New Study Shows EMF Effect On Brain – So What?

In the past 6 months, Skeptic North has run several articles about WiFi, cell phones and the purported health effects that radio-frequency electro-magnetic fields (RF-EMF) may or may not have on the brain and body.  Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the controversy remains to be a popular story in the media, perhaps because of the ubiquitous nature of cellular technology and the popular meme of the hidden dangers of modern life.  I and others have continued to insist that there is no good evidence of any effect by the microwave radiation emitted by cell phones, cell towers and other electronics on the brain and other body systems, let alone that this radiation causes cancer or other serious illnesses.  The syndrome referred to as electro-hypersensitivity remains un-proved and unfounded, but it seems like there is new evidence that shows that the normal levels of radiation emitted by a cell phone can effect neuronal cells in the brain.

All over the news this week were reports of a new study purporting to show a link between cell phone EMF radiation and increased brain metabolism.  The study was conducted by a well-respected group of NIH researchers conducting tests at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US.  The study is available in abstract for free here, but you have to pay to have access to the full text version.  Reporters all over network news told a simplified story of the paper by Volkow et al, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and drew conclusions outside the scope of the study, inflaming an already overly effulgent debate.

PET is a pretty cool technology.  A radioactive tracing molecule is attached to an active organic substance, like a neurotransmitter, or glucose, the energy source for the cell, and the PET scanner records the emissions of the radio-tracer and maps their position in 3 dimensions.  This way, you can see exactly where, at the cellular level, the tagged molecule has been taken up or is acting.  In the case of this study, the radio-tracer used was fluorine-18 and it was attached to glucose, so it is possible to locate the concentration gradients of glucose in the brain.

The objective of Volkow’s study was to “evaluate if acute cell phone exposure affects brain glucose metabolism, a marker of brain activity.”  That is it.  Two cellphones were attached to the head, one on each side of the normal listening position, and two randomized groups of subjects were exposed either to one of the cell phones (always the right one) receiving a muted call lasting 50 minutes or two cell phones that were off.   The radio-tracer was injected at the 20 min mark of the phone call, which was muted so the subject could not pick up any audio clues from the call, and 30 minutes later, the phone apparatus was taken off and a PET scan was done to look at glucose metabolism in the brain while the subject was at rest.

The authors report a 7 % increase in glucose metabolism in areas closest to the antenna of the phone, though with a wide confidence interval this could have been as low as 2 % and as high as 12 %.  I am not an expert, and I have to rely on the opinion of those who know the literature, but I am assured by CASS advisors who’s specialty is neurology that the paper is in line with what we already know about the effects of EMF on the brain, and Volkow makes this point in the paper as well. The researchers are pretty sure that the effects were not due to thermal heating but they cannot identify a mechanism as of yet as to why the increase was recorded.  The authors summarize their conclusions as follows:

“In summary, this study provides evidence that in humans RF-EMF exposure from cell phone use affects brain function, as shown by the regional increases in metabolic activity. It also documents that the observed effects were greatest in brain regions that had the highest amplitude of RF-EMF emissions (for the specific cell phones used in this study and their position relative to the head when in use), which suggests that the metabolic increases are secondary to the absorption of RF-EMF energy emitted by the cell phone. Further studies are needed to assess if these effects could have potential long-term harmful consequences.”

The participants were blinded, with subjects not knowing which phones were on, and there was a wash-out period and a re-analysis conducted on each subject, with all subjects randomized as to which exposure, real or sham, they would experience first. The researchers were not blinded and this may have been a source of bias, and the phones could have had a heating effect due to operation that was impossible to blind for (think of how hot your cell phone gets after a 20-minute call, or so), but the statistical analysis was appropriate and can be trusted.   One small criticism of the method could be that they should have had a random distribution of the left or right cell phone when it was on, but the methods were very solid and the study is well designed and analyzed.

An important caveat is that this study falls into the category of studies that look for changes in chemical markers instead of clinical effects.  The authors did not investigate if there were any physical sign of changes in cognition or brain activity, only the uptake of glucose, an established marker for the level of metabolism in the brain due to the heavy reliance of the brain on glucose for its functioning.  All the scans were right after the exposure, and there is no evidence that even medium term changes in function occur, as is evidenced by the normal activity in the placebo arm after the mean washout period of 5 days. The authors make it very clear in the conclusion that this study does not show any indication of long term changes in the structure or function of the brain nor any change in risk of cancer:

“Results of this study provide evidence that acute cell phone exposure affects brain metabolic activity. However, these results provide no information as to their relevance regarding potential carcinogenic effects (or lack of such effects) from chronic cell phone use.”

In the past I have thought that the low levels of EMF radiated by cell phones had no effect on neuronal tissue.  This study shows that it does, and assuming that the methods were sound and that the study can be replicated, I have changed my mind.  That is how science works.  This is the type of evidence that is required to advance a field of study, and nowhere have skeptics called for an abandonment of the study of the effects of radio-frequency EMF on humans.  We have only ever called for rigorous, well designed studies that make appropriate attempts to eliminate bias from the investigation and present their results in an honest and open way that does not draw conclusions outside the scope of the analysis conducted.

Of course the media love conflict and have risen to the challenge, with reporters brandishing their wired ear pieces and suggesting that it is better safe than sorry and not put the cell phone to your ear.  There is nothing wrong with this thinking, as long as the next conclusion is not ‘because cell phones are a risk for brain cancer’ as was suggested by The Sun in the UK  (it is obvious they did not even read the study, as they say that 1000′s of participants were involved, when in fact there were only 47!).

This study is what it is: another thread in the fine woven cloth of our knowledge of nature. It is not a panacea, nor does it refute any evidence that there is or is not a risk of health effects from cell phone use, nor does it show a mechanism of how EMF could alter biological systems. Anybody who purports that it does is basing this conclusion on ideology, not science.

30 Responses to “New Study Shows EMF Effect On Brain – So What?”

  1. Alan says:

    ‘the popular meme of the hidden dangers of modern life’, have you tried saying that to a Thalidomide? There’s some really odd things happening like the dramatic drop in fertility, the bees disappearing etc. That defy any really satisfying explanation and yet we have a skeptic community or psuedo-intelligencia who thrive on the Socratic principle of criticism but never come up with any answers.

    There have been all sorts of human time bombs that never came to anything but there have been others that did. And by accepting that the modern world in which we live (despite being completely incongruent with where we come from) will have no bearing on us as human beings is plainly ridiculous.

    I hope the shit never hits the fan with crap like this, but please do leave me your e mail if you crow with this crowd so I can send you the inevitable: ‘I told you so’.

    • Erik Davis says:

      Thalidomide, wow.  Do you always jump to the worst possible scenario when an array of possibilities is presented?  Or only when the evidence for that position is particularly weak?  I’d hate to be your financial planner. 

      Listen, by any measure, modern life in Canada is immeasurably safer than at any other point in human history. The average lifespan is now 80 years old. Infant mortality rates have fallen by more than 95% in the last century.  Nutrition is abundant and widespread. Workplace safety has improved. Violent crime is down. That doesn’t mean perfectly safe or that there aren’t new risks that are sometimes inadvertently created, but it’s still a pretty sweet deal. I wouldn’t choose to be alive at any other time in history, except maybe 50 years from now. 

      As for the bees…I have no idea what’s causing colony collapse disorder.   There are scads of scientists and government agencies trying to figure it out.  When they do, I’ll trust the consensus…they’re the experts, not me.  What  I won’t do is leap to conclusions just because they seem intuitively correct to my untrained eye. 

    • Thomas Doubts says:

      I’m calling non-sequitur on you, Alan. Neither Thalidomide nor bees have anything to do with the debate over EMF. If you’re going to make a criticism, at least take the time to structure you’re argument in a cogent way. Fallacious reasoning will simply be dismissed. Care to rethink, reload and fire again?

    • Steve Thoms says:

      Alan:
      “And by accepting that the modern world in which we live (despite being completely incongruent with where we come from) will have no bearing on us as human beings is plainly ridiculous. ”

      Straw man. No one ever said that, or anything remotely close to that. If you think we have for such an overreaching, generalized claim, provide evidence.

      Further still, your comment, “despite being completely incongruent with where we come from” is a naturalistic fallacy. Living in a house, eating anything that comes in packaging from 500 km (or more) away, riding in an automobile, or taking medicine is also “incongruous” with “where we came from.” For that matter, so is simply using the internet.

      “have you tried saying that to a Thalidomide? There’s some really odd things happening like the dramatic drop in fertility, the bees disappearing etc.”

      I’ll echo what Thomas Doubts commented: non-sequitur. These three points have nothing to do with EMF technology. Or if they do, you have not presented any evidence that it does. Nor have you presented evidence that there is a “dramatic drop in fertility.” In what? People? Animals? the ‘disappearing’ bees? Even if you had such evidence, how are you drawing the connection with EMF and the brain, which is after all, what this post is about.

      “and yet we have a skeptic community or psuedo-intelligencia who thrive on the Socratic principle of criticism but never come up with any answers.”

      Ad hominem attack. You’re attacking the person, and completely avoiding the argument itself. If you at least offered some evidence, we might be able to have a discussion, and figure out where we disagree. But as near as I can tell, you’d much rather attack everyone who is not convinced that EMF is causing the fears that people like Davis and Havas are investing themselves in.

      If you have some evidence of substance to offer on this discussion, please produce it. Otherwise, please stay on topic.

    • What was obvious to me, and perhaps not others, with the statement ‘the popular meme of the hidden dangers of modern life’, is people continue to believe that the world in which we live is making us increasingly sick and diseased, when in fact, as Erik points out, modern sanitation, medicine, and public health just to name a few domains, have been helping us to live a longer more fulfilling life, with lower infant mortality and better nutrition.

      I will never refute that there are risks associated with modern medical interventions, but these risks have to be measured against the benefits: something that the natural fallacy promoters never really admit.

  2. deever says:

    “I and others have continued to insist that there is no good evidence”

    I thought you claimed greater neutrality than that, Mr Kruse. Why the insistence? How are you still trying to monopolize adjectives — what is ‘good’? It is getting ever harder to discern neutral distance from those you effectively defend. Skeptos’ ‘goodness’ invariably seems linked to what is provided by pushers & backers of the technology. To be on top is to be ‘good’, we guess. When truly skeptical eyes dig up enough dirt to turn the tide on a killing industry, the abettors will have made their getaway, and danger-denialist skeptos are expected to coldly have no regrets.

    “of any effect by the microwave radiation emitted by cell phones, cell towers and other electronics on the brain and other body systems”

    Bizarre of you say so. Allen Frey himself showed blood brain barrier leakage long ago. Here’s a quote from Davis’ skepto–maligned book, Disconnect:
    …………….
    Frey recalls that some of the studies purporting to show that Frey’s work on the blood-brain barrier were wrong, did no such thing. “One group claimed to repeat our studies and find nothing. But instead of injecting a fluorescent dye into the artery where it could circulate like I did, they injected it into the abdomen, waited five minutes, killed the animals, and found no evidence that the dye had reached the brain. Of course not.”
    …………….

    And here’s just one abstract from more recent work “Nerve Cell Damage in Mammalian Brain after Exposure to Microwaves from GSM Mobile Phones)”:
    …………….
    The possible risks of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields for the human body is a growing concern
    for our society. We have previously shown that weak pulsed microwaves give rise to a significant
    leakage of albumin through the blood–brain barrier. In this study we investigated whether a
    pathologic leakage across the blood–brain barrier might be combined with damage to the neurons.
    Three groups each of eight rats were exposed for 2 hr to Global System for Mobile
    Communications (GSM) mobile phone electromagnetic fields of different strengths. We found
    highly significant (p < 0.002) evidence for neuronal damage in the cortex, hippocampus, and basal
    ganglia in the brains of exposed rats.
    …………….

    A recent important book by a veteran EMF researcher appeared after my last encounter with you skeptos, Andrew Marino's, Going Somewhere. Read it to find if you dare to find more dirt on those you effectively back.

    "no evidence that even medium term changes in function occur"

    Bizarre again. There have been enough studies finding cognitive impairments in various forms from even short duration artificial EMF exposures. Go to e.g. http://www.powerwatch.org.uk/science/studies.asp and browse there. For your own 'good'.

    "This is the type of evidence that is required to advance a field of study"

    Well, isn't this yet more arrogation, fixing what constitutes evidence. Skeptos' seeming obliviousness to the wide array of possible sources of evidence, belies their worthiness to assume the name, true 'skeptic'. All evidence needs examination & weighing, not just stuff high-tech-rendered that you can see with your eyes. Duh.

    "nowhere have skeptics called for an abandonment of the study of the effects of radio-frequency EMF on humans"

    How many have to be injured or dead before abandonment of requirement for more and more and more study? How can you not see how this plays into perpetrators' hands — "doubt is our product"?

    "brandishing their wired ear pieces ";"not draw conclusions outside the scope of the analysis conducted"

    Indeed, there is no warrant from the Volkow study to assert that earpieces do anything more than substitute one danger for another.

    "risk for brain cancer"

    Two things very wrong — assimilation to risk analysis re public & environmental health, and focus on cancer with distant latencies (more study, long latency, don't investors in microwave mania just love it?)

    • Thomas Doubts says:

      Despite the ad hominems you seem unable to prevent yourself from reverting to, Deever, and which were quite easy to follow, you’re argument is not.

      Simply listing a couple of studies that you purport to support your claim, does not fact make. The bottom-line is that the preponderance of the current evidence does not support your hypothesis.

      You’re right that Frey’s work does present an interesting avenue of study, but nowhere that I could find is any evidence that it has been repeated. And as I’m sure you are aware, repetition is key in the realm of science.

      As for the rat study you listed, again, an interesting avenue of study…in rats. Unless it can be repeated with human beings, it will remain only that — an interesting avenue of study. Naturally, it could not be done with live humans, but a study using cadavers that fit predetermined criteria could be.

      There are certainly no shortage of stiffs (nor stiff arguments).

      I’m glad you’re so taken with Marino’s book, but the evidence is in the literature, not in an autobiography. And since, Dr. Marino has been campaigning against EMF since, what, the late 1960s, I don’t need to read his book to have an idea of what it will contain. Again, the evidence is in the scientific literature, not an autobiography.

      The exhaustive list of studies on Powerwatch is certainly long, but who knows which support your hypothesis and which do not, or which ones are well-designed and which are not. The fact that a study was done is meaningless; it just means scientists are doing their jobs. What counts is the data.

      As to your argument that skeptics, particularly the more activist skeptics who post to this site and others, would not weigh evidence (as long as it is from a credible source) is just plain laughable. As Michael Shermer likes to say, skepticism is a process, not a position — you would do well to remember that Deever, before dismissing meaningful criticism.

      “How many have to be injured or dead before abandonment of requirement for more and more and more study?” I’m calling False Dichotomy, Tautology and Unstated Major Premise on you Deever (I’m going to ignore your conspiratorial fear-mongering in the succeeding sentence).

      From this, it appears you don’t care about evidence at all. You’ve already arrived at your conclusion. Your argument assumes: 1.) EMF is deadly (Unstated Major Premise: EMF affects tissue; microwaves can be harmful; therefore, EMF kills people) 2.) People have been and are injured or killed by EMF (Tautology: you’re argument assumes it to be true that EMF is harmful. There is no answer to your question because the question contains the answer); and 3.) There are only two options: accept your argument as true and ban cell phones; or continue studying the issue and play into the hands of our secret corporate overlords who want to keep us ill, but reachable by phone (False Dichotomy: there are significantly more possibilities than you’re argument allows).

      I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Alan. Skeptics love a good debate, and we’ll verbally (or typographically) spar with anyone quite happily, but construct cogent arguments before parading your paranoia, please. Resorting to logical fallacies only hurts your position.

      If you want to further your argument, build a good one first, Chief.

      • deever says:

        “preponderance of the current evidence”

        You can’t get it either? For you then being on top is not hat counts, but being fatter? What do you not get about corrupted process? And where is the ad hominem, by the way? I tried to point out inconsistency (re neutrality), monopolistic language (adjectives), strangeness (in the face of so much contrary material), self-limitation (from examining serious dissent independently), narrow angle (Volkow cutting both ways), bad policy (re risk & cancer). You missed it all? Is that ad hominem, to use the word, ‘you’? Is there someone who will actually read and consider and argue around here?

        “You’re right that Frey’s work does present an interesting avenue of study, but nowhere that I could find is any evidence that it has been repeated. And as I’m sure you are aware, repetition is key in the realm of science.”

        Three major things missed straight off. Few researchers will dare to tread where funding is threatened. There have been other studies showing BBB disruption, which seems to be at the core of a great deal of eventual explanatory power for a host of neuro-illnesses involving EM insult. Strict approaches to repetition can be seen to be crude, especially where no “mechanism” is widely accepted.

        Flowing from those three: a skepto has to turn his/her eyes to what’s behind the science, there is plenty of writing about the woes esp. re bioeffects where some product/service & $ are involved (read eg Science in the Private Interest, Krimsky, ’04 I think, seminal work; Bending Science, McGarrity & Wagner, 2010 I think; Doubt is Their Product, Michaels, ’09 I think, etc etc), but my guess is that skeptos shun the complexity of sociology and less crisp fields; a lay person has to seek the sci. lit. oneself in the sorry context, and there are compendiums available for that, incl. one skeptos use stupidly as a punching bag, BioInitiative Report (’07 & ’09); one must entertain the notion that western biophysics may never be capable of adequate description of the phenomena in question, at least not without complementary understandings from elsewhere (TCM seems to me one likely place to look for help), although again skeptos are likely self-limitingly uncomfortable with that.

        “an interesting avenue of study…in rats. Unless it can be repeated with human beings, it will remain only that”

        Again, there is research into human cognitive change with EM insult. I’m not a spoonfeeder, nor a pro. researcher, but I found a few in an instant, why can’t a skepto? Not truly interested?

        “cadavers” — for cognitive function study, or damage to an active brain?? I’ll let it go…

        “the evidence is in the scientific literature” – again, more needless self-limitation; I read skepto-tripe, why would a truly interested truth-seeker not want to learn from all angles? Skeptos don’t deal in motivational stuff? Marino catalogues a litany of wrongdoing in sci., particularly harsh on scientists for hire, lots of examples. Are you afraid to find out what undergirds your acceptance of EM “safety”? Marino in fact is disarmingly honest and open, his book is not about advocacy, but a view from someone steeped in the field.

        “who knows which support your hypothesis and which do not”

        You missed their colour-coding.

        What is “laughable” (or worse) is that skeptos I’ve encountered here and elsewhere routinely fail to look with any depth at the underpinnings & underside of science. When presented with fallacy, fraud, etc. they don’t know what to say, it must touch uncomfortably at the core of those who like siding with the big (or the fat, you know, weight of evidence).

        Any “False Dichotomy” is deliberately set off against uninteresting skepto monotony.
        Any “Tautology” is a reflection of the other side’s dwelling within too cozy rules.
        With a little sense of history, perhaps what is unstated (“Major Premise”) will become clearer and obvious so as not to need stating even for a skepto. (Maybe, try reading up on asbestos, that has a very special Canadian angle on it, not dissimilar except for scope, the background involved obviously sick and dying miners & family, complicit and/or ignorant medical people, outrageous self-protective silence from industry in full knowledge of what was being inflicted, governmental collusion, disgusting political elements upholding the travesty, popular ignorance, nearly unreachable corporate-financial connexions, on it goes.)

        Oh, so I read a little further, and find you try haplessly to elaborate:
        1) there is such a broad array of evidence, it hurts, your caricature is a waste of time (evidence includes 1st-hand dealing with extreme sufferers)
        2) no need to answer what flows from caricature
        3) further caricature

        T. Doubts, you are not showing yourself very effective at all.

  3. Michael5MacKay says:

    @ Deever. You are spouting nonsense again. If you can’t make a cogent point, don’t bother.

    Evidence is weighed. Scientists make connections through careful study and analysis.

    At this point in time the VAST overwhelming weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that EMF from cellphones is safe. Basic principles of physics and biology render the prior probability of EMF from cellphones being a health risk extremely unlikely.

    How many do you claim have been injured or are dead from cellphone EMF, and what evidence do you have?

    Have you ever noticed that none of the research that you cite is ever replicated or independently verified, or is used as the basis of further investigation. For instance, Frey’s research on the blood-brain barrier. If it truly had any significance, why hasn’t anyone followed up on it?

    • elemental says:

      “Basic principles of physics and biology” have fostered the attitude that “non-ionizing” radiation has zero nonthermal affect on human biology. This claim is invariably and foolishly trotted out by champion sceptics, such as Michael Shermer:
      “…Cell phones and cancer is a case study in the precautionary principle misapplied, because not only is there no epidemiological evidence of a causal connection, but physics shows that it is virtually impossible for cell phones to cause cancer…” [from http://www.michaelshermer.com/2010/10/can-you-hear-me-now/
      Yet here is a study that clearly shows the existence of a microwave-induced bioeffect, nonthermal and – my goodness – non-ionizing. These basic principles – presumably that emf-induced cancer has only one mechanism, that being cell damage from em waves in the matter-ionizing energy regime – are narrowly limiting. Time to move up to a second-order approximation.

      • Let’s parse this out – Shermer’s comment was that it is impossible for cell phones to cause cancer, not that non-ionizing radiation has no effect on the body. We know that pulsed magnetic fields can alter brain metabolism, what physics tells us is that non-ionizing radiation cannot, by definition, cause DNA damage that is at the root of cancer. The single biggest conflation of ideas that is going on in this thread is the non-sequitur that increased metabolism means increases in the chance of cancer, a link that no study as shown and that this study does not show at all.

        This is clearly stated in the conclusion by the author as quoted above.

    • deever says:

      “Evidence is weighed.”

      I like that. Like “weight of evidence”. That kind of nonsense is spouted over and over again by hapless “Health” Canada reps. Prof. Phillips takes just swipes at that silly talk on a recent CBC The Sunday Edition episode (2nd hour at http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/shows/2011/01/30/egypt-protests—cellphone-radiation—ken-nordine/ , he’s in latter part of that section, although some other stuff he says is self-contradictory, as a leading scientists in the field, his comment on “weight” is most apt) — “scientifically that makes no sense at all”, “seat of the pants qualitative assessment”, “bunch of nonsense”.

      “prior probability of EMF from cellphones being a health risk extremely unlikely.”

      Is this more skepto training in reasoning? How can you draw a statistical conclusion when your base data are non-existent? No known mechanism, so not “probable”…??

      Here’s what someone eminent in the Russian academy says about this kind of thing (from Don Maisch’s must-read, the Procrustean Approach, 2010, online):
      ……………….
      “in his review of the IEEE’s data-base, theoretical biophysicist Vladimir N. Binhi from the Russian Academy of Sciences wrote that the IEEE’s dismissal of non-thermal effects was essentially based on flawed reasoning. According to Binhi, the IEEE incorrectly considered non-thermal effects as not possible since they contradict the known laws of physics and evidence for such effects are simply artefacts
      since they are not replicated in other labs. Where they have been replicated, IEEE considered that they had no significance for human health. Binhi analysed the IEEE data-base used as the rationale for the IEEE standard. Although it contained over 1300 references, a discrepancy is seen between the number of non-thermal papers sited in
      the IEEE standard compared to a 2005 Swedish review of research on non-thermal biological effects of microwaves. This review, by Igor Belyaev, included 115 references
      for peer reviewed and published non-thermal research papers, of which only about 25% are referenced by IEEE’s RF/MW standard. Another 85 recently published papers, most showing non-thermal effects, were not included in the references for the IEEE standard. Given this discrepancy, Binhi stated that “consumers of the electromagnetic safety standards might expect a more attentive and careful attitude to human health.”
      ……………….
      When your bureaucratic agency’s examiners of the sci. lit. encounter a troubling study for their true clients, they either shuffle it to the bottom of the pile — slow it down, time is of the essence to getting away with it, right? — or fail to reference it if inconvenient, or just rely on all that fat weight of industry-connected studies, which disproportionately fail to see no harm — how could they see harm (as independent study disproportionately does), when their $ depend on looking the other way, or in designing studies to fail, or in straight fraud or manipulation. Samples abound. Then there are the absurdly and arbitrarily limiting parameters for study acceptance. Them adjectives again, ‘good’, ‘credible’, ‘convincing’, etc.

      “Frey’s research on the blood-brain barrier. If it truly had any significance, why hasn’t anyone followed up on it”

      After my comments already above & earlier, that you can still say something like that is evidence enough that I should again await a more capable opponent here.

      • deever says:

        too bad no re-edit function here, you skeptos should want it for yourselves to delete a lot of what you say

        “which disproportionately fail to see no harm” should read minus the ‘no’, of course, as is evident from what followed above

      • Michael5MacKay says:

        Re the blood-brain barrier: Nice try, ignoring the question because you can’t answer it.

      • I love that you mentioned Prof. Phillips on CBC – I loved that interview and I thought his points were terrific. He basically said that the evidence does not support EHS, and the evidence of a cancer risk is still unclear either way – you of course took this in as supporting your ideology of the dangers of cell phones, because that is what you wanted to hear.

        Phillips’ interview was a good one because we have an excellent example of the way that science progresses and the difficulty to coming to a conclusion given contradictory evidence. What it does tell us is if there is an effect it has yet to declare itself in a clear way.

        I will also remind you of our commenting policy here Deever: respectful debate is welcome, but if you continue to make ad hominem attacks we will ask you to move along.

      • I will disagree with Prof. Phillips characterization of the weight of evidence approach. He mis-construes it as putting all the positive studies on one side of the scale and all of the negative studies on the other side and then seeing which has more physical weight.

        This is an gross over-simplification of the practice. We have to have a way to analyse all of the evidence in an area of interest so far, and we do this by weighting different studies as to their quality first, then taking the group as a whole to see the overall direction of the research – this is done through systematic reviews. The overwhelming collection of well designed and analysed studies shows that cell phones are safe. The direction may turn a different way in the future with better designed and executed studies, but so far, the evidence shows that they are safe.

    • deever says:

      [the format is not conducive here again to lengthy subthreads, I respond here in the main to Kruse's February 27, 2011 at 6:29 pm remark]

      Shermer was called out on his “impossible” comment. This came up last time I was here. Did he ever post the sequel he said he was working on? Where has it happened before, even in Shermer’s grandfather’s day even, that one regnant self-satisfied-as-self-sufficient sci. paradigm was overturned? I suggest reading the autobiographical account of someone well-placed to assess such attitudes, for having lived through the complacency & rejection, to the ushering in of revolutions in thought and action, A.N. Whitehead. Of course, the self-this & self-that had much to do with situation of Empire at its pinnacle. Skeptos, something like that might be occurring now. Even in biophysical cutting edge research, look at Pollack’s work on structured water, Blank’s on DNA frequency receptivities. So, time to reassess your “what physics tells us”.

      As for non-sequitur, I have repeatedly stated that cancer-focus is a mis-focus, so no flaw in my reasoning. The key item to take away, yet again as from much other independent research, is that denial of “non-thermal” bioeffects that look dangerous must not continue. When you join that with the wealth of other evidence, the picture is grim indeed.

      • deever says:

        [responding to Kruse at February 27, 2011 at 6:39 pm & 6:48]

        His most important points, re policy, were self-contradictory. We have to wait out the science, science is corrupted, precaution means every man for himself. Resident skepto logicians, you put the first two together. The third evinces typical American inability to see beyond individualism, disastrous given the first two points. What could you like? That time is bought and social fragmentation furthered thereby to perpetrator satisfaction??

        “you of course took this in as supporting your ideology of the dangers of cell phones, because that is what you wanted to hear.”

        Where did you get that? I did not like the interview, neither did others who communicated with me who were interviewed in the first part, having gone through what they went through, with his idle speculation about their situation esp. I brought his comment explicitly and only regarding weight of evidence. Health Canada is the object, he mocks it. Devra Davis does the same, :
        ““We are in the midst of an unprecedented biological experiment.” Holding up her entwined fingers, Dr. Davis said, “Industry Canada, Health Canada, and [the wireless] industry are like this.””
        She says also something like that HC “knows not whereof they speak”. I don’t like her overall approach either, disingenuous about the depth and comprehensiveness of the dangers involved, but she has done well to air the fraud and one angle on the obvious danger. It is positively amazing that a skepto can write off, eg, two leading Aussie neurosurgeons 1st-hand outcries about the dire situation they see and further predict, just in brain injury from stupid putting devices to the head alone, Teo & Khurana I’m sure I mentioned here earlier.

        “but if you continue to make ad hominem attacks we will ask you to move along.”

        You’ll have to point to where. Meanwhile, I can show you numerous ugly remarks the other way. Why the double standard?

        “The overwhelming collection of well designed and analysed studies shows that cell phones are safe.”

        How you can rest content with your adjectives again is beyond reason. It has long been demonstrated that a strange disproportion, like around 80% of industry-connected study, “weightier” in number for all the $ behind them, shows no effect, when one should be suspicious of undue influence on study habits etc, but a skepto is weirdly not exercised; and a similar disproportion of independent study shows effects, where there is utterly no interest in the latter in so finding. That really could say it all for some assessors of the situation, yet it is but one small angle to it.

  4. And then there is the study out of the University of Manchester that doesn’t find an increase in brain cancer.
    http://www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/news/display/?id=6716

    “It is very unlikely that we are at the forefront of a brain cancer epidemic related to mobile phones, as some have suggested, although we did observe a small increased rate of brain cancers in the temporal lobe corresponding to the time period when mobile phone use rose from zero to 65% of households. However, to put this into perspective, if this specific rise in tumour incidence was caused by mobile phone use, it would contribute to less than one additional case per 100,000 population in a decade.

    “We cannot exclude the possibility that there are people who are susceptible to radio-frequency exposure or that some rare brain cancers are associated with it but we interpret our data as not indicating a pressing need to implement public health measures to reduce radio-frequency exposure from mobile phones.”

    I have always maintained that without the evidence of increased brain tumors, the EMF debate is developing a cause without an effect.

    Notes for editors

  5. Dianne Sousa says:

    Deever,

    Your reappearance here happened to coincide with an essay I just finished reading by Harry G. Frankfurt titled “On Bullshit”. I suggest you read it. Do you fit Franfurt’s description of a “bullshitter”? Do you think others would see this description as spot on?:

    “Both he [the bullshitter] and the liar represent themselves falsely as endeavoring to communicate the truth. The success of each depends upon deceiving us about that. But the fact about himself that the liar hides is that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality; we are not to know that he wants us to believe something he supposes to be false. The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it. This does not mean that his speach in anarchically impulsive, but that the motive guiding and conrolling it is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are.”

    You will continue to have little chance of being taken seriously because you show that you are unconcernced with reality.

    • deever says:

      Hilarious reply, Dianne.

      Mr Kruse, hers is not ad hominem??

      But glad it’s out there, for onlookers to see how next to nothing is of substance from most skeptos’ cultish remarks. Whatever makes you happy, Dianne, keep smilin’.

  6. elemental says:

    In reply to Kruse:
    “Let’s parse this out – Shermer’s comment was that it is impossible for cell phones to cause cancer, not that non-ionizing radiation has no effect on the body. We know that pulsed magnetic fields can alter brain metabolism, what physics tells us is that non-ionizing radiation cannot, by definition, cause DNA damage that is at the root of cancer. The single biggest conflation of ideas that is going on in this thread is the non-sequitur that increased metabolism means increases in the chance of cancer, a link that no study as shown and that this study does not show at all.

    This is clearly stated in the conclusion by the author as quoted above.”

    My point is that basic principles of physics, unless blindly applied, do not exclude a mechanism by which microwave radiation can cause cancer. One needs not a sledgehammer to force entry through a sturdy door, for merely a screwdriver will do adequately to remove the hinges. Many chemical carcinogens are formally and materially incapable of directly breaking DNA strands, requiring a complicated chain of metabolites to finally produce the specific radicals which do the direct damage. But is that to say these agents are not carcinogenic? Considering the fantastic complexity of biological processes, it is an amusing spectacle of hubris to deny the possibility of a carcinogenic effect not directly arising from the photon-absorption ionization mechanism (microwave emission –> unknown pathway –> genotoxicity). To base this assertion on “basic principles of physics” exhibits tunnel vision, deadly to any science.
    Studies like this glucose-uptake one do not imply a link to the carcinogenicity of microwave emissions. Their results do show a bioeffect outside the usual dogma, and help to uncover the narrow-sighted research that feeds it. A claim of this nature on the basic principles of physics is an embarrassment to the claimant.

    • I will take your point, Elemental, that there may be some mechanism, as yet uncharacterized, through which a metabolic process is disturbed that results in the production of a free radical that can then wreck havoc with the DNA of the cell. The claim as I made it above is made in comparison with ionizing radiation, which does damaged DNA directly.

      I would suggest that your analogy of taking off a door would be more suited to this case if we said the door came off only as the indirect result of a long chain of disconnected events – man stays up all night at bachelor party, sleeps in the next day for work, gets in his car and falls asleep at the wheel, leaves the road and crashes through a fence and into a tree which ejects him from the vehicle and through the second story window of a house, which then requires the fire dept. to crack open the ground floor door for access to the victim – in this way you can say that the wedding caused the door to be knocked down: an absurd claim.

      What is more interested, getting back to this study, is that all that was shown was an increase in metabolism. If we look at other things that cause metabolism, with your reasoning of a possible indirect effect of cell phone radiation, we can say that, for example, looking at food when we are hungry could cause cancer, as it increased metabolism by 6 times as much as cell phones in this study out of the same lab:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15050599

      Where looking at food caused the overall brain metabolism to jump from 36 mcmol/100mg/min to 45 mcmol/100mg/min. In fact, one of the increases was seen in the same area as our cell phone study, the orbitofrontal cortex, and the increase was about 3 x as much (8.4 vs. a mean of 2.4 in the cell phone study).

      So yes, we can say that looking at food is much more of a carcinogen than cell phone radiation. Or too much thinking: perhaps too much thinking could be banned by the EPA or Environment Canada?

      My final point is that your statement that this kind of study shows “a bioeffect outside the usual dogma” is factually incorrect as well. We know that trans-cranial stimulation by magnetic fields can cause changes in metabolism and induce brain activity, this is generally accepted in the fields of nuclear medicine and neuroscience and this study does nothing to challenge the so-called “dogma”.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcranial_magnetic_stimulation

      • deever says:

        More caricature, a common skepto resort we see, in your “absurd” example. There already exists much scholarly writing about complex “mechanisms”, even dating back to the 60s from E. Europe. More recently, several relevant papers are, for examples, “Mechanism of short-term ERK activation by electromagnetic fields at mobile phone frequencies” Biochem. J. (2007) 405, 559–568 , “Mechanism of radiation-induced bystander effects: a unifying model”, JPP 2008, 60: 943–950 , or here in summary, already referred to at another of your topical webpages , http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=4478290&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3 (after 0925), this author now having authored a lengthy chapter, replete with equations if that is to your taste, for an upcoming textbook on the issue.

        What is truly absurd is, regarding what elemental points out, that supposedly clear-thinking & well-meaning people acquiesce & even partiicpate in the intellectual embarrassment.

        Why not address some of the gross errors etc i pointed out already in your own prior responses? What a skepto feels unable to caricature, he just looks away from. But don’t you now be going

        “looking at food when we are hungry [it] could cause cancer,”

        And so goes the risk analysts game. Narrow where you want, broaden where you want. To protect what? What is your interest in not facing an issue squarely? Volkow’s thing got publicity for its having shown NON-THERMAL bioeffect, clear enough for a skepto even to see. IN THE CONTEXT of broad & deep claims about DELETERIOUS NON-THERMAL bioeffect, an alarm should go off inciting to diligent re-examining what one has thought was a closed issue, based on assurances from the “embarrassing” orthodox. THAT is it. So, now let’s narrow – it’s only about his one study (when it isn’t, or else why bother talking about it all like this); now let’s broaden – just about everything excites the brain (when the real issue is how such a graphically extensive effect can have been shown in the face of denials of anything non-thermally important).

        The conclusion is merely “more study” only for those who make a living that way, lay people who reflexively trust the orthodox, or those who for their own ends feed off the doubt engenderable thereby.

        “looking at food is much more of a carcinogen than cell phone radiation”

        As if it is uninteresting that in closest proximity to the EM insult was where the heightened brain activity was shown. Skepto comeback: in parts of the brain activated by anticipating food will be where one finds increased activity, no big deal. Obvious error: looking at food is no insult, unless you can interpret so at odds from your own basic biological functioning; whereas synthetic EM input is in the context of no evidence of biological adaptation thereto, only reasonably leading one to suspect likely harm. Now all a reasonable person needs to do is to open his heart & mind to contexts, social, cultural, scientific, and it is easy as carcinogenic pie.

        But, yet again, evasion of the pointed criticism: why on earth focus on cancer? Just why? Because that extends the decision-making period?`Because of alienation from one’s own feeling, subtle symptoms, that only when it is too late you can recognize illness? The main complaints are indeed about all manner of symptoms of general malaise, not of cancer, from now widespread insomnia, tinnitus, memory loss, and so on.

        The “dogma” regards the relating of mere power density to purported inability to affect at below thermally important induction. It may indeed be that “weak” magnetic fields are involved in untold ways. But more important is the paucity of descriptive ability regarding the body’s own energetic means & pathways, (which of course is why I invoked TCM earlier for its expected likelier ability to help navigate this field).

      • elemental says:

        What you possibly intended as a silly stretch of analogy in fact reinforces my point. The mechanisms by which many chemical toxins affect the body can be quite as convoluted and complex as the door-ramming example you present. To carry your analogy back to the case of microwaves, one would have to introduce entirely external links, something like “cellphones cause increase in glucose uptake–>cellphone use makes me hungry–>I eat junk–>cancer”. My point is that this study reveals nonthermal bioeffect, rendering certain previous arguments on the irrespon-ahem, skeptical side worthless (though they already were).

        Your comment on food adds nothing. Both malaria and exercise cause an increase in body temperature. Does that refute the relevance of fever in diagnosing parasitic infection? The point is the presence of abnormality. The “basic principles of physics” have, as yet, no explanation for a mechanism behind the bioeffect caused by microwave exposure. This implies a rather cavernous lack of depth in our understanding of these phenomena.

        “So yes, we can say that looking at food is much more of a carcinogen than cell phone radiation. Or too much thinking: perhaps too much thinking could be banned by the EPA or Environment Canada?”

        Another example of terrible tunnel vision, deever explains well why in his reply (1 March, 12:59 PM).

        The example you give on trans-cranial stimulation is really off-topic here. The technique employed there is entirely different physically, purely near-field electromagnetic effects are employed, not propagating microwaves. I’m really not sure why you brought it up. Maybe another example of selective narrowing and broadening of the domain of your consideration, as eludicated by deever (again 1 March, 12:59 PM).

  7. MacKul says:

    I’m just saying…that besides a small listing of scientific studies showing health concerns I found rathere quickly here are a few more:

    Don’t believe the science? What about “The Business?” This video report is about the stunning disclosure of the growing #s of insurance companies refusing to cover ‘known health risks’ of cell phones’
    (Source: http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/TV_Shows/The_National/1233408557/ID=1596918361)

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    Read: Regular Mobile Phone Use Linked To Tinnitus: Regular use of a mobile phone for more than four years almost doubles the chance of developing tinnitus – the debilitating condition that causes constant ringing or buzzing in the ears.
    (Source: http://bit.ly/9t0dm8 )

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    Read: “Cellphones & Brain Tumors 15 Reasons for Concern ”
    (Source: http://bit.ly/bu1MTj )

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    Read: DNA DAMAGE IN HUMAN BLOOD: Drs. Ray Tice and Graham Hook of Integrated Laboratory Systems in North Carolina have shown that blood cells exposed to cell phone radiation suffer genetic damage in the form of micronuclei and micronuclei are said to be “biological markers” for cancer, then based on these studies alone cell phone use could be said to increase the risk of cancer. (Source: http://bit.ly/9awsuH )

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    Read: “Research shows mobile phones raise children’s risk of brain cancer by five times”
    (Source: http://bit.ly/9ZbjHo )

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    December 21, 2010 Heavy Users of Cell Phones Showed Significantly Elevated Risk of Parotid Gland Tumors
    (Source: http://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2011/01000/Risk_of_Parotid_Malignant_Tumors_in_Israel.25.aspx

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    December 7, 2010 Cell towers likely sources of radiation, disease:
    (Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Cell-towers-likely-sources-of-radiation-disease-Report/articleshow/7056686.cms )
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    December 6, 2010 Study Shows Possible Link Between Prenatal Cell Phone Exposure and Childhood Behavior Problems
    (Source: http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20101206/cell-phone-use-in-pregnancy-risks-for-child )
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    November 25, 2010 Short-term Memory in Mice Affected By Mobile Phone Radiation.
    (Source: http://kyttariki.biol.uoa.gr/EMR-GROUP/Ntzouni-et-al-2010-memory-in%20%20mice.pdf
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    November 8, 2010 Best Available Evidence Links Cell Phone Use to Brain Tumors Brain Tumor Risk May Double after 10 Years of Cell Phone Use
    Source: http://www.environmentalhealthtrust.org/content/newswise-best-available-evidence-links-cell-phone-use-brain-tumors

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    October 28, 2010: Those Who Used Cell Phones For More Than 20 Minutes A Day For At Least 5 Years Had THREE Times More Acoustic Neuroma Than Expected.
    (Source: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bem.20616/abstract )

  8. There was an error in safety standards on radio frequency reported to Health Canada and then by expert witness to Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Health. The recommendations of the committee recommended in December 2010 that Health Canada investigate the oversight reported in standards.

    Three months later, Health Canada is reporting to provinces that Wi Fi, etc is ok and that there isn’t peer reviewed evidence supporting these emfs cause harm. Health Canada isn’t reporting there was a significant error reported or that they were asked to investigate it.

    As a result of the reported error, Wi Fi isn’t allowed in schools because the unintentional stimulation of tissue is to be avoided because experimental studies say it can lead to nerve and muscle depolarization.

    If you look at the back of your computer or the electrical power in your home, they run off 60 Hz as do the other appliances. If that frequency varied, you could have a host of electrical problems including the computer won’t work. In medical education last January, one doctor spoke of the brain being 7 Hz and when you impose emfs in the millions or billions of cycles per second you will have problems.

    In a recent reporting from the BC Centre of Disease Control they did Wi Fi testing at a school. The head of the radiation department for BC determined Wi Fi was safe but never mentioned the frequency conflict, electromagnetic induction or children being vulnerable. Their entire reporting was on power density and watts which made the reporting insufficient to draw any conclusion.

    Please go to electrical professionals and ask them about electromagnetic induction because we avoid it at all costs. School advancements are important but we have to be safe, not convenient. You can’t solve a frequency interaction equation and leave out frequencies of what the emfs are interacting with.

    Wi Fi is headed to court soon and because of the error reported, it will be found to be unsafe as per safety codes.

    For the record, I don’t pick sides, I am on the side of the law and within existing science. Parents are right that they should be very concerned about Wi Fi. Cellphones are another frequency and I want to refer you to temperature images to see physiological changes with one hour on the phone. Young men shouldn’t be carrying radiating devices in their pockets next to their privates and women need to take care as well. Before wireless, there were wires and they are there for real reasons. http://www.thermoguy.com/blog/index.php?itemid=53

    The government didn’t know what emfs from the sun did to buildings with absorbent finishes, here is global warming in the winter without emissions. It is another frequency interacting with the exterior of buildings. http://www.thermoguy.com/blog/index.php?itemid=52

  9. deever says:

    “Shermer was called out on his “impossible” comment. This came up last time I was here. Did he ever post the sequel he said he was working on?”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=skeptic-cell-phone-response&posted=1#comments

    for Shermer (& Davis) follow-up; cut version appears in Feb print Sci Am

  10. Mindy says:

    No one can convince me that cell phones do not cause brain tumors. My husband is dead. Two friends are dying. My daughters best friend is dead. All from the supposedly rare glioblastoma multiforme brain tumors (funny, the same type the WHO study confirmed an increase in.) All these people were/are heavy cell phone users. The tumors were all in the exact spot they hold their phone to. Not a coincidence- a fact. It will be at pandemic levels within the next several years. I’m sorry for you if you don’t believe that-because it can be prevented by using a few precautions.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks


  • Michael Kruse

    Michael is an advanced-care paramedic in York Region, just north of Toronto, Ontario. A semi-retired theatrical lighting designer as well, he re-trained in 2005 as an EMT-PS at the University of Iowa and as an ACP at Durham College, and is currently working towards a B.Sc at the University of Toronto. Michael is a founder and the chair of the board of directors of Bad Science Watch. He is also the recipient of the first annual Barry Beyerstein Award for Skepticism. Follow Michael on twitter @anxiousmedic. Michael's musings are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his employer or Bad Science Watch.