Email Delivery

Receive new posts as email.

Email address

Syndicate this site

RSS | Atom


About This Site
Contact Us
Privacy Policy


November 2010
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        

Stories by Category

Basics :: Basics
Casting :: Casting Listen In Podcasts Videocasts
Culture :: Culture Hacking
Deals :: Deals
Future :: Future
Hardware :: Hardware Adapters Appliances Chips Consumer Electronics Gaming Home Entertainment Music Photography Video Gadgets Mesh Monitoring and Testing PDAs Phones Smartphones
Industry :: Industry Conferences Financial Free Health Legal Research Vendor analysis
International :: International
Media :: Media Locally cached Streaming
Metro-Scale Networks :: Metro-Scale Networks Community Networking Municipal
Network Types :: Network Types Broadband Wireless Cellular 2.5G and 3G 4G Power Line Satellite
News :: News Mainstream Media
Politics :: Politics Regulation Sock Puppets
Schedules :: Schedules
Security :: Security 802.1X
Site Specific :: Site Specific Administrative Detail April Fool's Blogging Book review Cluelessness Guest Commentary History Humor Self-Promotion Unique Wee-Fi Who's Hot Today?
Software :: Software Open Source
Spectrum :: Spectrum 60 GHz
Standards :: Standards 802.11a 802.11ac 802.11ad 802.11e 802.11g 802.11n 802.20 Bluetooth MIMO UWB WiGig WiMAX ZigBee
Transportation and Lodging :: Transportation and Lodging Air Travel Aquatic Commuting Hotels Rails
Unclassified :: Unclassified
Vertical Markets :: Vertical Markets Academia Enterprise WLAN Switches Home Hot Spot Aggregators Hot Spot Advertising Road Warrior Roaming Libraries Location Medical Public Safety Residential Rural SOHO Small-Medium Sized Business Universities Utilities wISP
Voice :: Voice


November 2010 | October 2010 | September 2010 | August 2010 | July 2010 | June 2010 | May 2010 | April 2010 | March 2010 | February 2010 | January 2010 | December 2009 | November 2009 | October 2009 | September 2009 | August 2009 | July 2009 | June 2009 | May 2009 | April 2009 | March 2009 | February 2009 | January 2009 | December 2008 | November 2008 | October 2008 | September 2008 | August 2008 | July 2008 | June 2008 | May 2008 | April 2008 | March 2008 | February 2008 | January 2008 | December 2007 | November 2007 | October 2007 | September 2007 | August 2007 | July 2007 | June 2007 | May 2007 | April 2007 | March 2007 | February 2007 | January 2007 | December 2006 | November 2006 | October 2006 | September 2006 | August 2006 | July 2006 | June 2006 | May 2006 | April 2006 | March 2006 | February 2006 | January 2006 | December 2005 | November 2005 | October 2005 | September 2005 | August 2005 | July 2005 | June 2005 | May 2005 | April 2005 | March 2005 | February 2005 | January 2005 | December 2004 | November 2004 | October 2004 | September 2004 | August 2004 | July 2004 | June 2004 | May 2004 | April 2004 | March 2004 | February 2004 | January 2004 | December 2003 | November 2003 | October 2003 | September 2003 | August 2003 | July 2003 | June 2003 | May 2003 | April 2003 | March 2003 | February 2003 | January 2003 | December 2002 | November 2002 | October 2002 | September 2002 | August 2002 | July 2002 | June 2002 | May 2002 | April 2002 | March 2002 | February 2002 | January 2002 | December 2001 | November 2001 | October 2001 | September 2001 | August 2001 | July 2001 | June 2001 | May 2001 | April 2001 |

Recent Entries

In-Flight Wi-Fi and In-Flight Bombs
Can WPA Protect against Firesheep on Same Network?
Southwest Sets In-Flight Wi-Fi at $5
Eye-Fi Adds a View for Web Access
Firesheep Makes Sidejacking Easy
Wi-Fi Direct Certification Starts
Decaf on the Starbucks Digital Network
Google Did Snag Passwords
WiMax and LTE Not Technically 4G by ITU Standards
AT&T Wi-Fi Connections Keep High Growth with Free Service

Site Philosophy

This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator. Part of the FM Tech advertising network.


Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2010 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.

Powered by
Movable Type

« Google Funds Wi-Fi in The Dalles, Oregon | Main | Meraki Offers Browser-Based Wi-Fi Sniffer »

February 11, 2010

GQ's Sketchy Article on Dangers of EMF

I finally read the GQ piece that's been widely cited as "proving" the dangers of electromagnetic radiation produced by cell phones: It's a piece of crap. The article spends the vast majority of its time looking into corporate conspiracy to keep news about cell-radiation issues silent, and giving a forum to anecdote and studies that have since been shredded to pieces for lack of rigor.

I don't doubt that corporations have worked hard to prevent studies from coming out that would show any correlation of risk, because that's a common pattern for large corporations. That said, there's such a huge amount of data, and studies with such large cohorts, it's hard to believe that companies were successful in "suppressing" such data.

The reason I even address GQ, provider of fine investigative journalism that it is not, is that a Santa Fe resident was nearly hauled out of a city council meeting after arguing against installing more wireless base stations--perhaps for cellular. The Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Frank Bruno is pictured in this article holding up this awful GQ story as part of his proof that microwave radiation is deadly. So it can't be ignored.

I'm going to focus on two elements in the story, because it's mostly full of farragoes and nonsense.

The first is the Interphone study, the best science cited in the article. Thousands of people with certain cancers that seem likely to result from close proximity to cell phones were selected, interviewed, and results compared against interviews with controls selected from the population at large in those countries. Despite the huge amount of effort to recruit subjects, just under 8,000 participants with cancers were interviewed (several hundred per country) and under 7,000 controls.

But studies resulting from Interphone don't say what the GQ article alleges. The author writes, "Interphone researchers reported in 2008 that after a decade of cell-phone use, the chance of getting a brain tumor—specifically on the side of the head where you use the phone—goes up as much as 40 percent for adults." That's not inaccurate, but it leaves out 100 percent of the context.

The study itself (International Journal of Cancer, Vol 120, Issue 8, 2007), which perhaps the GQ author didn't read, notes, "The results of our analyses do not provide consistent evidence for increased risk of glioma related to use of mobile phones. We did not find indications of increased risk related to regular mobile phone use overall, or in the majority of the subanalyses based on various exposure characteristics. The most exposed group (the highest 10% based on the exposure distribution among controls) did not show an elevated risk of glioma."

The study authors do note that in one subset of analysis that looked at use of a cell phone preferentially on one side of the head or other--as reported by subjects, and covering 10 years and longer--"was associated with significantly increased risk of glioma and there was also an increasing trend with years since first use on the ipsilateral side."

The study authors note that there's likely strong reporting bias on both use and which side a person regularly talks on. The conclusion about the higher rates: "This may be due to either chance or causal effect or information bias, i.e. overreporting of mobile phone use on the affected side by the cases with brain tumors."

The "latest update" on Interphone research--8 October 2008--citing this and other studies concludes fairly strongly that there are a few areas that should be looked at further, but that the data generally supports no pattern or revelation about a connection between cancers studied and cell phone usage patterns.

I won't go into every other item mentioned in the GQ article, because we have had discussions at this site over the years on these subjects.

What I will mention is that none of the vast array of credible information contrary to the conclusions of this author and, obviously, GQ, were mentioned except in passing. This includes the now dozens of well-conducted, published studies that find no connection between a signal and "electrosensitivity," and some of which show the presence of measurable, severe symptoms whether a signal is present or absent.

The second element simply reveals the poor knowledge of the reporter and factchecking employed by GQ. The article notes,

In the summer of 2006, a super-Wi-Fi system known as WiMAX was tested in rural Sweden. Bombarded with signals, the residents of the village of Götene—who had no knowledge that the transmitter had come online—were overcome by headaches, difficulty breathing, and blurred vision, according to a Swedish news report. Two residents reported to the hospital with heart arrhythmias, similar to those that, more than thirty years ago, Allen Frey induced in frog hearts. This happened only hours after the system was turned on, and as soon as it was powered down, the symptoms disappeared.

So where did this come from? I'd never heard of this. And WiMax wasn't commercially available except in test form in 2006. What un-cited "Swedish news report" covered this?

I used The Google to find out. First off, it wasn't summer, it was February 2006. Second, the report seems to have originated at the Inquirer on 12 June 2006, which links to an Australian bulletin-board on ISPs, which has a post by a reader named Brains, which links to a 23 May 2006 report from Sweden's STV network.

That report, which is neither available at the original URL, and which I could not find by searching on stories on Götene (of which there are many), is paraphrased here by someone who backs the electrosensitive theory. The story apparently came from a "current affairs program 'Debatt,'" rather than from public-health officials or other sources. Nor does the Australian link mention that the system was shut down; nor can I find any evidence it was.

Following this further, I found on an anti-EMF-use site that the Debatt program is, well, a debate: two Swedish experts pro and two con as to whether EMF poses a threat to health. The usual Swedish sources (Mona Nilsson and Olle Johansson) took the view that there was a threat to health. The Götene story was apparently a lead-in, and it's unclear whether the guest representing the Swedish government provided any refutation to the details.

The GQ author follows this up by noting, "Today, Sprint Nextel and Clearwire are set to establish similar technology across the U.S., with a $7.2 billion government broadband stimulus speeding the rollout."

Dozens of WiMax systems are up and running in the United States, and hundreds worldwide (some quite modest). The power output of WiMax is comparable to cellular, although using mostly different frequencies. The notion that WiMax is something new and different than 3G from a signal perspective or "electrosmog" view is nonsense.

The GQ article doesn't advance any knowledge in this area, lacks rigor, and again gives credence to what is palpably a false cause for those suffering from real symptoms--ones that have been repeatedly shown to be unrelated to "cell radiation."



I've been seeing & disregarding unsubstantiated claims of wireless harm for years. The interesting thing about this one was the claim that the articles which find no link are overwhelmingly cellular-sponsored, and the unsponsored (unbiased) articles find links. The science was interesting but not strong, and the hyperbole was amazing.

You say

real symptoms--ones that have been repeatedly shown to be unrelated to "cell radiation."

But this is an often repeated misrepresentation. It was never shown that the symptoms were caused by anything else. Many people get triggered for hours or days by a single exposure. And how do you explain this study

where two participants could tell if the phone was on 95 times out of 100 (p

It only takes one convincing study to prove these effects are real, and we have several. William Rea showed the right protocol years ago and none of the psychologists who "investigate" the effects follow it.

One of the Interphone participants testified at the Senate hearing last fall, saying that everything points to cell phone signals causing cancer. You're the one who's not giving the full context, in my opinion.

There are now two very good, recent studies (Essex, Darmstadt) in which after eliminating outside factors (including using a Faraday-cage like installation in one case), and using double-blind methods (neither the subject, nor researcher knew if signals were present or not), those identifying themselves presented symptoms precisely as they had presented before without any correlation to signals being present. Thus, the symptoms were real (they have been measured in some details), but have only a random connection. Over 30 other studies have shown that electrosensitive-identified individuals cannot do better than chance nor better than a control group in sensing signal presence or absence. Further, the several studies that showed a correlation cannot be replicated.

In the two studies above, the researchers started from a point at which no symptoms were present; that is, symptoms were emergent during the test, which means that pre-existing "attacks" wouldn't be relevant. Some attacks were witnessed starting and stopping during the tests.

Now, of greater interest about context is that the study that you point to does not conclude what you say it does. In the abstract you link to is this statement: "This study provides empirical evidence against the existence of electromagnetic sensibility to the mobile phone EMF, demonstrating the necessity for replication in EMF studies."

The two subjects able to identify 95 out of 100 times that a signal was present were retested a month later and found to do no better than chance, just as the 80-plus other members of the study, including several self-identified electrosensitives. In fact, I would wager that the two who scored so high could hear a buzzing or humming from equipment being activated, given that they were unable to replicate the results in the same circumstances (perhaps with more muffled equipment sound) one month later.

Also, I can't speak to what an Interphone "participant" (researcher? subject? passer-by? citation, please) said in a hearing, but the Interphone study, which is cited as impartial by the GQ article, and is a massive, interesting piece of work, has no such conclusions. You can read the conclusions yourself. There are a couple of edge cases, like the high incidence of self-reported single-sided use from 10 or more years ago in glioma sufferers in certain nations, which needs more research, but researchers consider is likely recollection bias.

Leave a comment