big names to carry huge conflicts of interest?
Mays Swicord is one of the examples. Swicord worked at both the US FDA and Motorola, and he was working at Motorola when the Bioelectromagnetics Society elected him president.
As soon as he acquired this new position, he advocated for ending research on EMF as a potential health hazard.
Dr. Anders Ahlbom, another prime example of this, is a professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.
He was a highly influential and respected scientist, and organizations like ICNIRP, WHO, the Swedish Radiation Protection Society, and the European Union listened to him when it came to cell phones’ health effects.
In 2011, Ahlbom was even set to serve on an expert panel organized by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). And then something came to light that took the position away from him.
An investigative journalist named Mona Nilsson discovered that Ahlbom, along with his brother Gunnar, owned and served on the board of a lobbying firm servicing multiple firms in the telecommunications industry.
The Influence Strategy
We can’t say precisely how such undisclosed conflicts of interest may have influenced policy. But as you saw, Ahlbom was a respected expert, and he was in a position of significant authority when it came to establishing regulations for mobile devices around the world.
“The probability of mobile phone radiation causing brain tumors is low… we are now pretty sure that there is no relation [between mobile phone use and brain tumors], at least after 10-12 years of use,” said Ahlbom. “Furthermore, there are areas that have not been studied, for example, mobile phone use among children and youth. There is, however, no reason to believe that there are any risks there either.”
And people listened to him, authorities listened to him, regulatory bodies listened to him.
So, was he simply serving his own interests when he said this? We can’t know for sure. But this conflict of interest certainly caused his departure from the IARC.
After Ahlbom, the WHO voted to classify microwave radiation as a class 2B carcinogen—meaning that there is evidence, but not definitive proof, linking microwave radiation to cancer.
First Comes Signs, Then Comes Science: Tobacco & EMF: Preview
Conflicts, disagreements, differences – that’s how science works. It takes years for a theory to be proven, and until then, whatever is affecting the masses continues to do so.
This is also what happened in the case of tobacco. There was a time when doctors recommended cigarettes for muscle relaxation. Marlboro had an entire campaign demonstrating how doctors smoke Marlboro.
But does that mean there wasn’t any scientific proof that tobacco was harmful?
There was. But there was conflicting evidence as well. And just like with EMF, the tobacco industry was in top gear, trying to discredit any evidence that showed tobacco could cause cancer.
In the next post, we’ll compare the similarities between the tactics used by the tobacco and the EMF industries. So, stay tuned.
A lie that makes you comfortable or the bitter truth – what do people prefer? We don’t spare a second to say we want the truth. But, deep down, we know that we enjoy the devices that emit EMF, even if they’re slowly killing us. We don’t want to take that step to push for a regulation that makes it safer for us to be around these sources.
And that’s what the wireless industry uses – to keep you in the shadow, continuously generating revenue for them.
We hope to change that in this series. So, stay tuned.