• Science and News Media

From years of reading in the news media about the possibility of health effects associated with the exposure to mobile phone radiation, I got an impression that the information field has been dominated by two types of activists. One type of the activists are those who interpret every observation indicating possibility of the existence of health effects, published in peer-reviewed scientific journal, as a sure prediction of the doom of the humanity, predominantly due to brain cancer. The other type of the activists are those who automatically disregard the above mentioned health-related findings as artifacts and point out to numerous no-effect-observed studies as a certain proof that there is, and will be, no problem.

Those, as myself, expressing the view that our scientific data is still insufficient to make far reaching conclusions and that the claims made by scientists in numerous positive and negative studies are not supported by the presented scientific data, we are ridiculed and “ostracized” and often linked to either group of the above mentioned activists, depending to what group of activists belongs the person presenting his/hers opinion.

Opinion of those who are not intimately involved in research on the effects of mobile phone emitted radiation, whether they are laymen or scientists, is formed predominantly by the reports in the news media. Reading these reports often made me wonder – what’s going on?

That is why I have organized tutorial session on Science and News Media at the recent meeting of the Bioelectromagnetics Society in Halifax, Canada in June 2011.

BEMS Annual Meeting in Halifax, Canada, June 2011

Plenary Tutorial Session: Science and News Media

Chairs: Janie Page (USA) and Andrew Wood (Australia)

16:30 – 17:00 (30 min) – Bruce Stutz (USA) – Media interpretations of science

17:00 – 17:30 (30 min) – Jennifer  Loukissas (USA) – Guidelines for scientists to inform the media

17:30 – 18:00 (30 min) – Dariusz Leszczynski (Finland) – EMF scientist’s interaction with the media

18:00 – 18:30 (30 min) – moderated panel discussion between the audience and the speakers

The session was a great success (it was considered as the best session of the meeting), showing that there is a need to develop better strategies for informing news media and public at large about the scientific research on the possible health effects of mobile phone radiation.

At this session I have presented a talk, of which extended abstract is seen below:

“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and The Scientist: discussing the science with the main-stream media.

presented by Dariusz Leszczynski from STUK – Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Helsinki, Finland (dariusz.leszczynski@stuk.fi)

The title of the classical spaghetti western “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” has entered the English language as an idiomatic expression. The respective phrases refer to upsides, downsides and the parts which could, or should have been done better, but were not.

Since entering in 1999 the field of research on biological and health effects of mobile phone radiation I have been forced to interact with journalists on a regular basis. Based on my own experience I divide journalists who interviewed me into three categories:

  • The Good” (journalist) – is a person who has done homework and knows about the topic of the interview
  • The Bad” (journalist) – is a person who has own, strong and difficult to affect, preconceptions about the topic of the interview
  • The Ugly” (journalist) – is a person who knows nothing about the topic of the interview but has to write and fast an interesting story with an eye-catching title.

Interviews with each of them have their own specifics, and scientists should be prepared to forcefully present their own viewpoints:

  • An interview with “The Good” is scientifically challenging. This journalist has read about the topic and knows the subject. The questions are relevant and “The Good” will not be satisfied with evasive answers. “The Good” will scientifically challenge the scientist, and it is good!
  • An interview with “The Bad” will also be scientifically challenging but it is also nerve wrecking. “The Bad” knows something about the science but he also has his own opinion. The aim of “The Bad” is to get the scientist to provide answers fitting his preconceived opinion. Scientists’ knowledge will be challenged in the most frustrating way as it will be difficult, if often impossible, to convince “The Bad” that the preconceived opinion might be incorrect.
  • An interview with “The Ugly” requires a lot of patience. “The Ugly” does not know anything about the subject and his ideas might sound to the scientist outrageously ridiculous. For the reason, this interview might be scientifically the most challenging because it should include “a crash course” on the subject of the interview, and the “crash course” should be kept simple as any scientific jargon will not ring a bell in “The Ugly”.

The product of the interview, often expected to be the catchy story in the news-media, will very much depend on the journalist, and the scientist has

  • rather nothing to worry with the story written by “The Good” – this story will present the correct facts and correct opinions, even if  it is an abbreviated version due to space limitations in e.g. newspaper
  • lots to worry about with the story written by “The Bad” because the scientist’s view might be completely distorted; scientist’s opinions might be presented in the news story very differently than the opinions of which scientist is known among his scientific peers
  • even more to worry about with the story written by “The Ugly” because the scientist’s views might not only be distorted but will likely include factual errors – making the scientist  look “stupid”.

Some of the pitfalls associated with the errors in published interviews can be avoided if the journalist is open-minded and agrees to show the story, for fact check only, to the scientist. This is, however, very seldom the case as journalists consider it as a kind of censorship, even if it is not the intention of the scientist.

And then, there is the other side of the coin – not every bad interview is bad because of the journalist. Often “The Scientist” is the one who messes things up because he

  • overstates his own findings
  • over interprets his own or others’ scientific findings
  • oversimplifies or overcomplicates the scientific findings
  • jumps to unfounded conclusions, especially concerning human health
  • uses incomprehensible, for lay-person, scientific jargon.

And then there are those who “shoot from the hip” – journalists who do not perform formal interview but take quotation from scientist’s blog or earlier presentation/interview and insert in quotation marks into text of their article giving impression of “interview” and getting quote. In such case scientist learns that he said something straight from the news media and one never knows what quote in what context will be put in the article. 

The discussion that followed the three presentations in the session was very interesting and very spirited. One of the questions was the issue of “censorship” of the news media stories. I, as a scientist, was of the opinion that it is good that the story written by the journalist is checked for the correctness of facts by the scientist before it is published. However, Bruce Stutz, as journalist, was of the opposite opinion – once scientist has spoken with journalist it is the job of the journalist to report without any additional influence from the scientist. We both have presented arguments to defend our positions, and we agreed to disagree…

Few days ago I got a message from Bruce where he sent me two links to the very interesting stories published in The Guardian (UK) science blog. Both stories concerned the issue of the above mentioned “censorship”. In one story such “censorship” was defended (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2011/oct/11/scientists-check-stories-before-publication) whereas in the other it was considered as infringement on the free press (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2011/sep/29/scientists-copy-check-stories).

I think that the issue remains “unsolved”. It requires lots of restrain and responsibility from both, the scientist who should not overstate the findings and their implications and the journalist who should not go for “catchy headline” and unjustly exciting story but fairly report the findings. So, it requires that The Good (journalist) and The Good (scientist) meet to produce The Good news story. Unfortunately this is often not the case. That is why there are lots of misconceptions, among the general audience and the scientists alike, about the research area of health effects of mobile phone radiation.

And finally, I think that such comments and conclusions as these presented above can be applied to any activity, where science meets news media.

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19 thoughts on “• Science and News Media

  1. Dear Henrik, such study would require a very careful design but it still might be difficult to get enough statistical power.

  2. Prof. Leszczynski,
    Agreed that the existing basestation studies are not perfect. Field science rarely is. Also agreed that it’s hard to find unexposed control groups. However, the consistent pattern across those studies should not be dismissed since whole populations are exposed.
    Basestations are not isotropic radiators. That’s what I meant with “non-uniform”. The areas receiving the greatest intensity of radiation are rather well defined so you can compare subjects exposed to the main-beam intensity, and a less exposed control group living further away. The latest basestation study by Eger et al. 2010 is a good example.

  3. Dear Henrik,
    There are really very few studies on base stations and all of them have limitations. I stand by my comment that the major problem in making population studies on base stations is currently very much limited by the availability of control populations. Also, mentioned by you nonuniformity of the exposure field – still we have problem with small numbers of exposed people in different field intensities. This makes comparisons and statistics very unreliable. More studies are certainly needed to address the concerns of 24/7 exposures. But we need better designs in order to avoid disasters as this with Interphone or with the recent publications from the Danish cohort.

  4. Prof. Leszczynski,

    Regarding basestation studies you write: “If thinking to perform epidemiological study we have a major problem of control population. Base stations are omnipresent and the vast majority of people is somewhat exposed.”

    It is true that most of the population is exposed but if you examine the available studies, mentioned by Karl Muller in his post, you find that people living within the area where the basestations beam-of-greatest-intensity hits the ground, have a significantly higher incidence of symptoms than those outside it. As you probably know, basestations do not radiate uniformly over a circular area around it (as most people would expect) but have a directional main beam. So according to the studies so far, you can practically look at a basestation coverage map and predict where people are suffering most symptoms – including cancer.

    Naturally I wondered why the WHO had failed to observe this obvious pattern, since they have all the studies in their database (and Mike Repacholi mentioned in a talk that WHO reviewed everything, even anecdotal). I was then fortunate to attend a 2008 conference in Copenhagen where Emilie van Deventer gave a talk. I asked her about this and she said that the basestation studies “had not been done according to correct protocol”. I was even more curious now so I wrote a letter to Emilie Van Deventer asking for a copy of this protocol. No reply from Deventer at all. Finally, after numerous letters and a complaint, I received a reply from a WHO official who directed me to their “Environmental Health Criteria” which contains a section on electromagnetic fields from (…drum roll…) 1992!
    See for yourself:
    One of the letters to Deventer:
    http://www.mast-victims.org/resources/docs/who1.pdf
    After more letter and silence I launched a complaint:
    http://www.mast-victims.org/resources/docs/who2.pdf
    The reply from WHO:
    http://www.mast-victims.org/resources/docs/who3.pdf

    Maybe I don’t “get” the way the WHO works, but it sure feels like a dark comedy to me.

  5. Dear Karl, I remember our e-mail exchange from years back. The situation in respect of base stations has not changed much. It is a very difficult issue.

    First of all, I understand the concer over the 24/7 exposure that is unavoidable, unlike the use of handsets where we can make choices. With base stations we have no choice.

    However, there is also another problem – how to get reliable scientific evidence that would show whether radiation emiotted by base stations is, or is not, harmful.

    If thinking to perform epidemiological study we have a major problem of control population. Base stations are omnipresent and the vast majority of people is somewhat exposed.

    If thinking human volunteer or animal or laboratory study there is problem with exposure level. Levels of base station radiation that we are exposed to are hundreds of times lower than our exposures from headsets (mobile phones). When performing experiments it is very difficult to find biological effects of radiation levels similar to this emitted by hand sets. If we make radiation levels hundreds of times lower, to mimick exposures from base stations, it might be impossible to find any effects (at leas proteomics and transcriptomics that I used will show nothing).

    So, we have problem. People are concerned because of the 24/7 exposures but we do not have methods to determine whether such low level but long term continuous exposures cause any effects.

    Another concern of yours are children. I have been publicly advicing people to use precaution in respect to children and mobile phones. Also, my institution, STUK, has issues in 2009 advisory in this matter. But the major problem here is the lack of studies that could be used to determine if mobile phone of base station exposures are detrimental to children development and health. Such studies are coming but for real results we still need to wait for years. That is why precaution is a good idea.

  6. Dr Leszczynski, I take your points about “precaution”. However, you seem to be concentrating on mobile phone handsets, where we have a *choice* about using them or not.

    I have asked you in the past about the evidence that mobile phone MASTS cause health problems. I have shown (in a 2009 letter to WHO’s EMF Project) that every single peer-reviewed scientific study that has ever been conducted anywhere in the world around a mobile phone mast, has found a consistent pattern of health problems, including significantly raised cancer rates. This research is consistently ignored by all authorities, who simply feel that the radiation from base stations “must” be so low that there is no problem.

    Since I wrote that letter to WHO there have been two more studies showing problems around masts, including a major study from the city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil, showing significantly raised cancer mortalities in people living near masts. I would be interested to know your response to this particular study, which showed possibly thousands of excess deaths due to mobile phone masts.

    The point is that continuous, 24/7 radiation from masts seems to be worse than intermittent, higher-level radiation from handsets. There are many reasons why this should be the case; but there is a deafening silence about this issue.

    We do not have research showing the long-term effects of this radiation on children, and as ICNIRP said in 2009, no study population has yet included children; yet in many countries, like South Africa, school playgrounds are the preferred site for mobile phone masts. At the very least, if you are really serious about precaution, you should issue a warning that these masts should NOT be located in schools. Or do you honestly believe there is no problem with locating major masts, hosting multiple operators, in a school playground, in a school where students live in hostels and are exposed to this radiation 24/7?

    I seriously believe you should address the situation regarding mobile phone masts urgently.

  7. Dear Henrik, I agree that it is “wonder” how good epidemiologists produce such poor quality studies on mobile phones. I really wonder.

  8. “popa”, it seems to me that we agree on many things. Simply, please, read my earlier blogs and links provided in them.

  9. Hi Dr. Leszczynski:

    I am not a fan of the Interphone either, but I don’t deny a consistency of long term use effects when I see one. You miss this point, you cancel it – this is the easiest thing to do when you see flaws, but no study is perfect.
    Especially since the Interphone is biased to no effect – Instead of canceling it into zero- I think it shows an underestimation. Hardell’s studies show long term effects too.

    What you call a few that you don’t blow out of proportions, are
    2000 references of the Bioinitiative. Why is this few for you? this is the question.
    DNA breaks alone are replicated enough to yell a problem, SInce Lai’s work, REFLEX and others. As a scientist, you understand the meaning of DNA breaks- very well. You understand the BBB. You are not the layman, you are one of the people to whom the layman looks up to as a leader. And you tell people essentially to be careful while they are bombarded from all sides. So do you do it for them, or do you do it for yourself? Because this is a contradictory position – to tell irradiated people to be careful: to legitimize the technology, but to tell the experimented mice- to be careful. This is an attitude of blaming the victim.

    I would like to refer to your example on accidents. Interestingly, I have heard this example before, always only by industry paid scientists.
    Accidents are not done on purpose, but environmental technology is forced. (smart meters,wifi etc). Mobile phones are put against the head – active choice
    Antennas are forced on people, it’s not the same thing as accidents, the
    comparison is not in the place.
    To drive, you need a license from age 17, but to use a mobile – since one can hold
    the phone with the hand. For car use, you have lessons before you drive, with mobiles – nothing. For driving, there is a safety belt. So the comparison between accidents and tech’ is not right. It is again, misleading.

  10. Prof. Leszczynski,

    You can “agree to disagree” but I wouldn’t let you off the hook so easy…

    Deever makes some excellent points and counters your comments admirably.

    Deever is right in saying “it is NOT a scientific question, but one of public policy”.
    Which just reveals the trench between, say, ICNIRP and BioInitiative.
    ICNIRP insists on full scientific proof and the BioInitiative approach the subject from a deep understanding of public-health and environmental policy.

    You write in your response to Popa: “I am just not blowing out of proportion these few findings…”. It looks to me like you are missing a point: since you acknowledge that INTERPHONE and most other epi studies are useless, then you don’t even know what the “proportion” is.
    Also important is the question: why do world class scientists manage to produce such rubbish studies in this particular field?

    Regarding risks,you offer some examples:
    “Think about polution, car accidents, airplane accidents, mining accidents not to mention our dangerous “hobbies” like various kinds of racing… We can not avoid everything.”
    Your list has only one similarity with mobile-phones and that’s “pollution”. Allow me to explain:

    Pollution is a consequence of something not properly considered and tested with regard to health/environment, that then goes into mass production/consumption and is later shown to have detrimental effects on a large scale. Lead in petrol for example, DDT. It goes on. By the way, David Gee from the EEA has a book called “Late lessons from early warnings”.

    Car accidents are generally a consequence of human error while operating the vehicles and not inadequate pre-market security testing.

    Airplane accidents are rare. Airplane systems are rigorously tested for years before going onto market.
    I once sat next to a test manager for Rolls Royce jet engine division (on a flight! ;-)) and he explained in fascinating detail how they repeatedly tested the engines. They even used a cannon to shoot frozen chickens through engines going at full throttle – just to be absolutely sure. His wisdom and conscience is etched into my mind as I strive in my work to make reliable software. I’ve made control systems for insulin factories. The stakes there are high: peoples health and lives. So we tested till we were blue in the face – and then some more. I sure don’t want anyone sick and suffering (or dead) just because I couldn’t be bothered – or worse: tried to cover up any negligence.

    Mining accidents are also rare but happen, unfortunately. But how many people are down a mine at any given moment? Five billion? No. The analogy is interesting because the five billion people in the proverbial mine are not listening to the canaries.

    Industry says there is “no proof”. There is “no proof” either that a flying frozen chicken won’t take out that plane you are booked on for your next conference – but at least the engine manufacturer has gone to extreme lengths to test for that scenario – however unlikely.

    So no, we can’t avoid everything, but can you tell me that, in your opinion, mobile-phones were properly pre-market tested before releasing them onto the entire population? Does the wireless industry, even today with all the scientific reports suggesting effects from the radiation, bother to check the devices for anything apart from bulk heating from acute exposure? Nope. They can’t get insurance either. Insurance companies do their homework.

    My point is: the wireless industry has a careless and dangerous mindset – just like other super-profitable industries have displayed before. We are still paying dearly for their blind greed.

  11. Hi “popa” – I am not misleading. I am just not blowing out of proportion these few findings that we have, that suggest possibility of health effects. Interphone is unfortunately a big fat zero. It is useless as well as the majority of thus far done epidemiological studies. They do not consider that development of cancer might take tens of years and they often exclude the most heavy users. I am for precaution and I was since I started research in this area over 11 years ago. But I am also for reasonable precaution, without scary hedlines based on poor studies, such as mentioned by you Interphone – read my blog….

  12. Dr. Leszczynski:

    Is this what you understood from the Bioinitiative report?

    Is this what you understood from the embassy in Moscow?

    Is this what you understood from the Interphone & Hardell’s and other studies on mobile effects?

    So what you suggest is practically, to force radiation on everyone. Because you give a green light to Smart Meters, Wi-Fi and so on, as long as you clean your conscience with several words here and there on precaution, no matter since which year you do it.

    This is disappointing. I highly appreciate your scientific work but I did not expect to read such words from you. I think that as a scientist and a person who wants to influence people with a blog,
    you are simply misleading.

  13. I can’t say that much of my arguments have been addressed at all, to conclude about agreement or disagreement possibilities. But it’s hoped that what was contributed makes for some more space between the rock and the hard place.

  14. “I stand by my comments”

    There may be positively responsive onlookers, the main point of the exercise.

    “Think about pol[l]ution, car accidents, airplane accidents, mining accidents”

    Sad to say, this is typical of a “risk analysis” response. Each example should be judged separately in search for analogy, not just bare lumping together as stuff people do. That is plainly uninteresting, and only works to divert attention from closer examination of the issues and comparisons; to allow perpetrators, if you will, to get on with their business; to instil a needless pessimistic view that humans cannot AT THE OUTSET design better ways, collaboratively, openly, not co-opted or secretively when there is great public interests at sake, as here.

    Cars are a frequent comparison people make when arguing about cell phones, as if accident volume is somehow germane. I accept cars as possibly useful in analogy, but maybe this way instead: While humans have sacrificed at least significant collective lung capacity in insane adulation of the internal combustion engine, its uses overwrought by far, just how much human-defining brain capacity should one be prepared to sacrifice for what mobile telephony offers (not to mention all other human abuse of the EM spectrum)?

    False quantifications as you & too many others throw up as above, serve to obscure rather than enlighten public & environmental health issues.

    “We can not avoid everything.”

    This is so obvious, I do not see why it deserves mention, unless to imply that I & those who agree with me are stupid.

    “returning to life in caves ”

    Again, a completely undeserved implication of “Luddism” or something like that.

    “Anyone can use own brains and decide what is OK and what not. ”

    This seems to cast the problem in an individualistic light, which I expect to see more as an American spiritual disease. For instance, I heard one leading US researcher in your field talk about “precaution” as well, and when asked what that means, basically offered merely something like, every man for himself, protect yourself. All this serves to obscure the deep social reliances we have, de-emphasis of which allows for easier “perpetration”, thriving on social fragmentation.

    “And authorities are not only for the purpose of allowing or denying”

    I totally agree. I would rather they emphasize their own learned & high ethical examples. E.g. some senior public health employees I have had interchange with where I live, admit indications of dangers in the status quo re public RF exposures, yet only issue mild advisories — but keep their own supposedly occupationally-required cell phones off! Why not publicize that, that the most locally learned authorities feel it is that prospectively dangerous? They’d lose their jobs, one supposes, if they spoke out in that vein. And it’s co-optation & corruption of process that leads to such situations, where leading thinking is mostly drowned out in the public domain, by more muscular perpetrators’ false assurances, this is at the outrageous root of the problem.

    “some “dangerous” things we need to accept simply for the greater good of the society as a whole”

    This strays too easily into a warlike mentality, as in going along with post-WWII insinuation of warlike methods away from the battlefields and into livelihood fields. One need not have such a grim view of the world, as to almost invite that harm will befall some people for some proposed benefit. If that is the culture of the deciders, religious-like human sacrifice has really not disappeared at all.

    “Finally, in order to make stronger warning messages we need better scientific information.”

    Apart from there already being plenty of scientists and scientifically trained people feeling strongly that there is plenty of evidence now to issue much stronger warnings re all aspects of man-made RF exposures, it is, again, at the heart of my criticism on this page, not all about science. To make it seems so, is to foist scientism as religious surrogate, with,in this instance, some of that ritual-like human sacrifice.

  15. Hi “deever”, I understand your concerns, however, I stand by my comments that I made in my previus response to you. Let us say that lots of human made technological advances are also dangerous to people. Think about polution, car accidents, airplane accidents, mining accidents not to mention our dangerous “hobbies” like various kinds of racing… We can not avoid everything. Even returning to life in caves would not help to eliminate danger. We need to learn to live with it. And authorities are not only for the purpose of allowing or denying… Anyone can use own brains and decide what is OK and what not. What is possible to avoid and what not… And some “dangerous” things we need to accept simply for the greater good of the society as a whole… Finally, in order to make stronger warning messages we need better scientific information.

  16. “We have technology that helps us.”

    And hurts us. Its having been being let loose on an unsuspecting public, in spite of many indications of likely danger, is not a good reason to justify its existence. Nothing is unreservedly evil, there is some “help” findable in everything, but that is no argument not to oppose some very bad things.
    It does not “help” all of us, for instance — what about cautious or principled abstainers? Indirect experimentation on these, without provision for their protection — is this ethical? The worst of it is the unremitting exposures from infrastructure. What an ill-conceived and wasteful thing, broadcast everywhere all the time on the off chance a user will be here, now there, or there. The last recourse of defenders of the indefensible, is that it “helps”, is necessary even, for emergency access. But that is ludicrous, if it also harms at the same time, and when if necessary even other wireless means can have been brought to bear for emergency use.

    “no proof that it is harmful to our health.”

    There never will be nor can be until far too late, given the bars of “proof” sought, above all in reliance on epidemiology. But also, for example, when dominant research examining bioeffects mostly ignores traditions of other ways oflooking at body functioning, it is not expected that “mechanisms” of harm will ever be fully satisfactorily “proven”. For example, in an “electrohypersensitive” suffering from particular symptoms, pathways of harm might be predictably demonstrable, using, for example, to combine traditions, infrared imaging following acupuncture meridians. A guy says it hurts, he feels this or that, an examiner points to expected observable changes in certain places from sufficient radiative exposures, the temperature changes reflect changes along predicted pathways, but because there is no satisfactory account of how this works according to a dominant mindset, it would not form “proof” of harm.

    “whether, after years of use, some harmful health effects will be discovered.”

    Again, where the ethics in relying on body & injury counts, when many indicators of harm have long existed?

    “So, the only reasonable solution is to use precaution, and by everyone.”

    It is past the point of precaution, by far. Precaution comes earlier, when something is iffy at the outset. Applying arbitrary “safety factors” of, say, 5 or 10 even multiplied together, is not really precautionary either. In a situation of mass exposure, it is almost senseless to talk of precaution. Precaution should be more akin to my example above, “when in doubt, leave it out” — but study all you want. Not, let it loose anyway, and we’ll keep studying, and until the impossibly definitive evidence arrives, we’ll recommend more study.

    “However, there is no scientific basis to force precaution on anyone.”

    Accepting for the moment that ‘precaution’ is an appropriate term, your remark makes my point — it is NOT a scientific question, but one of public policy, towards which scientific study provides only SOME input. And to the extent scientific research is tainted by association with pushers of a technology, even more so are the limitations of “scientific” input apparent.

    “we close all beaches and forbid sunbathing”

    Nice try, but engineered devices emitting frequencies biological beings cannot at all be expected to endure without harm, do not compare well with what we are exposed to as a matter of being on earth.
    What makes anyone think, that life might not depend, in variegated ways, on the clarity from human pollution, in the sector of the spectrum to which the atmosphere is not opaque? What indicates, as a base assumption, that it is fair and safe to mess around with RF at all? Looking at it that way, true precaution could have taken hold. An argument that this true precautionary attitude would stifle innovation & entrepreneurship, for instance, is no argument but rather expression of a preference or aversion, which unfortunately dominates culturally now.

    “So, the precaution in use of mobile phones should be advi[s]ed and every now and then this advice should be repeated, so that it will not get forgotten. ”

    Rather, people should stop using the devices, seek alternative arrangements of which there are already many possible, and oppose infrastructure, existing & proposed. The human examples would lead to creativity in a non-fatalistic vein.

    “Especially parents ”

    Just today I spoke with an exemplary parent seeking to eliminate an associated wireless device from their premises, a so-called smart utility meter (about which there are many health complaints already). One teenage child complained about being only one of a very few without cell phones among peers. It was forbidden nonetheless, based on cursory reading and intuition about dangers. This child soon quietly went on to make a presentation to class, on the tumour dangers of cell telephony, which impressed the teacher. The child now pities his peers whose parents failed to act as good models and advisors. But how to blame them, when public discourse has been so polluted by sowers of doubt, uncertainty & thus inaction?

    “while we cannot forbid or discourage from using phones”

    I just gave a counter-example of how that can be and is effectively done. Repeated public advisories, as you propose, can be sharply-worded. When clinicians, neurologists, and so forth speak out, as is occurring, it is madness for public bodies not to discourage, for parents not to forbid.

  17. Hi “deever”
    I disagree with you. We have technology that helps us. We have no proof that it is harmful to our health. We also do not know whether, after years of use, some harmful health effects will be discovered. So, the only reasonable solution is to use precaution, and by everyone. However, there is no scientific basis to force precaution on anyone. Say, we know that UV is harmful so should we close all beaches and forbid sunbathing? So, the precaution in use of mobile phones should be adviced and every now and then this advice should be repeated, so that it will not get forgotten. Especially parents should be made aware of the potential risks. We have no idea about long term effects of exposure, when kids start using phones at age of 6 years and use them for the whole lifetime (89-90 years). Also, our “knowledge” that there is no health risk associated with mobile phones when the usage period is up to 10 years is “a colossus on clay legs” – this “knowledge” is of very poor and unreliable scientific quality. So, while we cannot forbid or discourage from using phones, we should advice precaution. And this is what I have been actively doing from 2001 onwards…

  18. “Those, as myself, expressing the view that our scientific data is still insufficient to make far reaching conclusions”

    Responsible professional reticence in one domain, can overstep bounds in another.

    Recall the following from a previous blog entry of yours:

    “Because the use of mobile phones has become essential part of our life we can not and we should not discourage people from using them.”

    Is this a comment qua professional researcher in your field? How can it be? It would be a complete non-sequitur from such work in the field. It is good, even very good, that professional researchers speak in public forums outside of their narrower specialities. But they must identify themselves as shedding what authoritativeness they have in their narrow specialties, when they import other debatable reasoning into public prescriptions. Otherwise, any vulnerable hearer with inadequate overview can be and is misled, it sometimes even working out like scientists acting unintentionally as priests. When it comes to public & environmental health protection, why not, for example, rely in the first instance on a protective parent’s rule – when in doubt, leave it out? Whence the logic, even the moral logic, in the quote?

    Thus your “we can not and should not” above, is deeply wrongful in that it is relying on confusion of logics from different fields. Expert in one makes not expert in another.

    Scientists in their own social & economic situations, can themselves be also the objects of rational scrutiny.

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