Following is a 2001 New York Times interview with Eleanor Adair who played a central role in the establishment of the IEEE C95.1 RF/MW standard.Besides being a fundamentalist believer in the safety of microwaves Adair conducted research on behalf of the U.S. Air Force to prove that microwaves were safe – conveniently supporting Air Force policy on the issue. The NYT article is an interesting look at the rather bizarre mindset of those who set the standard. Note, however, the reaction of the monkeys when they were removed from exposure. I would say this indicated an addictive reaction that could have led to further research if it had been followed up on. For example, if a population of monkeys were chronically exposed to microwaves what would be their social reaction with each other when exposure was stopped?
The New York Times
January 16, 2001
A CONVERSATION WITH: ELEANOR R. ADAIR; Tuning In to the Microwave Frequency
By GINA KOLATA
Eleanor R. Adair wants to tell the world what she sees as the truth about microwave radiation.
New widely reported studies have failed to find that cellular phones, which use microwaves to transmit signals, cause cancer. And most academic scientists say the microwave radiation that people are exposed to with devices like cell phones is harmless. But still, Dr. Adair knows that many people deeply fear these invisible rays.
She knows that many people hear the word ”radiation” and assume that all radiation is dangerous, equating microwaves to the very different X-rays.
Microwaves, she points out, are at the other end of the electromagnetic spectrum from high energy radiation like X-rays and gamma rays. And unlike gamma rays and X-rays, which can break chemical bonds and injure cells, even causing cancer, microwaves, she says, can only heat cells. Of course, if cells get hot enough, they can die, but the heat level has to be closer to that in an oven than the extremely low level from cell phones.
Yet Dr. Adair realizes that many people have been frightened by sporadic reports that claimed a variety of effects of microwaves on cells, effects that did not involve heating the cells, but some other kind of harm.
But, she says, no one has ever been able to replicate any of these effects.
Scientists say Dr. Adair’s credentials are impeccable. ”She is one of the leaders in that field,” said Dr. Robert L. Park, a physics professor at the University of Maryland. Asked if serious scientists disagreed with her conclusions, he said, ”Not that I know.”
Dr. Adair’s list of published papers goes on for 11 pages, she has helped set standards for microwave exposure, she has served on national committees on radiation safety and has won awards from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers for her work. She says she accepts no money from industry.
Dr. Adair, who is 74 and whose Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin is in physics and psychology, is now finishing a five-year term as a member of the senior executive service at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio. The position is equivalent to the rank of brigadier general. Then she will return to Connecticut, where she is a visiting fellow at the John B. Pierce Laboratory at Yale, and rejoin her husband, Dr. Robert K. Adair, who is also a physicist. But her work will continue, she says.
She spoke from her small two-bedroom house in San Antonio, having just returned from a vacation in Costa Rica with her husband and grown children.
Q. You began studying the physiological effects of microwave radiation in 1975, putting squirrel monkeys in a microwave chamber, heating them up so they would either feel slightly warm or noticeably hot. Were there any adverse effects?
A. Never. As a matter of fact, the animals would really thrive on the microwave radiation. If we finished an experiment and went on to something else and had to use a different set of animals for the next microwave experiment, the animals that were taken out of the microwaves would sort of pine way. It was as though they were saying, ”Come on. It’s about time to go back in the box.”
We had some animals that were in our colony for as long as 18 years and they had assorted weekly doses of microwaves and we never saw any cancer in any animal. We never saw anything but happy, healthy, thriving monkeys.
Q. What about the popular belief that microwaves can cause cataracts. Is that true?
A. They can cause cataracts if the field strength is very high, if the exposure is long enough to heat the eye to a temperature close to 44 or 45 degrees centigrade [about 112 Fahrenheit].
Q. To get the eye to a temperature that might cause cataracts, do you have to put your eye in the oven and essentially cook the proteins in the eye, denaturing them, as protein chemists would say?
A. Well, yes. Unless you can get the temperature of the eye up to this level where you begin to denature protein, you don’t do any damage to the tissues.
Q. If normal people stare into a microwave oven, is there any chance that they will develop cataracts from the microwaves?
A. Of course not. You can’t stare at the microwaves because if you open the oven door the microwaves go off. And nothing escapes through the door.
Q. What if a microwave oven leaked? Could you get enough microwave radiation to give you cataracts?
A. No, you couldn’t.
Q. Can exposure to microwaves make you sterile?
A. That’s what the servicemen were saying in World War II, particularly the guys on shipboard where they had lots of radars mounted all over, and radar was new then. Radar uses microwave radiation — this was the great innovation that was devised at M.I.T. in the early days of World War II.
The servicemen discovered that if they stood in front of the radar it would warm them up at night, so a lot of them did that. And then they started putting balls of steel wool in front of the radar and it would sort of fizz off and glow like a firework. And they used to blow up eggs in the beam and things like that.
Many of them believed that they could stand in front of the radars before they went on shore leave and they would be protected. There was this view that maybe this would make them sterile — but it didn’t.
The Chinese have published several studies in which they tried to sterilize men by concentrated microwave exposure of the testes. It reduces the sperm count temporarily — if you heat the testes then they are going to make less sperm — but it didn’t necessarily preclude conception.
Q. You went on from studying monkeys to studying humans, beginning in 1994 when you put humans into a microwave chamber. How many people undergo these tests and how often do they go in the microwave chamber?
A. Each experiment I run on humans usually has used seven subjects, male and female, of a wide age range. The minimum age is about 19 or 20 and the maximum age at the moment is close to 70. The experiment I am about to start now will require 15 test sessions per subject, each about two hours.
Everyone says I am doing my monkey experiments on people — and I really am. I equilibrate the subject to a prevailing environmental temperature for about half an hour. Then I expose the subject to the microwave field for 45 minutes and give them a 10-minute cool down period at the end. I do control experiments in which the 45 minutes is what we call a sham exposure in which no radio frequency energy is turned on.
Q. Do you pay the people involved in the microwave testing?
A. No. They are all volunteers.
Q. How do you find your experiment volunteers?
A. I just ask people if they would be interested and most of them jump at the chance.
Q. Aren’t many people afraid of microwaves?
A. The people I work with are not afraid of them.
Q. Have you seen any adverse effects on the people who participated in your experiments with microwaves?
Q. Did people like the microwave field, as you said the monkeys did in similar experiments earlier?
A. Particularly if the environment is cool, they love it when the field comes on. Some of them say, ”Oh, the sun just came out.” It is very easy to sense it and it feels good. If they are in a warm environment, and the field is strong they may start to sweat and they may feel quite uncomfortable. They always have an option of getting out of the chamber at any time, saying, ”I’ve had enough.”
And in the experiments we ran last summer we put what we called a kill switch next to the subject so if the subjects got too warm or they didn’t like it any more they could turn it off.
Q. Did anybody ever come dashing out of the microwave chamber or pull the kill switch?
A. No. No one ever wanted to get out. I always say to every subject as I instrument the subject, put all the stuff on, I instruct the subject over and over again.
I say: ”Remember if you want to leave the experiment at any time just say you want out. You will get out and it won’t compromise any other experiment you want to participate in.” That is a formal part of the protocol procedure.
Q. Did you ever go into the microwave chamber yourself?
A. Of course. I never exposed monkeys or people or anything into these fields unless I sat in them first. I had to sit in the field to see what it felt like.
I even ate the monkey food before I gave it to them. I had special diets for the monkeys in some of my experiments and I had to try them out — if they didn’t taste good to me, I didn’t want to give them to the monkeys.
Q. Could you use microwaves as a way of heating yourself to stay warm in winter without heating your whole house? Would it be more efficient?
A. Absolutely. That was first proposed by Prof. Robert V. Pound of Harvard University. A lot of us had thought, Oh, gosh, wouldn’t this be a great way to heat yourself in a cool house? He wrote the paper on it. It is known as the Pound proposal, and we are still pushing it as one of the peaceful uses of microwave energy.
Q. If I were to say to people, ”Hey there’s this really cool idea: Why heat your whole house when you could use microwaves to heat yourself?” they would say: ”You’ve got to be kidding. Don’t you know that microwaves are dangerous? They can even cause cancer.” What do you say to people who respond like that?
A. I try to educate them in exactly what these fields are. That they are part of the full electromagnetic spectrum that goes all the way from the radio frequency and microwave bands, through infrared, ultraviolet, the gamma rays and all that.
And the difference between the ionizing X-ray, gamma ray region and the microwave frequency is in the quantum energy. The lower you get in frequency the lower you get in quantum energy and the less it can do to the cells in your body.
If you have a really high quantum energy such as your X-rays and ionizing-radiation region of the spectrum, this energy is high enough that it can bump electrons out of the orbit in your cells and it can create serious changes in the cells of your body such that they can turn into cancers and various other things that are not good for you.
But down where we are working, in the microwave band, you are millions of times lower in frequency and there the quantum energy is so low that they can’t do any damage to the cells whatsoever. And most people don’t realize this.
Somehow, something is missing in their basic science education, which is something I keep trying to push. Learn the spectrum. Learn that you’re in far worse shape if you lie out on the beach in the middle of summer and you soak up that ultraviolet radiation than you are if you use your cell phone.
Q. Some people say that with the ever-increasing exposure of the population to microwaves — cell phones have really taken off in the past few years — we need to redouble our research efforts to look for dangerous effects of microwaves on cells and human tissues. Do you agree?
A. No. All the emphasis that we need more research on power line fields, cell phones, police radar — this involves billions of dollars that could be much better spent on other health problems. Because there is really nothing there.Leave a reply →