The Canadian initiative to stop Wireless Electrical and Electromagnetic Pollution
13 April 2013
Refugees of the Modern World
School Board says WiFi safe, others not so sure
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Subject: Question on Safety Code 6 panel of experts
Controversy at IARC
Broadcast: November 25, 2003
What does this squabbling mean for the cellphone study and for those of us who use a cellphone? The critics are accusing IARC of not trying hard enough to keep industry money and influence away from the science. Marketplace wondered whether industry money could be influencing IARC's study on cellphones, especially in Canada.
Dan Krewski, of the McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment at the University of Ottawa, is one of Canada's lead scientists for the IARC study.
"This'll be the largest study of brain cancer ever conducted and will give us the opportunity to really look in detail for small risks with cellular technology."
Krewski has about a million dollars to fund his part of the IARC research.
"We originally approached the CWTA through Roger Poirier who at the time was president and CEO of the organization."
Poirier's the man who said studies into the cellphones and cancer risks showed " no adverse health effects "
The current head of the association is Peter Barnes. He says the million dollars his lobby group is giving to Krewski's centre has no strings attached.
"I mean we basically sign a cheque every year for five years, we committed to that, and apart from knowing that the money is being used for the research that's the extent of our involvement."
IARC told Marketplace that Canada is the only one of 13 countries in the study to receive funding directly from the cellphone industry.
Marketplace's research found that the CWTA and its members invested $1 million to help establish the R. Samuel McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment at the University of Ottawa where Dan Krewski is doing his cellphone research.
Krewski's centre gets the cheques directly from the CWTA. But to get the relationship stamped officially "arm's length," he had to get the deal reviewed by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which also threw in $220,000 of government money.
According to IARC guidelines, this funding has to be indirect - so it went through the CIHR. That makes the funding not directly connected to the industry.
The study is not Krewski's only link to the cellphone industry. If you search the web for information about cellphones, you might come across the Wireless Information Resource Centre paid for by the CWTA.
Krewski chairs the Wireless Information Resource Centre's scientific advisory group. Roger Poirier former head of the CWTA administers the web site. Another link between the cellphone scientist and the cellphone lobby: Poirier the man who negotiated the million-dollar deal is a paid consultant on the big cellphone study for IARC.
When we reached Poirier by phone, he told us his involvement with the cellphone study is minor and purely technical. He didn't want to talk to us on camera.
Krewski described Poirier's involvement as "a liaison."
"He puts us in contact with the right people when we need info on technical aspects of cell phones for the WHO study He doesn't see scientific results, he does not participate in scientific meetings."
A chart we produce for Krewski shows the same names and links popping up frequently.
"I can see how you could get that sort of perception there may be something leading to some sort of complications here, but if you actually look at the roles of the organizations and agencies that you've got on your chart and what they're actually doing, the industry, clearly, both in Canada and internationally, is hands off," Krewski says.
But it wasn't that clear in Europe. The scientists at IARC say the European cellphone industry did try to negotiate more influence over that end of the study.
"So we wanted not only to avoid any bias, but we didn't want to get any involvement with an industry which then doesn't like the results and tries all kinds of things," IARC's Peter Kleihues said.
Kleihues told us industry reps came knocking as the negotiations on the study were happening.
"They wanted to give us the money. They said 'enlarge, do more, you will be happy because we are so much interested, we are under pressure, we would like a bigger and better study,' and we said 'no, it's not possible, we can't accept the money.'"
"Yeah, basically we refused until a contract was drawn up that ensured we had no strings attached," research scientist Elisabeth Cardis said.
That means there is still industry funding in Europe, but a third party administers the money. In Canada, the industry money goes to Dan Krewski's centre.
Cardis adds the connections involved with the Canadian part of the study don't seem to be a conflict of interest to her. But her boss IARC chief Paul Kleihues does seem concerned about our findings.
"Well, I think this is a reason for concern. Industry doesn't give you a free lunch usually. That means industry expects something back for any money they do, and I think we must look into this. It's a matter of concern and we must find out if it's sufficient reason to exclude that branch of the study or not."
Kleihues goes on to say that as far as he can see, the Canadian part of the study appears to have been set up carefully, to follow the rules.
As we kept digging, we discovered that not only does the Canadian cellphone lobby pay for a chunk of Krewski's research at the University of Ottawa, it also has an impact on his salary. We learned that the CWTA money unleashes government money that goes towards Krewski's salary. Krewski says these arrangements are all above board.
The head of IARC - Paul Kleihues told us he was reviewing for possible conflicts of interest the contracts people like Krewski had signed. He said no decisions or changes would be made until an IARC meeting in mid-December.
As for the study itself it won't be complete for a couple of years. So get ready for another long wait before we get any definitive answer on that old riddle over cellphones and cancer.
All cellphones in Canada meet the basic radiation safety guidelines. But anyone concerned about exposure can take a couple of steps to limit it:
- When you see only one or two bars on your phone's display, it means the signal is weak and your phone is trying harder to connect with the tower. That's when radiation is highest. Wait until all the bars are there for less radiation.
- Radiation is also higher when you first place a call, as your phone seeks a connection. If you wait until the call has connected, your exposure will be lower.
- Keep your calls short shorter calls means less exposure.
Next Sunday, the New York Times Magazine will feature a long piece titled "Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer?" by Siddhartha Mukherjee (it's already on the Times' Web site). It's a well-written article, as might be expected by his well-received book, Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Yet an important part of the story is missing: the politics of cell phone research, or more precisely the heavy hand of industry that controls much of what goes on and what gets done.
A few examples: Mukherjee cites, at some length, a 2005 review that concludes that a link between RF and cancer is "weak and unconvincing." But he does not identify the actual paper or its four authors, other than calling them "experts" and noting their professional training (e.g., epidemiologist, radiation biologist, etc.). Who are these people? Two are industry consultants who make money testifying that there are no hazards: The epidemiologist is Linda Erdreich of Exponent, an industry-friendly consulting firm. A second is John Moulder, the radiation biologist, who for many years has testified that all types of EMFs and RF radiation have no connection to cancer (see"Radiation Research and The Cult of Negative Results"). A third is Ken Foster, a biomedical engineer, who has long pooh-poohed RF health risks and who argued, back in 1987, that it was time to stop microwave health research (hardly a prescient call!). The fourth is James McNamee of Health Canada. That 2005 paper was really little more than an ad for Erdreich's and Moulder's services to refute claims of possible risks: Come hire us if you get into an RF jam. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of RF radiation risks would have found a more reliable source. In fact, the editors at the Times were warned about the authors' industry connections and that the paper was out of date, but they ran with it anyway.http://microwavenews.com/short-takes-archive/siddhartha-mukherjee%E2%80%99s-new-york-times%E2%80%99-nbc-news%E2%80%99-questionable-sources
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It is part of a grim picture overall. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has found that 32 percent of the world's amphibian species are threatened or extinct, including more than 200 alone in both Mexico and Colombia.
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Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says that Smart Meters could compromise the power grid, and in the worst case scenario, "bring down the power grid."
"Recent work by researchers in MIT's Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, however, shows that this policy could backfire. If too many people set appliances to turn on, or devices to recharge, when the price of electricity crosses the same threshold, it could cause a huge spike in demand; in the worst case, that could bring down the power grid."
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Laboratory proof that low powered electromagnetic fields do effect human metabolism.