Devra Davis Refuted

July 4th, 2011
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I recently came across an article by Devra Davis, the same woman who recently wrote the book “Disconnect.” The level of dishonesty of Davis is really starting to bother me, in part because she seems to be respected as an authority in the media and because she has managed to get herself appointed to a number of important government and international committees and organizations.

She has been on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on presidential advisory committees and other US governmental panels.

A person with such a problem with honesty and a willingness to say whatever will sell the most books or get the most attention has no place in serious scientific advisory rolls.

I have become so disgusted with Davis that I will be posting additional refutations of her self-promoting, scaremongering, misleading statements.

Via the Huffington Post:

In a nearly unanimous decision, 31 expert advisers to the World Health Organization (WHO) last week stunned the world’s 5 billion cell phone users and declared radiofrequency and electromagnetic radiation a “possible” cause of brain cancer.

Which means nothing, by the way. While I disagree with the WHO’s statement, because of how it is interpreted, I will acknowledge that it’s basically impossible to prove a negative beyond any shadow of a doubt.

Microwave radiation from cell phones joins a list of well-reviewed cancer-causing agents, that includes engine exhaust, some pesticides, lead, coffee and unusually preserved vegetables.

What the hell is unusually preserved vegetables? “some pesticides” is a fairly vague term and the relationship between coffee and cancer (bladder cancer) is, at best, shaky.

Founded on an exhaustive analysis, the WHO expert opinion rests on a simple and well-accepted public health premise: Every compound known to cause cancer in humans also produces it in animals when adequately studied.

Agreed that every cancer-causing compound in humans will do the same in animals – human cell physiology is basically the same as other animals – still, this provides no indication of microwave radiation being related to cancer at all.

The goal of such assessments is not to prove harm, but to provide the grounds for steps to prevent damage from unfolding.

How in the hell can you expect to prevent damage when you don’t even know if something causes damage?

How did preserved vegetables make the list? In areas of rural China that lack refrigeration, extremely high levels of salts in preserved meats, fish and vegetables that form toxic compounds have created devastating rates of digestive system cancers. What about caffeine? In fact, like a number of chemotherapy agents that have both positive and negative impacts, caffeine slightly raises the risk of bladder cancer, while reducing that of colon and other tumors.

This statement is extremely inaccurate and makes some unfair comparisons. However, it would really require another entire post to explain all the problems here. Since it is really beyond the scope of the primary focus on microwave radiation, I won’t go into it further.

In fact, brain cancer is hardly the only health issue of concern linked to cell phone radiation, nor are cell phones the only source of radiofrequency and electromagnetic radiation. Studies in rabbits and rats have showed that pulsed digital signals from today’s smartphones damage sperm, brain, liver, eyes and skin of exposed offspring, and impair their memory and behavior. According to independent studies at the Cleveland Clinic and Australia’s national research center, men who use cell phones four hours a day have about half the normal sperm and three times more damage to their DNA than those with much less use.

This is not true. The studies cited are at best, questionable and the data is really being over-extended by making such claims. In the case of the rabbit study, the researchers admit that their data is inconsistent and that while some small changes were detected in pregnant rabbits (which may have been incidental), there were none detected in newborn rabbits exposed to RF fields.

The rat study had similar findings. Overall cell morphology for both the control and rf-exposed groups was normal. While there were some reportedly “significant” changes in the distribution of cells in the hippocamups, the overall number and health of brain cells did not change between the control group and the group exposed to RF emissions was not significant. Nor were other health benchmarks such as weight. Given the error of the study, the data really does not seem to provide any foundation for the assertion of damage to brain cells.

Larger, better controlled studies have not shown any of these claimed effects to be true.

Furthermore, modern mobile phones do not generally “pulse,” nor has pulsing of radio waves been in any way shown to have significant biological effects compared to more contentious RF emissions. Pulsing of radio emissions is not a modern phenomenon either. The earliest forms of radio communications used pulsed carrier waves and pulse-modulated radio transmissions have been used for decades for teletype data and trunked radio control channels.

More studies on cell damage (Chavdoula et al, Mutation Research, 2010) and birth defects (Fragopoulou et al, Pathophysiology, 2010) caused by cell phone radiation were presented in Istanbul last month.

Please stop citing such poor data. Also, if this were the case, why are birth defects in the industrial world decreasing rather than increasing?

Fortune magazine asks: If cell phones caused brain cancer, then why don’t we face an epidemic now? To those who understand the long latencies involved, the absence of a general brain tumor epidemic at this time provides no comfort. Survivors of the atomic bombs that fell on Japan experienced no increase at all in brain cancer until four decades after the war’s end.

That is absolutely false. While those exposed to fallout from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not see immediate increases in cancer rates, there was a marked increase within ten years.

Even when the latency period averages twenty or more years, that does not mean that there will not be some increase detectable before the mean latency period. The distribution tends to follow a normal or bell curve distribution. Thus, even if most cases take twenty years, some will take fifteen years and a few will take ten. By now we should be seeing at least the beginning of an increase.

Cell phones were not heavily used until quite recently.

The first handheld cell phone was the Motorola Dynatec. It came out in 1983 and was so popular that after the initial release, there was a six month waiting list. There were many early adopters who began using mobile phones regularly, even given the high costs at the time. These early adopters, who have been using mobile phones for nearly thirty years have been singled out for study. There is no indication of increased cancer rates.

Again, even if the average latency period were 40 years, we’d be seeing the beginning of the trend by now. We’re not.

Three out of every four cases of brain cancer occur in someone over age 60 — a group that had not used cell phones extensively even a decade ago.

So? One would still expect to see an increase in younger age groups. One in four brain cancers is still more than enough to see a trend. In fact, one would expect that there would be a change in distribution as a result of the use by younger persons of mobile phones. The fact that most brain cancer continues to occur in older individuals is more evidence that the use of mobile phones is not changing cancer rates.

Not only that, but a person would not need to be in their 60′s when they started using a mobile phone to be in this age group. A person who started using a mobile phone in 1985 at the age of 35 would be 61 today.

Another important consideration is that mobile phones are not unique as UHF radio transmitters. By the late 1960′s, handheld 2-way radios were commonplace for police, security, military personnel and others. Ham radio operators also began working with high power UHF transmitters in both fixed and portable units decades before mobile phones became common.

There is no evidence that hams, police officers or any of the others who used such radios experience higher rates of any kind of cancer.

In contrast, every major study ever conducted has found that those who use cell phones half an hour a day or more have a doubled risk of brain cancer,


and those who began using cell phones as teenagers have four to five times more disease in less than 10 years.

I’m sorry. Didn’t you just say that the latency was more than 40 years?

Concerned about the growing evidence that cell phone radiation damages membranes of living cells, many nations are acting now to reduce cell phone radiation exposures to the young brain. With its latest expert review, WHO joins with medical specialists in Israel, Finland, France, Russia, India and Brazil, all of whom agree that cell phone radiation should be reduced now, rather than waiting for the deadly confirmation we received with tobacco and asbestos.

Except there was evidence for the dangers of things like asbestos and tobacco all along and there isn’t any for cell phones. Also, you can’t simply say that you are not willing to “wait for the confirmation,” as doing so presumes that something will be proven before it is, which by definition can’t happen, unless you are psychic, which is made more problematic by the fact that psychics don’t really exist.

The WHO’s advice rests on a fundamental concept: It is far better to prevent rather than to prove danger.

That does not even make any sense. You can’t prevent dangers that you don’t know exist.

Thanks to pioneering exposÃs by Professor Stan Glantz and others, we now know that scientists’ warnings about tobacco and asbestos were long suppressed and ignored — fueled by a sophisticated campaign that saw science as just another public relations tool.

Dragging tobacco and asbestos into this is downright insulting the intelligence of readers. The fact that big companies are involved and have PR departments does not mean anything. There is no science here that the phone companies need to suppress.

The United Kingdom’s distinguished Sir William Stewart chaired a Royal College of Physicians Commission more than a decade ago that advised that those under age 16 to limit their use of cell phones, and offered similar advice to that which was just affirmed by WHO.

The WHO has not actually made such a recommendation and even if they did, it would not make it right.

Given the absence of serious and extensive research on this topic at this time,

Are you kidding me? I’m having trouble even thinking of any other area that has been researched so extensively over the past 80+ years.

we are treating ourselves and our children like experimental rats and rabbits, but without any unexposed control groups.

Oh that’s cute.

Yeah, experimental animals, I get it. The CHILDREN! What an outrage! Why stop there? Throw in some more sympathetic groups while you’re at it. How about wounded veterans, disabled children, grandmothers and dolphins while you’re at it. (Crap! I think I just gave her some ideas!)

Because children’s skulls, brains and bodies are thinner and more vulnerable, we put them in bicycle helmets and car seats. We need to take parallel steps to protect them and ourselves from the potential impact of microwave radiation from cell phones. If sales of children’s thongs are to be banned in the United Kingdom to protect against early sexualization, we also need to protect their developing brains and bodies from exposure to a sea of radiofrequency radiation whose full impact cannot be gauged at this time.

Except we can gauge the impact, there is no evidence of danger (and not for lack of looking for it) and we don’t need to protect them from the non-existent hazard.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 4th, 2011 at 5:51 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Misc, Obfuscation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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6 Responses to “Devra Davis Refuted”

  1. 1
    Gordon Says:

    Well, I can’t say I don’t agree. Just be careful there you don’t get sued.

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  2. 2
    DV82XL Says:

    One of the major problems here is the way the term “significance” is used in statistical analysis. The parallel is the way the term “theory” is confounded in debates over evolution. Nether term means the same in science and analysis as it does in general usage, and it is leveraging this difference that both the cellphone cancer hysterics and religious fundamentalists have used to great effect in their respective domains.

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  3. 3
    Joseph Hertzlinger Says:

    A couple of decades ago I read an article in The New York Times claiming that the age-adjusted cancer rate is increasing. I was skeptical of the claim and then read the article in Lancet (Devra Lee Davis was one of the authors) which was cited. The cancer rates for people over 60 had increased for a wide variety of cancers — not just lung cancer. I noticed that no claims were made for people under 60 and got suspicious. I looked up changes in cancer mortality rates for each 5-year age group during the preceding decade. I found that cancer mortality rates declined for age groups under 60 and increased for age groups over 60. That might imply that carcinogen exposure peaked in people born around 1930 or so and has been declining ever since. This conclusion remained even after subtracting lung cancer. Some cancers have declined even more: Stomach cancer has declined in nearly every demographic group.

    In other words, Ms. Davis had dumped the evidence that would have indicated the exact opposite of her conclusion.

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  4. 4
    DV82XL Says:

    Researchers from the United States, Britain and Sweden have conducted a review of these already-published studies, and decided that there are no clear cancerous links between humans and cell phone use.

    New Review of Cell Phone Studies Reveals No Clear Cancerous Links

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  5. 5
    I'mnotreallyhere Says:

    Because children’s skulls, brains and bodies are thinner and more vulnerable, we put them in bicycle helmets and car seats. We need to take parallel steps to protect them and ourselves from the potential impact of microwave radiation from cell phones. If sales of children’s thongs are to be banned in the United Kingdom to protect against early sexualization, we also need to protect their developing brains and bodies from exposure to a sea of radiofrequency radiation whose full impact cannot be gauged at this time.

    Adults are meant to wear bicycle helmets too. That they choose not to is their own dumb fault, just like wearing seatbelts or looking both ways before crossing the street. That “we” make them wear bicycle helmets is because “we” are responsable adults who can (and should) teach them sensible and safe behaviour.

    Car seats is a similar issue, but with the slight twist that car designers find it hard to design for all sizes of person – it’s an ergonomic nightmare. Hence a child is much safer strapped into a properly designed (and properly fitted / installed) car seat. And as above, it’s the adults that make the choice to do this because we’re meant to be the intelligent and responsable ones.

    Hence neither of these issues has anything to do with the strength or thickness of children’s bone structure. They’re about being “grown-ups” or not and about being “big” or not – hence why dwarves / midgets / etc. invariably use some sort of car seat as well.

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  6. 6
    Ted Stewart Says:

    Something I’d love to hear your thoughts on:

    Even considering that it covers a single month, I still suspect it of being hogwash.

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