Industry to pay federal scientists to issue report on microwave radiation.
Do you have a problem with this?
Ethicists and watchdogs of conflicts-of-interest in government should have a field day with this posting.
There are three players in this mini-drama:
--The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a major government research center created to reduce the burden of human illness and disability by understanding how the environment influences the development and progression of human disease.
--The Electric Power Research Institute, the research arm of the utility industry whose members represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States.
--And Microwave News, with a 25 year history of doing what many say are well-researched unbiased reports on the potential health and environmental impacts of electromagnetic fields and radiation.
The industry watchdog reports that the highly regarded federal health experts have agreed to allow the industry association to pay them for the writing and printing of a "information booklet" on electromagnetic fields.
It has again become a hot topic (no pun intended).
The health effects of magnetic radiation from microwave ovens and power lines have been studied for decades. But now, with billions of people, especially children, spending a good part of every day with a cell phone pressed against their heads, interest and concern has risen anew. Can harm be done by the tiny amount of radiation emitted off the phone?
Having the NIEHS logo on the report would offer instant credibility.
Christine Flowers, director of communications at NIEHS, told Microwave News that industry cannot influence the report. "This would be absolutely hands off," she said.
News of the deal landed with a thud. "This is an outrageous proposal that should not be allowed to happen," David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York in Albany, told the online publication.
"The public health issues are too serious to allow them to be perverted by EPRI and the industry. NIEHS has no business taking funds from a group with such a clear conflict of interest."
Microwave News quoted another observer saying that this arrangement would be like having Exxon pay for an EPA pamphlet on global warming.
One of the ironies of this project is that in recent years the industry group has taken a stand against public information by denying the public access to its research findings, the Web site reported.
I talked to two friends today who work at the government research center in North Carolina. One said this is one of the several "absurd, 11th-hour moves that the political appointees are trying to get started before a new president takes over the White House."
Her colleague added that many of the scientists are outraged.
"I know we are having budget problems like the rest of the government research labs, but to sell out integrity for a few hundred thousand dollars of industry money means we should hang a large red light over the door and just admit what we are," she said.
Here is a link to Microwave News story.
Posted by Andrew Schneider at September 12, 2008 3:33 p.m.