• 13 SEP 11
    • 1

    Part II: The hidden hand of Motorola in Australian cellphone research

    Taken from “A Machiavellian Spin: Political and corporate involvement with cell phone research in Australia

    Exerpt (with a few updates)

    Following on from the last message, the shadowy “hidden hand” of Motorola is also seen with what happened to the study by Dr. Pamela Sykes from Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. Syke’s study, funded by the Australian 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 a possible effect on DNA from RF exposure. 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 Federal Government’s 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 NH&MRC’s 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. 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 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”. At the time of this rejection, the NH&MRC”s expert radiation advisor, who would have obviously advised the review committee on whether or not to fund further research by Sykes would have to have been Dr. Ken Joyner, Motorola’s Director of Global EME Strategy and Regulatory Affairs. Inexplicably the NH&MRC didn’t consider this proverbial 1000 pound gorilla as a monstrous conflict of interest.

    The use of the word counterintuitive as a reason to reject Sykes’ findings was of concern as it indicated that an assumption had been made that, as Sykes’ findings did not fit with what would have been expected (no effects other than thermal), they did not need to be further investigated. This suggested that a dismissal of the importance of Sykes’ preliminary findings was made because if Sykes’ findings were ever replicated it would show a possible adverse biological effect at RF levels not related to heating – thus invalidating the RF standard’s assurance of safety.

    A similar Motorola inspired fate occurred 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 a lack of danger from 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 long-held 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”.

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