• 08 JAN 10
    • 0

    #1189: Part II – That Alzheimer’s study and other “counterintuitive” research findings

    In the National Geographic reporting on the Alzheimer’s study ( last message) ) researcher Sanchez-Ramos called the finding “a dramatic and counterintuitive effect” (beneficial / protective).

    I am reminded of other “counterintuitive” findings by Pamela Sykes from Flinders University in South Australia and those of Ross Adey. In both cases they found an apparent protective effect from cell phone radiation (see extract below) and in both cases Motorola considered this as bad news and used its influence to block any replication studies.

    Finding a protective effect means there is a biological interaction not related to heating which therefore discredits the exposure standard assurances that this is impossible (IEEE C95.1 and ICNIRP) . That is very BAD NEWS for the the cell phone industry. If there are non-thermal beneficial effects then what about those other possible non-thermal effects that are not so benign, such as an increased risk of brain tumours for humans?

    Of course this won’t stop the spin doctors trying to change the Alzheimer’s study into a good news media blitz for the industry….

    Here is a relevant exerpt from a book chapter still in the wings. Note that at the time the below took place Motorola’s resident “EMR strategist” Dr. Ken Joyner was also the expert radiation advisor to Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) which controlled the funding and approval of research. Never let a bit of conflict of interest get in the way of a good business deal….



    Rejecting “counterintuitive” research

    One of the research studies considered by the NH&MRC”s EME Expert Committee was a study by Dr. Pamela Sykes from Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. Syke”s study, funded by the government”s EMR Program, involved exposing mice to GSM cell phone radiation at a power level of 4 Watts per kilogram (4W/Kg). The aim was to test for changes in DNA, one of the issues CSIRO wanted to research had funding been approved. Her preliminary study findings, published in Radiation Research, November 2001, found that the exposed mice had fewer DNA changes than expected. Although this might suggest a beneficial or protective effect from the microwave exposure Sykes pointed out in her paper that some proven genotoxic agents can also express this same effect, suggesting that cell phone microwave exposure may be genotoxic. Sykes then applied to the EME Expert Committee for further funding to continue the investigation with a larger number of mice to see if her finding could be replicated. The review committee turned this request down because they claimed that her preliminary results were “inconclusive” due to the small number of mice used in the initial study and that the findings did not support her original test hypothesis that exposure to RF promotes more DNA breakages than normal in transgenic mice. The expert committee concluded that, as the study found less DNA breakages than what would normally be expected in non-exposed mice, there was no point in conducting further research in this area. This conclusion, however, failed to address the issue of possible genotoxicity that was raised by Sykes. Microwave News (2001) noted that the EME committee stated, “[a]lthough it may be interesting, from a perspective of scientific curiosity, to further explore the phenomena”is, however, unfortunately outside [our] scope.” The committee then suggested that Sykes re-apply to NH&MRC for a grant that was not specifically tied to RF bio-effects. This application was, however, also rejected. The committee wrote back, stating that while it “recognized the great potential significance of her results”, it considered them “somewhat counterintuitive”.

    The use of the word counterintuitive as a reason to reject research findings is of concern as it indicates that an assumption had been made that as Sykes” findings did not fit with what would have been expected they did not need to be further investigated. It is expert decision making at a level of “intuition” or “common sense” and therefore outside the norms of scientific objectivity. It indicates that a dismissal of the importance of Sykes” preliminary findings was made because it conflicted with the official stand of the Australian government (and industry) as stated in a government fact sheet: “Although there have been studies reporting a range of biological effects at low levels, there has been no indication that such effects might constitute a human health hazard, even with regard to long-term exposure.” And: “The weight of national and international scientific opinion is that there is no substantiated evidence that exposure to low level RF EME causes adverse health effects.” Therefore research findings that ran counter to this frame of reference could be rejected as “unuseful” knowledge.

    A comparison can be made here with research conducted by Dr. Ross Adey et al and published in Cancer Research in April 2000. This research exposed Fisher laboratory rats to an RF signal simulating exposures that would be expected in the head of a digital mobile phone user. Overall, the two-year study showed a trend towards a reduced incidence of central nervous system (CNS) tumours in the exposed rats in comparison to unexposed controls, thus indicating a protective DNA repair effect from exposure. Although this could be considered as evidence of danger of mobile phone use causing brain tumours, Adey et al pointed out that that the findings needed to be followed up because they indicated a possible non-thermal (low-intensity) effect. To quote: “[T]here is considerable evidence in the literature to support the suggestion that low frequency modulated radiofrequency fields are capable of interacting with biological systems when applied at athermal (non-thermal) levels, involving interactions with key messenger and growth regulating enzyme systems.” Adey et al went on to explain that the findings of the study were consistent with an action of the RF fields in lowering tumour incidence and suggested further research into non-thermal exposures. These suggestions cast doubt on the mobile phone industry”s assertion that athermal (low intensity) RF exposures were of no consequence, as there could be no interaction with biological tissue at levels that did not cause heating. Adey”s request to Motorola for further funding to do a replication was refused. Motorola then confiscated all the essential equipment, including field generators and exposure chambers. Adey stated in a sworn affidavit this was done “to ensure that we could not pursue any further studies”.

    Considering that a standard practice in science is to replicate of a study in order to establish a biological effect, it could be surmised that further research to explore possible biological effects from low intensity RF exposure did not suit Motorola”s interests. With both Sykes” and Adey et al “s research, the unwillingness to attempt a replication of scientific findings of an effect (protective) between RF exposure and DNA suggests the findings were “counterintuitive” to strongly held beliefs that there can be no biological effects from RF exposures below the heating threshold.

    As Jasanoff (2005) pointed out, political controls over science are pervasive in restricting scientists” “ability to pursue certain lines if inquiry, the conditions under which their advice is sought, and the extent to which research trajectories are subordinated to political imperatives””. SNIP

    Quoted from: “Spin in the Antipodes: Political and corporate involvement with cell phone research in Australia” (in Press)

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