HELSINKI, March 26, 2012—On March 22, German Die Zeit published a story “Maus, Telefon!” that strongly criticized the recent Yale study I briefly mentioned in my previous column at TWTC.
The story in Die Zeit has made considerable headlines in news media and in blogosphere (hint: Google the first sentence of the article to find the links). The story is freely available and Google Translator provides understandable text for those unfamiliar with the German language.
The critical evaluation of the Yale study, which is not perfect, is one story but “ridiculing” attempts are absolutely inappropriate.
In my column at TWTC, I have criticized the dosimetry that is indeed far from what currently is considered acceptable. Comments by Andrew Wood, published in the Scientific Reports page of the Yale study, reflect well the problems of the dosimetry.
Those comments reflect the big problem, at least in my mind, of the cell phone research. Is exposing people or animals to cell phone radiation from regular cell phone use sufficiently “scientific” to produce believable results? Are we going too far with our quest for unreachable “perfect dosimetry” and, by refining the conditions of exposure, do we get further and further away from the real life exposures? Are we “throwing away the baby with the bath water”?
In my previous story on Yale study, I mentioned the opinion of a “dosimetry guru”. I asked him for clarification and permission to use his name.
Here is what Niels Kuster (“dosimetry guru”) said:
“We should be careful in dismissing/accepting positive and negative results. E.g., negative results with a phone exposure provide very little relevance as the exposure is arbitrary and cannot be generalized to other phone exposures. On the other hand, a positive result with a phone exposure provides important evidence, provided the biology and statistics are clean and shams and exposures are sufficiently different.”
It simply means, or as I understand it, that the studies done with exposures to regular cell phones, when showing effect, should not be automatically dismissed. Such studies provide information that should be confirmed, not ridiculed.
The ridiculing attempts are seen in the headline of the Die Zeit story (Maus, Telefon!) as well as in some sentences, e.g. “Keine schwangere Frau telefoniert 24 Stunden am Tag” (No pregnant woman phones 24 hours a day).
I will leave the “funny” and attention grabbing headline alone. However, the quoted above sentence indicates the attempt to mislead the public.
I cannot imagine that the experts interviewed by the authors of the Die Zeit story would not know what toxicology research is. Toxicology research involves exposing of animals to very high overdoses of a chemical or radiation, doses that human will never encounter in real life, and examining whether such high overdose causes any harm to animal. If it does, it may mean that the tested chemical/radiation might be harmful to humans, and it requires further studies or legal regulation.
Exposing pregnant mice for 24/7 to cell phone radiation during the whole pregnancy time is just this – toxicology at work. Since such “overdose” of exposure caused effect in animals, we should be concerned about humans and we should do research in this direction. Advising precaution is also the least that we should do, while waiting for the scientific data.
Interestingly, the authors of the debunking story in Die Zeit did not contact the authors of the Yale study for comment. The journalists were apparently satisfied with the negative ridiculing comments from their selected “experts”.
I asked Hugh Taylor what he thinks about the Die Zeit story. He provided the following comment:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond. I agree that this study, as with any animal model, has limitations. These are mice, not humans. We chose a single way to expose them; other means of exposure should be explored. Similarly other behavioral and neurologic tests should be done. However this study was well done and carefully controlled. It should prompt further evaluation of these effects.
Future studies should measure the dose of radiation and vary the exposure. This is the first study rather than a definitive answer.
We do point out several times in the paper that we cannot extrapolate directly to people, however more study and an open mind to the possibility of harm is warranted. We can’t ignore it or refuse to study it further.
[bold text by DL]
I certainly agree, and as I said in my earlier TWTC column, this study provides information that should be wake-up call for research.
Finally, who was the “point man” for the Die Zeit story? It is a
I also criticize studies that were not well made. The distinction is that I criticize any poorly done study, whether it shows an effect or does not. Alexander Lerchl seems to only go after the studies that show effects. I did not see him going after Danish Cohort, for example.
Can we trust a “debunker” who picks-and-chooses, who shows clearly bias in selecting studies to be “debunked”? The reason the IARC did not select him to the expert group is because he is divisive and has biased view on what to criticize and what not.
Read more from Dariusz Leszczynski in his science blog “BRHP - Between a Rock and a Hard Place” at http://betweenrockandhardplace.wordpress.com Dariusz is a Research Professor at the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland.
Follow Dariusz on twitter: @blogBRHP
Disclaimer: the opinions presented in this column are author’s own and should NOT be considered as the official opinions of the STUK - Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland.
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