John Goldsmith on scientific misconduct and the Lilienfeld study (An oldie but still relevant today)
Background to the Lilienfeld study and the “Moscow signal”:
In the early 1960s it was discovered that from 1953 the Soviets had been beaming highly focused microwaves directly into the US Embassy in Moscow at an estimated power density that ranged from .005 mW/cm2 to .018 mW/cm2.112 Averaged measurements determined that although the intensity reaching the Embassy was approximately 500 times less than the US standard for occupational exposure, it was twice the highest limit allowed in the Soviet standard.This created a quandary for the US, for if they truly believed their thermally-based 10 mW/cm2 standard was safe they could hardly conclude that the level of microwaves at their Embassy was undermining the health of the Embassy staff. Concerns were raised about the purpose of irradiation of the Embassy. Was it eavesdropping or a more sinister attack on the health of the employees? An initial study was done on the Moscow personnel in 1967 that examined a group of 43 workers, (37 exposed and 7 not exposed). They were tested for abnormalities in chromosomes and 20 out of the 37 were above the normal range among the exposed, compared to 2/7 among the non-exposed. In the final report the scientists urged a repeat and follow-up study which was clinically indicated for 18 persons, but was not undertaken by the end of the contract period, June 30, 1969. The evidence of chromosome changes was strong enough to have triggered clinical guidelines that would have recommended ceasing reproductive activity until the condition had improved. At a Superpower summit in June 1967 the irradiation of the Moscow Embassy was the subject of a confidential exchange between US President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Prime Minister Alexi Kosygin. Johnson asked that the Soviet Union stop irradiating its Moscow Embassy with microwaves and harming the health of American citizens. In 1966 a covert study, called Project Pandora, was commenced to study the possible effects on health from the microwave irradiation of the Moscow Embassy staff, who were not told the true reason for the investigation. In a related study, Project Bizarre, a primate was exposed to microwaves at half that permitted by the US standard. The findings of this study concluded, “[t]here is no question that penetration of the central nervous system has been achieved, either directly or indirectly into that portion of the brain concerned with the changes in work functions”.
A haematologic study by J & S Tonascia in 1976 found highly significant differences between Moscow Embassy employees and other foreign service staff (control group). White blood cell counts were much higher in the Moscow staff as well as several other significant changes noted over time. These results were never published, but obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. At this time there was a US Congressional radiation inquiry underway and the Department of Defense (DoD) was arguing that the US RF/MW Standard was already strict enough. They argued that there was no scientific evidence for the Soviet Standard being set at a level one thousand times lower than the US standard.
The Moscow Embassy employees and dependants were studied for possible health effects of microwave irradiation by a team from John Hopkins University, under the direction of epidemiologist Professor Abraham Lilienfeld. Dr Lilienfeld noted that the study group was quite small and that the follow-up time too short to generally identify significant health effects such as cancer. He recommended that continued health status surveillance should be carried out, but this was not done. The incidence of sickness and death were compared with employees & dependents in other Eastern European embassies, and with the average US rates. The incidence of multiple-site cancers was far more frequent in the Moscow Embassy group than in any other population studied. It was noted that while multiple-site cancers are characteristic of older populations, the Moscow Embassy group was relatively young. According to Goldsmith, concerns of the John Hopkins team were “downgraded” by the state department and the wording of the team report altered to lessen its impact. Lilienfeld strongly recommended that additional follow up studies be undertaken since the latency periods for some types of cancer had been insufficient for cancer to occur, if indeed it were to result from microwave exposure. Nevertheless, according to Goldsmith, the overall findings were consistent with excess cancer incidence both in the Moscow Embassy cohort and in the other Eastern European embassy personnel.Data on exposure and occurrence of some cases of cancer were withheld from Professor Lilienfeld until after his report was completed and it was too late to include in the results. Reviews of the work done by contract investigators were interpreted as inconclusive because the State Department had failed to complete the necessary follow-up work which was recommended by the Lilienfeld team.
From The Procrustean Approach, pp. 105 – 107
From Iris Atzmon, June 1, 2012:
Where the trail leads… Ethical problems arising when the trail of professional work lead to evidence of cover-up of serious risk and mis-representation of scientific judgement concerning human exposures to radar
– Prof. John R. Goldsmith, M.D., M.P.H.
Epidemiology and Health Services Evaluation Unit,
Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, P.O.B. 653, 84105 Beer-Sheva, Israel
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 5 (1995), 92-4. Introduction
Professional interaction over fifteen years between myself, an epidemiologist, and a lawyer started in 1974, when we were both in Washington, evaluating environmental health problems. The lawyer, recently disappointed with the outcome of a case which hinged on the testimony of an epidemiologist, began a dialogue about the criteria for use of probabilities in the scientific and judicial system. We agreed on the importance of making clear these differences, and he documented them in an article.
These differences can be misused in both legal and scientific procedures, under circumstances in which the failure to demonstrate conventional statistical significance (scientifically) is erroneously interpreted as meaning that preventing exposure would not be a reasonable public health measure.
When the lawyer started his private practice he sought expert epidemiological advice in the case of foreign service workers with cancer who had been exposed to microwave radiation in the US Embassy in Moscow.
The trail then led to a major investigation of health risks of Embassy staff by a leading U.S. epidemiologist. The report of this study was said to be negative but actually had some disturbing findings. The trail took a sharp turn when the lawyer provided me copies of documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which indicated persistent cover-up and deliberate distortions of views of highly regarded scientists with respect to risks from these exposures. A published report on personnel risks from radar exposure in the U.S. Navy diluted the experience of increased leukemia in an exposed group with the low rates in a less exposed group, bringing down likelihood of a significant result and concluding that no effect occurred.
The ethical issues concern whether a scientist who inadvertently finds this evidence should disclose it, in light of security considerations among other matters. The trail, in this presentation, ends with an application of the legal use of probability in interpreting epidemiological evidence on the central scientific issue, the possible health risks from microwave radiation.
For the full paper: http://www.eubios.info/EJ54/EJ54H.htmLeave a reply →