January 16, 2013
Biased, unscientific report on electromagnetic radiation
The Hindu BIASED: There is a lack of balance in the report; no mention is made in fact of reports that do not concur with authors’ statements and conclusions. Photo: K. Ramesh Babu
WHO, UK Health Protection Agency and the International Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation Protection do not support the BioInitiative Report conclusions
The recently released BioInitiative Report 2012 (BIR-2012) on standards for electromagnetic radiation is a perfect clone of a similar report published in 2007. According to many responsible agencies it is biased and unscientific. BIR-2012 claimed that the evidence for risks to health from wireless technologies and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) has substantially increased since 2007. The studies alleged a link between cell phone radiation and brain tumours. Agencies such as the World Health Organization, UK Health Protection Agency and the International Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) do not support the conclusions.
A self appointed group
The BioInitiative Working Group which prepared the report originated as a self appointed group from a mini symposium during the annual meeting of the Bioelectromagnetic Society in 2006 and has no official status.
BIR 2012 gave a shot in the arm of anti cell phone tower radiation enthusiasts and sellers of protective screens, and ‘talisman’ against electromagnetic radiation!
Dr David Carpenter and Ms Cindy Sage, the editors of the report clarified that each author is responsible for his/her own chapter in BIR 2012.The views are that of individual authors. It is a very unusual procedure.
Conflict of interests
“The great strength of the BioInitiative Report (www.bioinitiative.org) is that it has been done independent of governments, existing bodies and industry professional societies that have clung to old standards,” the Editors claim, which is laughable.
A notable weakness of the report is that Ms Cindy Sage, who authored five sections and co-authored one, herself owns SAGE EMF Design, a consultancy firm which declares “Creating Low Field Lighting for Interiors,” and “Remediation: What if your existing home has high EMF?” among its functions. BIR 2012 does not state conflicts of interests, if any, of the authors.
Ms Sage stated that “the Report has been written to document the reasons why current public exposure standards for non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation are no longer good enough to protect public health.” With the die thus cast, no one can expect in BIR 2012 an objective analysis of the evidence, if any, on the bio-effects of electromagnetic radiation.
Ms Sage, MA wrote the important section called “Summary for the public and conclusions.” She and the co-editor Dr Carpenter wrote “Key scientific evidence and public health policy recommendations.”
“In public health and environmental policy-making, asking the right questions is a highly evolved art form,” they asserted. Do they imply that other authors cannot be trusted to do that job, though they may be more qualified?
Critique of BIR
Responsible agencies roundly criticized the report. The European Initiative EMF-NET noted that the ‘Summary for the public’ is written in an alarmist and emotive language and its arguments have no scientific support from well-conducted EMF research. There is a lack of balance in the report; no mention is made in fact of reports that do not concur with authors’ statements and conclusions.
The Committee on Man and Radiation (COMAR) Technical Information Statement stated that BIR has many weaknesses and is a selective, rather than a comprehensive, review of the literature in various topical areas.
According to the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, the report has clear scientific weaknesses including selection bias in several research areas.
The Health Council of Netherlands highlighted the fact that [WHO’s and ICNIRP’s] multidisciplinary weight-of evidence method leads to a scientifically sound judgment that is as objective as possible.
The BIR report did not follow this procedure. The Council asserted that “(The report) is not an objective and balanced reflection of the current state of scientific knowledge and does not provide any grounds for revising the current views as to the risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields.” The Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research (ACRBR) concurred.
This writer received from Dr Mike Repacholi, Chairman-Emeritus, ICNIRP, a list of 95 statements from Governments and expert panels concerning health effects and safe exposure levels of radiofrequency energy (2000-2012). Their conclusions were similar to those of ICNIRP and WHO — “that there is no established evidence that EMF exposure within the internationally accepted limits causes any adverse health effects.” International guidelines at 4500 mW per sq.metre have a safety factor of 50. Indian guideline at 450 mW per sq.metre has a further safety factor of 10. BIR proposes an additional factor of 900!
Though BIR is not based on sound science, cell tower radiation scare mongers selling protective shields and RF measuring instruments (complying with BIR 2007 recommendations) love to uphold BIR values. They can then scare the public further and make hay while the sun shines!
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