Wi-Fi Wants To Kill Your Children… But Alasdair Philips of Powerwatch sells the cure!

May 26th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, bbc, electrosensitivity, powerwatch - alasdair philips, scare stories, very basic science | 162 Comments »

Hello visitors from boingboing/slashdot. I’m a doctor and I write in the Guardian and the BMJ about quackery, health scares, and pseudoscience in the media.

Ben Goldacre
Saturday May 26, 2007
The Guardian

Won’t somebody, please, think of the children? Three weeks ago I received my favourite email of all time, from a science teacher. “I’ve just had to ask a BBC Panorama film crew not to film in my school or in my class because of the bad science they were trying to carry out,” it began, describing in perfect detail the Panorama which aired this week.

[ you'll need to skip through the last two minutes of Eastenders to watch it...]This show was on the suppressed dangers of radiation from Wi-Fi networks, and how they are harming children. There was no science in it, just some “experiments” they did for themselves, and some conflicting experts. Panorama disagreed with the WHO expert, so he was smeared for not being “independent” enough, and working for a phone company in the past. I don’t do personal smear. But Panorama started it. How independent were they, and the “experiments” they did?

They had 28 minutes, I have under 700 words. Here we go. In the show, you can see them walking around Norwich with a special “radiation monitor”. Radiation, incidentally, is their favourite word, and they use it 30 times, although Wi-Fi is “radiation” in the same sense that light is.

“Ooh its well into the red there,” says reporter Paul Kenyon, holding up the detector (19 minutes in). Gosh that sounds bad. Well into the red on what? It’s tricky to callibrate measurements, and to decide what to measure, and what the cut off point is for “red”. Panorama’s readings were “well into the red” on “The COM Monitor”, a special piece of detecting equipment designed from scratch and built by none other than Alasdair Philips of Powerwatch, the man who leads the campaign against WiFi. His bespoke device is manufactured exclusively for Powerwatch, and he will sell one to you for just £175. Alasdair decided what “red” meant on Panorama’s device. So not very independent then.

Panorama did not disclose where this detector came from. And they know that Alasdair Philips is no ordinary “engineer doing the readings”, because they told us in the show, but they didn’t tell the school that. “They wanted to take some mesurements in my class room, compare them to the radiation from a phone mast and film some kids using wireless laptops. They introduced ‘the engineer’, whom I googled.”

He found it was the same man who runs Powerwatch, the pressure group campaigning against mobile phones, Wi-Fi, and “electrosmog”. In Alasdair’s Powerwatch shop you can buy shielded netting for your windows at just £70.50 per metre, and special shielding paint at £50.99 per litre. To paint a small eleven foot square bedroom in your house with Powerwatch’s products you would need about 10 litres, costing you £500.

When the children saw Alasdair’s Powerwatch website, and the excellent picture of the insulating mesh beekeeper hat that he sells (£27) to “protect your head from excess microwave exposure”, they were astonished and outraged. Panorama were calmly expelled from the school.

So what about Panorama’s classroom experiment? Not very independent, and not very well designed, as the children pointed out. “They set about downloading the biggest file they could get hold of – so the Wi-Fi signal was working as powerfully as possible – and took the peak reading during that,” says our noble science teacher. It was a great teaching exercise, and the children made valuable criticisms of Panorama’s methodology, such as “well, we’re not allowed to download files so it wouldn’t be that strong”, “only a couple of classes have wifi”, and, “we only use the laptops a couple of times a week”.

Panorama planned to have the man from Powerwatch talk to the students for about 10 minutes about how Wi-Fi worked, and what effects it had on the human body. Then they were going to reveal the readings he had got from the mast, compare them to what Powerwatch had measured in the classrom, and film the kids reaction to the news. So not very independent then.

“Surprisingly enough the readings in my room were going to be higher (about 3 times higher I believe) and with the kids having been briefed by the engineer from Powerwatch first they were hoping for a reaction that would make good telly.” Sadly for them it didn’t happen. “We told Panorama this morning that as they hadn’t been honest with us about what was going on and because of the bad science they were trying to pass off, we didn’t want them to film in the school or with our students.”

The images you see of children in the show are just library footage. I’m sure there should be more research into Wi-Fi. If Panorama had made a 28 minute show about the scientific evidence, we would be discussing that. Instead they produced “radiation” scares, and smears about whether people are “independent”. People in glass houses are welcome to throw stones, at their own risk.

A BBC Spokesperson said: “Alistair Phillips is one of a handful of people with the right equipment to do this test. He was only used in this capacity and was not given an opportunity to interpret the readings let alone campaign on them in the film. We filmed the tests taken at the school and didn’t return.”

Please send your bad science to bad.science@guardian.co.uk

More:

There’s some more general criticism of the program and a response here, and if you were going to make a complaint, you might be disappointed by the response, since it was written before you complained.

To me this is a very uncomplicated situation of heinous scaremongering and bias. For a start, since the BBC is a broadcasting organisation, they will be absolutely chockablock full of radio frequency engineers who could have helped them do a proper sensible show.

If they really had wanted to measure exposure in classrooms, for example, they could have simply taken some readings up close, a metre away from a laptop (some while it was downloading hard, some while it wasn’t), and lots of ambient measurements from around the room, and combined them. This would have provided a meaningful, naturalistic, real world figure describing what a child is actually exposed to during a day. I can’t see any sense in measuring anything other than that.

Instead, while throwing around accusations of other people being biased, to produce a scare, Panorama – quite unnecessarily – took an “electrosmog” pressure group campaigner, let him decide what to measure, how, where, and with what equipment. They completely failed to come clean on this. The reality is, the producers probably didn’t even know what they were having measured. They say it was because there was nobody else to ask: the BBC is the biggest broadcaster in the UK, probably one of the biggest employers of engineers who know about that kind of thing.

And that’s just looking at those parts of the program.

There is the issue of Panorama’s other experts, like associate professor Olle Johansson, awarded Misleader Of The Year 2004 in his native country.

But there are far bigger issues, and ones where Panorama were unambiguously scurrilous. They spent a long time covering “electrosensitivity”. There are over 30 double blind studies of people who believe that their symptoms, such as dizziness and heaches, are caused by immediate exposure to electromagnetic signals: essentially these studies all show that sufferers cannot tell when a source of signal is present or absent (full story and references here).

But there was no mention of these studies in Panorama. Instead they showed us just one subject in an unfinished, unpublished study: Why? Apparently she has guessed if the signal is on or not, correctly, 2/3 of the time. Is that statistically significant? What about the other subjects in the study? It’s meaningless: it’s an anecdote dressed up as science with some pictures of some measuring equipment.

It will be very interesting if the results of this study overall are positive, and it will be very interesting to try and understand why theirs were positive, given that over thirty other studies were negative. If the Essex results are negative, will Panorama broadcast that too? I’d guess “no”, and here’s just one reason why.

Then they talk about how the Swedish government officially “recognises” electrosensitivity. They praise Sweden for paying for special paint (like that sold by Alasdair at Powerwatch at £50.99 a litre).

But in fact Sweden simply pays disability benefits for some people who believe they have the condition, in a spirit of compassionate pragmatism (and quite right too). They seem to be making a spectacular fuss about some largely administrative differences in the generous Swedish disability benefits system.

Let’s remember that 13% of Sweden’s working age population claim disability benefits, and the Wall Street Journal reported prominently just two weeks ago that they are cutting back, and specifically on payments for electrosensitivity.

I could go on.

Of course you should be vigilant about health risks. I don’t question that there may be some issues worth sober investigation around Wi-Fi safety. But this documentary was the lowest, most misleading scaremongering I have seen in a very long time.

It gets trashed on BBC24 here:

news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/default.stm

transcript of that program here.

Meanwhile over the past few days badscience.net has been just one small part of the mass destruction in the blogosphere:

www.badscience.net/?p=414

www.badscience.net/?p=415

www.badscience.net/?p=416

www.badscience.net/?p=417

qurl.com/njqhh

www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/24/open_letter/

www.twonilblankblank.com/2007/05/22/panorama-electrosmog-waves-as-particles/

wongablog.co.uk/2007/05/22/panorama-on-wi-fi/

www.wellingtongrey.net/miscellanea/archive/2007-05-27–the-truth-about-wireless-devices.html

education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,2084525,00.html

www.quackometer.net/blog/2007/05/wi-fi-quackery-and-parliament.html

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6676129.stm

newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?threadID=6357&&&edition=1&ttl=20070521165820

timworstall.typepad.com/timworstall/2007/05/wifi_is_killing.html

commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/james_randerson/2007/05/why_fear_wifi.html

blog.bibrik.com/archives/2007/05/wifi_fears.html

keithprimaryict.blogspot.com/2007/05/more-on-wi-fi-health-debate.html

p10.hostingprod.com/@spyblog.org.uk/blog/2007/05/bbc_tv_panorama_conflates_wifi_radiation_fears_with_mobile_phone_masts_ignores_handsets_in_schools.html

blogs.guardian.co.uk/technology/archives/2007/05/21/the_dangers_of_wifi_radiation_updated.html

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6676129.stm

media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,,2084219,00.html

newsvote.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/default.stm?dynamic_vote=ON#vote_vote_wifi

www.ts0.com/labels/media.asp

www.qnoodle.com/public/blog/2396

To name just a few.

Paul Kenyon Podcast

I’ve had a fairly long chat on the phone with the presenter, “stilted” while the tape was on, cheery when it wasn’t. He conceded essentially what he conceded on News24, along with some new stuff on electrosensitivity, and generally passed the buck in a polite fashion. Unfortunately it’s recorded off the phone and onto what I can only describe as “audio cassette” – not posh podcast recorder – because you stingy bastards don’t ever spend anything here or here, and god bless you for it, ideas were meant to be free. I’ll try and transfer it over if I can buy this weird audio cable and grab an hour or two, I think it should be just about audible.

You’ve, er, heard the quality of the previous recordings of course.

www.badscience.net/?p=369

Anyway [holds pistol aloft]: “Discuss”. Except it’s a balmy bank holiday weekend, so maybe discuss in the park instead. I’m going to an Indian wedding. Cheers!


Update BBC24 Newswatch:

The BBC’s Newswatch show has got onto this – since so many of you got in touch over the week – and called the presenter in for a drubbing. Panorama don’t come out of it looking too good. Although the presenter Paul Kenyon still manages to add to the nonsense.


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162 Responses



  1. stever said,

    May 26, 2007 at 8:21 am

    haha – Its the perfect badscience story. it absolutely has it all. a made up scare, nonscientist scientists, crap experiments, misrepresented results, smears of dessenters, silly scientology-like ‘technology’ with dials that go up to ‘red’, and to cap it all, its very own panorama programme to give it some tabloid legs.

  2. Paul Crowley said,

    May 26, 2007 at 8:53 am

    Half your URLs haven’t been detected and linkified by WordPress…

  3. Dr Aust said,

    May 26, 2007 at 9:34 am

    Love the EM screening headnet. Clearly multi-purpose, so that you are protected from killer bees AND killer Wi-Fi.

    Is that John McCririck wearing it?

  4. Kess said,

    May 26, 2007 at 10:25 am

    Kudos to the teacher and students who spotted the bad science and constructed their own better experiments.
    Now if we can encourage schools to display the same critical thinking to Brain Gym consultants, fish oil salesmen, nutritionists, etc. there may be hope for us yet.

  5. Elmer Phudd said,

    May 26, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Great story, thanks!

  6. ayupmeduck said,

    May 26, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Very well written Ben. The twist of the school children themselves being smarter than the panorama team is particularly sweet.

  7. Lurkinggherkin said,

    May 26, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Mmmmmm. Yaas. I had a feeling a few weeks back that the electrosensitivity thing was going to blow up again….

  8. Paul Wright said,

    May 26, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    gah, parody, not party, obviously.

    If the BBC wants to buy the kit, a quick Google finds lots of people selling it, not just Alistair Phillips.

  9. pv said,

    May 26, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    As I wrote in the other thread, it reeks of an agenda. I should also add, if there was no agenda, this story reveals a staggering level of incompetence or naivety on the part of the Panorama team. It turns out that the school teacher and students were way to smart to let them get away with it which, I think, is an extremely encouraging turn of events.
    Actually I am mystified that, if Alistair Phillips was to be allowed to lecture the students about wi-fi radiation, anyone could deny there was a particular agenda. Of course it’s possible that Mr Phillips spotted an opportunity to take advantage of the Panorama team in order to promote his own brand of woo, which also doesn’t reflect well on them. But there do seem to be one or two big discrepancies between the school’s version of events and the line coming from the BBC.

  10. evidencebasedeating said,

    May 26, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Wi-Fi harmful? Of course it is. But only to charlatans and pill-pushing franchises who come under scrutiny with nothing more than a Google search.

    For the rest of us, consider it a public health measure

  11. ashley said,

    May 26, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Presumably the Essex study is this one:

    www.essex.ac.uk/psychology/EHS/pages/tetra_design1.htm

    They’re only asked 3 times whether they think there is a signal, so “correct 2/3 of the time” literally means 2 out of three, i.e. as statistically insignificant as possible. If everyone guessed, you’d expect half to get at least two right.

    There is another study at Essex but that had four tests so she couldn’t have got 2/3 in that.

  12. Kess said,

    May 26, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Alistair Phillips is one of a handful of people with the right equipment to do this test.”

    So, er, what do BBC engineers used to check out their transmitters? Or have the BBC sacked/outsourced all such useful people and focused on employing only administrators, accountants, and media studies graduates…

  13. j said,

    May 26, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Re. BBC claims that Alistair Philips was used because he has the right equipment to do the job, EMFields (the company he uses to sell these meters) is pretty explicit as to what they can/can’t do:

    “WLANs & WiFi most of the time only emit very short bursts of radiation with big gaps in between. In order to get a realistic reading on the COM it is important for the wLAN link to be working at maximum capacity. Getting the link to work at maximum capacity involves transferring large files (e.g. larger than 10MB) while taking the measurements. The difference in signal quality can clearly be heard on the Electrosmog Detector, changing from occasional quiet ‘clicks’ (background) to a sustained ‘buzzing’ noise (working at capacity). Neither the COM nor the Electrosmog Detector is capable of detecting or measuring the next generation of wLANs in the 5-6 GHz frequency band which are gradually becoming available.” (www.emfields.org/equipment/3g.asp)

    In order words, Alistair’s meter will only work for measuring wifi signals if you artificially increase the signal strength (and therefore skew your results). You would have thought the BBC would have checked out this type of thing…

  14. ffutures said,

    May 26, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Forgot to add that you could presumably get more meaningful results by walking around with a pocket PC with a WiFi card and reading off the signal strength – it’d probably be cheaper too.

  15. drunkenoaf said,

    May 26, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    If only the Panorama team had employed even one person on the editorial team that had a basic GCSE understanding of physics and biology and a functioning brain before they made that programme.

    Perhaps they should get their programmes peer-reviewed by some of the Radio 4 boffins prior to transmissions. Or a schoolchild taking a Physics A-level.

  16. Weirdbeard said,

    May 26, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    I find it quite remarkable that a science teacher, and his class, managed to dub this as bad science. Most of the teachers in the science department where I work said that whether or not you think wireless networks are dangerous “is a matter of opinion”. They say the same about belief in evolution. This is a mainstream, non-faith based school. It’s very sad but there’s a heck of a lot of it about.

  17. tomh said,

    May 26, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    You know how all the anti- Mobile/Wi-fi people go on about pulsed radiation, well it has just struck me what so jarred me about it:
    electromagnetic radiation, aka light, aka radio frequency radiation, is at its deepest level a particle, the photon. So in effect there is absolutely no way of making em radiation non-pulsing, as a particle can only be there or not be there, it can’t be a continues thing. Grr.

  18. Robert Carnegie said,

    May 26, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    I supose that at least measuring the peak “radiation” is reasonable if you want to guarantee it respects safety limits. After all, on some days the network might be that busy – if everyone is playing videos or something.

    I’m not objecting to the general opinion that the rest is a great wallop of cods.

  19. James said,

    May 27, 2007 at 3:07 am

    Ben, you’re on Slashdot!

  20. cwm9 said,

    May 27, 2007 at 7:57 am

    I’m not sure which I am disappointed in more: that Panorama would broadcast obviously ill-researched information, or that the science teacher, students, and what appears to be most of your readers could be so equally mis-informed.

    Am I saying that Wi-Fi radiation is dangerous to humanity. Nope.

    But get your facts straight.

    For example. While that “beekeeper’s hat” you so gleefully state the students were astonished at may not be useful for preventing health ailments, it certainly WOULD be effective at reducing radio frequency radiation around your head. Yet the students clearly discounted it’s usefulness based upon its appearance, and not based upon any solid science or understanding of the physics behind such a device.

    When you use a microwave oven, and you peer inside to watch your lunch cook, what do you think it is that keeps your face from getting cooked too? It’s that metal mesh between you and your food!

    The wavelength of microwaves is substantially larger than the holes in the screen. Because of this, the microwaves are greatly attenuated as they cannot directly pass through these holes. (They are not totally eliminated, either, btw. There is a “skin depth” associated with the quality of materials and the frequency radiation; the radiation falls by 1/e for each ‘skin depth’ traveled through the material.) Why do you think it is wireless phones don’t work so well inside of buildings? Hey, don’t just take my word for it, go do some reading. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_oven

    That “beekeeper’s hat” is made of highly conductive material. It contains a lot of silver. Silver is expensive. I have no doubt the hat is expensive. Does the hat offer protection from EMF? It absolutely would reduce EMF by some amount. The reduction in EMF by conductive materials is dependent on both the conductivity of the metal used, its thickness, and whether the enclosure is complete. (Obviously this is not, and EMF will leak in at the bottom, but the total EMF will still be lower!)

    If you make a complete enclosure out of the right materials, it’s known as a ‘Faraday Cage’, after Michael Faraday. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage

    Want to see a real hard-core Faraday Cage? This is the kind of thing physicists and engineers use to shield their experiments: www.ets-lindgren.com/page/?i=Series-71

    Is that a “beekeepers room”? No. Do you need to live your life inside of one of these rooms to protect yourself from EMF poisoning? That’s another question, entirely.

    The right thing to say here is, “does research suggest it is necessary to reduce the emf exposure you get from Wi-Fi, and if so, how much does such a contraption reduce EMF by?”, and not, “that contraption looks so silly it obviously couldn’t do anything.”

    That’s what Panorama should have been doing. That’s what all of YOU should be doing.

    You could always go around wrapped in aluminum foil — the question isn’t would it reduce emf any (A little!), the question is, should you bother?

    Get your science straight. Thus guy you are maligning might or might not be wrong about the health effects of EMF, but (sadly!) he clearly knows more physics than you do!

  21. briantist said,

    May 27, 2007 at 9:41 am

    A clear demonstration can be seen from this graphic:

    www.ukfree.tv/styles/images/aerials/BBC_at_crystal_palace.png

    You can clearly see from this graphic that the digital signals are at a constant “half power” due to convolution, whereas the analogue signals are all over the place as you would expect with analogue.

    (The image is from a BBC presentation at www.itu.int/ITU-R/conferences/rrc/rrc-04/info_meeting/ppt/g_nlaflin.ppt )

  22. briantist said,

    May 27, 2007 at 10:00 am

    It’s a shame that Panorama couldn’t get an email to the people at BBC r&d:

    www.google.co.uk/search?source=ig&hl=en&q=cofdm+site%3Abbc.co.uk%2Frd&meta=

  23. Arthur said,

    May 27, 2007 at 10:13 am

    I sustained a nasty cut above the eye from a misdirected binary zero when I glanced down the router aerial. How many children around the world have lost eyes down to this? You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

  24. Mojo said,

    May 27, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Never mind the zeros: when are they going to do something about the hazardously pointy ends on the ones?

  25. briantist@work said,

    May 27, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Arthur/Mojo: It’s not the ones or zero you have to worry about, I get a headache every time the aerial makes a transition…

  26. Arthur said,

    May 27, 2007 at 11:30 am

    I run the Cambridge Radiation Absorption Panel that is seeking to publicise the dangers from other radiation sources around children. Studies have shown a radiative heating affect caused by radiation in the IR part of the spectrum emitted from central heating. IR radiation is known to denature proteins and cause burns. I advise all concerned parents to switch radiators off until further studies have shown this causes no problems.

  27. ayupmeduck said,

    May 27, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    @cmw9 – I’m not sure who you are aiming your comments at but I’m pretty sure that most people here understand what a faraday cage is, and also understand that the “beekeepers hat” may thus block certain EMR.

    I’m also pretty sure that the point is actually that the school were astonished that the Alisdair Philips had a vested interest and was actually selling the “beekeepers hats”. It does not say anywhere that the school questioned if the blocked electromagnetic radiation.

  28. cwm9 said,

    May 27, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    “When the children saw Alasdair’s Powerwatch website, and the excellent picture of the insulating mesh beekeeper hat that he sells (£27) to “protect your head from excess microwave exposure”, they were astonished and outraged. Panorama were calmly expelled from the school.”

    You think they were ‘astonished and outraged’ because he sells a £27 product on his web site?

    Whatever. If they were going to be astonished and outraged because he was selling things, they would have been far more astonished and outraged at some of the far more expensive but mundane looking things he was selling.

    I think it’s pretty obvious they were astonished and outraged because they felt the “bee keepers” hat was an “obviously completely worthless device” based upon its appearance. I doubt very much they thought, “Hey, that’s an EMF reduction device. But it doesn’t reduce EMF by that much, and well, I’m outraged, that this guy would sell an EMF reduction device and then go around telling people they need to reduce their EMF exposure! How absurd!”

    Yeah, right. They chucked him because they took one look at that hat and thought, “quack,” and while that might be true, they did so for all the wrong reasons.

  29. EvidenceSoup.com said,

    May 27, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    This story underscores just how badly people need better ways to look up evidence. Non-experts need access to straightforward presentations of the evidence, in plain language, using common terminology from one study to the next. Is there an honest broker of evidence on the effects of radiation from cell phones, wi-fi, etc? I’m looking for independent institutes, publishers, or other groups who provide that service.
    EvidenceSoup.com

  30. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 27, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    well maybe, but on the other hand bbc panorama could have used their integrity and got some people who know about science and evidence to assess what was available and present it in an accessible form. it’s hardly rocket science.

  31. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 27, 2007 at 8:56 am

    cwm: nobody’s saying the electrosmog beekeeper hats won’t keep signals out, we’re saying that an electrosmog campaigner who sells electrosmog beekeeper hats probably shouldn’t be driving the content of a bbc documentary.

  32. Robert Carnegie said,

    May 27, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    Well done the kids. They have enough education already to spot a con merchant. there are enough of those attending schools as it is without letting in the grownup ones.

    I think I may have already used the suggestion that promising young sceptics should be invited to read and participate on this web site, and as for the bad language the rest of us would get used to it. And infantile behaviour – tell you what, I’ll stop.

  33. j said,

    May 28, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    BBC are still sending out the same stock complaint letter – they e-mailed that to me, anyway. Will e-mail back asking for them to actually read what I sent them. Has anyone had a proper response to their complaint?

  34. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 28, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Horizon is almost as bad as Panorama these days, although at least they don’t actually make up “science”. When they’re not putting out some ridiculous sciencey programme on cosmetics or “the battle of the brains”, they bury the real science in piles of sensationalist guff. The recent show on the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson didn’t even mention the Higgs particle until ten minutes before the end. What they did prominently flag at the start of the show, however, is the possibility that the LHC could (hopefully will) produce mini-black holes. Naturally they didn’t discuss the implications for supersymmetry, but rather said “The LHC might destroy the earth!” It wasn’t until 40 minutes into the programme that they brought out the scientists to say: “Don’t be ridiculous. Even if these black holes, which would be infinitessimally small, are generated, they will decay through Hawking radiation in a tiny fraction of a second.” And frankly that wasn’t even the worst thing about the programme. They made Brian Cox look like a cheap mime artist.

  35. kim said,

    May 28, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    Ginger Yellow, I agree completely about that Horizon programme. I watched it, expecting to learn something new and to be mentally stretched: not only did it not tell me nothing that I didn’t know already, I, like you, kept waiting for them to mention the Higgs particle – which is the whole point of the LHC! I couldn’t believe that they kept it to the end. It was patronsing and simplistic beyond belief.

  36. jackpt said,

    May 28, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    I think it’s scary when some of the cable/satellite/freeview channels are putting together competent documentaries/science programmes with dramatically less resources than the traditional four channels. Still, there’s some good documentaries on BBC Four occasionally, but that kind of underlines the point that quality of output isn’t necessarily related to the available resources. They benefit somewhat from just being BBC, but receive dramatically less funds. I think that’s a route that young media savvy science types ought to be taking by default at the moment. BBC Four or More 4 or the cable/satellite channels. Give the main channels some serious competition.

  37. Robert Carnegie said,

    May 29, 2007 at 12:32 am

    Are we absolutely sure about Hawking radiation? We’ve heard that Hawking’s stock hasn’t been so high lately in his profession. But if little black holes don’t disappear after all then it could be hugely embarrassing for everyone concerned.

  38. stolennomenclature said,

    May 29, 2007 at 12:52 am

    Radiation.

    Microwave waves are electromagnetic radiation, just as gamma waves are. The word radiation is surely entirely appropriate to describe them – its the correct scientific term. I fail to see any problem with this term or the number of times it is used.

    I am interested in your comments re the device used to monitor the radition and its source, namely this Philips dude. You infer that he is biased. Perhaps so, but who isnt? You speak as if there is some magical body of completely honest, altruistic humans completely unbiased and unaffected by commercial interests or personal inclination, who are a source of measuring devices of perfect accuracy and are all knowing in respect to the dangers of technology and how to set warning levels. This is of course total nonsense – cloud-cuckoo land stuff. Devices other than those from Philips will by and large have been manufactured by the very industry that is producing the wi-fi products in the first place, and hardly likely to have any kind of red level on their devices since that might cause fear and alarm, and impair their marketing and profit margins.

    The fact is the whole mainstream field of science is
    conducted by human beings, and regardless of their intellectual capabilities and their level of learning, they are just as imperfect, selfish, and corruptible as all the others (myself included).

    If you want to see science and scientists in a balanced way, it might be good to reflect on the fact that scientists designed the atomic bomb, lethal bacteria and virus based weapons, the toxic compounds released into our atmosphere and our food that are poisoning us, and created most of the technology that is indirectly warming up and destroying our planet.

    If destroying the planet and killing people is “good” science, then give me the “bad: science any day.

    And by the way, I am completely convinced that this microwave radiation is a health risk. I had to give up using mobile phones because of pains in my head while using them, which abated when I stopped. And this was before I had even heard or considered that microwave radation could be a health risk, so it was not pysho-somatic.

  39. stolennomenclature said,

    May 29, 2007 at 1:08 am

    The real issue here is that no one as yet knows for sure whether this microwave radiation poses health risks (especially in the long term) or not. The jury is still out.

    Perhaps people should consider the fact that “good” science apparently supports the notion of using technology that has not yet been proven to be safe. I would have thought that the rational, sensible approach would be to not use anything UNTIL it is proven safe.

    To me, and I am sure any other open minded and rational person, this is not in any sense “good” science that is driving this unproven technology, but simply commercial greed.

    It seems to be the normal procedure. How odd though! If you are producing drugs to heal sick people, you have to prove they are safe in laboratory trials, but not if you are producing things for healthy people. So its ok to injure healthy people, but not sick ones. Interesting logic. Is this more “good” science? Hmmmm.

    In this case, which is the bad science. The science of this man Philips who is concerned about the welfare of human beings, or the science of the IT industry that doesnt care if its stuff is safe so long as they can make some money out of it. After all im sure they can make a few out of court settlements for the poor sods with brain cancer and still keep a healthy bottom line.

  40. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 29, 2007 at 8:24 am

    “Are we absolutely sure about Hawking radiation? We’ve heard that Hawking’s stock hasn’t been so high lately in his profession. ”

    There is controversy about Hawking radiation, but it’s much less controversial than supersymmetry and extraspatial dimensions, which would need to be true for the black holes to be created in the first place. What might have lowered Hawking’s stock (I’m not a physicist, so I don’t know if it has) is that Hawking used to be insistent that black holes destroyed all information once it crossed the event horizon. This causes major problems within traditional quantum mechanics, hence the controversy over Hawking radiation. In a major about-face, he recently published a paper arguing that information might in fact be able to escape, thereby resolving the problem.

  41. Deano said,

    May 29, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Of course the kids could see the flaws in Panorama’s approach – at Key Stage 2 the National Curriculum for science requires they be taught this:

    “Investigative skills
    2) Pupils should be taught to:

    1. ask questions that can be investigated scientifically and decide how to find answers
    2. consider what sources of information, including first-hand experience and a range of other sources, they will use to answer questions
    3. think about what might happen or try things out when deciding what to do, what kind of evidence to collect, and what equipment and materials to use
    4. make a fair test or comparison by changing one factor and observing or measuring the effect while keeping other factors the same”

    Perhaps TV documentary makers should indeed go to school – primary school, so they can catch up with the seven to ten year-olds are learning…

    tinyurl.com/36dkm2

  42. Martin said,

    May 29, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    Stolennomenclature,

    If any studies actually proved that Wifi was dangerous, most (if not all) of the people on this site would stand up and argue against it. But there haven’t been any robust studies which support such a hypothesis.

    You wondered about some magical body of completely honest, altruistic humans completely unbiased and unaffected by commercial interests or personal inclination. No, there probably aren’t many people like that. That’s why scientific studies are set up as randomised, double-blinded and controlled trials. It takes as much of the bias out the study as possible.

    You also wondered about any measuring device produced by anyone other than Phillips not having a red line. For a start, such devices aren’t difficult to produce and probably won’t have been made by Nokia or Sony. But no measuring device should have a ‘red line’ unless it’s properly calibrated. Did anyone see Phillip’s calibration certificate/ methodology? Without it the red line is meaningless. Even then, if I use a simple, properly callibrated, electrical multi-meter, set the scale for 0-100V volts, and measure the national grid voltage, I’d get a reading well off the scale.

    I’m sorry you got pains I your head using a mobile phone. Why not contact an independent scientist who can set up a proper study to investigate your electromagnetic sensitivity? Then you can bring some informed science to the debate.

    As someone mentioned on another thread, the plural of anecdote is not data.

  43. Ambrielle said,

    May 29, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    I think everyone involved with this programme (the presenters, producers and researchers) should be named and shamed, and forced to justify themselves to the public.

  44. raygirvan said,

    May 29, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    > stolennomenclature
    > Microwave waves are electromagnetic radiation, just as gamma waves are. The word radiation is surely entirely appropriate to describe them – its the correct scientific term. I fail to see any problem with this term or the number of times it is used.

    Fine if you’re dealing with scientists, but to non-specialists it’s a heavily loaded word that brings to mind the Chernobyl, glow-in-the-dark, vomiting, skin-falling-off kind.

  45. Dr Aust said,

    May 29, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Stolennomenclature wrote:

    “If you want to see science and scientists in a balanced way, it might be good to reflect on the fact that scientists designed the atomic bomb, lethal bacteria and virus based weapons”

    Well, hardly the most convincing set of examples.

    The atomic bomb was designed in wartime, prompted by the direct fear of almost all involved that the Nazis would be developing one – rather an exceptional set of curcumstances. Many of those involved later spent many years soul-searching about the moral dimension of what they had done, Robert Oppenheimer being perhaps the most famous example.

    I would suggest that almost all the scientists who have worked on germ weapons were driven by a misguided sense of patriotism. It’s the ideological fervour that allows people to do morally reprehensible things that is the overriding problem, I would say.

    I am not claiming that all research or knowledge is morally neutral – engineering a highly virulent and deadly virus to be more easily transmissible would be morally indefensible in my view – but the inference of Stolen’s comment, that most scientists have no moral sense, is rather silly.

  46. gantlord said,

    May 29, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Stolennomenclature,

    “I would have thought that the rational, sensible approach would be to not use anything UNTIL it is proven safe.”

    How can something be proven safe? Have televisions been proven safe? Has electricity been proven safe? Has anything ever been proven safe? Should we simply all, at a stroke, reject all trappings of modern life? Is this how you live? You certainly use computers it appears…

    I’m sorry to be yet another one of the people here to jump on your comments. It’s difficult to do otherwise though, given your comments. I find it sad that you think of science and scientists as a gang of amoral greed merchants. If greed is your focus though, figure this one out.

    I am passionately devoted to seeing science accurately represented in the mainstream media. I stand to gain nothing, neither in terms of money or reputation, from doing this.

    Alasdair Philips, on the other hand, has patents for electrosmog detectors, and sells other such EMF detector devices. He profits directly when people believe in the existence of EMF electro sensitivity.

    Whose motivation is the most likely to be biased?

    Until evidence gives us reason to conclude otherwise, we have no choice but to maintain that “EMF electrosensitivity” has no connection to EMF.

  47. zooloo said,

    May 29, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    Stolennomenclature>

    I’ve edited your comment so it makes more sense –

    “The science of this man Philips who… doesnt care if its stuff is safe so long as they can make some money out of it.”

  48. StayWired said,

    May 29, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    Bad Science Goes Bananas!

    Ben appears to have completely lost the plot with this one. He made some scurrilous accusations about Powerwatch’s Alasdair Philips without backing up his claims with anything more than his own “bad science”. Maybe he should stick to medical issues – he is at least trained in them!

    He claimed that:-

    1. Powerwatch is not independent and campaigns to stop WiFi and promote the products of Alasdair Philips’ linked EMFields products.
    2. Alasdair Philips is not a suitable person to advise or take measurements.
    3. The instruments used (especially the COM monitor) were unsuitable.
    4. What we measured and how it was measured was bad science.
    5. The content of the programme was badly biased against WiFi.
    6. Where is the scientific evidence of possible harm?
    7. Where is the scientific evidence for Electrical Sensitivity?

    Read Alasdair’s reply that dismisses all of Ben Goldacre’s claims here

    We got a reply back from Ben Goldsmith, as follows:-

    [1.] Powerwatch is not independent and campaigns to stop WiFi and promote the products of Alasdair Philips’ linked EMFields products.
    true, would you have been impressed if they used an engineer from t-mobile?
    [2.] Alasdair Philips is not a suitable person to advise or take measurements.
    true, he’s a great person to commentate, i like him, he’s a sensible lobbyist (with one very worrying recent slip which i suspect he is addressing) but not to take measurements, clearly not.
    [3.] The instruments used (especially the COM monitor) were unsuitable.
    they absolutely were, he designed it, he designed what “red” was. even kenyon accepts this.
    [4.] What we measured and how it was measured was bad science.
    yup. right up next to the computer while it was downloading a large file is not a real world measure of day to day exposure, as i said.
    [5.] The content of the programme was badly biased against WiFi.
    of course it was. i don’t believe anyone would doubt that for one moment
    [6.] Where is the scientific evidence of possible harm?
    i am very happy with the idea that concerns have been raised and that further research should be done, as i have made very clear
    [7.] Where is the scientific evidence for Electrical Sensitivity?
    the symptoms are very real and very distressing, they deserve research effort and practical support as they receive in sweden, but there is little evidence to show that these symptoms are caused by EM. most unforgivably of all , the program completely misrepresented the evidence that does exist. this is completely unacceptable. i don’t think your case needs to rest on misleading people about the evidence, i think you can make a perfectly good case without doing that.
    Ben Goldacre

    We say:-

    [1] , [2] You could argue the case either way for these points. When does an ‘Independent’ stop being an Independent and become otherwise, once they realise the dangers of such devices as Mobile Telephone Masts and Wi-fi? There are 1 or 2 retired experts who do not have a related income, so maybe they should have been used, but their experience isn’t as great. I would say ALL experts are polarised either For or Against, so an accusation of bias was always occur.
    [3] The COM meter as I recall was only being used to illustrate signal strengths in Norwich from the city-wide Wi-Fi, it wasn’t part of the “Scientific” part of the programme. The “red” is illustrative and corresponds well to the scale that Alasdair mentions. The COM meter as a whole scales well with the levels set by the Scientists in Salzburg a few years ago for safe(r) mobile phone usage indoors and out. It is a consumer device and doesn’t fully measure 3G signals, but is professionally calibrated, and correctly illustrates signal strength.
    From personal experience a COM meter is OK to measure with, but is not ideal as it does not recognise 3G fully. I would have liked to see the COM meter used with the Acousticom [sound] meter or, ideally, a more complex professional unit. Even so, the COM meter gives correct or lower readings for illustration purposes.
    [4] The measurements taken were not stated as constant, but are realistic for the levels found when files are being downloaded from the internet or the school’s server – which would certainly be some or a lot of the time – the transcript excerpt below illustrates what was ACTUALLY said:-
    “PHILIPS: Absolutely, yes that was definitely higher than I expected. It’s only there.. not there continuously but it’s obviously there quite a lot of the lesson if you’re downloading files from the internet.

    KENYON: So we took the first measurement here in what’s called the beam of greatest intensity from the mast. The advice from Sir William Stewart to the government was that this beam shouldn’t fall on any part of a school’s grounds, unless the school and the parents agreed. But the levels of radiation inside the classroom were far higher, three times the strength of the nearby mast – not continuously but during downloads. These are controversial findings that must be repeated and verified.”

    [5] The content of the programme was, rather, bringing to the public’s attention information that is not forth-coming regarding the emissions from Wi-fi and its connections to Mobile Telephone Masts. The program was straight talking using facts, rather than just using ridicule. In doing so, it has helped in a small way to redress the balance of other programmes which heavily promote wireless like the BBC News, Click and other tie-ins to Product launches such as the recent launch of “The Cloud” in the City of London.

    [6] The volume of Scientific evidence of possible harm is already large and is growing all the time – it just isn’t artificially pigeon-holed as “wi-fi” / “this” or “that” – it’s the same sorts and strengths of microwave emissions at the same frequencies which produce low-level elctromagnetic fields. Wi-fi ticks many of the same boxes for many of the Scientific research programs already carried out. You do not need to start entirely from scratch with each and every device as and when it comes out if it uses similar technology – Wi-fi’s characteristics are the same as many other wireless technologies including Mobile Telephone Masts.

    Why should we be subjected to a huge experiment in the mean time? A post-code lottery of wireless hot-spots and Mobile Phone Masts shouldn’t be turning residents into lab rats.

    [7] The whole of human history is littered with precedence of changing lifestyles causing new diseases to become more common.

    In the Agricultural revolution a diet of wheat led to diseases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other problems from eating foods for which our bodies had not evolved.

    In the Industrial Revolution new pollutants led to the rise in diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and other problems linked to industrial pollutions.

    In the “Modern Age” of electricity from the 1920′s onwards diseases such as Leukaemia and other similar cancers have become more widespread.

    Now mobile/wireless/microwave communications are bringing their sets of problems for our bodies to cope with – more rare cancers are becoming increasingly common – the types predicted many years ago by Dr. Cherry before these technologies were widely deployed. Electrosensitive (EHS) people are an extreme reaction to this latest “leap into the unknown” that we are all taking with Wi-fi and similar technologies.

    I am in contact with several EHS people who were not even aware that Wi-fi etc. had been installed by neighbours or employers until their lives were turned upside down by pains and suffering. Many sufferers can “sniff-out” wireless access points without COM meters. Their symptoms wear off when they are not in proximity to wireless devices or transmitters. This is not psychosomatic – this is very real. It is down to an environmental pollutant and that common pollutant in the case of EHS is EM.

    Many so-called “double-blind” tests carried out to date on EHS sufferers have NOT taken the source of EM down to zero for the supposed “OFF” test. Would you hold a pilot light near to the skin of a burns victim? No, of course not. The cynic in me would say that such tests were designed to fail to cast “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, doubt) on EHS sufferers. By discrediting EHS sufferers – the extreme of microwave damage – you can keep the cash rolling in for the wireless industry.

    I counter by asking you Ben -

    6. Where is the scientific evidence of safety for Wi-fi etc.?
    7. Where is the scientific evidence to explain away Electrical Sensitivity?

    Ben – If you want to find out about EHS for real I can introduce you to real sufferers – real people are much less easy to explain away than statistics.

  49. raygirvan said,

    May 30, 2007 at 2:03 am

    Many so-called “double-blind” tests carried out to date on EHS sufferers have NOT taken the source of EM down to zero for the supposed “OFF” test.

    Why would that be necessary? If it’s a real biological effect, it’s reasonable to assume it’s dose-related. So, say, being able to tell the difference between a low-but-nonzero and a humungous EM field would be a perfectly good test.

    The cynic in me would say that such tests were designed to fail to cast “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, doubt) on EHS sufferers.

    They already do suffer from fear, uncertainty, doubt (like anyone else suffering from perfectly real but unexplained debilitating syndromes). That’s exactly why people in such situations are so prone to latching on to simple mono-cause explanations that offer hope and an easy fix. I think it’s pretty significant that what alleviates EHS correlates with taking yourself away from various pretty obvious stressors: answering the phone, working with computers, working in offices, etc.

  50. StayWired said,

    May 30, 2007 at 9:59 am

    “Asking to prove a negative is quite difficult.”
    Maybe so, but carrying on as if something is safe when a large body of evidence indicates clearly that it is not is irresponsible and reckless.
    We have evolved over billions of years to breathe fresh air – which isn’t safe – but our bodies can cope with the impurities, germs and other nasties.
    This isn’t the case for the microwave emission levels now being pumped out as electrosmog pollution – this is thousands of times higher than the background levels we have evolved with.
    See for some ideas of the way forward without killing the planet or giving up all your gadgets.

  51. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 30, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Dude, you might be taken more seriously if you stopped capitalising random words.

  52. superburger said,

    May 30, 2007 at 11:24 am

    “Maybe so, but carrying on as if something is safe when a large body of evidence indicates clearly that it is not is irresponsible and reckless.”

    if you could provide details of 5 peer reviewed, properly placeboed experiments which demonstrate the dangers of “electrosmog” i would begin to be convinced.

    as an aside, do you think ‘normal’ radio waves are also dangerous? Because we’ve had nearly 100 years of ‘radiosmog’ pollution and it doesn’t seem to do us any harm – and there isn’t that much difference between radio waves and microwaves.

  53. oneiros said,

    May 30, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    …carrying on as if something is safe when a large body of evidence indicates clearly that it is not is irresponsible and reckless.

    *sigh*

  54. mpntod said,

    May 30, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Perhaps the BBC should have kicked off the programme with some measurements near their strongest radio and TV transmitters?

    Is there a better case for closing down the BBC than switching off Wi-Fi (on electro-smog grounds of course)… :-)

  55. Wiretrip said,

    May 30, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    I see that Philips is ‘qualified in both Electrical and Electronic Engineering and in Agricultural Engineering’ and is thus eminently qualified to produce bullshit with electronics.

  56. Delster said,

    May 30, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    I’m a telecoms engineer and work with large amount’s of electrical equipment. This includes wireless telephony. At home i have Wi-Fi and i’m fine… if serious about finding these effects why don’t they do a study of people who recieve a higher than normal “dose” of this radiation?

    These campaingers, if really concerned about others health, should go and campaign about things with proven effects.

    Maybe car emmissions?

  57. John Craddock said,

    May 30, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Re: # stolennomenclature’s comments above.

    I think you’re correct in what you say about nuclear and biological weapons, industrial poisons etc. being ‘bad science’ but I think some confusion is caused by a double meaning on the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ you have taken them to mean moral and immoral where as I think the name of this site takes them to mean correct and incorrect. If the arguments are rephrased the meaning becomes much clearer.

    The people who designed the atomic bomb did correct science, their calculations were right and they made something that works. Whether that was moral or not is a subject often debated.

    Similarly you can think that the BBC program was moral because you feel it contributed towards a greater good (highlighting what some see as a danger) but I think there is little doubt that the science in it was incorrect.

  58. pv said,

    May 30, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    A large body of evidence, eh? Well, come on then. Where is it? So far all we have is your word and the word of that quack Philips. What the evidence incontrovertibly shows so far is that (1) Philips has a talent for invention, misrepresentation and scaremongering, and (2) Philips is trying to profit from a fictitious condition by flogging stuff to the vulnerable or gullible to “prevent” it.
    StayWired, Mr Philips or whoever you are, it’s interesting that you think the “conditions” caused by so-called “electrosmog” and wi-fi aren’t medical! What would they be then? Luddite hypochondria?

  59. le canard noir said,

    May 30, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    This is simple. If there really are “sufferers [that] can “sniff-out” wireless access points without COM meters and their symptoms wear off when they are not in proximity to wireless devices or transmitters” then it ought to be a simple to prove the ES thesis.

    A single good test of this would shake the world. And I don’t mean some results that just peak out of the statistical noise, but a big signal, like people can detect rotting meat. This sixth sense, if it exists, will make us all shut up and listen.

    Get on with it. Do the experiments. Publish them. Or shut up.

  60. Dr Aust said,

    May 30, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    From my cursory glance at PubMed, there is a vast literature on radiofrequency (RF) and other electromagnetic field exposure, going back (unsurprisingly when you think about it) to when radar appeared (works on microwaves and all that).

    The consensus from this literature is that there is no convincing evidence that the fields typically encountered do anything.

    If anyone is bored enough to want to read a long article on effects (or lack of) of electromagnetic fields the following one in Pediatrics is free:

    pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/116/2/e303

    Unsurprisingly, the radiation from any kind of base station or network is likely to be far less than what you get by pressing a mobile phone to your ear.

  61. StayWired said,

    May 30, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    pv: Bio-Physics, not Medicine or Physics.

    Le Canard Noir: working on your EHS challenge.

    superburger: cancers in proximity to large TV transmitters such as Ally Pally and the ones near Croydon are not unknown. Leukemia in proximity to powerlines in an obvious parallel for EM effects – see SAGE report ( www.rkpartnership.co.uk/sage/Public/SAGE%20first%20interim%20assessment.pdf ) – especially the “California” view.

    Dr Aust: blinkered view of Pub Med – look harder!

    Delster: “proven” eh? Have we not progressed in our attitude to the warning signs since the days of smoking and asbestos. Some obviously haven’t, eh?

    double *sigh*

  62. KP said,

    May 30, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    I for one am grateful to StayWired. It gives me a chance to use the wonderful word ‘anecdata’ – with thanks to Ben, of course.

  63. superburger said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:25 am

    “cancers in proximity to large TV transmitters such as Ally Pally and the ones near Croydon are not unknown”

    I bet there are. People all over the UK get cancer. Some of them live a very long way from any TV transmitters. Some of them live right next to them.

    leukemia and powerlines.

    There is still no great body of evidence linking proximity to power lines and leukemia. sorry.

  64. pv said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:32 am

    StayWired, asbestos is only dangerous if it enters your lungs. The danger to the public at large through its use as a fire retardant in building construction has been highly overstated. It is not otherwise dangerous.
    As I asked before, where is your EVIDENCE about the dangers of wi-fi? All you have provided so far is… nothing at all!

  65. StayWired said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:08 am

    pv: try as a starting point my links from mastsanity.blogspot.com/2007/05/re-wifi-why-worry.html
    (Remember that Wi-fi (b/g) uses 2.4 GHz microwave frequencies for which many comparable research studies have been made. It doesn’t stop being a microwave technology just because you call it “Wi-fi”.)

    See also Powerwatch(!)’s “dispelling Wireless Myths at www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20070424_wifi_myths.asp

    And no, I don’t work for them, nor do I get paid for this stuff…

  66. Despard said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:43 am

    #81: “There is still no great body of evidence linking proximity to power lines and leukemia. sorry.”

    There is some, I believe. But when you control for the fact that people living near power lines are likely to be poorer, smoke more and have a worse diet, it disappears for some reason…

  67. pixelpixie said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:47 am

    A few things that really annoyed me about this programme is that as parents we all have enough real stuff to worry about, drugs. violence, the education system turning into an exam factory, paedophiles on the internet… the list is endless. This sort of rampant scaremongering is just immoral.

    Presenting Alistair philips as an expert in measurement is laughable. The small hand held meter used whilst walking around the city centre is COM monitor (sold by a company owned by mr philips.) It’s a little box with a few LEDs on the front that randomly light up and the box squawks when it detects RF. As measurement equipment goes it’s about as reliable as a wet stick. I made some enquiries about the calibration of these units and the uncertainty factors… not satisfactorily answered. Mr philips makes money out of creating concern and then selling products to alleviate it. This is morally bankrupt and this programme should have made that connection clear. I thought the BBC didn’t take advertising?

    They made the point that the levels close to the laptop were three times greater than in the beam of greatest intensity of the base station. Woopi-do! given that typically these levels would be around a thousand times below the ICNIRP public guidlelines then three times a tiny amount is still a tiny amount!

    I have totally lost any respect i ever had for the BBC. If this is journalism then I am a banana

  68. gantlord said,

    May 31, 2007 at 11:37 am

    staywired,

    don’t link to a couple of sites that have so many links and articles that it would take weeks to sift through. Pick one single peer-reviewed study. One.

    If you could produce just one reliable peer-reviewed study, then we could start to discuss this logically.

    You can’t wave your hand at a mountain of information and expect your point of view to be taken seriously because of the sheer volume of material that has been produced on the subject.

  69. HowardW said,

    May 31, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    “Le Canard Noir: working on your EHS challenge.”

    Good – lots of people here would be very interested to see results of such a test.

    This whole precautionary approach idea sounds vaguely sensible on the surface (for about 3 seconds), but in reality is boundless madness. Where do you stop?

    “there are no credible studies which have actually proved there isn’t a health issue”

    “Where is the scientific evidence of safety for Wi-fi etc.?”

    After reading this, I’m starting to develop a nagging doubt. I’m worried that when I scratch my left knee while listening to late baroque music I might be putting my health in danger. I did some browsing on the web and was completely shocked to discover – THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO SHOW THAT THIS IS SAFE!

    As a precautionary approach, I would advise everyone here to avoid scratching their left knee while listening to late baroque music – unless someone can point me to any published data that would set my mind at rest?

    Howard

  70. ayupmeduck said,

    May 31, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    You’ll probably never convince people like staywired, or Alisdair Philips for that matter, that they have not got their facts straight – too much vested interest or unwillingness/inability to understand the facts.

    As I’ve said before, this is a shame because if there is any real evidence for their claims, we would all benefit from them being brought to light. I’d have no problem in changing my mind on this issue (as Keynes is reported to have said “When the facts change, I change my mind — what do you do, sir?”), but right now, the fact is that Philips and his e-smog worriers are simply wrong. I rest my case.

    Last year I had an experience with a lady insisting that we had “bio-photon anti-e-smog
    pyramids” installed in our after-school building – to save the children! No amount of reasoning would get her to understand that they were pointless. In the end she actually got her own way and she was allowed to bring one in. A little later I heard that she was selling these things at 100 quid a shot, and had used our after-school club as her “reference customer”. Turns out she was not just an idiot, but a scumbag to boot.

    There’s a little to how much you can discuss with these people, so I’m with Canard Noir, staywired should either put up or shut up.

  71. daikon said,

    May 31, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Do you remember the Independent used to be a newspaper at some point? or was that just my imagination

    environment.independent.co.uk/lifestyle/article2600308.ece

    and within, they plug the Q-link pendant and this interesting site-

    www.subtlefieldtechnologies.com/

    I guess Alistair Philips has competition- and you don’t need no beekeepers hat- just just have to adjust the holographic field. apparently.

  72. topazg said,

    May 31, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    I’m truly stunned at the level of ignorance that is on here. Firstly, independence is entirely a superficial point. On areas of contention such as these, purely believing one side strongly enough removes your independence. If you believe the whole thing is scaremongering, you will no doubt see the evidence that supports your view and post it accordingly.

    Regardless of qualifications, I can’t help noticing that Alasdair Philips has been involved in EMF research, including chairing a number of international scientific conferences and being on more recent UK stakeholder government groups. Ben Goldacre however appears to have had no input into EMF science ever, as far as I can see.

    Powerwatch (presumably Alasdair) has now put a full response to this commentary: www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20070529_panorama_extra.asp,
    and it seems rather better reasoned than the rant by Ben on here.

    I am interested as to why so many people, with such little apparent understanding of EMF science, seem to claim to be such experts in the field that they can criticise both Sir William Stewart and Alasdair Philips, both of whom I suspect have more experience in knowledge in these fields than everyone on here (including myself obviously) put together.

    Get a grip people and let those that know what they are talking about sort things out without ignorant layperson interference.

  73. superburger said,

    May 31, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    that independent aritcle made me feel ill – maybe i’m “tosser-sensitive”

    oh, and from the article

    “So I immediately turned off my wireless network and replaced it with broadband.”

    Previously she had dial-up wireless then?

  74. trickcyclist said,

    May 31, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    In the nice world I inhabit in my head the world takes note of the well-reasoned and sensible words of Ben and others, weighs it in the balance, and drops their previous beliefs, happy to be shepherded back to the one true church of evidence based living. But no, some are just plain stubborn.

    The Independent today; ‘My war with electrosmog’ environment.independent.co.uk/lifestyle/article2600308.ece

    The warning signs are all there; ‘feeling tired and drained … houseplants losing their lustre’ in someone who admits to ‘seeing more doctors than Woody Allen’ who describes her health as her ‘hobby’. Luckily help was on hand from her naturopath, so that the money could start flowing.

    And there in the ‘how to block the rays’ box? Our old friend the Q-link pendant, at £70 a snip compared to the £235 magnetic field protection boxes. The one that really threw me though was the Australian Bush Flower Essences ‘Electro Essence’, which it is claimed in the article ‘reduce the amount of radiation stored in the body’. Faraday cages I can go along with, but oils? [And, for that matter, 'storage'?]

    If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. I’m off to whip up a ‘patented electrosmog bodyscrub’ out of some old cheese I’ve got festering in the fridge. For you, madam, £80.

  75. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 31, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    blogged www.badscience.net/?p=422

    my very strong preference is that you should not be rude about people who suffer with symptoms, but the science content of the article is very much fair game.

  76. trickcyclist said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Oops, my sincere apologies; I can see how what I wrote could be taken as rudeness to sufferers, but that wasn’t my intention.

    Symptoms are real to people, and should be sensitively assessed. If, as I feel they often are, the symptoms are of psychogenic origin, individuals should be helped to reframe their experiences in a new way. My ironic comment about ‘warning signs’ was made better by Dr Simon Wessley (somewhere); that the non-specific symptoms currently attributed to ‘electrosmog’ are the same ones as MS/multiple chemical sensitivity/candidal overgrowth/insert current health fear here.

    My real beef is with the vultures who descend to flog their latest nonsense to vulnerable individuals, and in the process reinforce their distorted beliefs about the nature of their symptoms.

  77. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    agreed, thanks for clarifying.

    now

    a certain somebody here is defending a certain lobby group

    and i suspect they are actually from that lobby group

    and are refusing to identify themselves, even though i’ve suggested it politely in an email.

    i think when a person from a lobby group comes to defend that lobby group they perhaps should identify themselves as being from that lobby group?

    am i alone? surely that is reasonable? given the fuss made by the electrosmog movement and panorama about conflict of interest?

  78. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    thanks for finally identifying yourself graham philips of powerwatch.

    it feels a little as if you are trying to quote the one slightly short and exasperated sentence of our long-ish email discussion to make out that i have been very unfair and rude to you.

    do please post our whole email exchange if you like so people can see the full context.

    i would be very happy for you to do that.

    you guys… sheeshh…

  79. topazg said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Instead of carrying on a rather pointless and petty personal issue, how about trying to stick to the point in question?

    Do you have any criticisms other than conflict of interest to the points raised in Alasdair’s response to your entry?

    Do you have any counters to the points made that you wish to share?

  80. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Isn’t it funny how people who get caught being deceptive always project guilt onto the people who catch them?

  81. gantlord said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    “the non-specific symptoms currently attributed to ‘electrosmog’ are the same ones as MS/multiple chemical sensitivity/candidal overgrowth/insert current health fear here.”

    MS? What’s the beef with MS, I thought it was a straight up uncontroversial disease?

  82. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    sure, i’ll respond to his comments, where on alasdair philips’ website do i post my comments?

    “Are yes, how very polite of you. If you are going to ask so very nicely I will gladly oblige.”

    actually i had to ask over five times and i was perfectly polite. if you’re going to edit everything to make it sound like i wasn’t then i think that says a lot about the kind of cherry picking your organisation engages in.

  83. topazg said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    @Ben: Sorry, posted before seeing your response. Feel free to use email, or the feedback form sitting on the page I linked to.

  84. trickcyclist said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Oops again. ME/chronic fatigue syndrome, not MS. Sorry, obviously sitting too close to the Wi-Fi box. Need to get me a pendant.

  85. topazg said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    @Trickcyclist: Yes, you are absolutely correct, there are a suspicious number of similarities between a number of these syndromes.

    I personally suspect there is a very high proportion of supposed ES people suffering entirely from a nocebo effect – That again is my opinion, and not on behalf of Powerwatch itself.

  86. pv said,

    May 31, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    “Get a grip people and let those that know what they are talking about sort things out without ignorant layperson interference.”

    Gillian McKeith, Patrick Holford, Alasdair Philips, David Icke…

  87. superburger said,

    May 31, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    graham you say

    “see day after day in the scientific journals and what I deem to be sensible levels of precaution.”

    Which journals, which authors? Just a couple of good references to read on the train tomorrow would be good.

  88. topazg82 said,

    May 31, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    @pv: Is that the best you can do to make a point?

    @superburger: Sure, I’ll stick to GSM base station research in the last 5 years for the sake of this argument:

    Santini R et al, 2003, Symptoms experienced by people in vicinity of base stations: II/ Incidences of age, duration of exposure, location of subjects in relation to the antennas and other electromagnetic factors, Pathol Biol 2003 Sep;51(7):412-5

    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=12948762

    And as that is in French, I’ll put a couple more up:

    Yurekli A et al, 2006, GSM base station electromagnetic radiation and oxidative stress in rats, Electromagn Biol Med. 2006;25(3):177-88.

    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16954120

    Abdel-Rassoul G et al, 2006, Neurobehavioral effects among inhabitants around mobile phone base stations, Neurotoxicology. 2006 Aug 1; [Epub ahead of print]

    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16962663

    Best Regards,
    - Graham

  89. topazg82 said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Hehe, hopefully you can understand the original French better than I can then!

  90. gantlord said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Well, unfortunately I don’t have access to the journal. I noticed this though, the French paper was cited by a German one, and it has the following Title and Abstract. Can anyone elaborate further on the content and contrast between these two papers?

    Elektromagnetische Hypersensibilität (EHS) und Befindlichkeitsstörungen durch elektromagnetische Felder des Mobilfunks – eine Literaturstudie
    Heike Seitz; Thomas Eikmann; Martin Röösli

    Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) and subjective health complaints associated with electromagnetic fields of mobile phone communication – a literature review
    It is aim of this study to assess the risk to suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) or unspecific symptoms through electromagnetic fields (EMF) of mobile communication. Literature published between 2000 to 2004 concerning EMF of mobile communication and EHS or unspecific health complaints, respectively, is reviewed. Basically literature from established databases was systematically searched for. For each study, the design and quality was evaluated by means of a criteria list in order to judge evidence for causality of exposures on effects. Finally, 13 studies of sufficient quality were considered for this review. In only one provocation study individuals with self-reported electromagnetic hypersensitivity were exposed to EMF. Their perception of field status was no better than would have been expected by chance. Results of five randomised cross-over studies on impaired well-being due to mobile phone exposure were contradictory. Even though these studies would allow more reliable exposure assessment they are limited due to short exposure period and the small study size. No firm conclusion could be drawn from the few observational epidemiological studies finding a positive association between exposure and unspecific health complaints due to methodological limitations. Valid associations between EMF exposure and health effects were not derivable from these cross-sectional studies as field status and health complaints were assessed at the same time. In summary it can be ascertained that on basis on the recent studies it is not possible to draw a reliable conclusion whether or not the considered outcomes can be caused by EMF.

  91. megachicken(b) said,

    May 31, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    The Santini study correlated symptoms with self-reported distance from a mast. A more recent study (Eltiti S et al (2006). Bioelectromagnetics, DOI 10.1002/bem.20279), shows that while people with symptoms know how near they live to a mast, people without symptoms tend to overestimate the distance – introducing a systematic bias. If you ignore self-reported distance, and test objective distance instead, you may find different results.

    With the Abdel-Rassoul paper, I don’t have it in front of me, but did they control for anxiety about the mast? I seem to recall that one sample lived directly under the first ever mast to be erected in that part of egypt, while the control sample lived some distance away.

  92. topazg82 said,

    May 31, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    @gantlord: That’s a study I haven’t got at all, I’d be very interested on the DOI number for that one and I’ll try and get hold of a copy.

    @megachicken: I’m not going to be able to get hold of it until Monday, but I’ll try and post what they controlled for (from the paper) then.

    For those that are interested, www.powerwatch.org.uk/20070525_lai_studies.pdf is a big list of studies on RF, some showing effect, some not, that Henry Lai sent me a few days ago. I haven’t looked through it in great depth yet, so it may have a bundle of citations that I don’t have in my library.

  93. pv said,

    May 31, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    topazg82 said,

    May 31, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    @pv: Is that the best you can do to make a point?

    Actually Sir I happen to think it is a very good point. They are all quacks in their own chosen field of “expertise”. They all cherry pick their evidence to fit, and they all have groupies like you around telling the public how wonderful they are. They all flog stuff to a gullible public too rather than involve themselves in any actual scientific research; their only research activities tending more towards the marketing kind.
    I should have added Wakefield to the list too because, although he doesn’t sell stuff to the public, he does sell his services as a (not very) expert witness and has profited hugely from the tragedies of others while contributing fuck all to their actual well being – in the last respect much like the “electrosmog” vultures are hoping to do.
    It’s all about marketing opportunities isn’t it Mr Philips? All the other crap is, well – diversionary crap designed to put a veneer of respectability on what is otherwise an scam.

  94. topazg82 said,

    May 31, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Except Alasdair Philips is _not_ considered a quack in any scientific circles in either this country or Europe. It is only people like yourself, with very little understanding of the subject matter or the people involved, that seem to think him as such, and seem to base it on very little evidence.

    Why not ask the following what they think of Alasdair Philips:

    Dr. John Swanson, National Grid (worked with him on SAGE)

    Professor Lawrie Challis (needs little explaining if you have been following the EMF world recently)

    Sir William Stewart (Likewise)

    Dr. Paddy Regan (Has similarly spoken on these topics on the sceptic side recently, University of Surrey)

    Prof. Denis Henshaw (University of Bristol, big player in power frequency EMFs)

    Prof. Henry Lai (Also needs little explaining)

    Prof. Russell Reiter (University of Texas, pioneer on melatonin and its antioxidant properties).

    I challenge you to approach them and to give their verdict on Alasdair Philips and his understandings, and then publish them for all to see if you are so sure of yourself.

  95. topazg82 said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    In fact, (and apologies for the duplicate posting), I challenge you to find a single scientist involved in EMF research to have called him a quack or disregarded his expertise in this field.

    Else stop being so obnoxious, and wasting both time and space on here – stick to subjects you understand.

  96. Robert Carnegie said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    In scientific circles, is Alasdair Philips considered at all? Or is he a scientific nonentity?

    If Google Scholar is the yardstick, and if I did it right, the answer is: nonentity. There are his patents on patent websites, there is powerwatch.org.uk itself, and apparently he once had a letter printed in the BMJ in 1994 (it’s online, I presume it was printed.) My name is more result-productive – unfortunately when other people were using it.

    Is this how we do it?
    scholar.google.com/scholar?as_q=&num=10&btnG=Search+Scholar&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&as_occt=any&as_sauthors=%22Alasdair+Philips%22&as_publication=&as_ylo=&as_yhi=&as_allsubj=all&hl=en&lr=&safe=off

    Now as I understand, it would cost only pocket money to turn www.alasdairphilipsisaquack.org/ into a discussion forum and start collecting entries from real scientists, and it was your idea. But after all, there are perfectly good forums here. With a poll option. Shall we? “I am a real scientist and I think Alasdair Philips is a quacksalver” – and the logical three or four alternatives – for my money make it three, skip the “don’t know” and give the man the benefit of as much doubt as there is. (Then of course, there’s “don’t know what a quacksalver is”, but we can explain it means the same as quack – which doesn’t have to be a doctor – but is more fun to say.)

  97. Robert Carnegie said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Oh – excuse me – that should be “scientist involved in EMF research”, etc.

    Hmm.

    Or – my way is better. Most scientists know from quacks. It isn’t a matter of the specialism.

  98. megachicken(b) said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    I have the paper here Topaz. No, they don’t control for the fact that the group living under the mast were probably living in a state of higher anxiety than their control group. Given that anxiety can cause many of the outcomes they measured, that’s quite an important confounder.

    [by the way, if I'm challenging the official powerwatch stance about the interpretation of these studies, does that make me an 'ignorant layperson' too? I do hope so!]

  99. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    just to be clear, i’m not sure i would say alasdair is a quack. but he does profit from selling stuff on the back of the issue he is promoting, he is definitely not an independent person to get in to do the readings, and even as “ad hoc” “back of the envelope” stuff the readings taken for that program by him were specifically designed to give the worst possible result for the school, when it would have been pretty easy to take some ad hoc naturalistic everyday readings of what kids are really exposed to over a day at school.

  100. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    oh, and it’s great to see people going through these epi studies. i’ve been through lots when people have sent them to me. all the ones i’ve seen have been massively confounded by major sources of bias like anxiety, self selection, recall bias, etc. that wouldnt be such a problem except these quacks brandish them and then say HERE YOU SEE ITS IN A PAPER ITS TRUE IT’S IN A JOURNAL AND EVERYTHING rather than “well here’s a paper on the subject, obviously it’s subject to massive recall bias so I’d take it with a pinch of salt but I do think it’s interesting and by the way here’s a better suggestion of how to possibly do a more informative study in future”

  101. StayWired said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Le Canard Noir: EHS Test (partial answer):- This is what the ‘Essex study’ is meant to be demonstrating for 2G and 3G base stations? If the results are positive, I imagine it would make people ‘shut up and listen’. The study is complete, but still awaiting peer review and publication… www.essex.ac.uk/psychology/EHS/pages/HOME%20PAGE%20MOBILE%20PHONES1.htm

    From one participant I got the following comment:- “a test has already been designed and tested, at Essex University, I took part in that study and got a 100% result as to whether it was on or off and I also identified what type of signal, ie 2g and 3g.
    Pass this on to him [Le Canard Noir] if you like.

    So, a test has been done, at least one participant “passed” the EHS test – we just have to wait for the study to be peer reviewed and published. That will be interesting – I just hope that the full results are published and the conclusions are not “spun” by the Media as in some previous studies.

    Maybe when pv calms down he can await this on Pub Med.

  102. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    if the results are positive people will be interested to think about why it contradicts the previous 30 negative studies. there may be interesting methodological differences. only the full published paper will tell. as always, i change my mind as the evidence changes. that wouldn’t make you any less wrong right now.

    and your news about one person from that study is anecdote dressed up as data: congratulations!

  103. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    topazg82 (graham philips of powerwatch): “However, your first comment again is unfounded. Recording two sets of signals using a correctly calibrated antenna on a ten thousand pound spectrum analyser and recognising the difference between them is hardly adhoc back of the envelope calculation [...blahblahblah technical detail to obfuscate]”

    look. they took a measurement one metre away from a computer downloading a massive file on full power. that’s not a representative figure of what a child is exposed to over the school week. if ANY “expert” had done that for the bbc to give them a scare figure it would have been unacceptable. it just so happens it was from leading electrosmog lobbyist alasdair philips who also profits from the scare. you’re just going to have to deal with the fact that this both looks and is extremely bad and move on, because denying it is very foolish.

    edit: i should add that’s only one of many probelms with the show, what they measured, how they edited out any contradictory information, and how they used alasdair philips and his equipment.

  104. topazg82 said,

    May 31, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    As a further example, you really don’t have to state “topazg82 (Graham Philips of Powerwatch)”, as if somehow the contents of the parenthesis help highlight your point further. We have established who I am, so why bother continue to point it out as if somehow it undermines my entire argument?

  105. John Craddock said,

    June 1, 2007 at 12:11 am

    Topazg82,

    You said above: “I agree that the way it was presented was not particularly helpful, and we fought over the usage of “x = 3 * y”.”.

    When you say ‘we’ can I presume you mean yourself and others in Powerwatch? This seems to contradict the BBC statement:

    A BBC Spokesperson said: “Alistair Phillips is one of a handful of people with the right equipment to do this test. He was only used in this capacity and was not given an opportunity to interpret the readings”

    If he were simply someone who was hired, along with his equipment, to do the test and not given the chance to interpret the results, you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to fight over the usage of x = 3y.

  106. topazg82 said,

    June 1, 2007 at 12:30 am

    Yes, but they did check the script with us as they didn’t want to use anything factually incorrect. We fought it because it was not justifiable to push the point that WiFi was exposing the children 3 times as much as a phone mast, so they instead made the message implicit based on showing a very small proportion of the conversation at the point of measuring between Alasdair and Paul.

    I would not regard this as an interpretation of readings, as it really just pointing out the proportional difference between the two. An interpretation would, IMHO, be a qualitative assessment of what the measurements actually meant or implied in a practical sense with regards to health.

    That said, the fact the comparison is still in there could be said to be evidence that they did not use our interpretation of the results :)

  107. John Craddock said,

    June 1, 2007 at 12:37 am

    To quote you here: “That said, the fact the comparison is still in there could be said to be evidence that they did not use our interpretation of the results”

    If that’s the case it does beg the question, who was interpreting them? Was it the journalist himself (who, I assume, has no expertise here)? If so, the program belongs on a bad science website for that reason alone.

  108. topazg82 said,

    June 1, 2007 at 8:07 am

    Yes, I agree, that would be the case if the reporter was interpreting them. However, the point of the program was to compare them with exposure to mobile phone base station radiation at the point where it reached the ground, in accordance with the guidance in the Stewart report.

    Sir William Stewart was asked specifically about whether he was concerned about WiFi on this basis, and he said yes. If anyone was doing the interpretation, he was, and he most certainly does have the expertise to comment.

  109. superburger said,

    June 1, 2007 at 9:13 am

    Gaz,

    Think the flaws in the 3 papers cited have already been discussed – and i only have access to one of the journals online.

    Interesting that none of these papers refer explicitly to WiFi routers (the topic of Panorama.) Mobile phones have been in use for at least a decade and there’s yet to be widespread acceptance that mobile phones can cause illness.

  110. superburger said,

    June 1, 2007 at 10:45 am

    point is if there were 10,000 decent papers broadly saying “WiFi/mobiles/blah blah blah” are safe, and 10 that suggest that p’raps some effect exists, then ‘good’ science will come to the logical conclusion, wheras special interest groups will cry loudly clutching their 10 papers and studiosuly ignore 10,000 conflicting viewpoints.

    this applies to EM sensitivity, homeopathy, MMR/Autism etc etc etc etc.

  111. topazg82 said,

    June 1, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Thanks for the additions megachicken, I will get all three added to our currently unfinished (ok, frankly unstarted) list on base stations on Powerwatch. My Spanish is also poor, but it is a language I can get someone to translate from.

    As far as I know, there are _no_ papers on WiFi as yet?

    In fact, if you are following this topic, I would be greatly appreciative if you could email me when papers do arise on either side that I may have missed (myname (at) domain).

    @Superburger: I totally agree with you on this point. However, according to Henry Lai, there are about 3000 (though the list I put above seems to have only 400-500) papers on low power RF radiation, of which 50% show an effect and 50% don’t. You can’t just trade 1 “no effect” paper against 1 “effect” paper, as it is far easier to find no effect merely by not necessarily looking for the right thing. 50% showing an effect is extraordinarily high, certainly far higher than you will find for smoking. Of course, a number of these are in vitro or rat experiments, and therefore the relevance to humans is never guaranteed, but the research is clearly there.

    Actually, on the point of smoking, people make such a fuss of passive smoking as we come up to the ban in this country, there is very little evidence showing any increase of risk to health effects at all from passive exposure. Having said that, I hate going to the pub and coming away stinking of smoke, so that’s a valid reason I guess.

    If anyone would like to continue this debate, I am more than happy to do so by email, but I am spending rather too much of my personal and paid time on this, for which I am obviously not paid for.

    Thanks to megachicken and superburger for actually debating this scientifically, instead of resorting to criticism under the primary basis of “conflict of interest”.

  112. Ben Goldacre said,

    June 1, 2007 at 11:31 am

    topazg82 (graham philips of powerwatch): “Thanks to megachicken and superburger for actually debating this scientifically, instead of resorting to criticism under the primary basis of “conflict of interest”.”

    i hope you don’t mean me, i gave plenty of criticisms of the scientific content of the program and alasdair philips’ role. however i do still think it is entirely inappropriate for graham philips of campaigning group powerwatch to register to promote the brilliance of alasdair philips of powerwatch in a discussion of alasdair philips’ of powerwatch’s role in a tv show on the subject that powerwatch campaigns on. that’s not my primary criticism, you have made it one of great interest by refusing to acknowledge it, and by being part of a movement one of whose primary means of criticising others is by pointing out their conflicts of interest. you live by the sword etc, and by refusing to acknowledge your spectacular conflict of interest you have drawn considerable attention to it.

    you seem not to understand the notion of conflict of interest, which is a shame, there’s a huge and fascinating literature on it. it is not that someone will be automatically biased. it is essentially about respect for your audience’s autonomy: they should be in possession of the facts so that they can make their own judgement, and you should not seek to deliberately withold. i hope that similar campaigning organisations will learn from experiences such as yours that campaigning on conflict of interest in others whilst being ignorant of your own can come back and bite you right on the bum.

  113. Ben Goldacre said,

    June 1, 2007 at 11:32 am

    graham, you may find this helpful as an introduction to CoI:

    www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/317/7154/291

  114. superburger said,

    June 1, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Oh, i do think you have severe conflict of interest graham. Doesn’t make you dishonest or a bad person, but in proper science, if you have have a coi you declare it on the first page of your work. Doesn’t make anything you say more or less valid, but like ben says, it doesn’t make you, AP or powerwatch look too good.

    powerwatch, as far as i can tell, has no interest in demonstrating that WiFi is safe. only that it is in some way harmful.

    Whereas most reasonably neutral scientist have only an interest in designing good experiments to test hypotheses. That, and taking back-handers from Evil Drugs Companies and sinister mobile phone operators….

  115. Ben Goldacre said,

    June 1, 2007 at 11:58 am

    as another example here’s WDDTY wrestling with the same issue. rather unsuccessfully to my mind.

    www.wddty.com/03363800371973000292/mmr-and-autism-conflicts-of-interest-muddy-the-waters.html

  116. topazg82 said,

    June 1, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I see you are _still_ harping on about conflict of interest, and you _still_ fail to respond to any of my points on RF technicalities.

    Thank you for continuing to demonstrate my point.

  117. Ben Goldacre said,

    June 1, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    if you keep denying it, and continue to deny hiding it, then i’ll keep pointing that out.

  118. ayupmeduck said,

    June 2, 2007 at 10:00 am

    I didn’t know that the Powerwatch Philips (are they brothers?) had been so active here. Graham/Topaz has taken the approach of “try and baffle ‘em with bullshit” by raising the complexities of RF engineering – and yeah, he’s right about one thing, it is pretty complex in the sense that when you do RF engineering you often get effects that didn’t initially expect.

    But they are running away from the initial point that the Panorama show was bad science and scaremongering. Let’s just take the first few words of Philips on the show, about 5 mins in when the are measuring from the base station (BTS):

    Panorama bloke: “So we’re in the main beam. This is sort-of highest radiation is it?”

    Philips: “Yes. This is where the main beam of radiation comes down to ground. So basically the highest point of the signal yes”.

    Hang on a sec! How can it be “highest radiation” be at 100m (or whatever) away? The base station signal might not follow the inverse square law precisely, but it ain’t that far off – and it’s clearly an *inverse* relationship to distance. Can one of the Philips duo explain how they think this is the “highest radiation” point, or in A. Philips own words the “highest point of the signal”? And don’t start off your answer by going on about about transmission signal sectors, or directional antennas, ’cause be both know that this is immaterial in the context of what was actually said on the show.

  119. AlasdairPhilips said,

    June 2, 2007 at 10:25 am

    It is the place where the general public will normally be exposed to the highest signal levels from the mast emissions. Both the Stewart Report (on www.iegmp.org.uk) and the NRPB R-231 Report (available at www.hpa.org.uk/radiation/publications/archive/reports/2000/nrpb_r321.pdf
    ) discuss this fact. Obviously if you climb the mast or stand on a roof next to a transmitting antenna you will exceed this. That was very obviously not the point here and I and the BBC thought it was obvious to anyone with normal intelligence what the context was. Also I was asked to keep replies hort.

    There are two useful downloads available from the Powerwatch website:

    EMFs and Health – the history up to 2000

    www.powerwatch.org.uk/docs/emhealth.asp

    (54 References, c.30 directly peer reviewed papers)

    and

    RF EMFs and health: (c.20 peer-reviewed papers)

    www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20070529_panorama_extra_rf.pdf

    The other fact that keeps getting missed (and was not properly raised in the programme) was that wired ethernet is better for connecting 24+ computers simultaneously (you would need 3 APs to do that and they would get slower because of frequency conflicts) and would not subject the pupils to several volts per metre RF, which seems a better approach. All the classrooms I have seen with wireless APs have actually been wired with ethernet to the APs. So the extra cost of a couple of switches and 24 short cables would be negligible.

    Also, we are not calling for WiFi to be abandoned – we are calling for pupils’ health and behaviour to be formally monitored. If you can be bothered to read the second of the downloads above, you will find a table listing the most commonnly reported effects from people living close to mobile phone base stations. Those are exactly the sort of symptoms that we do not want to see in our school pupils. Yet NICE reports a 4-fold increase in ADHD over the last ten years for, as yet, no known reason. Emissions from mobile phones and WiFi could be part of the reason. What else has changed over the last ten years?

  120. ayupmeduck said,

    June 2, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    @Alasdair: You say “It is the place where the general public will normally be exposed to the highest signal levels from the mast emissions”

    But it’s not the “highest point of the signal” is it? What you said on Panorama was wrong wasn’t it?

    You are now fudging the issue by using “general public” and “normally” and effectively claiming that “it was obvious” that there was some different context. C’mon, let’s be reasonable, what other context is there for “highest radiation” and “highest point of the signal”?

    Furthermore, do you know for sure that your generalizations are true for this particular measurement on this particular BTS? I’m sure you know that this depends on many other factors depending on the particular BTS being measured.

  121. AlasdairPhilips said,

    June 2, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    (i) we walked in and out from the BS to see where the edge of the MB came to ground and where the max signal strength was – it was almost exactly at 100 metres in this particular case. I have measured many hundreds of BS and plotted their radiation patterns including their unintended sidelobes. I am not sure what point you are trying to make. This is standard BS measurement stuff – not contentious all – or so I thought. The 0.6 V/m that we measured is a very typical value in this situation.

    (ii) The whole context of the Panorama piece was comparing the field at (i) which the Stewart Report (2000) said should not normally be allowed to fall on a school and the signal levels inside a classroom at a school where the pulsing microwaves which were being generated inside the classroom by APs and wireless enabled laptops.

    I say “It’s where the main beam of radiation comes down to ground. Basically the highest point of the signal.” That is true if you are standing on the ground, which we clearly were. Yes, I could have added “if you are standing on the ground” after the word “signal”, but I can’t see how that would have made it any clearer. Obviously it would for you, but I have now asked about 25 people directly about this and they agree with me that it was unecessary to add those words as the measurements in the programme made sense to them anyway. Not all of these people agree with me, BTW, that WiFi may peesent any sort of hazard. But your point seems to be quibbliing pedantry at its worst. Actually, the point of it baffles me.

  122. ayupmeduck said,

    June 2, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Telling the truth is not a matter of “quibbliing pedantry”.

    I will try one my final time to make it clear. The bloke from Panorama said: “So we’re in the main beam. This is sort-of highest radiation is it?”

    If you had wanted to tell the truth you would have said “No, it’s not the point of highest radiation.”

    Then, if you wanted, you could have added: “For this particular base station the point of highest signal strength for a person on the ground would however normally be around here”

    The above is the truth – and I’m sure you would agree on this. But this doesn’t sound nearly as scary as the incorrect sentence you replied with, namely: “Yes. This is where the main beam of radiation comes down to ground. So basically the highest point of the signal yes”.

    Saying “no” would have been correct and boring.

    You said “yes” and it was incorrect and part of the scaremongering.

  123. pv said,

    June 2, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    “Telling the truth is not a matter of “quibbliing pedantry”.”

    Oh yes it is for people who are trying to exploit the vulnerable and gullible. And the fact that Mr Philips has asked 25 of his mates (or people who might be too polite to disagree with him or his brand of woo) for their opinions, I think only proves the point. Where snake oil salesmen are concerned quantity of anecdote is always superior to quality of evidence.
    Also you have to remember that there is no such thing as scaremongering in the world of snake oil. It’s a sales pitch and Mr Philips does have things to sell!

    Tell us Mr P. What’s your version of why you were asked to leave the school?

  124. Kyle S-C said,

    June 2, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    What about the terrifying effects of much higher frequency radiation in the 4-7 Petahertz frequency range?

  125. pv said,

    June 2, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    “Yet NICE reports a 4-fold increase in ADHD over the last ten years for, as yet, no known reason. Emissions from mobile phones and WiFi could be part of the reason. What else has changed over the last ten years?”

    Are you for real Mr Philips? How about diagnosis? It doesn’t follow at all that because there has been a four-fold increase in diagnosis in the last ten years that it has anything to do with WiFi or mobile phones. It might just be that reporting procedures and diagnosis are that much better. And if you are looking for things that have changed in the lives of children, well how about diet? How about sleep patterns? How about recreational activities? How about the the unscrupulous attempts of snake oil (fish oil and anti-WiFi) salesmen to exploit them? Much has changed in ten years Mr Philips, and maybe none of it is relevant to ADHD.
    However, if WiFi might be implicated then it’s up to people like you who make the assertions to work to provide incontrovertible evidence for it. If your concern was for school kids, or the health of any other human beings, that’s what you would be doing, isn’t it. But you aren’t doing that at all, are you?

  126. topazg82 said,

    June 2, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    @Ayupmeduck: You are still completely missing the point. Find me one person that saw the programme and thought that the radiation from the phone mast was higher 100m away than it was right next to the antenna? I mean, just apply a bit of common sense. Firstly, in case you haven’t had much experience with TV interviewing, they tend to take 4 or 5 takes and take one that makes the point in as few as words as possible and ditch the others. That doesn’t necessarily mean either the interviewed person or the programme were attempting to distort the truth, it is just trying to use the least time possible for each point in the broadcast. Surely anyone with an ounce of common sense would understand the point that the radiation is higher at the transmitter – does it really need spelling out?

    And besides which, the Stewart Report was concerned about the levels 100m away from the mast, and that is why that distance is used. I am hoping you also realise why the distance from the WiFi laptop was 1m and not 100m, or does this need equally pedantic explanation?

    @pv: You still haven’t managed to form a sentence worth responding to.

  127. ayupmeduck said,

    June 3, 2007 at 9:08 am

    @topazg (G. Philips): You say “You are still completely missing the point”. The point is simple. I raised the point in the first place. It’s my point. I can not be missing my own point.

    The point is about the first syllable uttered by A. Philips on the show. That syllable clearly should have been “No”. Saying “No” would have been the truth.

    A & G Philips say facts and the truth is “quibbliing pedantry at its worst”, the truth is “missing the point”, and for TV the truth “makes the point in as few as words as possible”.

    In logic and science you can’t choose between “yes”/”no” and true/false just when it suits you. If you do, things like the following happen:

    G. Philips says: “Surely anyone with an ounce of common sense would understand the point that the radiation is higher at the transmitter” – The Panorama bloke and A. Philips both said that it was highest where they were standing. Thus by your own arguement we can conclude that A. Philips and the Panorama bloke don’t have an ounce of common sense.

    I can’t imagine that we could have a productive discussion about the rest of the Panorama show, nevermind RF Engineering, ADHD and other complex topics, when you seem to think “yes” and “no” are so interchangeable.

  128. AlasdairPhilips said,

    June 3, 2007 at 11:14 am

    As far as “highest point”, I still believe that, as it is the place where the highest RF radiation is experienced by anyone walking around that area on the ground (which most of us keep both feet on), from the mast compound and up to any distance away.

    Philips: “Yes. This is where the main beam of radiation comes down to ground. So basically the highest point of the signal yes”,
    is a statement that I would be happy to stand up in a Court of Law and both defend and make again. I believe it is a truthful statement. It could have been refined and clarified by a second sentence, but that was not necessary. In fact, Panorama recorded about 3 minutes of footage on this very issue and used about 30 seconds of it. I think their final slection was just fine.

    As regards ADHD et al. Of course I accept that more diagnosis leads to more cases, but NICE state that this is not the cause of the 4-fold rise. I have been working on Epidemiology issues for about 10 years now and I am well aware of the issue of many confounders.

    If you read the first download that I suggested earlier,

    RF EMFs and health: (c.20 peer-reviewed papers)

    www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20070529_panorama_extra_rf.pdf

    You will find these come top of the list of reported adverse effects of living close to phone masts:

    Headache
    Concentration difficulties
    Learning and memory problems
    Chronic fatigue
    Sleep problems (sleep time exposure)
    Depression
    Dizziness
    Irritability
    General vitality problems
    Behavioural problems
    Migraine
    Nausea

    These also fit well with Charlotte Silverman’s “microwave sickness” described in ‘Epidemiologic Approach to the Study of Microwave Effects’, Bull. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 55-11:1166-118, 1979.

    Tobacco smoking was first suggested to cause health problems in the Lancet in 1857. It took almost 100 years for Doll & Hill to publish a paper confirming a cancer link, in the meantime millions of people had developed lung cancer from smoking.

    100 years ago it was possible to buy radium creams “to give your skin a healthy glow in the winter.

    Thalidominde was first thought to be a wonder drug.

    X-rays were regularly used on pregnant woment to determine how the foetal development in the 1950s and early 1960s. Dr Alice Stewart was almost thrown out of the UK medical establishemnt when she first published information showing that they caused childhood leukaemia. It took almost 20 years for the fact to be accepted. Now, pregnancy is one of the first things they check before any woman is x-rayed.

    I suggest that you have a read of the European Environment Agency’s ‘Late Lessons from early Warnings: the precautionary principle 1896-2000′. It really makes for an interesting, worth while, read.
    www.eea.eu.int

    Using wired ethernet rather than WiFi/wLAN technology will not deprive our children of anything. Using WiFi may have long-term serious health consequences. Why use the wireless technology when it is not necessary?

    OK, so rant all you like, but I believe that the evidence of likely harm is out there. I would rather state that than keep silent. I you do not speak up for others, who will there be to speak up for you in your hour of need?

    Truth will come out in the end.

  129. pv said,

    June 3, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    “Thalidominde was first thought to be a wonder drug.”

    What’s that got to do with anything? As it happens Thalidomide is still a useful drug.

    “OK, so rant all you like, but I believe that the evidence of likely harm is out there. I would rather state that than keep silent. I you do not speak up for others, who will there be to speak up for you in your hour of need?”

    I think you would rather speak for your bank balance and make a profit at the expense of the vulnerable and gullible on the basis of what you believe to be “likely” harm. And I believe this is your primary motive. If you were so concerned about any public health aspects you would be rather more concerned about real evidence and real research and rather less concerned with your sales pitch.

    By the way, all the following symptoms can be commonly associated with, among other things, sleep deprivation:
    Headache
    Concentration difficulties
    Learning and memory problems
    Chronic fatigue
    Sleep problems (sleep time exposure)
    Depression
    Dizziness
    Irritability
    General vitality problems
    Behavioural problems
    Migraine
    Nausea

  130. topazg82 said,

    June 3, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    @pv: Alasdair Philips and Powerwatch ran from 1988 to 1997 without selling anything any shielding material, paint or EMF measuring devices, yet still said very much the same thing, with supporting references then also.

    What would you guess the motivation was then?

  131. ayupmeduck said,

    June 3, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    @Alisdair: I opened that Powerwatch document that you are so keen that we read, and noticed something of interest straight away:

    1) I would normally associate “serveral thousand” with at least 3000, and up to around 9000. When you use the word “several thousand”, what sort of range would that be for you?

    2) You say that “In October 2002, several thousand qualified German mdeical doctors signed the ‘Freiburger Appeal’”.

    So it must be true to say that you have seen a list dated October 2002 with at least 3,000 German medical doctors right?

  132. AlasdairPhilips said,

    June 3, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    I have so far earned nothing from EMFields product sales. The profits which are kept to a minimum necessary to provide the service, barely cover operating costs paying the part-time staff at the mimimum wage. This was set out earlier in my Goldacre/Panorama response:
    www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20070529_panorama_extra.asp

    The reason that Powerwatch (originally) and then EMFields (more recently) started to supply anything was, firstly, people kept asking us where to hire measurement meters and monitors at less than the hundreds of pounds for 3-day hires from professional places like Livingston Hire and EMCO, and then, secondly, we were put under great pressure to source products that effectively shielded them from what they were measuring. We carefully test and only supply products that work. We get masses of positive feedback from customers and many come back and order other things later. They also tell friends and relations just how much we have helped and that leads to more orders and more good feedback.

    Why don’t you complain about people selling WiFi APs and things that people don’t really need? Why don’t you complain about private medicine and dentistry? About solicitor firms advertising “no-win no-fee” cases for compensation and then claim for themselves a large percentage of any compensation that they do get.

    I would love people not to need to protect themselves. But that would have needed a very different mobile phone industry, a pricing structure that didn’t encourage people to use their mobiles at home – thus necessitating many masts in residential areas. It would need acceptance that wireless was not necessary most of the time and that wired is still best (and certainly safest).

    But, of course, wireless APs and add-on gizmos give the electronics and telecomm and marketing industries a whole new range of products to sell – great for the economy and for their profits.

    But for some bizarre reason, you object to us supplying the products people need to protect themselves from EMFs. I suggest that you let them be the judge of whether they want to spend their money that way. I can assure you that they don’t buy EMFields products for fun or because they have been “scared” by us.

    BTW, what do you do for a living, ‘pv’? In some detail, please.

  133. Ben Goldacre said,

    June 3, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    @alasdairphilips: “for some bizarre reason, you object to us supplying the products people need to protect themselves from EMFs.”

    don’t be silly alasdair. i don’t care what you sell, and i’m sorry to hear your business isn’t going very well.

    however if you sell this stuff – and cherry pick data to make the scare you are selling products over as plausible as possible – then you are very clearly not independent.

    it was wrong of panorama to use you.

    and your electrosmog movement is on very shaky territory indeed when it barks on about other people having vested interests.

  134. topazg82 said,

    June 3, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    It makes no difference — all that we were being used for was making simple measurements. I would have been equally happy with T-Mobile or Netgear taking the measurements as us, they would have got the same readings anyway.

  135. ayupmeduck said,

    June 3, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    @Alasdair: Can I assume that there is no list dated October 2002 with “several thousands” of signatures from German medical doctors?

    If you can’t find that, perhaps we can go on to the next paragraph in your document? You say “T-Mobile comissioned a scentific report that concluded that mobile phone handsets masts contribute to cancer”. That is odd that you claim this because the reported source (Peter Neitzke at ECOLOG) says in their 2006 report that there is not enough data to prove a clear link between cancer and mobile base stations. How do explain this?

  136. Ben Goldacre said,

    June 3, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    alasdair, can you show us the list from 2002 of thousands of medical doctors signing the freiburger appeal?

    this is mentioned in the independent’s electrosensitivity article too, as well as on the site run by mastsanity (who are also posting here), so it’s obviously important.

  137. ultralord100 said,

    June 3, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    This is all about bad science to sell even worse products. The current front page of EMFfields.org is positively soft and soapy compared to the slightly harder edge of 18 months ago (goto www.archive.org and then type www.emfields.org). It appears also that the charitable gift figures haven’t changed in a over a year.

    Speaking as a physicist and engineer actually trained in this sort of stuff instead of tractors, I’d be slightly concerned if I had a router under my pillow. But as it stands,the walls of my brick and block house screen the signals quite effectively; much to my annoyance when I try to use my laptop on the kitchen table.

    BTW despite trying to make things better by saying EMFIELDS turns only a very small profit, trying make it sound like a charity, every business man alive is capable of making an enterpise make no profit, its usually called tax planning.

    JDW

  138. pv said,

    June 3, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    I must say I never thought tiny profits meant no profit motive. It might just mean the business is run by someone not very capable. Or as ultralord100 says, it could be tax planning. Anyway, in the unlikely event that the motive isn’t, at least in part, profit I think I’m inclined to discount altruism. Altruism doesn’t require any sales guff. How about delusion, or obsession, or both? How about deceit or influence? Or fame and celebrity? Megalomania? Simple misguidedness (if I was being kind)? There are lots of possibilities to choose from.

    What do I do for a living? Is that relevant? Is it any of your business? I could be working for Pizza Hut or NASA or the Italian State Education system – which one would you like? Or are you a conspiracy theorist too like some of your more paranoid supporters, and you would like me to be working for, say, US Robotics? What do you do for a living? Not that it’s relevant to anything but it’s hard to tell since you say you don’t make a profit.

  139. ayupmeduck said,

    June 4, 2007 at 12:02 am

    I read a bit more of Alasdairs report and on page 3 it has a table listing the “study providing the data”. They have the “Freiburger Appeal” in there as “study” B.

    @Alasdair: Do you think this is solid science to have a fax campaign listed as a study that forms your data set?

  140. AlasdairPhilips said,

    June 4, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    @ayupmeduck

    Thanks for finding the text error re the “several thousand qualified German medical doctors”. That should have been changed to match the the longer piece on Freiburger later in our document. Here it clearly states “October 2002″ and “200 medical practitioners”. The “over 2000″ was widely circulated and we unfortunately picked it up and used it, despite not receiving adequate replies to our enquiries for a copy of the up-to-date list. I did get to see a list when it had about 2500 signatures on it, but it was clear than many of those were not medical practitioners, so I reduced the number back to the original 200 whose names you can see on the original Appell. I missed the earlier reference in the text. A mistake, sorry.

    As to including it in my list of studies I have no problem. It was anecdotal information from a reasonably good source, just like the Bavarian GPs letter to Stoiber with graphs of their patients symptoms plotted against power density of microwaves in their homes. Grey literature should be consulted, especially when the proper studies are not being carried out. See my next posted comment about this issue.

    You write:
    “If you can’t find that, perhaps we can go on to the next paragraph in your document? You say “T-Mobile comissioned a scentific report that concluded that mobile phone handsets masts contribute to cancer”. That is odd that you claim this because the reported source (Peter Neitzke at ECOLOG) says in their 2006 report that there is not enough data to prove a clear link between cancer and mobile base stations. How do explain this?”

    Actually, that next paragraph in our article has, in quotes and italics, a direct (translated) quote from the ECOLOG report which state almost excatly the same thing.

    Anyway, here are some more extracts from the ECOLOG Report (of which I have copies in German and English):

    Mobile Telecommunications and Health – Ecolog Institute – April 2000

    CH7
    Health Risks to Humans Resulting from Exposure to the Electromagnetic Fields of Mobile Telecommunications

    Cancer

    Given the results of the present epidemiological studies, it can be concluded that electromagnetic fields with frequencies in the mobile telecommunications range do play a role in the development of cancer.

    The results of the studies for all stages of cancer development from the damage of the genetic material via the uninhibited proliferation of cells and debilitation of the immune system (see below) up to the manifestation of the illness prove effects at power flux densities of less than 1 W/m2. For some stages of cancer development, intensities of 0.1 W/m2 or even less may suffice to trigger effects.

    Experiments on animals prove harmful effects on the immune system from circa 1 W/m2; at power flux densities of 0.2 W/m2 higher secretions of stress hormones in humans have been demonstrated.

    Effects of high frequency electromagnetic fields on the central nervous system are proven for intensities well below the current guidelines. Measurable physiological changes have been demonstrated for intensities from 0.5 W/m2. Impairments of cognitive functions are proven for animals from 2W/m2.

    Exposures from Base Stations

    In humans, harmful organic effects of high frequency electromagnetic fields as used by mobile telecommunications have been demonstrated for power flux densities from 0.2W/m2 (see Chapter 7). Already at values of 0.1 W/m2 such effects cannot be excluded. If a security factor of 10 is applied to this value, as it is applied by ICNIRP and appears appropriate given the current knowledge, the precautionary limit should be 0.01W/m2.

    This should be rigorously adhered to by all base stations near sensitive places such as residential areas, schools, nurseries, playgrounds, hospitals and all other places at which humans are present for longer than 4 hours.

    We recommend the precautionary limit of 0.01 W/m2 independent of the carrier frequency. The rough dependency on frequency with higher limits outside of the resonance range, as it is applied in the concept of SAR, is not justifiable given the results of the scientific studies which conclusively prove non-thermal effects of high frequency fields. Also, the current allowed higher exposures for parts of the body, as long as they refer to the head or thorax are not justifiable.

    Extracted from the ECOLOG Report, commissioned by T-Mobile, and available (but supressed) in late 2000. Finally leaked and put into the public domain.

  141. AlasdairPhilips said,

    June 4, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I am on a number of advisory groups at meeting of which I have been pressing the MTHR, HPA, DH, and others, to fund a decent sized pilot epi study looking at ALL the health records of a large GP practice who have residential areas where there are few mobile phone masts and residential areas where there are many. Also to ask the patients whether they have DECT phones and/or wLANs/WiFi in their house and whether they would mind having their house measured for microwave levels.

    Basically a properly designed study to follow up on the Bavarian GPs report. However both the Mobile Operators Association and the Government have said that they do not want money to be spent on this.

    I think the MTHR would probably fund such a project, but they rely on cash given to them by the Mobile Operators and the Government – who then claim “this is hands off money – do what you like”, but, in reality, the MTHR has to nowadays go, begging bowl in hand, for money for any new project – and name the project study area in some detail. It took them about 18 months to get the latest extra money. I believe that current indications are that more money is unlikely to be made available in the next few years.

    The Govt took £22bn for 3G mobile phone licences and now have a revenue stream from mobile phone calls of about £10bn. When the Stewart IEGMP Report was Press Released in May 2000, I was sitting at the front next to a senior mobile phone industry person. He said “They are going to ask us to 50:50 fund research into mobile phone technology and health.” I said “That’s a bit strong, with the industry just having paid over £22bn for 3G licences – surely the Govt could spend some of that?”.

    He replied “Alasdair, they want to show the industry co-operating. Realistically, how much are the Govt going to put up? £20M? £30M? What’s another 20 or 30 million pounds to us when we have just paid them £22bn?”

    So what happened? The Government put up a measly £3.7M, or 0.017% of their £22bn 3G licence fee take. That’s part of the problem why there has not been adequate research into mobile technology and health.

    Yet, if the Government are really so sure everything is safe, then spending some, say £50M now on decent, well designed and controlled, studies would surely be a good investment to lay the worries of people like me to rest? £50M would be a tiny amount even taken from the current Government annual revenue earnings from mobile technologies.

    Come on Ben – what about writing something about that? If it were a new drug, we would still be in the carefully monitored clinical trials stage.

  142. AlasdairPhilips said,

    June 4, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Hmmm, very strange. I posted a full response regarding the Freiburger Appeal and ECOLOG report, and it appears to have “gone missing”, or at least it doesn’t display on either IE or Firefox on this machine.

    To avoid the double post, here is a screenshot taken whilst it was still there earlier:

    www.powerwatch.org.uk/images/20070604_badscience.png

  143. AlasdairPhilips said,

    June 4, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Other machines are STILL not seeing this post? The wonders of modern technology. Here is another try to post it properly.

    June 4, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    ayupmeduck

    Thanks for finding the text error re the “several thousand qualified German medical doctors”. That should have been changed to match the the longer piece on Freiburger later in our document. Here it clearly states “October 2002″ and “200 medical practitioners”. The “over 2000″ was widely circulated and we unfortunately picked it up and used it, despite not receiving adequate replies to our enquiries for a copy of the up-to-date list. I did get to see a list when it had about 2500 signatures on it, but it was clear than many of those were not medical practitioners, so I reduced the number back to the original 200 whose names you can see on the original Appell. I missed the earlier reference in the text. A mistake, sorry.

    As to including it in my list of studies I have no problem. It was anecdotal information from a reasonably good source, just like the Bavarian GPs letter to Stoiber with graphs of their patients symptoms plotted against power density of microwaves in their homes. Grey literature should be consulted, especially when the proper studies are not being carried out. See my next posted comment about this issue.

    You write:
    “If you can’t find that, perhaps we can go on to the next paragraph in your document? You say ‘T-Mobile comissioned a scentific report that concluded that mobile phone handsets masts contribute to cancer’. That is odd that you claim this because the reported source (Peter Neitzke at ECOLOG) says in their 2006 report that there is not enough data to prove a clear link between cancer and mobile base stations. How do explain this?”

    Actually, that next paragraph in our article has, in quotes and italics, a direct (translated) quote from the ECOLOG report which state almost exactly the same thing.

    Anyway, here are some more extracts from the ECOLOG Report (of which I have copies in German and English):

    Mobile Telecommunications and Health – Ecolog Institute – April 2000

    CH7
    Health Risks to Humans Resulting from Exposure to the Electromagnetic Fields of Mobile Telecommunications

    Cancer

    Given the results of the present epidemiological studies, it can be concluded that electromagnetic fields with frequencies in the mobile telecommunications range do play a role in the development of cancer.

    The results of the studies for all stages of cancer development from the damage of the genetic material via the uninhibited proliferation of cells and debilitation of the immune system (see below) up to the manifestation of the illness prove effects at power flux densities of less than 1 W/m2. For some stages of cancer development, intensities of 0.1 W/m2 or even less may suffice to trigger effects.

    Experiments on animals prove harmful effects on the immune system from circa 1 W/m2; at power flux densities of 0.2 W/m2 higher secretions of stress hormones in humans have been demonstrated.

    Effects of high frequency electromagnetic fields on the central nervous system are proven for intensities well below the current guidelines. Measurable physiological changes have been demonstrated for intensities from 0.5 W/m2. Impairments of cognitive functions are proven for animals from 2W/m2.

    Exposures from Base Stations

    In humans, harmful organic effects of high frequency electromagnetic fields as used by mobile telecommunications have been demonstrated for power flux densities from 0.2W/m2 (see Chapter 7). Already at values of 0.1 W/m2 such effects cannot be excluded. If a security factor of 10 is applied to this value, as it is applied by ICNIRP and appears appropriate given the current knowledge, the precautionary limit should be 0.01W/m2.

    This should be rigorously adhered to by all base stations near sensitive places such as residential areas, schools, nurseries, playgrounds, hospitals and all other places at which humans are present for longer than 4 hours.

    We recommend the precautionary limit of 0.01 W/m2 independent of the carrier frequency. The rough dependency on frequency with higher limits outside of the resonance range, as it is applied in the concept of SAR, is not justifiable given the results of the scientific studies which conclusively prove non-thermal effects of high frequency fields. Also, the current allowed higher exposures for parts of the body, as long as they refer to the head or thorax are not justifiable.

    Extracted from the ECOLOG Report, commissioned by T-Mobile, and available (but supressed) in late 2000. Finally leaked and put into the public domain.

  144. AlasdairPhilips said,

    June 4, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Apologies to everyone who may now have multiple copies. That post via IE7 instead of FireFox, seems to have acted as a laxative. There now seem to be lots of copies – but the original 171 posting still has not reappeared.

  145. Ben Goldacre said,

    June 4, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    just back from work, alasdair. your posts were so long they must have triggered something in the spam filter.

    i must say, for a man who won’t even permit responses and free debate on his “dismissal” of my “claims” (the link to which i see you’ve been hawking all over the internet) you’re jolly impatient about getting your own posts up on my website.

    www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20070529_panorama_extra.asp

    (you’re very welcome by the way).

  146. Robert Carnegie said,

    June 4, 2007 at 11:26 pm

    We gather that the wireless field was measured and found to be red. But let’s be scientific. How red? “Ooh.” That’s how red.

    The good news is I just saw a TV advert by PC World and they have got yellow ones. Well, orangey yellow. But that’s still better, isn’t it? :-)

  147. AlasdairPhilips said,

    June 5, 2007 at 6:51 am

    Thanks for sorting out the posting problem Ben. You may delete the mulitiple copies at 174, 175 and 176, if you like. The odd thing was that 171 was posted and went up here for a while and then later disappeared when the 172 post was renumbered as 171. Anyway, 171 and 172 are now correctly back and the unintended duplicates may be taken down. 171 was a specific response to @ayupmeduck’s comments.

    BTW, I have already written to Bad Science about feedback and discussion about a week ago: anyone, including you, is welcome to discuss these matters here:

    www.powerwatch.org.uk/columns/aphilips/viewcomments.asp?viewBlog=33

    As to hawking my response “all over the internet”, I have, in fact, just asked one of the Mast Sanity people to add it next to their google link to the panorama video. I fail to see how that justifies your description. Any other links have come because people have seen my response and added the link – not by request from me. I am sure that all the links to your bad science pages do not come from you “hawking bad science all over the internet”…. or maybe they do.

  148. Ben Goldacre said,

    June 5, 2007 at 8:30 am

    alasdair, i’m not sure about that brief blog entry you’ve linked to but i don’t see where, on your actual page on the subject, people can discuss your lengthy claims to have “dismissed” all criticisms.

    www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20070529_panorama_extra.asp

    that’s where your criticisms are. that’s where people link to. don’t pretend we can post there when we can’t.

    in contrast, you’re very welcome to post and discuss here, and similarly, i am very keen for people to read your criticisms of my ideas (although i thought your unfounded personal attacks and smears, which you’ve taken down after my emails, were a bit weakminded).

    www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20070529_panorama_extra.asp

  149. topazg said,

    June 5, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Actually Ben, you will notice there is a big “Send Powerwatch Feedback” button on the page should you wish to use it.

    Secondly, you are quite clearly enjoying your own set of ad hominem attacks, so criticising us of doing so is somewhat hypocritical – at least we don’t keep changing the contents of our news entry.

    Also, is there any reason why you continue to post the same link to our site again and again? Is it your way of being facetious based on the “hawking all of the internet” remark?

  150. pv said,

    June 5, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    “Louis appeals to people who do not believe in the scientific method for resolving issues. He, like others who are unable to argue a scientific case always claim WHO decisions are industry biased…a completely untrue position. Our Legal Department has clear rules for funding and inputs to the health risk assessment process. WHO scientists working on the EMF Project are and will continue to be unswayed by any special interest group as long as I have input to the process.”

    Dr Mike H Repacholi, Coordinator, Radiation & Environmental Health Protection of the Human Environment World Health Organization, writing about Dr Louis Slesin of Microwave News in response to Dr Slesin’s petition to remove him from the WHO.

    Powerwatch recommends Microwave News as a good starting point “to find out about this vast and complex subject…”. One activist individual recommending another, of course.

  151. Nanobot said,

    June 6, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    It is a shame that we seem to have seen the great tactic used throughout the centuries to dismiss criticism of unfounded or incorrect comments. First we see the individual attempt to rebuff criticism by claiming that his opponent lacks sufficient technical knowledge of the area:

    topazg82: “Sorry Ben, but you simply are out of your depth on these EMF issues.”

    And then when that fails we see that the individual resorts to an appeal to ‘common-sense’ to untangle what was truly meant by a comment that was in fact untrue.

    topazg82:’I mean, just apply a bit of common sense.’

    So Mr Philips (either will do) which is it to be? The issues in the programme are either complex or they are common sense, which is it?

    And what is common sense? Is it really common sense to know the inverse relationship of signal strength with distance? Of course it isn’t for most people. Common sense is in fact far from common, it is totally individual. I’m afraid blaming the editing procedures of making TV programmes just shows that you aren’t capable of representing yourself properly on television – your fault.

  152. pv said,

    June 6, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    “Considering he has been asked multiple times …”

    You can’t even write in English can you! But your lack of literacy aside, Ben Goldacre clearly has responded and no amount of shouting and denials from you will change that, much as you wish that it would.

    Keep digging!

  153. topazg said,

    June 8, 2007 at 9:35 am

    No, my comment was addressed at Ben’s ability to counter our response to his column, linked to multiple times (mainly by Ben) in the comments in this thread.

  154. ayupmeduck said,

    June 8, 2007 at 11:22 am

    @Alasdair – Again, fair game for making further corrections, although I’ve not yet managed to find the updated document on your site.

    However, you are still making schoolboy mistakes – I don’t use the term “schoolboy mistakes” in an attempt to insult you, rather I mean it literally :-) I have already said I’m 100% sure that you have misunderstood or misrepresented the ECOLOG reports. Your response to this is to go to another “e-smog pressure group” website and quote them. School children would get marked down for such poor research. Here are some things that you should have noticed:

    1) The Hese site did their own translation of the ECOLOG report. Hey, and guess what? They twisted the translation, especially the summary. For example, Hese use the term “base station” in the translation in places where it’s not present in ECOLOG report. In fact the ECOLOG report mainly refers to Handsets, not really base stations.

    2)You could have checked the ECOLOG site itself. Then you would have noticed that they also have a 2006 report that contradicts your claims.

    3) You could have checked other sources and you would have noticed that the author of the ECOLOG report, Dr. Peter Neitzke, has said the people should not be worried about mobile base stations. In fact he has on occasion stated that there could be a case for more base-stations to be built.

    4)Best and easiest of all, you could have simply contacted ECOLOG or Dr. Neitzke. Checking the source is rule number 1 in this game.

    Rather than do any of these things you searched for a site (Hese) that provided “evidence” that would fit your prejudices.

    BTW: I would say that ECOLOG are pretty credible. They present a pretty good case for more studies. They are healthy sceptics, they take a scientific approach, they don’t scaremonger and they don’t sell “e-smog” products. Should ECOLOG ever issue a “WiFi is a danger to school children” report, I would take it seriously.

  155. pv said,

    June 8, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    “..linked to multiple times…”

    I know. It’s nothing to do with wi-fi, but it’s still fashionably illiterate, absurdly pretentious and in keeping with your desire to “complicate” matters and sound vaguely intelligent.
    I’m sure that for years you would have used the word “many”. It is a good word and more appropriate – but probably not cool or pretentious enough for you any more. It’s a small example but it says a lot about your communication skills and your motives that you want to dress up your language in this way.

    For your information, here is the difference.

    Multiple:
    adj 1. having or involving more than one part, individual, or element
    n 2. a number or polynomial which can be divided by another specified one an exact number of times; Example: 6 is a multiple of 2

    Many:
    adj 1. a large number of; numerous; Example: many times; many people think the government is incompetent
    pron 2. a number of people or things, esp. a large one; Example: his many supporters; have as many as you want
    3. many a each of a considerable number of; Example: many a man
    n 4. the many the majority of mankind, esp. the common people.

  156. topazg82 said,

    June 8, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    Ben has not yet responded to our response to his column, either on these comments or to us directly. I presume he is busy on other things (there have been numerous further BS entries recently) and this is not his job, so whilst I would appreciate a response that is also fair enough.

    I not accused anyone of being stupid (in fact, the only comment I can see along those lines is your question as to whether I was deliberately being thick), nor have a set out to patronize anyone on here. Some people have been particularly on topic and raised extremely good points that have caused us to update some of the things we have said, and that is undoubtedly a good thing.

    We recommended Microwave News because they have been covering the issue for over 25 years and at the very least, have cited numerous relevant papers in their archives than have been brought up here – it was more a “further reading” exercise than pointing to the definitive authority on the subject. Mike Repacholi has publicly criticised Louis Slesin on multiple accounts, and likewise Louis Slesin has accused Mike Repacholi of the same – it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other, so it’s no less biased siding with one side than the other: if you read the criticisms in detail you will find both are fairly well cited.

    What exactly does “You people” mean? I have not accused WHO of corruption, industry bias, hidden funding, mass genocide or anything else – where are you getting this claim from exactly?

    I do think that your comments are often rude, and it isn’t a matter of sensitivity, but one of productivity. Your comments are not particularly constructive nor are they directed at much other than your perception of our motivation, and it is becoming tiresome reading post after post of ad hominem attacks at either myself or Alasdair.

    If I have been patronizing or condescending, then I apologise, but responding in kind is not particularly helpful to anyone.

  157. humber said,

    December 3, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Re” Weety July 8
    It must be annoying to have others deny your illness, but there is no hard evidence to support your claim.

    It seems to me that you are unusually aware of the location of radio masts. There are many causes for scalp complaints, and the very common experience of occasional lightheadedness. The ubiquity of radio masts in the UK will almost certainly allow you to associate any occurrence with them.
    Knowledge that the transmitters aren’t there, as was the case in the IoM, will allow you to make a countering case, but how many times have you been unaware of even stronger RF fields, yet suffered no effects?

    You saw the mast opposite your work place, but was it radiating your direction or even switched on ?

  158. CILIPInfo said,

    September 17, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    This story is back in the news again and people are going into libraries asking if the WiFi is harmful to their children.

    I’ve just blogged about it here: communities.cilip.org.uk/blogs/informationadvice/default.aspx

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  162. motherandteacher said,

    April 11, 2013 at 1:20 am

    In May 2011 IARC, agency of the World Health Organisation reclassified electromagnetic radiation from all devices (wifi, mobiles, towers, cordless phones) as a 2B possible carcinogen, on the same list as DDT, engine exhaust etc.
    This is Alastair Philip’s response to you, Ben Goldacre: www.powerwatch.org.uk/columns/aphilips/#33

    I am very disappointed with what I have read on this page of your site. It makes me doubt the rest of what you have to say, but I will check it out. Perhaps you are the one who is making money out of misinformation? I will have a closer look at you, though. Perhaps you do have some good information, we will see.

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