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Time for scientific risk analysis

Present risk assessment  is scientifically untenable

In the official assessments of the mobile phone radiation risk, epidemiology (research on disease incidence in the community) has had a strongly dominant position.

From the point of view of theory of science, it is not justifiable to establish safety mainly on epidemiology because this is a so-called “soft” approach with significant weaknesses that prevent fully reliable risk assessment. There are many examples of how epidemiological methods have lead to wrong conclusions.

classical example  is that this research method led to the belief that Tubercolosis (TBC) was caused by “bad smell”. Only when better research methods evolved, could it be established that TBC was caused by bacteria.

A widely studied example of an erroneous conclusion based on numerous epidemiological studies is that women who are taking combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) also have a lower-than-average incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD). This lead to the proposal that HRT was protective against CHD. But randomized controlled trials showed that HRT caused a small but statistically significant increase in risk of CHD (Lawlor DA et al).

Because it deals with whole populations, epidemiology is too blunt and indirect to be able to establish causality reliably. For example, it is impossible to know exactly how great the exposure has been in the individual case, because one must rely on subjective estimates in such large scale studies. Moreover, it is difficult to avoid all sources of error that may make a risk over-or underestimated (for an example of a study with multiple errors, look here – “The famous Interphone Cellphone Study is greatly flawed“).

Some leading experts have questioned whether this method can yield useful results at all (see footnote).

“And if we take into account the track record [of epidemiological research] .. Would not They do just as well if They simply tossed a coin?”

Sander Greenland, professor of epidemiology at McGill Univresity

However, if applied insightfully, with an awareness of its limitations and using available methods for limiting errors, the epidemiological method may have some value as a complement to other data (see footnote).

In any case, it is not scientifically justifiable to base risk assessment of mobile phone radiation mainly on epidemiolgical data.

Proper scientific risk assessment must take into account many different aspects, relying mainly on methods that can establish causation in a reliable way. Above all, it is by no means scientifically tenable to maintain that mobile phone radiation is harmless on the basis of epidemiological data only (as has often been done).

Truly scientific risk assessment

To obtain a realistic idea of the risk you have to consider observations from several different research areas in addition to those of  epidemiology, including experimental

  • DNA research,
  • cancer research,
  • cell biology,
  • physiology,
  • brain research
  • psychological studies on cognitive performance, concentration ability, memory, sleep, emotional health

Epidemiology has much weaker evidential strength than these experimental approaches.

The observations in these areas all indicate that mobile phone radiation causes a significant risk of various disturbances of the physiology and damage to biological tissues, in particular DNA. This includes, for example, direct experimental observations of DNA’s reactions to mobile phone radiation, see for example, ” Why DNA can be damaged by electromagnetic radiation. ”

Leading experts have overemphasized epidemiological data

Well documented interdisciplinary observations of radiation damage have often been downplayed or ignored  by leading scientific experts consulted by international and national authorities. A typical example is Professor Anders Ahlbom, Karolinska Institute who was one of the most influential in the world through his position as chairman of the WHO’s expert group on radiation safety. He and other experts have largely based their opinion about cellphone safety on epidemiological research and have, long argued that it has not been “established” that cell phone usage brings about an increased cancer risk.

In most industry-sponsored studies cited by them as “evidence” of mobile phone safety, the vast majority of participants have used mobile phones for less than about ten years, the time that it at least takes for cancer to develop. As result, the cancer risk has been underestimated considerably, since those who used the phone for more than ten years and talked for hours every day were a small minority who “drowned” in the crowd.

If the scientific data from different research areas consistently indicate that mobile phone radiation is harmful, while epidemiological data do not confirm it, the only scientifically valid conclusion is that there is something wrong in the  design of the epidemiological studies. In such a case it is unjustified, yes unscientific to maintain that mobile phone radiation is harmless and to belittle the scientific data that demonstrate the opposite. However this is what Anders Ahlbom has done.

The industry has had a strategy to over-emphasize epidemiological data.  This was carried through with support from the secret mobile-phone lobbyist Anders Ahlbom, who misused his authoritative position in WHO to establish the erroneous belief that epidemiological data are of major and decisive importance for risk analysis. The reason for this strategy was probably that it is easy to distort epidemiological data, see eg ” Cellular Cancer Risk Study who denied cancer no probative value“.  Over-emphasising the importance of epidemiology reduced the impact of other important observations.

We are pleased that Anders Ahlbom was recently removed from his post as chairman of the WHO expert group on radiation issues when it was revealed that he owns a mobile phone lobbying firm (see Top Experts at the WHO revealed that mobile-lobbyist ). Several other WHO advisers have also been found to have concealed connections with the mobile phone industry.

It is gratifying that WHO, after Ahlbom was shamefully dismissed,  has reconsidered its position and recognizes that mobile phones may cause cancer, but they have unfortunately not yet abandoned epidemiology as the main method for risk assessment. Hopefully, this adherence to epidemology is an effect of the strong influence Ahlbom had on the thinking of WHO advisors, but at worst it could indicate that other hidden industry-related experts remain in the WHO’s group of advisors  (they must declare their independence, but it conceivable that the strong financial incentive that “fees” from industry represent, may make more experts willing to “cooperate”).

It is time to apply rigorous multidisciplinary assessment of mobile phone risks

It is high time to abandon the unreliable risk assessment methodology that industry-sponsored top experts like Ahlbom designed, apparently to benefit industry interests at the expense of the health of mankind.

It is time to replace inconclusive epidemiology-based risk assessment with rigorous interdisciplinary risk assessment, where epidemiology must assume the subordinate role it deserves.

Since over 10 years there exists sufficient interdisciplinary data to enable a rigorous and reliable multidisciplinary risk assessment of mobile phone radiation.

These data indicate that mobile phone radiation damages DNA and causes a considerably increased risk of cancer and other health problems. The data are so abundant that there is no need to wait for further research before action is taken to limit the exposure to mobile phone radiation.


References

Lawlor DA, Davey Smith G, Ebrahim S (June 2004). “Commentary: the hormone replacement-coronary heart disease conundrum: is this the death of observational epidemiology?”. Int J Epidemiol 33 (3): 464–7.

FOOTNOTES

Top Experts question the epidemiological method

A leading epidemiologist believes that when assessing the epidemiology of value must consider the value it proved to be when the knowledge of the matter cleared (track record). If you do it proves to epidemiology is not better than if you flip on the issue.

“.. How can anyone judge the value of .. [Epidemiological] studies without Taking into account ‘Their track record? And if we take into account ‘the track record .. Would not They do just as well if They simply tossed a coin?

Sander Greenland, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, one of America’s most celebrated The University of, and author of the textbook “Modern Epidemiology”.

Source: Understanding epidemiology, Strengths and Weaknesses

Another reputable expert points out that the proper question is not how unreliable epidemiological data is, but the unreliability is so great that one can not draw any useful conclusions from the [epidemiological] data.

“The Appropriate question is not whether there are uncertainties about epidemiologic data, Rather, it is whether the uncertainties are so great That One Can not Draw Conclusions From The useful data.”

John Bail, professor of epidemiology at McGill University, and member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ National Academy of Science “whose members are selected from the foremost researchers in the United States.

Source: Understanding epidemiology, Strengths and Weaknesses

Epidemiology may have a limited merit if applied insightfully

PSRAST does not entirely share the view quoted above. We believe that an important reason why this approach has came into disrepute may be that, as described above, it has been misused by corrupt scientists to benefit the corporate interests.

This applies to many different areas where the epidemiological research has been used to “prove” theories, that have yielded billion dollar profits for the industry. This includes false epidemiological evidence “proving” the dangers of saturated fat (which led to multi-billion dollar profits of polyunsaturated oil producers), the “benefits” of cholesterol-lowering drugs (which yielded huge profits for the pharmaceutical industry), the “protective” effects of flu vaccines etc. Close scrutiny using better methods has not been able to confirm the epidemiological “evidence”.

When epidemiological methods are used in a serious and rigorous manner and complemented with dose-response and other analysis that increase the possibility of establishing causality, such as done in an exemplarly way by Professor Lennart Hardell, it has some evidential value, but we want once more to emphasize that epidemiological results cannot be used as evidence if they conflict with interdisciplinary data from other more reliable methods.

Actually, Hardells result’s have consistently shown a considerably stronger connection between cellphone use and brain tumors than other epidemiological research.

In stead of considering that Hardells studies have been superior in design and application compared to other research (which has been pointed out by Myung et al, see ref), INCRIP, which is heavily biased in favor of the industry, has more or less dismissed Hardell because his results “inexplicaply differ from the general trend”. However, this “general trend” comes from the fact that most studies have been studying people with too short exposure – less  than 10 years – for developing brain tumors from  radiation, in addition to being flawed (gravely so in the case of several industry-sponsored large studies) in different ways as explained elsewhere in this blog.

Reference
Myung SK, Ju W, McDonnell DD, Lee YJ, Kazinets G, Cheng CT,
Moskowitz JM: Mobile Phone Use and Risk of Tumors: A Meta-Analysis. J
Clin Oncol 2009 , 27(22):5562-5572

Copyright PSRAST 2011 and 2012 You may quote the article in full or in part if you provide link to the source: https://mobilephonetruth.wordpress.com/time-for-scientific-risk-analysis/


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