These are comments, on the scientific issues that came up at BioEM2013, that Devra Davis submitted as a guest blog. The opinions expressed in it are of Devra Davis herself. Publication of these opinions in BRHP does not mean that BRHP agrees with or endorses these opinions.
Devra’s comments on day 1 of the BioEM2013
Yes, Darius, as you and I have repeatedly written in many different journals, the Danish Cohort study is severely constrained and is not a complete study of a population over time. The study effectively is comparing brain cancer that develops in people who first had cell phones two decades ago–and did NOT use them for business purposes– to brain cancers in those who acquired them afterwards.
The IARC expert reviewers reached a similar conclusion about this study and did not rely on it in reaching their conclusion that cell phone and other wireless radiation is a “possible human carcinogen”–the same category as DDT and engine exhausts–two agents that children are not allowed to play with and for which regulatory standards exist around the world.
As a matter of design, epidemiology can only confirm the past and cannot and should not be used to predict the future. Phones, technologies, uses, and users are changing rapidly. We know enough based on experimental evidence acquired at this time, to take precautionary steps as a matter of policy. Only when major public and private funds are invested in training of scientists and physicians in bioelectromagnetics, research and monitoring will we have the capacity to address these matters sensibly.
In fact new experimental and epidemiological information generated since the IARC report was issued in 2011 has persuaded Santosh Kesari, MD PhD, chair of neuro-oncology at UC San Diego, Anthony B. Miller MD Professor Emeritus of Public Health at University of Toronto, Colin Soskolne, PhD, Professor Emeritus at University of Alberta, Yael Stein MD of Hadassah Medical Center, and me that cellphone radiation should be considered a “probable human carcinogen.”
The world is poorly served by repeated presentations of the Danish work. Sitting in the audience when she should have been on this panel was Siegal Sadetzki, MD, who like you was a member of the IARC expert review group. Stacking the deck is one way to stifle debate and the full exchange of information that should arise at meetings such as this one. Bravo to you for continuing to raise the level of discourse and insisting that uncertainties in science should not merely become excuses for continuing unabated policies but provide a pressing rationale for substantial investments in research and training, as well as appropriate prudent policy responses.
Please share the links below with your followers who wish to learn more about the war-games being played by this industry to confuse the public and exaggerate doubt.
Devra’s comments on day 2 of the BioEM2013
There was an 800 pound gorilla in the room at BEMS–the brilliant work of the young investigator Lucas Portelli–a recent doctorate with National Academy of Engineering member, Frank Barnes of Colorado. He presented a poster that could explain why so many studies that use cell cultures cannot be easily repeated. With meticulous detail, his poster showed that a number of critical factors that are not regularly controlled and made the same can affect results. For instance, the size and shape of cell culture containers–whether small or large beakers or petri dishes–radically affects temperature of the cells by as much as 6 degrees centigrade. Other impressive work produced in Colorado and also by Rony Seger’s team at the Weizmann Institute in Israel finds that the magnetic field exposures within a single incubator that is NOT appropriately shielded can vary by as much as a factor of 4, i.e., 10,000-fold.
We just heard the unchallenged assertion that the comet assay–gel electrophoresis measurement of the unraveling of DNA– is useless. Indeed this assay has produced inconsistent results after exposures to microwave radiation. But, rather than throw out the test entirely, it is important to understand the reasons for these inconsistencies. For starters, different results occur if different cell lines are used, with younger neuronal cells typically responding and older adult cells such as lymphocytes being fairly resistant. Of course, the newly discovered importance of varying EMF exposures within the laboratory and the incubator–shown by Portelli and by Seger– is also key.
There is a need to extend and validate in vitro tests rather than assume that no new work should be done. One example of a potentially valuable short term test that is NOT represented well at BEMS is evaluating the formation of chromatin by the method of evaluating anomalous viscosity time dependencies (AVTD); other critical research needs include measuring DNA double strand breaks and producing better biophysical modeling of MW-induced non-thermal biological effects overall.
What’s lacking now is the political will and courage for our colleagues close to industry to assert the need for a major investment in research and training. A seasoned innovator in the field is exasperated and has become resigned about the lack of funding.
Several industry experts are frustrated at the slow rate of innovation in phone design. Safer antennas, cases and software can dramatically lower microwave emissions and also protect battery life. But taking the step of devising these advances gets bogged down. “Nobody wants to brag about creating a safer phone,” one wag added. “Maybe the best we can hope is to see longer battery life become a marketing niche, because the longer lasting the battery the less radiation released into a person or the environment for any unit of time.”