The name probably does not sound familiar, but Dr. Eleanor Adair should be remembered as one of the most important figures in advancing our understanding of the health effects of microwave radiation. She did some of the first controlled large-scale trails on humans, including herself, which helped establish the thermal effects of non-ionizing radiation.
As it turns out, I also live in the same town where she did, but sadly I did not know this until after her passing.
Eleanor R. Adair, Microwave Proponent, Dies at 86
Eleanor R. Adair, a scientist who spent decades exposing monkeys and eventually people (including herself) to microwave radiation to determine whether it posed serious health risks — she concluded, emphatically and somewhat controversially, that it did not — died on April 20 in Hamden, Conn. She was 86.
The cause was complications of a stroke, her daughter, Margaret Adair Quinn, said.
In the early 1970s, Dr. Adair, who had done her doctoral work in sensory psychology, was pursuing an interesting but not necessarily provocative topic: how people and animals react physiologically to external heat sources. Yet over the next three decades — after her research led her to study heat generated through microwave radiation, which is used in microwave ovens and emitted at low levels by things like cellphones and electrical transmission lines — Dr. Adair became an increasingly prominent and firm voice of assurance that microwave radiation posed no health risk.
“All the emphasis that we need more research on power line fields, cellphones, police radar — this involves billions of dollars that could be much better spent on other health problems,” Dr. Adair said in an interview with The New York Times in 2001. “Because there is really nothing there.”
For some people close to the issue, those were fighting words.
Even as numerous studies have found that microwave ovens are safe and many scientists say there is no evidence that cellphones cause cancer or other health problems, the rising use of cellphones, wireless Internet signals and some medical and military devices has continued to raise questions about their risk. Last year, a panel of the World Health Organization listed microwave radiation as “possibly carcinogenic.” In March, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would review its standards for cellphone use for the first time since 1996.
Some scientists do not use the term microwave radiation because they are concerned it is misleading and scares people unnecessarily. Microwave radiation is far weaker than the radiation in X-rays or gamma rays.
Advocates for more research count Dr. Adair in to a camp that focuses too much on heat or thermal effects from microwaves and is too quick to dismiss other ways microwaves might affect health.
“There’s something going on, and the question is what that is and whether it’s dangerous,” said Louis Slesin, the editor of Microwave News, a Web site that is often skeptical of the role industry and the military play in influencing health standards related to the issue. “Don’t let anyone tell you they know the answer to that question.”
Although Dr. Adair said she did not receive money from cellphone makers or industries whose products released microwave radiation, she served for five years late in her career as a senior scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory in San Antonio. The Air Force uses radar that emits microwaves.
Posted in Good Science, Misc, inverse square