WHO Drops the Ball on Cell Phones and Cancer

May 31st, 2011
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Cell Phones don’t cause cancer. RF radiation does not cause cancer. Those statements I am willing to stand behind. If you don’t believe me, please use the search function on this site. I can assure you I have plenty of posts with citations of both the theoretical reasons why non-ionizing radiation does not cause cancer and the studies that have shown no link.

There’s a lot of pressure to say that they do, however. Claiming cell phones cause cancer sells books and magazines. Some dishonest people have made a whole career out of telling these lies. They become media darlings because everyone loves to hate the “big companies” and to talk about how some poor little guy is being kept down by those evil powers that be. Groups make a lot of money too. Especially when the emotion-charged issue of children is dragged into the mix, dishonest charities can grab headlines and donations. Groups that contribute nothing useful to the world are treated as charities while paying their top executives hundreds of thousands of dollars a year or more.

Oh, and by the way, I’m not afraid to name names when it comes to these dishonest people and groups: Lennart Hardell, George Carlo, Devra Davis, The Environmental Health Trust, Bioinitiative, EMF-Health, Microwave News. (there, so sue me. I’d love to see you in court about this)

Thankfully the WHO has been one organization that has been steadfast about the fact that there is no evidence to indicate a relationship between RF radiation and cancer. There are lots of claims, a few very poorly controlled experiments but no evidence, and this is despite some enormous studies and decades of trying.

Unfortunately, however, the WHO has recently made some more ambiguous statements on the issue. Bowing to pressure from those with a financial stake and those stupid enough to believe them, the WHO has now stated that mobile phone radiation is “possibly carcinogenic” – in other words, there’s no absolutely certain empirical evidence that shows beyond any shadow of a doubt that there’s no remote possibility that maybe somehow by some unknown mechanism, radio waves might have once in the history of the universe caused a cell to become cancerous. (They also claim to base this in part on largely discredited studies linking glioma, a certain form of brain cancer to mobile phones.)

Still, this is a bad idea. It’s a horrible message to send out. The problem is not that it’s entirely scientifically invalid to say that something is very remotely possible, but how politicians, the media and society take such statements. It sometimes seems that research scientists don’t fully understand just how badly a statement can and will be butchered and taken out of context.

This non-story has already spawned over one thousand media reports. Here are a few to provide a taste of just how this plays out:

Los Angeles Times: Experts say cellphones are possibly carcinogenic
Financial Times: WHO signals mobile phone cancer fears
Dallas Morning News: World Health Organization says cellphones might cause brain cancer
The Australian: Risk of brain tumour from mobile phone use is similar to pesticide DDT, petrol exhaust and coffee
Bellfast Telegraph: Brain cancer warning over mobiles
Newsday: Panel sees possible cellphone-cancer link
PC Magazine: WHO Finds Tentative Link Between Cell Phones, Cancer
Seattle Post Intelligencer – Experts: Cell phone use raises risk of cancer

Those are, of course, just a few.

A couple comments about this shameful reporting:
What the hell is a “tentative link?” Does that mean that they don’t have a shred of evidence but are pretty sure they will at some point?

Also, in case you did not know: DDT has never been conclusively linked to cancer in humans, though there were some conflicting studies about chronic exposure in prepubescent girls and breast cancer later, the link appears very weak. There’s not even the slightest evidence that DDT is related to brain cancer.

Coffee has never been linked to brain cancer in any way shape or form, though some studies have found a small risk of increased bladder cancer in very heavy coffee drinkers. The evidence of this is considered inconclusive, in part because the increase was very small and not found by all studies of coffee and bladder cancer. There may be other confounding factors at play.

Automobile exhaust may be carcinogenic depending on the circumstances, such as the fuel burned, the exposure levels etc. There’s little evidence that the combustion byproducts of properly and completely burned gasoline are directly carcinogenic. Of course, these would be mostly carbon dioxide and water.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 at 4:49 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, inverse square, media. 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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60 Responses to “WHO Drops the Ball on Cell Phones and Cancer”

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  1. 51
    BMS Says:

            fixx said:

    BTW – I work with scientists every day all day …

    Yes, but being the subject of a study to understand why some people have an obsessive, compulsive need to spew nonsense throughout the Internet, does not mean that you really “work with scientists.” The scientists just want to know what’s wrong with you. They work on you, not with you. There’s a subtle difference that you failed to capture. ;-)


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  2. 52
    fixx Says:

    Hehe. Wrong but humorous at least. A fine example of a more socially acceptable way to take to a jab at someone.


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  3. 53
    DV82XL Says:

            fixx said:

    BTW – I work with scientists every day all day and I have yet to have any of them talk to me like this. Being a scientist does not give you the right to act like a spoiled, arrogant, rude, brat. Disagreements don’t get resolved by degenerating the discussion down to personal attacks. The scientists I work with understand this.

    If you with scientists every day all day (which I doubt) it is probably only sweeping floors and similar menial tasks. Clearly they do not consider you a peer or a colleague. Try addressing them as stridently with your silly ideas as you have done here with us and demand that they take them seriously despite the fact they are transparently ill-conceived and categorically wrong and they will laugh you out of the room, keep pushing and you will be dismissed from your job – furthermore you know this which is why you come here.

    You just don’t get it do you? Like all of the cranks that are involved with this issue, you have set an unattainable standard that would require absolute proof these fields are harmless and will not accept the fact that proof is a standard that science does not aim for. (Proofs are limited to logic and mathematics.) Thus regardless of what you are shown you can always claim there is room for doubt. Cranks characteristically dismiss all evidence or arguments which contradict their own unconventional beliefs, making rational debate a futile task. Basically the key ingredients of a scientific crank are an inordinate attraction to an idea or hypothesis to the point that he won’t abandon it in the face of overwhelming evidence coupled with the arrogance necessary to believe that he is correct and the rest of the scientific community is not and these are exactly the traits you are displaying here. The fact is you don’t even understand what science is, let alone the subject at hand. More importantly you do not want to learn and that comes through very clearly in both your posturing, your language and your arguments and this is the real reason I won’t engage with you on this subject.


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  4. 54
    fixx Says:

    DV82XL: You are inventing a reality that does not exist to suit your own belief system. You know nothing of my conversations with my colleagues or how they react to the concepts which we discuss. I am not the one claiming to speak for the entire scientific establishment on every issue under the sun. If you used some of the critical thinking you claim to possess to examine your posts you would see that perhaps I am not the arrogant one doing all the posturing. I’ve never called anyone on here an idiot (pretty much the hallmark of arrogance). I suspect what you are doing is called projecting. Either that or you are some sort of shill whose job it is to derail any actual discussion on the topic in question.

    I’m pretty sure (at least I hope) that these are not the kinds of exchanges Buzz intends to take place on his blog. And since you think it is a waste of time to respond to me, just stop.


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  5. 55
    DV82XL Says:

            fixx said:

    And since you think it is a waste of time to respond to me, just stop.

    You wish.

    I won’t leave you be because you represent the worse of what has become an infection of idiocy on the net. Those that practice real science had to bust their butts at school first, and later pay their dues in the field and I will be damned if I am going to let any crank pretend that he is a peer on the strength of having read some material he clearly doesn’t understand. To do so soils the real efforts of all of us that have, and continue to make, an effort to advance understanding of how the universe works.

    The conceit you and others like you labor under is that you can grasp complex concepts on the strength of reading empirical treatments of subjects that can only be understood if one has been grounded in the basics and the skills in mathematics to interpret them. It is because you lack these foundations that you cannot see your own errors in reasoning and you cannot properly vet the rubbish out there that you think supports your claim and conclusions. You cannot properly grasp what is being reported in the legitimate scientific press so you turn to those sources that frankly pander to people like you that avoid the type of analysis you cannot understand and that salve your ego by making you feel as if you are part of an embattled group with a lock on some truth established science is trying to suppress. You will note however that these treatments are long on narrative but deficient in the sort of experimentation, detailed data and statistical analysis that is the hallmark of legitimate science.

    It doesn’t seem to matter what the topic is and this site has covered most of them, but the profile of those that support these silly notions is always the same: poorly educated wannabes with a chip on their shoulder convinced that they know enough about a subject to argue against dominant theories. Inevitably when they run into opposition they invariably trot out the same list of weary meta-arguments about standard science being hidebound or in the pay of sinister forces and presume to lecture us about how they think science works. Laughably they compare themselves and their notions with legitimate scientific iconoclasts implying that the mere unpopularity of some belief is in itself evidence of plausibility.

    What none of them seem to realize is that their ignorance both of the topic and scientific research in general is so transparent that it is clear to anyone that is in the field that they are talking through their hats. They are fools not just because they do not know, but because they think they know and while I am likely to let this sort of uninformed babbling pass in a social situation (while pigeonholing the person doing it) here is a place dedicated to exposing bad science and no one gets a free pass.

    You are not a scientist, you are not even an amateur in the field, nor are you a student. You are a crank. You overestimate your own knowledge and ability, and underestimate that of acknowledged experts; you seriously misunderstand the mainstream opinion that you believe you are objecting to; and you ignore fine distinctions which are essential to correctly understand mainstream belief. And every time you post here I, or someone else will rub your face in this.


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  6. 56
    fixx Says:

    For you to rub my face in something you would have to address what I am saying, not what you think I am saying or even worse attacking my character. If you seriously believe that you represent established science and are an acknowledged expert then post something that shows it. Contribute something. Say something other than the same old rhetoric. Say something halfway intelligent for a change instead of the same old delusional BS about me or people who you think are like me. For a so called scientist you make a lot of assumptions without facts and argue things that are totally irrelevant to the discussion.


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  7. 57
    DV82XL Says:

    Again, there is nothing to discuss and you were answered.

    The argument you presented was answered previously as not relevant. It is the equivalent of stating that given the RF energy at the frequencies and field strength used in a microwave oven can damage tissue then it follows that all RF energy at all frequencies and all field strengths are potential capable of causing tissue damage. You were clearly told that the procedure you were holding up as an example used field strengths many, many orders of magnitude greater than what anyone using a cell phone would be exposed to and thus no equivalency can be established. Your reply was that we were not taking into account exposure times or the effects produced by a cell tower in one’s backyard.

    Your counter-argument establishes that you do not understand the biophysics involved, you do not understand what a Tesla represents, you do not understand the square-inverse law and you have no grasp of orders-of-magnitude as it applies here, but you do seem to think you can invoke a potential cumulative effect out of thin air without any evidence that this exist or is germane.

    This demonstrates a breathtaking lack of knowledge and understanding across several domains pertinent to a rational discussion of this topic and your attitude indicates that you do not grasp how important these factors are and that you are uttering weapons grade nonsense and expect to be taken seriously. You obviously have no idea just how far out of your depth you are and you won’t permit anyone to tell you so, apparently believing that this is not the case.

    You also compound your sins and insult our intelligence by trying to imply that you have some connection with a group of legitimate scientists that consider you a colleague. Just because you can’t smell this sort of BS on others doesn’t mean we are all that naïve and of course it begs the question of why you are trying to discuss this topic here and not with them. This sort of transparent mendacity will draw nothing but contempt and is yet another indicator of just how pathetic you are.

    Now you can twist and prevaricate all you want and act as if you were the wounded party here but understand regardless you have already exposed yourself as a fraud and a crank by what you have posted long before I decided to take you to task for it. In other words I made no assumptions at all but rather followed the evidence you, yourself provided.


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  8. 58
    fixx Says:

    DV82XL:
    Paragraph 1: If you are not going to actually read what I am saying then why do you bother responding? I’m not talking heating effects here.

    Paragraph 2: I understand all these concepts. But my weakest area would be biophysics because I have no formal training in that specific area, do you? Once again your delusional BELIEFS are false no matter how strong your conviction.

    Paragraph 4: Sins? What an odd word to use. I will address this later. Your BS detector is off. I know this to be a fact because I am aware of my reality, you are not. Why someone who claims to use only evidence to determine the nature of reality is talking on subjects that he knows nothing about is very contradictory.

    Paragraph 5: I’m not wounded by your delusional ramblings.

    You seem to like to pigeonhole people and I was curious as to why you act so odd. So…. I read your profile. And your little blog. A picture started forming that explains your behaviour. So allow me to speculate about you for a change:

    - Your job as a consultant requires and imbues you with a sense of authority. This combined with the stubbornness that can come with age has made you a little on the arrogant side.
    - You think this is a war and I am the enemy. I am not the religious sort, nor am I anti-science or anti-progress. I understand that you feel threatened (according to your blog) but this may have extended to paranoia which you may want to address.
    - You drink a lot of coffee. I’m guessing more than one cup a day. This one is a bit of a guess but it fits your M.O. which includes aggressive behaviour and slightly twisted logic.
    - Your age suggests that you have well established beliefs and are not open to new or conflicting information. This, of course, in not a necessary relationship but in your case it looks to be true.
    - Your background in metallurgy is probably extensive, or you made all the right connections to become a consultant. Somehow you think this makes you an expert on unrelated subjects.
    - Your dedication to your field and various causes has left you lacking in how to relate to other people. This is reflected in how others react to you (the ones not scared off by your bullying) but you don’t care because they are all “idiots”.
    - Your age related dementia has caused you to repeat yourself to the point where most people just politely listen to something they have heard time and time again.
    - Your job and subsequent lifestyle makes cell phones an extremely convenient appliance which you would feel lost without.
    - Although well aware of how religious organizations pedal their influence and affect everyone’s life, you are quite oblivious to how other types of organizations do the same thing. Suggesting a simplistic or “black and white” view of the world.


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  9. 59
    fixx Says:

    Buzz:

    I guess I’m sorry to have come back, I found a piece of information in my quest for knowledge and thought it was relevant so I thought I’d share. You seem like a reasonable person but I can’t seem to post without this blowhard j—–g off to his own sense of self importance. I guess he can’t help but feel he is protecting something at this point but it really is just ridiculous. So once again I will leave. DV82XL can have his last word that he thinks will mean he has won.

    Guess I can’t promise to never return though ;)


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  10. 60
    DV82XL Says:

            fixx said:

    Guess I can’t promise to never return though.

    I’ll be here if you do.


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