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Business Bias As Usual: The Case of Electromagnetic Pollution

Posted by Bob on 2/4/2014 to Wireless
Original Source

This blog posting summarizes the content of a paper entitled “Business Bias As Usual:  The Case of Electromagnetic Pollution.”  [1]

Abbreviations:  EC, European Commission; EM, electromagnetic; EMF, electromagnetic fields; EP, European Parliament; IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer; ICNIRP, International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection; RF, radiofrequencies; WHO, World Health Organization.

As stated in a paper by prepared by Angelo Gino Levis, Valerio Gennaro, and Spiridione Garbisa, the term “business bias” in occupational and environmental epidemiology can be understood as “an intentional study bias, specifically set up to prioritize both economic and career-related ambitions over scientific research, whose legitimate goal should be the minimization of avoidable health damage.”

Selected quotes from the paper are as follows:

“Discussion on the need to minimize exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) (frequency range: 0– 300 GHz) has for over half a century been split between two irreconcilable positions.  On the one hand, a [so-called] ‘conservative’ stance rooted in the definition of exposure limits fixed since the mid-1950s on the assumption that the only effects of EMF dangerous to human health are the acute effects resulting from the passage of electric current or overheating (stimulation of muscles and peripheral nerves, shocks, burns, heating of surface tissues). … This position was agreed upon at the end of the 1990s by a group of scientists which was self-constituted under the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).” 

“On the other hand, a large part of the scientific community – especially where there is no constraint from funding by manufacturers or managers/ operators of the technologies concerned – maintains a ‘cautionary’ position based on application of the Precautionary Principle and the necessity to minimize EMF exposures.  This position is justified by both epidemiological and experimental data.  The former data – documented after exposure of human subjects to EMF so weak as to be able to exclude any significant heating – show immediate and long-term health effects including tumors and cancers, while the latter data reveal biological effects on in vitro systems, animals and human volunteers, indicating molecular, cellular and functional mechanisms supporting a biological plausibility,” as summarized below:

Mechanisms of Biological Action Supporting the Plausibility of Non-thermal Biological Effects Caused by RF/EMF
  1. “Alteration of the synthesis of the hormone melatonin, involved in the deactivation of peroxide radicals, which produce DNA damage triggering carcinogenesis;
  2. Stimulation of Fenton’s reaction, with consequent increase in damage due to free radicals on biological macromolecules;
  3. Modification of the permeability of the cell membrane and consequent alteration of the flow of biologically important ions, in particular calcium;
  4. Modification of the brain’s electrical activity and of the permeability of the hemato-encephalic membrane, with consequent damage to the cerebral neurons and alteration of the functioning of the cerebral neuroreceptors and neurotransmitters;
  5. Alteration of the functioning of the immune system;
  6. Inhibition of apoptosis (programmed cell death);
  7. Expression of heat shock proteins;
  8. Genetic and epigenetic effects;
  9. Synergistic interactions with other carcinogens (ionizing radiation, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene derivatives).”
“[M]ajor national and international agencies and commissions are compromised by conflicts of interests and, as a result, make reference only to studies with negative results, that is, that are reassuring, so confirming the complete inability of mobile telephony radiation to induce head tumors, disregarding, dismissing or even manipulating the results of Hardell’s work and even those – despite their indication of increased cancer risk – reported in some of the same Interphone studies.” 

“A critical review of studies on the biological and health effects of RF/ EMF found that, out of 1,056 articles published in peer-reviewed journals, 44 percent reported negative results (no effect), with 93 percent being funded either by private bodies or by non-specified sources.  Instead, 56 percent of the articles reviewed reported some kind of biological effect or harm to health, with 95 percent funded by public bodies.”  Refer to the figure below.

A this point it is also appropriate to quote portions of a resolution and explanatory memorandum adopted by the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs of the European Parliament (EP):
  • “With regard to the frequently inconclusive if not contradictory findings of scientific research and studies on the possible risks of products, medicines or, in this case, electromagnetic fields, a number of comparative studies do seem to suggest a fairly strong correlation between the origin of their funding – private or public – and the findings of risk assessments, a manifestly unacceptable situation pointing to conflicts of interest which undermine the integrity, the genuine independence and the objectivity of scientific research.”  [emphasis added]
  • “After analyzing the scientific studies available to date, and also following the hearings for expert opinions organised in the context of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs, there is sufficient evidence of potentially harmful effects of electromagnetic fields on fauna, flora and human health to react and to guard against potentially serious environmental and health hazards.”  
Providing additional quotations from the “Business Bias As Usual” paper:

“The most common biases identified [to confound epidemiological results] are:
  1. Inadequate design of the epidemiological study;
  2. Lack of a standardized protocol;
  3. Incorrect reference population:  wrong selection and combination and dilution of both cases and controls, e.g. inclusion of cases among the controls;
  4. Failure to choose the subjects most exposed and most sensitive;
  5. a priori decision to study only a few and rare selected diseases, e.g. a few rare risk factors;
  6. Over-short follow-up for tumors with long-term latencies;
  7. Only high risks … are taken into account, despite the relevance of even lower risks when exposure concerns high number of subjects;
  8. Undervaluation of the synergistic role of multiple risk factors (simply because law limits are respected);
  9. The epidemiological study is considered only from a simple statistical point of view;
  10. Experimental data supporting the plausibility of harmful biological effects are systematically ignored;
  11. Flawed multicenter results are given too much weight overlooking the much more significant results produced by just one research center;
  12. Constant reference is made to unreliable results in order to bolster the interests of private corporations;
  13. Even when funding from industry is actually reported, conflicts of interests are often not declared;
  14. Precautionary and Prevention Principles are both ignored;
  15. There is preference to protect the economic status quo rather than public health.”
“The following consequences [of these biases] arise:
  1. Only reassuring results communicated;
  2. Expectation of absolute certainty, even though the risk has already been pointed out;
  3. Underestimation or even denial of the true risk to health;
  4. Precautionary Principle set aside;
  5. Indefinite postponement of actions of primary prevention;
  6. Possible suggestion of initiatives solely of voluntary protection (prudent avoidance);
  7. Influencing of the media and bodies responsible for public health protection;
  8. Maintenance of obsolete standards and exposure limits and failure to respect the regular reviews required by law;
  9. Incentives for new forms of exposures;
  10. Harm to public health, damage to society, the economy, and the credibility of the public institutions concerned.” 
“In view of the considerable volume of experimental data demonstrating the biological and health effects of EMF, plus possible mechanisms of action, the position held today by the WHO, EC, ICNIRP, IARC and other major national and international agencies appears unsustainable and without justification.” 

“This position – also shared by the main bodies concerned with protection of human health, is a priori rigid, refutes historical evidence, declines scientific challenge, and appears to be influenced not by prudence but by conservation of clearly identifiable financial interests.  Data in the scientific literature in fact clearly justify an urgent revision of national laws on EM pollution.” 

“The tragedy is that the unfolding story of EMF looks set to become another case of history repeating itself – following in the tracks of ionizing radiation, asbestos, tobacco smoke, and many other now demonstrated human carcinogens where evidence of harm was officially recognized only a score or even more years after the initial warnings.  In view of the evidence we already have, this time we can act early, rather than giving cause for future generations once again to regret our inaction – it is our duty and responsibility as scientists, in particular to our offspring!”

Source Information for this Blog Posting [1]

Unpublished study prepared by Levis, Gennaro, and Garbisa entitled, “Business Bias As Usual:  The Case of Electromagnetic Pollution.”  The essence of this unpublished study was later incorporated and published as Chapter 11 in a book titled, Social Costs Today: Institutional Analyses of the Present Crises, edited by Ramazzotti, Frigato, and Elsner, Published by Routledge, 2012.  Refer to the following link for additional information: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415508469/.
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