Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Excellent responses to skeptics.

Hi All
Here are two very good but very different responses that have been sent to students who have questioned the science and knowledge which shows that electro magnetic radiation is causing great harm to humans and the environment. The first reponse by James Cooper of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada is printed below. The second response by Dr. Grahame Blackwell, of Bristol, England, is attached to this message, as a pdf file.
Both of these responses are ideal to provide to students and young adults who need to learn about the dangers of EMR. Please make copies and provide them to responsible students so that they can share the information at schools or universities.

From: James Cooper []
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 11:02 PM


I am a member of PACT (Precautionary Approach to Cell Towers) of Richmond Hill. A member of our group noticed your recent post pertaining to our web site, I commend you on your cogent points and well reasoned arguments, and I hope I do not sound facetious in saying so.

That said, I put it to you that you have merely advocated a viewpoint based on a very selective reading of the evidence. I put it to you that true "skepticism" should be a double-edged sword pointing in either direction, untainted by bias. I trust that we can both agree on that general philosophical point.

What bothered me about your post was the fact that you seemed so confident that there is a scientific consensus on the biological effects of non-ionizing radiation. Were you not aware that there exists, in fact, a large body of scientific evidence - indeed, from published, peer-reviewed journals - that attest to biological effects from non-ionizing radiation? - the kind of effects for which you have assured your readers cannot happen, due to wavelengths that are just too "fat" to affect human cells and DNA?

Just last year, a distinguished - and dare I say, very well-credentialed - group of scientists from all over the world convened to survey the state of scientific literature on non-ionizing radiation. They looked at studies from exposures to cell phones and cell tower masts. Their report, if you care to critique it, may be found at Incidentally, the EU Environmental Agency contributed a chapter to it. I am presuming that your post was written without knowledge of this latest, and fairly credible, survey by distinguished members of the scientific community. So, I suggest that - in the interest of intellectual honesty over that of polished rhetoric - you direct your readers to the above-noted link and let them decide the issue of non-ionizing radiation for themselves rather than simply take your word for it.

On the issue of taking you at your word, I note that you assured your readers that there were "no such studies" pertaining to the comment on our web site about residents living within 400 metres of a cell tower suffering increases of "3-5 times" in the rate of cancer over a "5-7 year period". You assured your readers that we just "threw out" those figures - an example of one of our scare tactics, I presume. Well, in the interests of true skepticism and intellectual honesty, I direct you to the study from which those figures were thrown: Increased Incidence of Cancer Near A Cell-Phone Transmitter Station, published in The International Journal of Cancer Prevention, Volume 1, Number 2, April 2004. Oh, and I'll even throw in a link to the actual scientific study for the benefit of your readers:

In your post, you quoted us on the reported symptoms of exposure to cell towers - among them, fatigue, nausea, depression, and cognitive dysfunction - and further assured your readers that "there are no such recorded symptoms from exposure to cell towers in any controlled set of experiments." Well, that might be technically true in that there are not - to my knowledge - any laboratory studies done by docs in smocks who have placed lab rats next to scaled down cell towers (leaving aside the difficulties of getting a rat to report depression). That said, there are epidemiological studies from which we derived our information. All you had to do was ask - or better yet, take a closer look at our web site.

In your post, you gave the impression to your readers that we failed to link to any studies - though I suspect you might disingenuously point out that you meant that particular comment in relation to the above-mentioned cancer rate info. You failed, however, to correct that impression by pointing your readers to the fact that our site includes a section in which we present some of those scientific studies from which we derived our opinions. On that point, I cannot give you the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I deem it to be a lie of omission meant to strengthen the crux of your argument.

And let us examine the conduct of that argument, shall we? As a person whose bio reveals an interest in the art of logic and debate, you have me wondering why you threw out the red herring of believers in "orgone generators?" Did you really seek to imply that only nuts and"pseudo-scientific" quacks would raise any concerns about cell tower dangers? In your post, you claimed to have dug deep enough to find the orgone nutcases. Perhaps had you dug deeper, you might have discovered the work of the esteemed scientists behind the BioInitiative Report and the Salzburg Conference ( ).

Had your readers known that there is no true scientific consensus in regard to the dangers of non-ionizing radiation from cell phones and cell towers, I put it to you that their skepticism might have been fully engaged - though in opposition to your arguments. From whence, then, the fact that all the esteemed gatekeeping organizations - the FCC, the WHO, Health Canada, and most significantly, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) - have adopted safety standards to assure us that non-ionizing radiation is safe just up to the threshold where we start to get cooked thermally (i.e. microwaved)?

Well, had you been just a bit more diligent in your preliminary Google search of the subject for which you have recently pronounced your conclusive "science-based" judgment, you might have noticed that a certain Dr. Michael Repacholi keeps popping up as an influential figure in the international setting of these standards almost a decade prior. Ensconced in his politically authoritative pedestal at the World Health Organization and also at the ICNIRP, Dr. Repacholi spread the gospel that the low EMF from cell towers and cell phones couldn't hurt ya unless it cooked ya. The scientists assembled to the panels of the day seconded that motion.

Back then, Dr, Repacholi and his colleagues didn't have the benefit of all those many counter-vailing studies we have today. Moreover, they couldn't even do the necessary studies even if they wanted to, since at that time (we're talking almost a decade ago), cell phones hadn't been around all that long or so widely disseminated to say anything of epidemiological certainty about the consequences of frequent, long-term exposures to non-ionizing radiation. So how were Dr. Repacholi et al. able to state, at that time, with such certainty, that their recommended exposure thresholds were sufficient to ensure our collective safety? Perhaps that is a question for the Heavenly Beings who secured them the treasured slots at the aforementioned gate-keeping agencies, wherein all Scientific Truth and Fact is duly consecrated (until officially amended by a succeeding Appointed Panel).

As we have learned, based on those authoritative pronouncements, the telecom companies have since rolled out thousands upon thousands of cell tower masts around the world. Incidentally, Dr. Repacholi has been noted elsewhere as having financial links to the telecommunications industry. But that kind of "guilt by association" wouldn't be rhetorically fair, would it? Perhaps it would be on the level of linking concerned residents with the purveyors of "orgone technology". As an aside, one of the ironies here is that Dr. Repacholi was the co-author of one of the first published studies, back in 1997, to detect biological effects from non-ionizing cell phone radiation. He has since gone on to more fruitful - and, dare I say, more remunerative - conclusions.

Perhaps a more reasoned - and evidence-based - argument might have noted that an esteemed - and dare I say, extensively peer-reviewed - scientist has raised the distinct possibility that this presumed scientific consensus of "no health effects" from non-ionizing radiation is, in fact, a manufactured consensus. But don't just take my word for it. For your benefit, and for your skeptical readers, I provide a link (,0,6824146,full.story ), along with the relevant excerpt below:

"Henry Lai, who heads the Bioelectromagnetics Research Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, said of the 271 studies done in recent years, about 60 percent have shown a biological effect in cells or animals exposed to radio frequency radiation.

Lai, who has published 33 peer-reviewed articles on electromagnetic research since 1980, said when he analyzed study results from around the world according to who paid for them, he found a large discrepancy. Nearly three-quarters of the non-industry-funded studies -- 128 of 181 -- found a biological effect, while 30 percent -- 27 out of 90 -- of the industry-funded studies did, Lai said.

Lai said he has no explanation for the discrepancy."

Lai may not have had an explanation for the presumed discrepancy, Mitchell, but I trust that you do. You are, after all, skilled in the art of debate. As for my own skepticism, in the light of all this relevant information you seemed to have so egregiously omitted from your post, I have to ask myself whether you were employing your presumed "skepticism" in pursuit of truth or in mere advocacy of a point of view?

And so I leave you with my own very general point of view on this subject:

There are, indeed, a large number of studies out there that detect no biological and/or health effects in people exposed to cell phones and cell towers. However, when one digs a bit deeper into the actual design of such studies, one notices that the conclusions tend to be based on data where short-term or infrequent exposures are mixed into the data pot. Of particular note is the famous "massive" Danish study covering the period between 1982-1995 (i.e. a period during which frequent cell phone usage was relatively infrequent) among an initial cohort of roughly 700,000 analog cell phone "users" (i.e. anyone who used an analog cell phone, no matter how infrequently), in which the researchers concluded that they could not find any statistically significant health effects. Dig a bit deeper, however, and you'll notice that the researchers excluded from their statistical sampling about 200,000 subscribers who used a cell phone for business purposes - specifically, those who, during the relevant time frame, would likely be among the most frequent users. Most egregiously, all cell phone subscribers after 1995 were included as "non-users" in the reference population sampling. Now, I might not be so conversant in the science of p-values, but isn't that kind of like concluding that there isn't any lung cancer association with nicotine on the basis of a majority sampling of holiday smokers, while seeding your presumed reference population of "non-smokers" with, say, chain-smokers who took up the habit, um, after 1995?

Now, dig a bit deeper into a lot of these "no harm" studies - and yes, even dig beyond the muck of the telecom funding - and you'll notice that they often end with these little, almost innocuous, qualifiers: Though we found no significant evidence of harm among our general sampling, we did detect an increase in our small sampling of frequent,long-term users. Or... Though we found no immediate or short-term evidence of harm, more research needs to be done on the long-term effects of frequent cell phone exposure.

Talk about bait and switch, huh? Such studies - boosted by the requisite media echo chamber - sell us on their conclusions that no harm is found, but then provide the caveat that their studies haven't really looked at what we all really want to know: the long-term consequences of frequent exposure. In the meantime, I'm confident we'll continue to see more of these rigidly construed studies, where they're kind of looking, but not really looking, for what they claim they're looking for.

But of course, in practice, if you want to conduct an extensive experiment to critique the conduct of such expensively constructed studies, good luck scoring up the requisite funding. On the other hand, there seems to be no shortage of financial resources available to those researchers looking to conduct an experiment to critique the conduct of any and all studies that do detect health effects. But that kind of comment is rather too conspiratorial, isn't it? Surely, I can't be suggesting that, in practice, the scientific process here has been gamed by interested parties in the telecom industry? Surely, a truly skeptical person cannot believe that telecom companies are able to spend billions of dollars and actually succeed in skewing impressions, and hence, the scientific terms of debate? No, it is only us credulous types who would fall for that little canard.

Well, then count me as one of those credulous dupes (though I have not, as yet, joined up with the orgonite faction).

On a closing note, in the interest of fairness and intellectual honesty, all I ask is that you post this response for the benefit of your readers so that they don't have to take your word for it. Certainly, I wouldn't want them to take my word for it. Let us all continue to dig deeper into the present state of the science in a common search for the truth.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, more research needs to be done...

Mast Sanity recently received a communication from an intelligent and articulate sixth-form (16-18yrs) Physics student, questioning the validity of the case for health concerns over mobile phone and mast emissions. Since the issues he raised are ones that many others also query, the response to that communication is copied below for anyone else who may find it helpful – either for themselves or to better explain the relevant points to others. Read more at the link below: