Respectful Insolence

I’m very puzzled.

Now, I know that my being puzzled isn’t particularly unusual. I’m frequently puzzled. I can’t figure out how, for example, anyone with the slightest bit of reasoning ability can do anything other than laugh when informed what homeopathy is and how it supposedly “works.” I can’t figure out why American Idol or Survivor is so amazingly popular.

And I can’t figure out why the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center released this warning about cell phones:

PITTSBURGH July 24, 2008, 07:13 am ET · The head of a prominent cancer research institute issued an unprecedented warning to his faculty and staff Wednesday: Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer.

The warning from Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is contrary to numerous studies that don’t find a link between cancer and cell phone use, and a public lack of worry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Herberman is basing his alarm on early unpublished data. He says it takes too long to get answers from science and he believes people should take action now — especially when it comes to children.

“Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn’t wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later,” Herberman said.

Dr. Herberman is a highly respected cancer center director, which is why I can’t help but wonder just what on earth he was smoking when he decided to do this. It strikes me as being rash in the extreme; the announcement even admits that the published data do not support a link between cell phone use and brain tumors. This is alarmism that, I suspect, even Revere would have a hard time supporting, because it goes far beyond the published evidence and is based on “early unpublished data.” Scaring the nation based on “early unpublished data” is irresponsible in the extreme. Why did Dr. Herberman do it?

The question of whether cell phones cause or contribute to the development of brain tumors is not as easy a question to answer as one might think. First, there is the issue of biological plausibility. Radiowave energy at the power level used by most cell phones, is not ionizing, and our understanding of cancer is that, in general, ionizing radiation is what is required for radiation to cause or contribute to cancer. That does not mean that there isn’t a potential mechanism by which non-ionizing radiation can cause cancer that we don’t know about yet, but it makes hypothesis that cell phone radiation causes brain cancer less plausible. Too, we can actually test radiofrequency radiation in the same power range used in cell phones on cells in cell culture in order to determine whether exposure to such radiation can cause changes associated with malignant transformation. There is one confounding effect that has to be controlled for in such experiments (but is not always), namely that radiofrequency radiation interacts with water in order to heat it. Still, there are no compelling studies showing any specific effect of radiofrequency radiation on cells to induce changes associated with malignant transformation, at least none that I’m aware of. Animal studies are prone to the same sorts of problems as cell culture studies, but even so there is no good quality animal data that I’m aware of implicating cell phone radiation in the formation of cancer. On a basic science basis, there doesn’t appear to be strong evidence of a plausible mechanism or effect.

That brings us to epidemiological studies. For us to consider any epidemiological to be support for the hypothesis that cell phones cause brain cancer, there must be a few key results. First, there must be an increased incidence of brain cancer in cell phone users. It’s even more convincing if there is some sort of dose-response phenomenon. In other words, there should be an increasing risk of cancer with increasing cell phone use. Other results that also support the hypothesis would be tumors correlated with proximity. In other words, do people who primarily use their left hand to hold their phones to their ears tend to get tumors primarily on the left and people who primarily hold their phones with their right hand tend to get tumors primarily on the right? Finally, there should be a plausible lag time between exposure and tumor development consistent with known lag times for cancer, say 10-20 years, and some specificity. In other words, does exposure to cell phone radiation correlate with certain types of tumors and not others? There are other aspects of the results of a study that can more strongly support the hypothesis that cell phones cause brain cancer, but these are the main ones.

In general, however, getting “clean” data from an epidemiologic study of cell phone use that can support a strong enough correlation to suggest causation is very difficult. In order to correlate cell phone use with an increased incidence of brain tumors, it’s necessary somehow to be able to reliably quantify cell phone usage. This presents a big problem. It’s generally not possible to continuously observe people with their cell phones for years on end and obtain objective measurements. Another way is to ask people how much they use their cell phones, but memories are unreliable, and such methods are very prone to recall bias in the form of people with brain tumors being more likely to remember their cell phone use as having been heavy. That’s not even counting trying to control of the number of potentially confounding factors, such as heavy cell phone use being associated with certain jobs or, especially for 10-20 years ago when cell phones were far less common, with higher socioeconomic status. Then there’s the shift in technology from analog to digital in the early 2000s, which changed the power and frequencies used.

Of course, there are ways to overcome the limitations of retrospective studies. For example, an investigator can try to look at cell phone bills and see the number of minutes used per month, but who keeps their bills for 10 or 20 years, which is the time of exposure most relevant to the development of cancer? Alternatively, one can abandon the retrospective study altogether and follow people prospectively and have them report their cell phone usage from their bills every month. However, because brain tumors are a fairly uncommon form of cancer, thousands upon thousands of subjects would have to be followed this way, and it would take at least a decade or two to start to see any results. Also, it would be very hard to enforce a control group, given the ubiquity of cell phones.

Despite the difficulties, several epidemiological studies have been done, with largely negative results. Surprisingly, the NPR report actually summarizes them pretty well:

The issue that concerns some scientists — though nowhere near a consensus — is electromagnetic radiation, especially its possible effects on children. It is not a major topic in conferences of brain specialists.

A 2008 University of Utah analysis looked at nine studies — including some Herberman cites — with thousands of brain tumor patients and concludes “we found no overall increased risk of brain tumors among cellular phone users. The potential elevated risk of brain tumors after long-term cellular phone use awaits confirmation by future studies.”

Studies last year in France and Norway concluded the same thing.

“If there is a risk from these products — and at this point we do not know that there is — it is probably very small,” the Food and Drug Administration says on an agency Web site.

And:

A French study based on Interphone research and published in 2007 concluded that regular cell phone users had “no significant increased risk” for three major types of nervous system tumors. It did note, however, that there was “the possibility of an increased risk among the heaviest users” for one type of brain tumor, but that needs to be verified in future research.

Earlier research also has found no connection.

Steve Novella also summarized the state of the evidence regarding cell phone use and the risk of cancer and concluded that we can probably rule out a strong correlation between cell phone radiation and cancer, but we do not yet have enough data to rule out a small increased risk of brain tumors due to cell phones, particularly in children. I mostly agree with this characterization of the state of the evidence at present, which is why I find statements like this to be overblown fear-mongering:

A driving force behind the memo was Devra Lee Davis, the director of the university’s center for environmental oncology.

“The question is do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain,” she said in an interview from her cell phone while using the hands-free speaker phone as recommended. “I don’t know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don’t know that they are safe.”

I think PalMD got it right when he sarcastically retorted:

Hey, I don’t know for an absolute certainty that my popcorn won’t spontaneously combust, but I’m not yelling fire either.

To which I’d add: Hey, I don’t know with absolute certainty that vaccines don’t cause autism, but I’m not joining the anti-vaccinationists.

The actual warning is even worse, delving into some truly dubious comparisons:

In the early 1980′s, the owners of asbestos mines were reduced to bankruptcy as a result of lawsuits brought by the families of deceased exposed workers. A few years later, a key executive of Johns Manville, the most prominent company, drew lessons from the years of struggle of his industry against medical data and the scientists who were drawing attention to the risks of asbestos. He concluded with regret that greater warnings for the public, the establishment of more effective precautions, and more extensive medical research “could have saved lives, and probably also shareholders, the industry, and the benefits of its product.” [13, 14]

We call on the cell phone companies to provide independent access to records of use so that appropriate studies can be carried out.

Earlier in the report there was even a comparison with tobacco! Here’s the difference that makes these comparisons specious. Tobacco smoke is a known carcinogen. We have many in vitro and animal studies showing the mechanisms by which it induces cancer. Similarly, although the mechanism of how asbestos induces cancer remains unclear, we similarly have animal studies that show that it can. We have no such studies showing biological plausibility for cell phone radiation.

Particularly strange is Davis’s statement:

She said 20 different groups have endorsed the advice the Pittsburgh cancer institute gave, and authorities in England, France and India have cautioned children’s use of cell phones.

As PalMD astutely pointed out, these 20 groups did not actually endorse UPCC’s report; rather they endorsed recommendations similar to the recommendations in the report.

Having looked over this report and the news coverage it engendered, I still can’t figure out what on earth possessed Dr. Herberman to allow it to be issued. Even if the unpublished data are as alarming as implied (unlikely, given the number of previous studies that found either no risk or a questionable very slight risk) and the National Research Council in the U.S. is wrong about its being highly skewed due to selection bias, as a responsible leader in public health and cancer, you don’t pull something like this. You just don’t. It’s irresponsible as hell. A few months to get the data published in a peer-reviewed journal or presented at a major meeting are not going to make a difference, given the long lag time of cancer, and waiting until it is published will at least allow scientists and physicians to vet the data and decide if, on balance taking into account its limitations, it warrants such a strong warning. Or, if you really believe you can’t wait a few months because the risk is so horrible, then release the data with the warning, so that scientists can judge whether the warning is warranted.

Fortunately, many Americans seem to have more common sense than our cancer leaders:

“I think if they gave me specific numbers and specific information and it was scary enough, I would be concerned,” Loughran said, planning to call her mother again in a matter of minutes. “Without specific numbers, it’s too vague to get me worked up.”

Exactly.

Comments

  1. #1 chris
    July 25, 2008

    Quote mine alert.

    In a recent blog post, Orac conceded, stating simply, “…I don’t know…that vaccines don’t cause autism…”

    Although the double negative might throw them. Logic isn’t their strong suit.

  2. #2 DRK
    July 25, 2008

    “it takes too long to get answers from science”

    WTF? Why is this guy the head of a research facility?

  3. #3 Dan
    July 25, 2008

    This is what Dr. Michael Siegel frequently calls “science by press release” and is used to justify smoking bans or tout there success once implemented. That makes me wonder what Dr. Ronald B. Herberman agenda really. If I had known and respected the Dr. Herberman, I would nothing but ridicule for him now. This was all over the news last night and I felt like throwing my TV out the window. The guy should be fired for being this irresponsible.

  4. #4 Algerine
    July 25, 2008

    If Dr. H had only argued that using cellphones while driving causes brain cancer. That’s something I could get behind. And maybe he could toss in that the larger the vehicle the more aggressive the cancer, that’d be great.

  5. #5 TomDunlap
    July 25, 2008

    Heard this story on NPR yesterday. The reporter sounded dubious, but I kept waiting for the response from an alternate view. It never came. Glad you decided to answer it. NPR should give you a call whenever they have doubts.

  6. #6 Dunc
    July 25, 2008

    There is also the minor question of what exactly is so different about the non-ionising EM radiation from cell phones as compared to all the other sources of non-ionising EM radiation that everyone has taken for granted for much of the last century (e.g. TV and radio signals) – except, of course, the much lower power levels…

  7. #7 John McKay
    July 25, 2008

    Here’s a list of other things we should protect ourselves against, despite the lack of evidence that they exist:

    Vampires
    Cooties
    Alien abduction
    Ghosts
    The CIA listening to our thoughts
    The monster under my bed
    Vaccine induced autism
    Demonic possession
    The Loch Ness monster
    The Boogie Man
    Werewolves
    The monster under your bed
    Chupacabra
    Yetis
    The Northwest Tree Octopus
    Mokele-mbembe
    The monster under Dr. Herberman’s bed
    Jackalopes

    It’s better to “err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later.”

  8. #8 Jim RL
    July 25, 2008

    I agree with you Orac that this is pure alarmism, but the issue did raise questions about when such a move would be acceptable. If early unpublished data showed that a large percentage of people who engaged in a activity that was very rare 10-20 years ago developed cancer in 10-20 years, would it ever be acceptable to rush to make a claim like this. At some point is the severity of the risk too great to wait on proper rigorous science?

    No good examples are coming to mind, but I think it’s possible that the precautionary principle could encourage you to act faster than you would like. I suppose it’s a trade-off of what precautions need to be taken versus what the potential consequences are.

  9. #9 delurking
    July 25, 2008

    “Radiowave energy at the power level used by most cell phones, is not ionizing, and our understanding of cancer is that, in general, ionizing radiation is what is required for radiation to cause or contribute to cancer.”

    I wish you would include some numbers in your posts about this stuff. Photons at 1 GHz have an energy of 4 x 10^-6 eV. kT at room temperature is .028 eV. So, just saying it is “not ionizing” is like saying “scores of people died in WWII”. Literally it is true, but it conveys an impression that is orders of magnitude off. Basically, cell phone photons have an energy of 10^-6 times the threshold of ionizing radiation. Each photon has about 10^-4 kT at room temperature. Saying “most cell phones” also implies that some cell phones might be dangerous. No cell phone transmits or receives ionizing radiation.

  10. #10 Orac
    July 25, 2008

    I think Jake might have a term for “delurking.” (Hint: Look at his blog’s title.) :-)

  11. #11 sailor
    July 25, 2008

    On the one hand, given the data, the risk, if it exists, would appear to be very low, and most likey on very long term heavy use starting in childhood (I say this because we almost certainly do not have the data for that yet). However, the costs of avoiding it (head set, or restricting how much your kids use the phone) is also very low, so there is really no reason not to be cautious.

  12. #12 Orac
    July 25, 2008

    I agree with you Orac that this is pure alarmism, but the issue did raise questions about when such a move would be acceptable. If early unpublished data showed that a large percentage of people who engaged in a activity that was very rare 10-20 years ago developed cancer in 10-20 years, would it ever be acceptable to rush to make a claim like this. At some point is the severity of the risk too great to wait on proper rigorous science

    That’s an interesting question, but probably too extensive to answer in the comments. I may have to cogitate on it a while. Maybe it would make a good blog post for next week.

    My point was not that such an action is never appropriate but rather to ask how appropriate it was in this case. Your followup of asking when it’s ever appropriate is good, too. In any case, it’s impossible to say because I haven’t seen the data, but in a situation where a few months would not make a difference (and this appears to be such a case) I would argue that it’s almost certainly better to wait until the data is published. Indeed, even if the data show a really strong correlation, I would still argue the same thing, given that cancer is a disease that develops over years, and even the worst-case scenarios for cell phone use causing cancer postulate years of heavy use as being necessary to result in cancer.

  13. #13 Hume's Ghost
    July 25, 2008

    Back in the early 60′s, the they told us that all that BS about smoking and cancer was nonsense…and we know what happened.

    The suggestions of the danger of cell phones is alarming, and I want to know.

    Who is payint YOU to minimize it?

  14. #14 Hume's Ghost
    July 25, 2008

    And you say a delay of a few months is not going to make a difference because of the “long lag time of cancer.”

    You fucking idiot!

  15. #15 leigh
    July 25, 2008

    we’d all be safest if we went back to living in caves and foraging for fruits and berries. after all, we haven’t tested every single consumer product or chemical in existence thoroughly enough! and we should not be exposed to ANYTHING unless it is deemed 100% safe by science!

    problem is, as the great and wise leader of paranoia states, science takes too long. imagine all the horrible risk we’re taking on every day in greater society! enough to make you want to cower in fear of every breath you take!

    [smacks forehead]

  16. #16 Orac
    July 25, 2008

    Who is payint YOU to minimize it?

    Pharma shill gambit recast as telecommunications shill gambit. You’ll have to do better than that, given that I addressed that very comparison in my post.

    Do try to learn to read.

  17. #17 Prometheus
    July 25, 2008

    Wow!

    I’ve never before seen the “Cautionary Principle” carried out so blatantly. As “Delurker” showed, the photons emitted by cell phones (yes, radio “waves” are photons) have too little energy to ionize cellular contents – they are, in fact, about a million times too weak to cause ionization.

    If you were to “boost” the power of your cell phone to the point where it could cause tissue damage by heating (BTW, the heating you feel when having a long cell-phone conversation is due to power dissipation in the electronics of the cell phone, not due to the radio waves), it still wouldn’t be carcinogenic (although certain tissues – the male testes for instance – can undergo cancerous transformation at elevated temperatures, I don’t believe that the brain tissues will).

    But back to the “cautionary principle”. It is best described as the concept that everything should be considered hazardous until it is proven safe. This is certainly one way of looking at life, but it is not very useful as a guide to public policy.

    If a government or other entity decides to “protect” people from everything that has not been shown to be “safe”, the resulting restrictions on people’s lives would far exceed those imposed by the most totalitarian regimes in world history.

    It is, in short, a recipe for paralysis.

    Worse yet, is the question of what level of risk is considered “safe enough”? If we are to argue that the potential risk of brain cancer from cell phone use “crosses the risk threshold”, then we had better stop drinking alcohol (increased risk of esophageal cancer), eating vegetables (due to psoralens and other plant-produced carcinogens) and breathing air (“toxins” and carcinogenic chemicals – such as oxygen – in the air).

    Finally, what about the risks we incur when we try to avoid other risks? During the power-line EMF scare of a few decades ago, some parents took their children out of neighborhood schools that were “too close” to power lines and drove them to more distant schools. Thus, they traded a very small (indistinguishable from zero, as it turned out) increase in risk of childhood brain cancer for the very real risk of riding in a car.

    Prometheus

  18. #18 mdiehl
    July 25, 2008

    How many science reporters still exist in journalism? How many reporters have an idea of how to look at academic studies and understand or question statistics? I still wonder how the journalist could have gone with so little direct attribution.

  19. #19 Jim RL
    July 25, 2008

    Thanks for the follow-up. I didn’t think it could really be quickly addressed. It is clearly a situational decision. Like you said, the fact that the best available evidence indicates heavy doses are necessary over a long period of time probably negates any need to rush exposure reduction measures. If this were one of the first studies done, and it showed a very strong correlation for even infrequent cell phone use that might be a different story.

    I think it’s an interesting policy question about decision making under uncertainty. If the severity of the consequences is high enough and the cost of prevention is low enough then you should act as soon as possible. In the real world it is difficult to gauge when that time is and what those actions should be.

    Another example might be, if we could go back, what would the optimal global warming prevention strategy be based on knowledge at the time? We had some idea of what could happen in the 60′s, but there wasn’t a real consensus until perhaps the early 90′s. When should we have taken action, and what action should that have been. Can science effectively address quickly emerging threats. Just something to think about.

  20. #20 Hume's Ghost
    July 25, 2008

    So you are going to expose your kids to a risk of cancer because it isn’t in the peer reviewed lit?

    Fools.

  21. #21 ateedub
    July 25, 2008

    Thanks for the analysis Orac. I knew you’d have a great breakdown of the history of this research. Today’s Cancer Letter interviewed Herberman. Here’s an interesting excerpt:

    The [Interphone] study was completed and analyzed over two years ago, but “the frustration is, it has not been published yet,” Herberman said. “I’ve talked with several people who are experts, and everyone I’ve talked to who has seen the data say there is clearly at least a two-fold increase in tumors on the side of the head where the cell phone tends to be used.

    I’m left wondering why the data has not been published yet…will no-one accept it? Also, this statement makes it sound like Herberman has not seen the data himself, and that he feels he’s not sufficiently expert in this area to analyze it. Seems awfully strange to me…

  22. #22 Jill
    July 25, 2008

    No, I would do it because there’s peer reviewed evidence TO THE CONTRARY. Duh.

  23. #23 wolfwalker
    July 25, 2008

    While we’re at it, ghost, maybe we should ban hydrogen hydroxide too, hey?

  24. #24 wackyvorlon
    July 25, 2008

    I’m an amateur radio operator, and frequently deal with RF far in excess of that produced by a cell phone. My main radio transmits with 25 watts on VHF, that is fed into a J-pole made from copper pipe. This J-pole is actually resting on my front porch at the moment, leading to a very odd radiation pattern, but I digress… Even at 25 watts the risk is not very great. The big concern is the risk of RF burns. As signal strength increases, it becomes a bigger concern. Touching the antenna of a 1kW transmitter while it’s transmitting can kill.

    The power levels involved in a cell phone are very small compared to what I work with on a regular basis, and even that isn’t harmful in the way proposed.

  25. #25 John C. Welch
    July 25, 2008

    So you are going to expose your kids to a risk of cancer because it isn’t in the peer reviewed lit?

    Fools.

    Yet you allow your children in or near operating automobiles, in spite of the fact that people die because of those things in astounding numbers.

    Funny how you’ll risk children’s lives for the convenience of a car, even with unarguable evidence of the dangers involved in driving in any country on the planet with cars, yet a possible risk with no reliable evidence to date is somehow greater.

    How do you justify that, pray tell?

  26. #26 John C. Welch
    July 25, 2008

    BTW, I spent 6 years working on radar jamming equipment on B-1B Bombers at energy levels FAR above anything you’d get if you inserted a cell phone INTO your brain, and I know I got zapped at full power at least twice. Felt like someone was trying to broil me. Not fun.

    From what I can tell, the only obvious oddity in my shop was a predilection for male children. (out of a hundred or so guys I worked with in that time, some of whom had been in the field for decades, exactly two had female children at all.) Other shops that worked with radar had the same kind of thing. Shops that didn’t had a more “normal” distribution. There were cases of “all girl-baby” shops, but they were rare. Usually, it was boy-baby heaven in ECM.

  27. #27 Dianne
    July 25, 2008

    Your cell phone is going to kill you–if you’re fool enough to use it while driving. Hands free or no, using a cell phone while driving is a risk for MVA. But at least you’ll die before you can possibly get brain cancer.

  28. #28 John C. Welch
    July 25, 2008

    See! Dianne just showed us that Cell Phones keep you from getting cancer! Yay for Cell Phones!
    :-P

  29. #29 Matlatzinca
    July 25, 2008

    John: Prowler pilots (also electronic warfare – jamming and such) almost entirely all male, also tended to have male children far more frequently than predicted by usual boy/girl distribution.

    Nice post Orac.

  30. #30 The monster under your bed
    July 25, 2008

    John McKay, I can assure you that I am quite real.

  31. #31 Ky Sanderson
    July 25, 2008

    Good for Dr. Herberman. He’s an honorable man, a highly credentialed, highly published cancer researcher. I’m sure he doesn’t waste a multitude of hours playing on the internet with imaginary friends and other poseurs with far too much time on their hands, still living in their parents’ garage.

    But, Yes, highly important scientists, keep blogging:)

  32. #32 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 26, 2008

    I noticed that John C. McKay forgot to mention that

    THERE IS AN EVIL MONKEY IN YOUR CLOSET

  33. #33 Nemo
    July 26, 2008

    I too was scornful of Survivor and American Idol, until I saw them. They’re incredibly addictive. I’ve mostly managed to avoid them, but it’s easy to get hooked in for an entire season.

    Cell phones, too, are very addictive for many people. That’s why I think this is one issue the alarmists aren’t going to win — and wouldn’t even if they were right.

  34. #34 trrll
    July 26, 2008

    I agree with you Orac that this is pure alarmism, but the issue did raise questions about when such a move would be acceptable. If early unpublished data showed that a large percentage of people who engaged in a activity that was very rare 10-20 years ago developed cancer in 10-20 years, would it ever be acceptable to rush to make a claim like this.

    If you knew for certain that that was absolutely the only thing that had changed in 20 years, then maybe you could draw such a conclusion. But of course, that is ridiculous. There have been enormous changes in the sorts of substances that people are exposed to in the environment–industrial chemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, etc.–and we have strong evidence that certain chemicals are able to induce cancer, and even have an idea of the mechanism.

    No good examples are coming to mind, but I think it’s possible that the precautionary principle could encourage you to act faster than you would like. I suppose it’s a trade-off of what precautions need to be taken versus what the potential consequences are.

    It seems to me that the notion of the “precautionary principle” must have been devised by people without much imagination. I can come up with some sort of disaster scenario for just about any conceivable social or technological change. Yes, I have some ideas about how non-ionizing radiation could cause cancer–but they’re pretty weird, and quite without biological precedent. I’d need pretty overwhelming evidence that the phenomenon was real before I would start taking them seriously.

  35. #35 Craig Willoughby
    July 26, 2008

    Prometheus said:
    “If you were to “boost” the power of your cell phone to the point where it could cause tissue damage by heating (BTW, the heating you feel when having a long cell-phone conversation is due to power dissipation in the electronics of the cell phone, not due to the radio waves), it still wouldn’t be carcinogenic.” Agreed. It’s also compounded by your body heat as you hold it up to your ear.

    Honestly, I found the whole article amusing.

  36. #36 Craig Willoughby
    July 26, 2008

    I remember reading somewhere that cell phone RF is so miniscule that to have any carcinogenic effect on brain tissue, you’d have to be on the cell phone 24/7 for like 2 lifetimes. I’ll have to look it up. If I find it, I’ll post it.

    To clarify my above statement. I’m in networking and telecommunications, so the article, when I originally read it, gave me a huge chuckle. This has been a debate that has been going on for years. Cell phones just don’t emit enough radiation, RF, Microwave or otherwise, to really cause any harm.

  37. #37 Brad Schwie
    July 26, 2008

    Its obvious Herberman panders in faith based reasoning. Check out the symposium he took part in a while back:

    http://www.templeton.org/humble_approach_initiative/Faith_Factor/

  38. #38 JayGordon
    July 26, 2008

    John C Welch posts:
    <

    From what I can tell, the only obvious oddity in my shop was a predilection for male children. (out of a hundred or so guys I worked with in that time, some of whom had been in the field for decades, exactly two had female children at all.) Other shops that worked with radar had the same kind of thing. Shops that didn't had a more "normal" distribution. There were cases of "all girl-baby" shops, but they were rare. Usually, it was boy-baby heaven in ECM.>>

    Do you think that this prevalence rate might trigger curiosity about the etiology? Something having that much influence on chromosomes is worth investigating.

    Jay

  39. #39 Jay Gordon
    July 26, 2008

    >>I agree with you Orac that this is pure alarmism, but the issue did raise questions about when such a move would be acceptable. If early unpublished data showed that a large percentage of people who engaged in a activity that was very rare 10-20 years ago developed cancer in 10-20 years, would it ever be acceptable to rush to make a claim like this. At some point is the severity of the risk too great to wait on proper rigorous science?>>

    < >

    <

    You fucking idiot!

    Posted by: Hume's Ghost |>>

    ORAC replies: <

    My point was not that such an action is never appropriate but rather to ask how appropriate it was in this case. Your followup of asking when it's ever appropriate is good, too. In any case, it's impossible to say because I haven't seen the data, but in a situation where a few months would not make a difference (and this appears to be such a case) I would argue that it's almost certainly better to wait until the data is published. Indeed, even if the data show a really strong correlation, I would still argue the same thing, given that cancer is a disease that develops over years, and even the worst-case scenarios for cell phone use causing cancer postulate years of heavy use as being necessary to result in cancer.>>

    _________________________________________________________________________________

    Varying levels of disrespect and respect shown in the above posts. The difference between here and preschool is the life experience, the science background and that no one has, yet, called me a poopoohead.

    Alarmism could be said to be a bad thing but caution is a very good thing. Children and teens use cell phones very heavily and even the slightest for potential for adverse effects is worth considering. Yes, yes, I know that there’s no ionizing radiation but hours/day times many years of exposure to this non-ionizing radiation is avoidable and should therefore be avoided.

    Jay

  40. #40 DLC
    July 26, 2008

    On cell phones and tumors: the energy put out by the cell phone you have on your belt/in your purse/in your utility belt
    is something between 900mW and 2W. This is not enough to penetrate the skull.

    For the people posting on military job categories and offspring : And a former special forces officer of my acquaintance informs me that SF types as a rule have female children. Me, I suspect some amount of confirmation-bias.

  41. #41 DLC
    July 26, 2008

    Apologies for the extra post, but:
    Orac: didn’t you hand out some Respectful Insolence™ to some dweebs in Australia who tried to claim that cell phones and wi-fi cause autism ? Or did I read it somewhere else, I wonder. I’m tired or I’d google it.

  42. #42 Danny Chrastina
    July 26, 2008

    Gerard Hyland published something in the Lancet in 2000 (G. J. Hyland. Physics and biology of mobile telephony. The Lancet 356 (9244) 1833-1836 (2000)) arguing that it was non-thermal effects such as the pulse frequency which caused the problems, and I’ve only just noticed that he bases this on a book cowritten by Cyril W. Smith, who was last seen trying to woonify acupuncture and homeopathy (Cyril W. Smith. Apologia Homeopathica. J. Alt. Comp. Med. 13 (7) 693-694 (2007)) and who has some really batshit ideas about certain aspects of physics (Cyril W. Smith. Quanta and coherence effects in water and living systems. J. Alt. Comp. Med. 10 (1) 69-78 (2004)).

  43. #43 Jay Gordon
    July 26, 2008

    The Lancet is by no means “woo.”

    I can understand wanting to dismiss my posts as not being “scientific” enough. But how can you then justify dismissing an article deemed worthy of publication by one of the top medical journals in the world?

    Jay

  44. #44 Mary Parsons
    July 26, 2008

    Jay Gordon asked:

    But how can you then justify dismissing an article deemed worthy of publication by one of the top medical journals in the world?

    Danny Chrastina can justify it because he has read Lancet paper in detail, followed-up the references (possibly something that the original reviewers did not do) and subjected it to appropriate scrutiny.

    It was acceptable for the Lancet to publish the Hyland paper in 2000, but with improved knowledge and in the light of subsequent research, it is now appropriate for informed people like Chrastina to highlight the problems with the paper.

    By the by, Chrastina has had the courtesy to take the memory of water people and such at their word and has brought his considerable expertise to bear on analysing the plausibility of their claims – even to the point of publishing letters in the same journals. He also has some of the best commentary on the physics of some of the more outrageous CAM assumptions that you can find on the internet: it’s not always an easy read but it is fascinating. You can read all about that by following the link to his excellent blog.

  45. #45 DavidCT
    July 26, 2008

    I wonder if U. of Pitt. or Dr. H have any significant holdings in companies that manufacture Bluetooth headsets.

    It would seem that if early data were significantly out of line with the body of published data, one would want to take a good look at the new data carefully prior to issuing an alert. This is particularly true in a situation where the new data would require a complete reevaluation of our understanding of physics and biology. Could the supposed risk still apply since cell phones of today are vastly different in energy use compared to those used 10 or more years ago. What is Dr. H really warning about. Don’t use cell phones or don’t use 10 year old cell phones. If he is talking about the latter, the problem has already been solved for most people.

  46. #46 Dianne
    July 26, 2008

    Cell phones have been around since the 1980s. The lag time for cancer development is about 20 years. If cell phones were a risk factor for brain cancers, one might expect to see a spike in brain cancer incidence about now. There is no such spike. The incidence of brain cancer has actually decreased slightly since a high in the 1980s. This doesn’t rule out a subtle effect counteracted by a decrease due to other, unknown factors, but it does not support the idea that cell phones are a risk factor in the development of brain cancers.

  47. #47 trrll
    July 26, 2008

    Yes, yes, I know that there’s no ionizing radiation but hours/day times many years of exposure to this non-ionizing radiation is avoidable and should therefore be avoided.

    What I find notable is how selectively people apply this kind of reasoning. I suspect that you don’t fully realize just how physically and biologically remarkable it would be if non-ionizing radiation could cause cancer. Note, by the way, that there are lots of kinds of nonionizing radiation. Your oven radiates nonionizing radiation (infrared electromagnetic radiation carrying considerably more energy per photon than radio waves). We live in a sea of 60 Hz EM, radiated from every wire in our house. Could that be harmful? It’s no more unlikely than damage from cell phones, and there is certainly a long list of ills that have increased as use of electric and electronic devices has increased. Is it avoidable? Substantially so, if you minimize your use of electric devices and are willing to invest a fair amount of money in shielding your living quarters.

    And how about automobiles? There’s no doubt, no need for novel physics or biology, to convince anybody that those things kill people. You can look up the death rate–it’s the equivalent of a good-sized war, except that it doesn’t spare women and children. Sure, sometimes it is essential drive, but a lot of the risk is clearly avoidable. Do you ever put your kids in the car and go to a movie or out to Macdonalds? How can you possibly justify subjecting your children to risk to life and limb for such a frivolous, inessential purpose?

    Yet here we are, obsessing over a risk of cell phones–a risk that, if it exists, cannot be explained by known physics or biology, and is so small that most epidemiological studies have failed to detect it, and does not make even a blip in the brain cancer statistics.

    Does that make any kind of sense to you?

    I put this sort of hysteria down to neophobia. People are happy to accept a huge risk from something familiar, like an automobile, but when it comes to something that wasn’t around when they were growing up, like cell phones, then we have to make sure that it is absolutely, perfectly safe down to the 5th decimal place.

  48. #48 DLC
    July 26, 2008

    Apologies for the extra post, but:
    Orac: didn’t you hand out some Respectful Insolence™ to some dweebs in Australia who tried to claim that cell phones and wi-fi cause autism ? Or did I read it somewhere else, I wonder. I’m tired or I’d google it.

    Posted by: DLC | July 26, 2008 3:24 AM

    Wow. I must have been asleep when I wrote that.
    Yes, I did read a take-down of a really craptacular study attempting to link autism with cell phones and/or wi-fi.
    It was Dr Steven Novella who wrote it, and I commented on it at his blog and with a referral there from this one.
    those interested in seeing Dr Novella’s dissection
    can find it here : here

  49. #49 John C. Welch
    July 26, 2008

    John: Prowler pilots (also electronic warfare – jamming and such) almost entirely all male, also tended to have male children far more frequently than predicted by usual boy/girl distribution.

    and

    John C Welch posts:
    From what I can tell, the only obvious oddity in my shop was a predilection for male children. (out of a hundred or so guys I worked with in that time, some of whom had been in the field for decades, exactly two had female children at all.) Other shops that worked with radar had the same kind of thing. Shops that didn’t had a more “normal” distribution. There were cases of “all girl-baby” shops, but they were rare. Usually, it was boy-baby heaven in ECM.>>

    Do you think that this prevalence rate might trigger curiosity about the etiology? Something having that much influence on chromosomes is worth investigating

    I think it would be interesting as a study. One advantage is that because the groups in question, (Radar/ECM operators and techs) work around high-frequency RF at rather extreme power levels, it would be easier to isolate that RF from the normal background cloud.

    Another point:

    For the people posting on military job categories and offspring : And a former special forces officer of my acquaintance informs me that SF types as a rule have female children. Me, I suspect some amount of confirmation-bias.

    That’s always possible, and i’m not going to even pretend my observations and those of others I worked with are anything but anecdotal. As well, among the airplane crowd, there are a lot of other extreme environmental oddities that could account for things. For example, I doubt most people have been around things that generate noise/air pressure at level that will make power pole guy wires “ping” over a tenth of a mile away. Yet, that happened every time a B-1B took off. I spent years and years around some fairly regular exposure to sound levels that no amount of hearing protection will completely compensate for, and I have the hearing oddities to show for it. Planes, esp. high-performance aircraft, leak like pigs. I had uniforms that were permanently waterproof from the hydro fluid, coolanol, etc.

    But, I knew folks who were crew chiefs who were exposed to all of this too, just not the constant RF levels, and their boy/girl mix was more normal. Same thing for sheetmetal troops. I didn’t know any fuel cell folks, (those guys had their own hanger and we never had a need to deal with them much) so I can’t speak to their kid distribution.

    But I can say that over six years, in an group where 2-3 children were the norm, if there were…5 girls born in that shop, I’m being generous.

    Like I said, there’s no scientific data *whatsoever* to back any of this up, and it could have been just an odd coincidence that I happened to run into. But, it could make for an interesting senior project or thesis of some kind.

  50. #50 Dianne
    July 26, 2008

    John Welsh: I seem to remember that there is some correlation between stress in the female partner and the birth of girls. (Yes, the relevant chromosome comes from the male partner but the condition of the vagina may favor heavy (X bearing) or light (Y bearing) sperm.) The presumed evolutionary explanation being that girls are a better risk in uncertain times. So maybe you and your colleagues had a tendency to have boys because you were nice to your partners and they were feeling less stressed. Just a thought.

  51. #51 Ralph Dosser
    July 26, 2008

    Lisa: “By your logic, I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.”
    Homer: “Lisa, I want to buy your rock…”

  52. #52 John C. Welch
    July 27, 2008

    Dianne,

    We worked outside, at night, in NORTH DAKOTA in the WINTERTIME.

    It’s a rather stressful environment.

  53. #53 Danny Chrastina
    July 27, 2008

    Wow, thanks Mary, but I have to admit I’m by no means the best blogger regarding the Memory of Water. I didn’t even contribute directly to the badscience.net journal club on the subject. I’m more into the abuse of quantum physics terminology.

    I never expected to find Hyland doing that though – I was actually at Warwick doing my PhD while he was there working on the mobile phone stuff, and the seminar he gave on it was convincing. It’s only since I’ve been reading Lionel Milgrom’s quantum homeopathy nonsense that I’ve come across Cyril W. Smith and the strange things he believes. I should check out the other citations (two of H. Frölich, one of W. Grundler and F. Kaiser, and one self-cite to another Hyland paper) and see how credible they are. There’s a commentary by Philip P. Dendy (the Lancet, 356 (2000) 1782) which says

    How should one weigh the various reported effects, whether harmful or not, that Hyland cites? Have the findings been reproducible? In many cases they have not. Hyland suggests that the highly non-linear nature of living systems militates against the realisation of the identical conditions for exact replication, but this argument confuses deterministic effects, which will always occur above a certain threshold of insult, and stochastic ones, which are governed by the laws of chance.

    Are the key experiments closely linked to the proposed mechanism? The postulate that exceptionally low intensities of microwave radiation can have a disproportionately high effect at certain frequencies implies that the effect should disappear when the frequency is “off-resonance”. Such experiments may be very difficult to design in vivo and do not seem to have been done.

    So it seems there was skepticism at the time.

    But it might be dangerous so we had better be careful, right? Well you’ll probably be dead of something else long before you’ve built up enough exposure to have any effect. Worry about those things first.

  54. #54 Ranson
    July 27, 2008

    From Bob Park’s What’s New science newsletter:

    In a classic 2001 op-ed LBL physicist Robert Cahn explained that Einstein won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physics for showing that cell phones can’t cause cancer. The threshold energy of the photoelectric effect, for which Einstein won the prize, lies at the extreme blue end of the visible spectrum in the near ultraviolet. The same near-ultraviolet rays can also cause skin cancer. Red light is too weak to cause cancer. Cell-phone radiation is 10,000 times weaker.

    I found that take to be rather funny.

  55. #55 Dianne
    July 27, 2008

    It’s a rather stressful environment.

    For this purpose, your stress level doesn’t matter, except if it causes you to be less nice to your partner. Sorry.

  56. #56 El Christador
    July 27, 2008

    Make no mistake about it, your cell phone would kill you if it could. That’s why it is important that we keep them in the radio frequencies, and at low powers. We don’t want to let anything stronger fall into their hands.

  57. #57 Hank Roberts
    July 27, 2008

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0040-4039(96)01544-4
    and subsequent citations should be read before trusting that no effects occur without ionization and heat. That’s wrong.

    I’d like to know why the data that expert panel discussed has not seen publication after two years. Looked into this yet?

    Yes, statistically, we’re discussing a very low risk of actual damage to any one individual.

    But — think about it — a study showing a 2x increase in incidence, with what we know about microwave enhancement of chemical reactions (just Google it) — has a _very_high_ likelihood approaching 1.0 of scaring the bejesus out of the industry’s lawyers.

    My guess? It’s a density gradient thing, adults are more boneheaded than kids, as the image in that original document illustrated.

    It’s not the risk from the cell phones likely to hurt the industry. It’s the risk of a coverup from industry lawyers.

    Look at the cites to the article being discussed.
    Yeah, down at the bottom of the page. The footnotes. After the names of the expert panel.

    They talk about the industrial response to bad news in the past, the coverups, the increased liability, and the utterly stupid outcome when small risks are hidden instead of documented.

  58. #58 Phoenix Woman
    July 27, 2008

    Poor Ky Sanderson. All he has to counter Orac’s facts is an appeal to authority.

    Thanks for playing, and enjoy your stint in my killfile!

  59. #59 Hank Roberts
    July 27, 2008

    This may help, some 300+ journal articles in 2007-2008:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=microwave+%22cell+phone%22+mechanism&as_ylo=2007

  60. #60 trrll
    July 27, 2008

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0040-4039(96)01544-4
    and subsequent citations should be read before trusting that no effects occur without ionization and heat. That’s wrong.

    The reference that you cite does not support your point, in that they are heating the reaction quite substantially with microwaves. They argue that the effects of microwave heating on the reaction speed differ from producing the same amount of overall heating by a nonmicrowave method (presumably a hot water bath). This is at least plausible, as the heat energy may well be delivered to different molecules when microwave energy is used as opposed to a water bath. By the way, these these are very nonbiological conditions: the reaction is being carried out in a mixture of alcohols, and the lowest temperature to which they heat the reaction is 122 F.

    It’s also worth noting that a temporary change in the reaction efficiency of an enzyme (if this occurs at all in the aqueous environment of a cell at radiation levels orders of magnitude below those that produce this degree of heating) would not be expected to transform a cell into a cancer cell, because that requires some sort of long-lasting modification of the character of a cell. It is easy to understand how this could be accomplished by ionizing radiation, because ionizing radiation can produce changes in covalent bonds, which are long-lasting. The effects of nonionizing radiation (if any) would be expected to be transient.

  61. #61 trrll
    July 27, 2008

    An additional comment on the microwave-assisted lipase transesterification reaction cited previously. The authors of this publication
    http://www.rsc.org/publishing/journals/OB/article.asp?doi=b617544a
    carried out a similar experiment, taking special measures to prevent localized heating. They found that the reaction rate was independent of microwave power, and attribute the results of earlier studies that yielded apparent microwave effects to localized heating. This illustrates the kinds of experimental artifacts that can result–and the difficulty of interpretation– when pumping tens of watts of microwave energy into a reaction vessel.

  62. #62 dusty59
    July 27, 2008

    Ha! see— this tewtally proves that cell phones are killing people:

    New Cellular Pathway Linked To Cancer Identified-
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080724123213.htm
    (ScienceDaily)

    see? see? “cellular pathways”!

    sorry. couldn’t resist.
    /not!

  63. #63 Phoenix Woman
    July 27, 2008

    Cell phones have been around since the 1980s. The lag time for cancer development is about 20 years. If cell phones were a risk factor for brain cancers, one might expect to see a spike in brain cancer incidence about now. There is no such spike. The incidence of brain cancer has actually decreased slightly since a high in the 1980s. This doesn’t rule out a subtle effect counteracted by a decrease due to other, unknown factors, but it does not support the idea that cell phones are a risk factor in the development of brain cancers.

    Posted by:
    Dianne |
    July 26, 2008 9:53 AM
    [kill]​[hide comment]

    Thanks, Dianne. Reposting this in case it gets lost among the troll droppings.

  64. #64 Network Guy
    July 27, 2008

    I love the guy who said the energy from a cell phone was “not enough to penetrate the skull”. I could have sworn my cell phone worked inside buildings and around all sorts of RF obstacles, but I guess that it can’t penetrate my skull.

    There is some really refined thinking going on in this thread.

  65. #65 Hank Roberts
    July 28, 2008

    Doubling a tiny probability is still a tiny probability.

    Research completed 2 years ago isn’t being published — and the researchers are going public to warn about risks to kids.

    Wonder why? It’s utterly premature to look for “a mechanism” but there are lots of studies suggesting possibilities. Those are just what-ifs until there’s epidemiology published to suggest where in all that work to look for relevance.

    Nobody’s suggesting an effect like ionizing radiation has, that I can find looking in Scholar. What’s likely is some cascade of events with some step altered, in some people, in some situations, over some time span.

    Same reason kids get more protection for all sorts of influences — rapid growth, rapid cell division, long potential life span in which problems can emerge.

    And
    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1797826

    “Studies funded exclusively by industry reported the largest number of outcomes, but were least likely to report a statistically significant result… the interpretation of results from studies of health effects of radiofrequency radiation should take sponsorship into account.”

    There’s a certain amount of mistrust based on such history:

    http://www.spinwatch.org/content/view/3678/9/
    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/113451325/abstract

    The biggest, longest-term study so far is the one you’d nomally look to to find any effect too small to find in the previous, shorter, smaller studies. Right?

    So it’s ongoing, it has some preliminary results, publication held up for 2 years found there’s a 2x increase in at least one cancer, still a very low risk.

    So, no-brainer, right? Precautionary advice from the medical people — avoid exposing kids, because they have the longest lifespan and are most at risk of losing productive years of life. Simple precaution.

    “Mechanism?” Way too early. Like any other weak effect that only emerges from statistics with large groups over large time spans, mechanism gets figured out decades after the epidemiological work.

    The only thing the industry could do wrong would be to try to cover up potentially worrisome data. They wouldn’t make that mistake, after seeing what happened with Roentgen rays, radium, lead, asbestos, tobacco, chromium …. No way.

  66. #66 Hank Roberts
    July 28, 2008

    PS, a bit of perspective —

    “You call _that_ little thing a hazard? _This_ was a hazard.”

    http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/shoefittingfluor/shoe.htm

  67. #67 Richard Eis
    July 28, 2008

    So, isn’t the complete lack of an increase in brain cancer kind of a sticking point for these alarmists?

    They should talk to the antivax crowd about creating a “brain cancer epidemic” first.

  68. #68 John C. Welch
    July 28, 2008

    I love the guy who said the energy from a cell phone was “not enough to penetrate the skull”. I could have sworn my cell phone worked inside buildings and around all sorts of RF obstacles, but I guess that it can’t penetrate my skull.

    There is some really refined thinking going on in this thread.

    First, everything is not the same. Different materials, different RF interaction characteristics.

    Secondly, you kind of pointed out how it’s actually working, even though it contradicts your implied point. Cell phone RF is not going THROUGH steel-reinforced concrete. It’s going AROUND it. Through windows. Through thinner interior walls that may only be drywall and plywood. In some cases, the building itself may be acting as an antenna, and reradiating the signal, which can boost it to usable strengths with much greater range than you’d think.

    My previous employer, in Kansas City, was a few blocks from a VFW building, yet I could easily, with my Macbook Pro, (NOT an RF reception champ by any means), pick up their wireless network at usable strengths. Yet, internal wireless was only visible from outside the building if you had LOS with a window. (Yay granite and marble!) So, I could sit outside, not 10′ from an antenna, and get no signal, yet if I walked across the street, I could see the network. RF propagation inside a building is funny stuff, and a pain in the ass when you’re trying to figure out WAP locations.

    Around != Through. Even with RF.

  69. #69 R. C. Moore
    July 28, 2008

    If I am to assume the existence of some yet unknown, yet very real and dangerous cancer causing property of non-ionizing electro-magnetic radiation, then why should I follow the recommendation of the good Dr. H and instead use a headset? – a device which also emits non-ionizing EM. I should replace the intermittent EM (my cell phone is only near my brain during phone calls) with a constant EM (my headset stays by my brain all day long)?

    How do these people keep their jobs?

  70. #70 dusty59
    July 28, 2008

    Thanks Phoenix Woman, (@July 27, 2008 9:57 PM)
    I did not mean to be trolling… I was joking. I guess in a faux troll sort of fashion.

    My joke (ha ha!) is that the article I sited “New Cellular Pathway Linked To Cancer” has nothing to do with cell phones.

  71. #71 Eddie
    July 28, 2008

    >>Cell phones have been around since the 1980s. The lag time for cancer development is about 20 years. If cell phones were a risk factor for brain cancers, one might expect to see a spike in brain cancer incidence about now. There is no such spike.<< (from Dianne)

    No, not necessarily. The risk, even if, say, doubled, is still slight; In the early days of cell phone usage, cell phone users were not as ubiquitous as today and high-intensity users were particularly rare (not the least reason being that cell minutes were prohibitively expensive for most users).

    If there is an elevated risk, it is likely that a significantly increased risk would have pertained to a relatively small group of cell phone users and would have resulted in an even smaller net number of new cancer cases. The number of new cases would almost certainly not have been large enough to show up (yet) in any gross cancer statistics.

    The only way to isolate the risk based on historical data would be to associate intensity of usage with the outcome (cancer / no cancer). (The overwhelming majority of early users were light users and wouldn’t have been expected to incur a significantly increased risk.) Sadly, most of the historical studies haven’t done that. On that basis alone it would be surprising to see many studies that indicate an increased risk.

  72. #72 Yaron
    July 28, 2008

    I’m from Israel, and yesterday our Department of Health issued an official warning about cellphones, recommending to avoid keeping them near the body, and to keep them away from children.
    Why? Three reasons.

    The first was, well, the nonsense discussed above in this post. They just totally jumped on the recommendation of Herberman (even though all the news reports I saw managed to misspell his name as Heberman)

    The other was a research done by local researchers that allegedly found relation between cellular phone usage and “Malignant Parotid Gland Tumors”. Mind you, the doctor in charge of this research was also quoted in the paper as saying that (roughly translated by me) “A two-three years old kid who says hello to an aunt or grandmother on the cellphone is a situation close to child abuse”.
    This quote was, according to the article, not based on her own research, but on the recent research by Herberman…

    This local research is here:
    http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/167/4/457
    I don’t have access to see anything beyond the abstract, which strikes me as not quite convincing (mainly, but not just, the tiny sample, especially after the subclassification), and definitely not strong enough to support a 5 second cellphone usage being “child abuse”.

    The third reason? The same “cautionary principal”.

  73. #73 Samsung
    July 28, 2008

    “Secondly, you kind of pointed out how it’s actually working, even though it contradicts your implied point. Cell phone RF is not going THROUGH steel-reinforced concrete. It’s going AROUND it. Through windows. Through thinner interior walls that may only be drywall and plywood.”

    Or through eardrums, nasal passages, mouth, or eyeballs.

  74. #74 John C. Welch
    July 28, 2008

    “Secondly, you kind of pointed out how it’s actually working, even though it contradicts your implied point. Cell phone RF is not going THROUGH steel-reinforced concrete. It’s going AROUND it. Through windows. Through thinner interior walls that may only be drywall and plywood.”

    Or through eardrums, nasal passages, mouth, or eyeballs.

    Well, since high-frequency RF reacts rather energetically with water, eyeballs would tend to be a fairly decent RF sink.

    Same thing with the nasal and mouth passages. Lots of moisture, lots of water. Big attenuation there, IIRC.

    The eardrums…maybe, except, what are people going to use for headsets? Wired headsets have a high probability of acting as an antenna, and wireless headsets are always transmitting, and now part of that transmitting is jammed in your ear, even if you aren’t talking on the phone.

    using headsets to avoid RF from handsets is a bit of a “robbing peter to pay paul” solution.

    However, considering the normal background microwave cloud we move in, if you are truly that concerned, there’s only one solution. A personal Faraday cage. It’ll protect you not only from RF, but STDs too, because if you’re wearing one, the chances of you ever having intimate contact approach zero, and rapidly.

  75. #75 Hank Roberts
    July 28, 2008
  76. #76 Samsung
    July 28, 2008

    RF expert John C Welsh instead of making things up as you go, I have a “scientific experiment” for you. If you think body tissue blocks cell pbone signals then shove your phone in your crack and call yourself. I’m betting it rings.

  77. #77 R.C. Moore
    July 29, 2008

    ….If you think body tissue blocks cell pbone signals then shove your phone in your crack and call yourself. I’m betting it rings.

    But the issue here is not the receiving of RF, it is the transmission. I challenge you to dial your phone and hold a conversation with you phone embedded in your rear end.

    (There is a cheap joke here about maybe talking out of your rear is your normal mode of communication, but that would be unwarranted).

  78. #78 Dunc
    July 29, 2008

    It seems to me that the notion of the “precautionary principle” must have been devised by people without much imagination. I can come up with some sort of disaster scenario for just about any conceivable social or technological change.

    The precautionary principle is only really supposed to kick in when you have some kind of prior evidence to believe that a risk is likely to exist. It doesn’t mean that you should automatically assume that anything new will kill you.

  79. #79 Prometheus
    July 29, 2008

    Folks talking about the ability of RF to penetrate the body (skull, lower intestine or other parts) are missing the point.

    If the RF energy is able to penetrate the skull – as it demonstrably can, evidenced by the fact that your head doesn’t block the signal – then that energy is not being absorbed by the skull, brain and other tissues of the head.

    And if the energy isn’t being absorbed, then it can’t be causing cancer, can it?

    Prometheus

  80. #80 John C. Welch
    July 29, 2008

    Samsung…

    Wow, you fail at copy and paste AND rationality. Double word score for you.

    Wait, it’s a trifecta, since I never said it didn’t penetrate the skull, which means you win the “I can’t read shit, but it doesn’t matter, because anyone who disagrees with me in any way, shape, or form must be instantly and personally attacked.”

    Way to advance the cause of setting the bar low.

  81. #81 Health Nut Jonathon
    July 29, 2008

    Doesn’t seem like this is an appropriate avenue for informing the public of danger. Sometimes it’s not about the message, but instead the medium. For me, a televised broadcast or something carried by a reputable newspaper would carry more weight. Just my 0.02

  82. #82 Hank Roberts
    July 29, 2008

    You mentioned Revere, and I’m hoping we hear more about this over there.

    You wrote
    > in a situation where a few months would not
    > make a difference (and this appears to be
    > such a case)

    But we read that there’s already been a 2-year delay in releasing the information.

    What do you think has changed?

    Would it be possible the panel’s trying to force the release of the study by publicizing this document?

  83. #83 Metro
    July 29, 2008

    @John McKay
    At least some agencies have been paying attention to the subjects in your list:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6ylxWcwkUM

  84. #84 Douglas Yates
    July 30, 2008

    You may want to review who pays for the studies that conclude there’s little cause for concern. I’ve found that industry-sponsored studies invariably demonstrate no harm from cell phones, cordless phones and WIFI. In contrast, truly independent studies are much more likely to show connections between brain and salivary gland tumors, hearing and memory loss, breaching the blood brain barrier, skin rashes, sperm quality and sleep disturbance.

    Look at the the work of Henry Lai, a radiation expert at the University of Washington. Here’s a link: http://www.mapcruzin.com/radiofrequency/henry_lai2.htm

    As you research the data you’ll find that cell phones were first developed by the Pentagon. The devices then entered the commercial market before pre-market safety testing, thanks to a loop hole in FDA regulations.

    Robert Kane was an industry insider who wrote the book “Cellular Telephone Russian Roulette”. Kane, an electrical engineer, believes that cell phones are indeed a technology that has damaging effects, particularly to children. Despite years of military research showing harm from electro-magnetic radiation, this data has largely been ignored. The technology obviously has friends in high places. Federal legislation prevents citizens from objecting to cell phones towers based on health concerns. Kane’s book is surprisingly out of print and is not available via Amazon.com, even as a used copy. This prompts suspicions that the telecoms bought all available copies and pulped them. I finally found a copy via interlibrary loan.

    These sites offer detailed examinations of the technology:

    http://www.buergerwelle.de/cms/content/view/57/70/
    http://www.safewireless.org/
    http://www.emfacts.com/
    http://www.bioinitiative.org/

  85. #85 Prometheus
    July 31, 2008

    Mr. Yates paints a dark story of callous government indifference and industry conspiracy. The only problem is that he’s trying to get us to shelve it in the “non-fiction” section. Let’s count how many obvious errors we can find:

    [1] “…truly independent studies are much more likely to show connections between brain and salivary gland tumors, hearing and memory loss, breaching the blood brain barrier, skin rashes, sperm quality and sleep disturbance.”

    This is only an “error” because the commenter forgot to include the relevant citations. I’m sure that he will correct this ASAP.

    [2] “The devices [cell phones] then entered the commercial market before pre-market safety testing, thanks to a loop hole [sic] in FDA regulations.”

    Curiously enough, the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) doesn’t regulate cell phones, probably since they are neither food nor drugs. The Federal Communication Commission is the agency involved in the safety testing of cellular telephones.

    [3] “Kane’s book [Cellular Telephone Russian Roulette] is surprisingly out of print and is not available via Amazon.com, even as a used copy. This prompts suspicions that the telecoms bought all available copies and pulped them.”

    Robert Kane’s seminal work on the massive cellular telephone conspiracy was published by Vantage Press, a “vanity publisher”. The publisher charges the author a fee to publish the book and also gets a “cut” (20%) of any retail sales. I suspect that the reason no copies are available is that this was not a successful book and – as a result – few copies were printed.

    According to a WorldCat search I did via my university’s library, only 20 libraries in the world (that have databases accessible to WorldCat) carry this book. Indeed, the arms of the cellular telephone companies have grown long when they can destroy every copy of a book except for the copies in the:

    Santa Cruz, CA Public Library

    Westport, CT Public Library
    Arlington Heights, IL Memorial Library
    Virginia Tech Library

    and, of course,

    The Library of Congress

    On the other hand, maybe they were able to get past the lax security in the Chicago Public Library but couldn’t find a way past the strict librarians in Santa Cruz?

    Conspiracy theories are the last refuge of the desperate and data-deficient.

    So, pending the arrival of citations of actual published studies from Mr. Yates, I’ll consider his contribution to the discussion tabled.

    Prometheus

  86. #86 Yaron
    July 31, 2008

    I’m really interested in whatever information Yates have about how cellular radiation can breach the blood-brain barrier (or, more importantly, why the heck is that even relevant to anything). If it can do that, it may even be able to circumvent most locking mechanisms installed on private houses, and invade our homes through locked doors and windows. Truly worrying.

    In general I enjoy the ideas that not being able to find books means that some organization bought all of them to get them off the market. Had this (or any other) book been published by a real publisher, instead of a vanity press, and someone had bought all the copies, I’m quite sure that the book wouldn’t have disappeared. Instead, the publishers would have seen the huge sales, and re-issued it. And kept re-issuing it for as long as the evil nefarious organizations would have kept buying.

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