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Wi-Fried: Scientific Response to Criticisms of ABC Catalyst Program on WiFi Health Concerns

Feb 22, 2016

After this documentary on WiFi health concerns aired, backlash even called for the program to be pulled off the Internet. Experts who had declined interviews decried “fringe” science
Speak up for the Right to Know
Please write to the following group that aired the published attacks.

Consider lodging a complaint to the Australian Press Council by clicking here.

Go on the Media Watch website. Scroll down to the comments section, and tell them what you think.

Maryanne Demasi’s 8 Page Response to the Media Watch Questions.

Prof Steward Barnard agreed to look at the evidence we presented. He admitted he was unaware of some of the papers we presented, yet remained steadfast in his scientific opinion despite contradictory evidence. In an email to Catalyst he wrote: “I have considered the information you provided, and must immediately acknowledge that some papers were new to me. Obviously, I did not presume knowledge of all papers. That said, I have not changed the conclusions I drew in the first instance…… So I think I’m better left out” They have since passionately attacked the program in print and on social media. In these articles they did not disclose they weren’t across all the literature or weren’t as qualified as others to speak on this matter as they did to Catalyst. You can’t have it both ways, claim “public harm” from the program, but not think that “potential harm” is important enough to appear on air to dispute.

Read the Eight Page Response Here.

Maryanne Demasi, Presenter/producer on ABC’s Catalyst program published a Huffington Post piece: Sometimes Asking Questions Provides You With Answers That May Be Uncomfortable – on 19th February 2016

The claims that our program “should never have aired” should not sit well with the public. At best, it’s an over-reaction. At worst, it’s a form of censorship.

Sometimes in science asking questions provides you with answers that may be unsettling. Not because they are conclusive, but because they are inconclusive. It’s the duty of scientists and science reporters to encourage critical thinking on issues that are still up for debate.

Several other countries around the world have more stringent radio frequency safety thresholds than Australia. Italy, China, Switzerland and Russia have wireless safety limits, which are a hundred times more stringent than our own. In France, they restrict advertising of mobile phones to children. They have also banned Wi-Fi in nurseries and day care centres. So I decided to investigate. Why are some countries making these changes and not Australia? To say that this is a fringe view is not sustainable…Maryanne Demasi, Presenter/producer on ABC’s Catalyst program

Read the Huffington Post article here.

Maryanne Demasi also published an article in The Guardian: Mobile phones and brain cancer: ‘no evidence of health risk’ is not the same as ‘safe’.

“This has been an ongoing debate for decades, but whenever someone asks this question, it’s usually met with scepticism and the debate is shunned. I used to react the same way. But once I started digging into the evidence, it became clear to me that the answer was much more complex than I had imagined.Maryanne Demasi, Presenter/producer on ABC’s Catalyst program
Read The Guardian article here.

In response to these attacks the following statements refuting the claims were made by Dr. Davis and scientists with expertise in electromagnetic fields.

World Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Charlie Teo’s response to ABC Catalyst’s Wi-Fi program

If a respected authority such as the World Health Organization listens to the likes of Hardell and Davis, resulting in the classification of mobile phones as “possibly carcinogenic”, then who am I to ignore this information? Those who believe there is no “link” accuse Davis of being an alarmist. On the contrary, scientists such as Hardell and Davis are simply showing social responsibility by alerting the public of this possible cancer forming agent. If, in 20 years, we find that mobile phone usage definitively causes cancer, the public would (rightfully) be outraged for not alerting them to the possible harmful effects of such a ubiquitous exposure. Then the argument will be about how we did not do our duty in alerting the public sooner.Dr Charlie Teo's response to ABC Catalyst's Wi-Fi program

Neurosurgeon Dr. Charlie Teo Calls For the Right To Know About Cell Phone Radiation

Dr. Davis Responds: The Highly Inconvenient Truths About Wireless Radiation—A Clarification

by Devra Lee Davis, PhD, MPH, Visiting Professor of Medicine, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, President of Environmental Health Trust, and author of Disconnect–the truth about mobile phone radiation —awarded the silver medal for courageous investigation from Nautilus Books.

“Every man is entitled to his own opinion.  But every man is not entitled to his own facts.”  

U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan

The ABC Catalyst program Wi-fried? unleashed a well-orchestrated firestorm of comments alleging that the science presented was biased and inaccurate, including an invited set of highly critical commentaries in The Conversation. Catalyst journalist and producer Dr. Maryanne Demasi performed a great public service by raising important questions about a growing technology that has not been evaluated for its long-term impacts, especially on infants, toddlers and young children for whom new apps are proliferating. Dr. Demasi argued persuasively that democracy and science wither when discussion is suppressed. Informed discussion, however, must be accurate. Here I clarify key issues, and critics’ misreading of science and established facts.

Insurers do not cover health damages from mobile phones

Risk assessment grounds not only public health, it is the bread and butter of the insurance industry. Of tremendous importance for businesses is that those who require employees to use mobile phones face grave liability. For the past two decades, secondary insurers such as Lloyds of London and Swiss Re have refused to cover the telecommunications industry for health damages from mobile phones and other wireless devices, relegating them to the same category as mad-cow disease and other unpredictable but grave health risks. The solution? The global telecom services market runs about 1.7 trillion dollars—about double that of big pharma. The telecom industry can afford to self-insure.

Indications that business liability can be established, and will rise, are reflected in an October, 2013 ruling from the Italian Supreme Court. In confirming the award of damages to a worker who developed a tumor in the head due to long-term use of mobile phones on the job, the ruling noted the discrepancies between the low evidence of risk found by industry-funded studies and the higher evidence of risk found by independent studies. The court determined that the latter were more reliable.

In the U.S. firms are required to report their liabilities annually to the Securities and Exchange Commission.  A review of those reports on behalf of all large telecom companies reveals that they take note of the fact that the resolution of lawsuits on behalf of persons with brain cancer who were heavy users of cell phones poses a significant liability.

The case for precautions on mobile phones is shared by many distinguished Australians and other experts

Prof. Dariusz Leszczynski served as a former Deputy Director of the national Finnish nuclear radiation and safety authority and now manages a highly informative blog aptly named Between a Rock and a Hard Place that highlights evolving science and policies on wireless radiation.  Not one word has been written to disagree with his comments to Catalyst that those who keep a phone in their pockets are exposed to levels of radiation above test results.  A recent issue of the American Consumer Reports advises that phones mustn’t be kept in the pocket.  A website, provides links to manufacturers’ advice about distances that mobile devices should be kept away from the body. For example, laptops are tested at 20 centimeters from a large adult male body, and are not designed to be held tightly on toddlers’ laps…

Read and download the full letter here.

Comments by Victor Leach, Radiation Health Physicist

Victor worked as Radiation Safety Officer and also worked as a Radiation Protection Adviser for two Universities. His thesis was on the dispersion of radioactive radon gas from open-cut uranium mines. He has also worked as advisor on the atmospheric dispersion of particulates and gases in large open pit coal mine during stable atmospheric conditions.  

Subject: Wi-Fried Catalyst – Not sure what the fuss is about. Pretty good job

“For most of my working life (35 years) I have worked as a Radiation Health Physicist. I am not anti-technology and have worked in the uranium industry and believe in nuclear power. I also see sustainable technology like solar, wind power and wave power playing a part going forward. I always like to keep an open mind about technology and don’t take a position without reading around the subject.

I have been reviewing the literature on wireless technology and current standards for the last decade at such sites like: EMF-Portal, PubMed.govICNIRP

We cannot say using this technology is risk free and non-thermal effects as shown in animal studies may translate into human disease over time. Many more eminent scientists than myself have been outspoken about the potential risks associated with wireless devices, eg EMF Scientist Appeal to the United Nations. In fact I think Catalyst was very measured in statements and I think the video below is alarmist.

Dr. Davis is worried that the improper use of mobile phones, particularly by children, is of concern and we can do much better informing parents on safer ways for children to use these devices. She is not a fringe scientist when it comes to research in this area, as others have suggested but she does have a different view. She is actively working with many scientists around the world to improve our understanding and she unlike me is a good communicator. She has no industry support and is totally independent.

Read the full letter by Victor Leach here.
Click here to view links to 139 studies in the last 2 years that show a biological effect from exposure to microwave radiation.

Response From Martin L. Pall, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences, Washington  State University

He does raise the issue of whether my studies are reproducible – something that again is irrelevant – these data as you know are not my own and when you have 26 different studies each showing that EMF effects can be calcium channel blockers the inference to be drawn is obvious.  When those studies involve 5 different types of blockers, each if which are thought to be highly specific, each of are structurally distinct from the others, each of which act on a different binding site from the sites of action of the others, then the inference to be drawn is obvious.  When these studies are further supported by hundreds of studies showing changes in calcium fluxes and calcium signaling following EMF exposure and each of which can be explained as being due to VGGC activation the inference to be drawn if obvious.  And finally when the voltage sensor of the VGCC, the structure in that protein molecule that is known to respond to electrical forces by opening the channel, is predicted to have extraordinary sensitivity to the electrical effects of low-intensity EMFs, BASED ON ITS KNOWN PHYSICAL STRUCTURE AND LOCATION WITHIN THE LIPID BILAYER OF THE PLASMA MEMBRANE, with these calculations being entirely based on basic physics, then the implications of this is also obvious.  Now if Tim Dean wants to completely ignore all of this (and much more, as you know) while the vast majority of the human population on earth are being exposed to microwave frequency EMFs, based on safety guidelines that have been known for over 40 years to be based on a false assumption (of only heating) and while many studies show that these low intensity EMFs produce oxidative stress, DNA damage to cells, cancer (which is undoubtedly cause, in part by the DNA damage), lowered male fertility, lowered female infertilty (albeit less studied), massive damage to brain structure and function including widespread neuropsychiatric effects and life threatening cardiac damage impacting the electrical control of the heart, then Tim Dean will have to live with the consequences.
Read Dr. Pall’s Full Comments

Dr. Martin Blank: Comments Submitted to The Sydney Morning Herald

Over 200 research scientists recently sent a petition to the UN and the WHO requesting that they act on the documented health risks of exposure to EMF/RFR. All of the named scientists had published research indicating risk at relatively low levels of exposure, e.g., DNA damage (Lai and Singh), stimulation of stress proteins (Blank and Goodman), stimulation of CaATPase (Pall). Since *stress protein synthesis is also stimulated in reaction to changes in temperature, pH, toxic metals, alcohol, all potential dangers to cells, the cells are alerting us and protecting us. There can be no doubt that EMF/RFR is treated by the body as potentially harmful.

I was therefore surprised to read the comments of Prof * Croft who doubted any health effects of EMF/RFR. He really should read the cell biology research and not rely solely on epidemiology studies and unsubstantiated assertions by non-specialists. *Drs Saunders and Swan should also be interested in the unusual properties of DNA as a fractal antenna, when considering a plausible biological mechanism. Academics have an obligation to be better informed, especially when asked to comment beyond their level of expertise.

Read the Full Comment by Martin Blank, PhD 

EHT Answers ABC’s Questions

Q: How do we know those images of absorption are accurate?

A: A Brazilian team led by Professor of Electrical Engineering, Alvaro de Salles from the Universidate Federal Du Rio Grande Del Do Sol—UFRGS (Federal University of Rio Grande) used Finite-Difference, Time-Domain (FDTD) computer simulation models from MRI scans of real humans including men, women and children to calculate the absorbed radiation within their heads. These animations are simply their scientific imaging results laid over an image of  child and adult so that the viewer can understand it.

The colours depict rates of energy absorption per gram of tissue (SAR or specific absorption rate). In these images, red is the area with the highest modeled energy absorption. Even at the same scale, the red area is nevertheless slightly larger in the child’s head, because:

  1. The child’s skull is thinner, so more radiation reaches past the skull;
  2. Compared with an adult skull, the immature skull contains more water, so the skull and adjacent tissues are more similar in a child than in an adult. This means that less radiation is reflected at the interfaces (greater reflection occurs at interfaces of less similar substances), so again, more radiation enters a child’s brain.
  3. The child’s brain is a bit better at absorbing the radiation because it contains proportionally more water and less fat than an adult’s (myelination of the brain is incomplete).
  4. The end result is that there is higher energy absorption deeper into a child’s brain centers. Modern computer modelling is a powerful tool compared with the current standard large adult male manikin used for phone regulation certification.
Please read a more detailed description by scientists Alvaro de Salles and Claudio Fernandez here.
  1. First of all, it can be observed that relative head dimensions are not in scale, since the adult head dimension is usually greater than the child’s head; in these figures both heads have almost the same dimensions; then, in absolute terms, the red area in the child head is almost the same size (or intensity) as  the red area in the adult head. In fact, it is just slightly bigger in the child’s, please refer to item 2 below. Also, EMF absorption (SAR) is proportionally greater in the child’s brain due to its smaller size, too.
  2. Absolute EMF absorption (SAR) is a bit greater in the child’s brain and the main reasons for this are the following:
    1. The skull thickness in the child is smaller than in the adult; therefore proportionally higher EMF penetrates in the child’s brain;
    2. The child skull has dielectric parameters (permittivity and equivalent conductivity) closer to the dielectric parameters of the brain (and the fat and the skin) in comparison to those of the adults; therefore the EMF reflection coefficient is smaller in children and the EMF transmission coefficient is greater in children in comparison to that in the adults; (in other words, better intrinsic impedance matching in the children);
    3. The dielectric parameters (permittivity and equivalent conductivity) in the  children’s brains are greater in comparison to those in the adults brains (around 10 to 20 percent higher, please refer to the C. Gabriel and A. Peyman papers with pigs and rats); therefore greater SAR is estimated in the children’s brains;

A further reason for that (as already mentioned) can be that the same amount of energy being dissipated in a smaller head volume (e.g., in the child’s head) would result in a larger SAR, in comparison to a larger head (e.g., the adult’s head).

These results are explained in detail in our 2015 IEEE Access paper. Professor Om Gandhi has described similar results in previous papers as well.

Q: The UK’s Science Media Centre (leading the charge against the Catalyst) has been accused of manufacturing science to support corporate interests. Why?

Some groups monitor activities of organizations that publicize information on contentious topics potentially impacting vested interests. Here are excerpts from Powerwatch and Sourcewatch.

A: “Dr David Robert Grimes is a young physicist and cancer researcher at Oxford University. In 2014 he jointly won the John Maddox Prize present by the Sense about Science Charity. They, along with the Science Media Centre, claim to present scientific truths to the public. In reality they always seem to support the ‘Establishment view’ and do their utmost to prevent any safety questions being raised about man-made chemicals, radiation, EMFs, vaccines, etc. The Science Media Centre even specialises in ‘lock-in journalist briefings’ where organisations can Press Release their work to a hand-picked list of journalists along with a panel of hand-picked supportive scientists to answer questions. Experts with differing views wanting to ask legitimate challenging questions are completely excluded from these events. The briefings are usually timed so that they finish late morning and there is no time for the journalists to make other investigations before filing their stories for the mid-day news. This is an extreme form of professional spin that distorts rather than helps humanity understand scientific and technological developments. Science Media Centres now exist in various countries. See Sourcewatch for some more background information about the SMC network.”

Read more from Powerwatch
“Connie St. Louis, the director of the Science Journalism MA program at City University London and president of the Association of British Science Writers, wrote in Columbia Journalism Review that SMC “has cast biased press briefings such as one on GMOs, funded by Monsanto and invited unwitting and time-starved journalists. The results have been catastrophic. The quality of science reporting and the integrity of information available to the public have both suffered, distorting the ability of the public to make decisions about risk. The result is a diet of unbalanced cheerleading and the production of science information as entertainment.”
Read more at Sourcewatch

Don Maisch PhD details the corporate interests of UK’s Science Media Centre and AusSMC who are providing “expert advice” criticizing the Catalyst program.

I became interested in revisiting the topic when the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) published on their scimex website expert criticisms on a recent Catalyst program “Wi-Fried”Don Maisch PhD
In the UK, two organizations, the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) and the Science Media Centre (SMC) have been established in order to improve the quality of science communication to the public for a wide range of controversial issues, from GM crops, mad cow disease to telecommunications. The vehicle to accomplish this is by adherence to their “Guidelines on Science and Health Communication” which the SMC claimed would lessen the distortion (bias) in the media and remove the “bullshit” from science communication to the public in the U.K. An examination of the establishment of SIRC, the SMC and Sense about Science, however, traces their lineage to a small but influential pro-industry development group of individuals. Guardian journalist George Monbiot has argued these are part of the “pro-corporate libertarian right”. Its participants have taken on key roles in the formal infrastructure of public communication used by the science and medical establishment.

Key players include Frank Furedi, Dick Taverne, Tracey Brown, Clair Fox and her sister Fiona Fox who has been Director of the SMC since its inception in 2001. Fox has used the SMC to promote the views of industry and to launch fierce attacks against those who question them. This small select group of individuals has worked consistently to establish a pro-technology model for science communication in the UK under the guise of “good science”.

This model tends to downplay evidence of health risks from technological developments that may hinder the implementation of those developments, under the guise of expert advice from the “Science Media Centre”. This model of science communication is now being ‘exported’ to other countries, threatening the impartiality of ‘expert’ science advice given on contentious issues inimical to the interests of SMC’s financial supporters.Don Maisch PhD

Read more from EMFacts Consultancy

UK’s Science Media Centre lambasted for pushing corporate science

“Scientists or lobbyists?

David Miller, a professor of sociology from the University of Bath, United Kingdom, presented a more scathing analysis of the SMC, based on a combination of methods, such as analyzing the SMC’s website content and sending out freedom of information requests. He looked at which experts the centre uses — given that its mission is to get scientists’ views across.

What he found was that some 20 of the 100 most quoted experts were not scientists, as defined by having a PhD and working at a research institution or a top learned society. Instead they were lobbyists for and CEOs of industry groups.”

Read the article at

Letter to Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings University of Wollongong Australia from the EMF Scientist Appeal

“We are contacting you due to the recent controversies that have resulted from the February 2016 broadcasting of the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) TV Show “Catalyst” about health dangers of electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted by Wi-Fi.

We want to bring to your attention the International EMF Scientist Appeal. This Appeal was submitted to the top leaders at the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environmental Program on May 11, 2015. It is signed by 220 EMF-scientists from 42 nations, each of whom has published EMF papers in peer reviewed journals that show biological or health effects from manmade sources of non-ionizing radiation on human health and the environment.”

International EMF Scientist Appeal 2016 Letter to Paul Wellings 4.18.2016

Dr. Mary Redmayne’s Response

“Effects such as sperm damage have been demonstrated from mobile phone emissions as well as from WiFi, although there is less literature specifically examining this source. For instance, at least one WiFi study (and many phone studies) found sperm did not move properly after exposure and DNA was broken. This could and should be regarded as a health effect using ARPANSA”

Read Dr. Mary Redmayne’s Response Here