Consensus: The Australian way?

Opinions, recently expressed by Rodney Croft, the newly elected member of the Main Commission of ICNIRP International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) and Director of ACEBR (Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research), are worrisome. Especially in the context of his influential position in Australian RF (radio frequency radiation) research that got in 2012 and 2013 ca. $7,500,000 to do research on RF and human health.

The opinions in question were published in Illawara Mercury September 28, 2013

“…”There’s a pretty strong consensus that there’s not a problem in adults, but people have only started doing research on children in the last five years and very little has come out of it,” he said. “We’ve got no reason to believe that there’ll be a greater effect in children than in adults.” “But we just don’t understand well enough the maturational phases that children go through, so it’s possible there’s greater sensitivity.”…”

I recently commented, on the opinions expressed by Rodney for Illawara Mercury, in news about new funding in Australia for RF research:

“It seems that Australia, because of recent research funding for studies on RF and health, is becoming “Mecca” for RF research. And it has a “prophet” – Rodney – speaking that: “there’s a pretty strong consensus that there’s not a problem in adults”… “We’ve got no reason to believe that there’ll be a greater effect in children than in adults.” It is absolutely embarrassing that such statements can be made by a scientist who is considered as expert in the field. There is absolutely no consensus among the scientists. Exception might be a pre-selected private club called ICNIRP, of which Rodney has recently become a member. Nothing else but, unfortunately, Voodoo Science comments from Rodney…”

I strongly disagree with the opinion that there is a scientific consensus in the matter of RF and health and here is why…

According to Wikipedia:

“Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study. Consensus implies general agreement, though not necessarily unanimity. Scientific consensus is not by itself a scientific argument, and it is not part of the scientific method. Nevertheless, consensus may be based on both scientific arguments and the scientific method.”

WHO (World Health Organization) follows in its advice in matters of RF and health, advice given by the ICNIRP and by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer). The advice on RF and cancer, based on epidemiological evidence, and given by these two organizations are very different and show lack of consensus.

IARC classified in May 2011 RF as a possibly carcinogenic to humans and expressed the following opinion in a story published in The Lancet Oncology:

“…The Working Group concluded that there is “limited evidence in humans” for the carcinogenicity of RFEMF, based on positive associations between glioma and acoustic neuroma and exposure to RF-EMF from wireless phones…”

The ICNIRP expressed the following opinion on the same matter – epidemiological evidence of carcinogenicity – in article published in Environmental Health Perspectives:

“…Although there remains some uncertainty, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumours in adults…”

These are two scientifically different opinions presented by two different organizations that advice the one and the only – WHO. There is no consensus between them.

It is just one example demonstrating that Rodney’s claim of “consensus” is wrong.

There is no scientific consensus on RF and health. 

However, some scientists repeat this consensus-mantra ad nauseam and hope that this half-truth, when repeated sufficiently often in public, will become something else than it is…

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37 thoughts on “Consensus: The Australian way?

  1. It seems that your own conclusions support his findings. I understood him to be saying that there are areas within a certain distance range where the radiation is detected and areas where it isn’t Obviously looking in areas where it doesn’t hit you would not expect to find an effect, but if you find effects consistently where the beams hit this strengthens association? He said some researchers have not understood the relevance of differing radiation fall patterns. when analysing data as they have not understood that patterns can differ significantly,

  2. I have to agree with Phil there. You can’t assume fall patterns correlate exactly with exposure levels, especially inside buildings. I’ve done a fair bit of measurements and have for example gotten high readings in a living room, facing a basestation, and low readings in the bedroom and vice versa in other places. I put this down to building materials and distance. That said, no one spends all their time in a single room (well, perhaps some teenagers ;-)).

    However, in studies of basestations I think its fair to assume that people living in the main beam area are generally exposed the most over the long term and when I look at basestation studies, I see a pattern where health complaints seem to peak within the distance belt where the main beam(s) hit ground.

  3. No need to apologise. Whilst one might expect that, I believe you’re wrong to assume it is always the case. Often they seem to consider only distance without taking into account the fall patterns . Cherry was a thorough scientist and also not alone in having spoken of finding clear association when the fall patterns are correlated with incidence data.

    It’s also worth mention that the head researchers of the European Ecolog review in 2000 stated that they found evidence that was overall so consistent in their review that they felt it could not be ignored and thus recommended that the levels for cell towers be reduced urgently without waiting for due process. The consistent thing is that the warnings are all ignored, no matter who makes them. There is not just a ‘select’ group of ‘alarmists’ warning. Sorry.

  4. *Of course* people concerned with quantifying exposure consider radiation patterns from antennas. But even knowing those patterns it’s very hard to predict actual exposure levels from base stations. Anyone suggesting that radiation patterns correlate directly with exposure levels is just plain wrong. Sorry.

  5. Scientist Neil Cherry took the time to access the actual radiation fall patterns of several antenna structures and found that a strongly causal relationship was revealed when cancer incidence data was correlated with the actual radiation fall patterns of the various antennae. He said most epidemiology studies did not consider fall patterns and issues such as exposure dilution. Scientists that identify concerns in research that justify protective measures should not be identified as alarmists. Ross Adey was already warning in 1990 that it was imperative that we address the biological effects issue. Numerous scientists who have conducted reviews have warned of urgent need for precautionary standards. Smart technology should be safe technology. Perhaps it can be if science turns its focus to that end.

  6. Biron, says who? – an anonymous BironEMF… Just FYI – I am trying to censor the most offensive comments. And believe me, there are coming really offensive texts… When blogging and commenting it is necessary to grow thicker skin… or refrain from doing it…

  7. BironEMF,
    This is a blog and this imposes limits on its power to examine science. Effective critique of a peer reviewed published paper is rigorous, related to the paper, signed by a real person and published permanently together with the authors response on a public site managed by some objective third party. The critique and response are usually as detailed as the paper which makes them long. Since we are not doing this here we are not really examining the issue at depth.
    I will address some points you raised remembering the above limitations:
    1. What you posted about Eger and Davis is not a controversy. Davis wrote the latency period MAY be long, Eger wrote that in his study it was short in the cases he examined. Neither of them wrote it is an invariant constant, it is probably long in some cases and short in others.
    2. About the epidemic: It is indeed relevant but must be treated very professionally. I am not an expert on public health so I am not able to form a general picture on this, still I read some reports on raising rates of salivary gland tumors in Israel and on brain cancer elsewhere, I will not discuss it because I do not know enough about it. Related to my paper which is about highly exposed workers; there is a probable significant RF induced cancer risk in many other similar sites in Israel reported by
    Yael Stein, Or Levy-Nativ, Elihu D. Richter. A sentinel case series of cancer patients with occupational exposures to electromagnetic non-ionizing radiation and other agents. European Journal of Oncology, 2011; 16 (1): 21-54
    Publishing papers like this require huge effort in collecting the data and advanced analysis to arrive at conclusions, I think this is the reason we do not see more of them.
    I choose not to discuss terms like “bizarre conclusions” , “scientists” in parentheses and so on since those are unexplained, insulting and have no place here.

  8. Professor and Michael:

    This anonymous poster has just tarred Rodney Croft with an association to a hypothesized evil archetype of a government appointed scientist as described in England’s most influential anti-free market, anti-industry and of course anti-the-country-where-Michael-lives journal.

    The post is damning and unscientific to boot, but anonymous posters are fine when they agree with you.

  9. Hi, I cann´t read anything that comes from people that are telling us that wireless technology is safe. IT´S FALSE, my mother was electrosensitive, she decided to killed herself 10 months ago, as other 3 people in Europe. NOBODY knows what nightmare is to be electrosensitive. This technology is provoking a devastating effect in our health. What is going to happen in the next years? Who will be responsible of this deaths, deseases? Will the ICNIRP pay us all the damage that it has allowed? There are many children affected in many countrys….

  10. Michael:

    You are indeed a gifted and intelligent scientist which makes the bizarre conclusions in your paper all the puzzling. I do not know why you do it and I don’t really care.

    I’m flattered that you think I do this for hire — it suggests that some entity is willing to pay for my talent and contradicts your assertion that I am illogical. Who who would pay for an illogical poster? Contradiction and inconsistency is the hallmark of activist science (and your paper) — please see my post regarding Davis and Eger. Perhaps you can tell us who is corrrect?

    Your concern about my anonymity is truly hypocritical. There are several anti-wireless anonymous posters who are very abrasive I have not heard you complain about them. Both you and the professor only complain about anonymous posters who take you to task.

    Back to science Michael — these antenna studies have more holes than swiss cheese. Many people have enumerated the flaws in antenna studies and I won’t rehash them here. However, the can start a very simple argument. If Eger’s study, which reports a tripling of cancers within 400M radius of an antenna in 5 short years, then cities like New York, Chicago, Tel Aviv and London should in the midst of an epidemic. Where is it?

    I have described numerous distortions, contradictions, and outright misleading statements and reports by prominent anti-wireless “scientists.” You and the professor have been entirely silent about this travesty.

  11. Perhaps Rodney Croft ascribes to the belief that scientists “should be the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena” as per Professor Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser at the UK’s Department for Environment.

    “Boyd’s doctrine is a neat distillation of government policy in Britain, Canada and Australia. These governments have suppressed or misrepresented inconvenient findings on climate change, pollution, pesticides, fisheries and wildlife. They have shut down programmes that produce unwelcome findings and sought to muzzle scientists. This is a modern version of Soviet Lysenkoism: crushing academic dissent on behalf of bad science and corporate power.

    Writing in an online journal, Boyd argued that if scientists speak freely, they create conflict between themselves and policymakers…” http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/30/scientists-democracy-dissent-reasonable-boyd

  12. Doubting Thomas,

    I am not defending the Naila study, but I am afraid that there is more of defective studies that as you put it: “cannot be regarded as actual science. It’s more along the lines of a high school science project.”

    The studies in question are Danish Cohort and The Million Woman Study from UK. The problem is that these two cohort studies were published in well recognized peer-review journals. What does it say about real quality of these journals, their editors and peer reviewers?

  13. @Henrik

    The example you cited did not validate your concern. All meta-studies and systematic reviews have inclusion criteria that must be met by papers included in the analysis. The Naila study would be excluded through an initial screening process due to the well documented shortcomings of this work. You should not be surprised when you don’t see the Danish school girls Cress study in a future review, for the same reason.

    The defects of the Naila study are so serious that it cannot be regarded as actual science. It’s more along the lines of a high school science project.

  14. BironEMF,
    The following is not meant to be personal; it is just a statement of facts so take no personal offence in case you are a real person. In this blog you are an anonymous entity and you use the cover of anonymity to write illogical statements which a real person would not like to be associated with. You also insult people who use their own identity in the discussion and therefore have to write responsibly and consistently. You may be doing this for hire, you may be a financed team and you and other anonymous entities such as “Doubting Thomas” may be the same individual, nobody can know. With such an anonymous cover you should stick to facts and avoid writing opinions about real people. Your opinion about my paper is absurd and based on no facts. The paper is short, clear and accurate and it separates well facts and opinions. All the issues you raised are addressed there. It is available on the IEEE site and here:
    https://sites.google.com/site/pelegmichael/Cancer_cluster_final_with_copyright_.pdf?attredirects=0
    Another point: You are using consistently the term “activist” as something negative. This is nonsense. A scientist arriving to a finding or a conclusion is supposed to help to apply it to the benefit of other people. Was Pasteur an activist? Many scientists did so over the history. The claim that such an action renders the scientist less objective is false too; many great scientists do get involved emotionally with their work and keep this involvement from interfering with their work; their intelligence, integrity, colleagues and the peer review process help them to remain objective.
    Michael Peleg

  15. @BironEMF:

    It seems that you’re missing my point. I’ll repeat one last time:
    I stated by reference to WHO EMF project database that WHO EMF project clearly didn’t consider all the available science.
    This fact then begs the question: what else is missing in WHO EMF project evaluation?
    That’s it. So simple.

    @Doubting Thomas: see above.
    @Doris: see above.

  16. Doris:

    You once posted an article or link regarding Eger’s activism. Can you repost that here?

    Thanks!

  17. Biron, you speak nonsense. I say that Devra Davis selective picking of certain 2B carcinogens and omitting others is not OK. The same is for the pro-industry “experts” who also cherry pick 2B carcinogens. Please, stick to the facts, do not fabricate “my” opinions…

  18. Professor:

    ” It is unethical, to say the least…”

    You claim DT is unethical and justify Devra Davis’s comparision of RF with DDT and engine exhaust.

    Incredible…

  19. FYI — Professor — you can delete my previous post — I used the greater than and less than symbols that were interpreted as HTML and therefore corrupted my post.

    @Henrik:
    “@BironEMF: your replies to me and Juhana are completely irrelevant.”

    Then why do you bother to respond?

    Eger’s an activist who publishes junk in low impact magazines that gets reproduced on alarmist websites like Mast-Victims. I read two studies by Eger, one was the Naila study and another was a study using questionnaires. The one you linked could very well be Naila.

    The funny thing Eger’s Naila study is that it states:

    “In the years 1999-2004, ie after five years’ operation of the transmitting installation, the relative risk of getting cancer had trebled for the residents of the area in the proximity of the installation compared to the inhabitants of Naila outside the area”

    And here is something that I lifted from a Devra Davis article:

    “After exposure to a cancer-causing agent, brain cancer can take between 40 to 50 years to occur in the general population, and no environmental cancer-causing agent including tobacco produces a population-wide impact within a decade.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/devra-davis-phd/cell-phones-brain-cancer_b_3232534.html

    OMG this is too funny!!! Eger says cancer trebles in less than 5 years, Davis says not possible unless greater than 10 and up to 40-50 years for brain tumors.

    Michael Peleg’s antennae study was another completely illogical document that crumbled under scrutiny.

    Professor — perhaps you can tell us which whose latency we should believe? Seems to me that the activists can’t even come to consensus over their own junk science!!!

  20. The IARC Working group considered the Naila-study “uninformative due to the small and ill-defined study base and crude statistical methodology ” and also a further study from the same authors from 2009 (Eger and Neppe 2009) as “uninformative due to its small size and crude statistical methodology”

    Source: Cancer in humans IARC Monograph Vol.102 (p. 186/187)
    http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol102/mono102-002.pdf

  21. Sorry…I do not agree with your interpretation. You have here a distinction without a genuine difference. Perhaps you could run the contrasting statements past a neutral English professor to get another opinion on the matter. I think he/she would agree that they are more similar than different.

    Ethics are not involved in an honest difference of opinion.

  22. Doubting Thomas,

    No it is not the same side of the coin. One group says that it is safe and the other says it is possibly carcinogen. So, where is this “the same side of the coin”? What you say is what is called spin. You are twisting two obviously different opinions to fit your view point, and if they do not fit then… you still say that they fit. It is unethical, to say the least…

  23. Consensus or no consensus? Isn’t this an argument over semantics or emphasis rather than about science? The way I see it ICNIRP is saying RF exposure below MPE is not proven harmful and therefore can be regarded as safe. IARC is saying it is not proven, but still might possibly be harmful. That’s both sides of the same coin, isn’t it?

    Consensus does not imply unanimous agreement, only something more than a simple majority. And if the evaluation of expert panel reviews done by Luc Verschaeve has any veracity at all, it certainly suggests that there is something of a consensus on the question in dispute here. Check it out if you haven’t seen this before.

    http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/31625/InTech-Evaluations_of_international_expert_group_reports_on_the_biological_effects_of_radiofrequency_fields.pdf

  24. Biron,

    I do not know what report you are talking about. If you speak about IARC classification then, yes, the scientific evidence that was discussed in Lyon was predominantly evidence concerning cell phones. Reason is simple, the most of research on RF was done on cell phone frequencies. However, as stated e.g. in the report published by IARC in The Lancet Oncology the IARC evaluation of RF as possible carcinogen concerns, and was intended to be applied to, all possible sources of RF.

    Quote from The Lancet Oncology:
    “…Human exposures to RF-EMF (frequency range 30 kHz–300 GHz) can occur from use of personal devices (eg, mobile telephones, cordless phones, Bluetooth, and amateur radios), from occupational sources (eg, highfrequency dielectric and induction heaters, and high-powered pulsed radars), and from environmental sources such as mobile-phone base stations, broadcast antennas, and medical applications. For workers, most exposure to RF-EMF comes from near-fi eld sources, whereas the general population receives the highest exposure from transmitters close to the body, such as handheld devices like mobile telephones…”.

  25. @BironEMF: your replies to me and Juhana are completely irrelevant.

    a). I stated by reference to WHO EMF project database that WHO EMF project clearly didn’t consider all the available science. Your perception of quality of the study in question is irrelevant since you admit to not having read it either.

    b). IARC classifies carcinogenicity of agents. The RF 2B classification is unspecified as to source.

  26. Biron,

    There is no consensus. Whoever talks that there is is simply either not living in this world or lying.

    Given by me example should be enough to prove that consensus does not exist.

    Scientists selected to ICNIRP group and IARC group are considered as some of the best experts in the field of RF. Simple fact that these two groups, using the same scientific evidence, arrived at two opposite conclusions is a PROOF that there is NO CONSENSUS.

  27. I cannot say that I have read this study by Eger, but I can state that others by that author were extremely poor quality. They include low statistical power and are prone to the Texas Sharpshooter effect.

    That’s assuming we can trust the data from an author who is decidedly more activist than scientist.

  28. Juhana:

    The report I read was restricted to cell phones. Where did you see that it included all forms of RF radiation?

  29. “Soon there will be a scientific consensus that radiation is harmful…”

    I’ll believe that when scientists and engineers stop using cell phones. Right now, your consensus is restricted a tiny minority dominated by players such as Sage, Davis, Carlo and others who have a financial interest in promoting fear.

    The overwhelming consensus is that wireless technology is not harmful, other than stupidity such as texting while driving, in spite of the professor’s claim above.

  30. @Juhana Harju:
    True.
    One point that’s often overlooked is that IARC classifies carcinogenicity of -agents- and not -sources- of those agents.
    Also, IARC isn’t under control of WHO EMF project and that why I personally think that their view of carcinogenicity of RF is so different.

  31. The WHO/IARC classification of radiofrequency radiation as possibly carcinogenic in 2011 includes ALL sources of radiofrequency radiation, including base stations and wireless networks. That is clearly stated in the report.

  32. Exactly what that WHO statement means by “research results collected to date” is a big question.
    I clearly recall Mike Repacholi insisting that they (WHO & ICNIRP) considered -all- the evidence, even anecdotal. That was in London in 2008 at the Royal Society conference held by Radiation Research Trust.

    Should one believe what Mike said? A quick glance at the WHO EMF-project research database shows a basestation study that they didn’t bother to investigate:
    http://apps.who.int/peh-emf/research/database/emfstudies/viewstudy.cfm?ID=1226
    The comment says: “The paper is in German, so it is not clear what the study design was, or even if the paper was peer reviewed”

    What?!
    $250 million in funding and they couldn’t get a paper translated?

  33. About “CONSENSUS”, What is it ???

    Reviewers’ Comments to Author
    Comments to the Author

    Page 1
    It is stated in the introduction that “available evidence is inadequate to make sound scientific conclusions”. This is a statement that would not be supported by major scientific expertise such as WHO. In a fact sheet issued by WHO 2006 regarding exposure to EMF from base stations and wireless networks the following is stated:

    “Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”

    The question is how much time are all that is… In my humble opinion, MAYBE FOREVER…

  34. The tides are changing. Soon there will be a scientific consensus that microwave radiation is harmful to biological systems.

    There are numerous studies showing increased risk among people, who are exposed to microwave radiation. One is the recent Swedish case-control study published by the Hardell group. The same research group has also observed a greater risk among those who have started their cell phone use before the age of 20 and have used it for over 10 years.

    In addition, there is plenty of evidence from experimental and observational studies that radiofrequency/microwave radiation is harmful to humans and other biological systems. Oxidative stress increases, melatonin levels decrease, the repair of DNA is delayed, stress proteins are incresed, calcium efflux from the cells… the list of observed harmful biological effects of radiation is long.

    So, it appears that Rodney Croft is poorly informed.

  35. Pingback: Consensus: The Australian way? | EMFacts Consultancy

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