“Should You Worry About EMFs and Radio-Frequency Fields? Unpacking the Data” was published on July 25 by Emily Oster, an economist and author of 3 parenting books. According to her website, “Oster’s books analyze the data behind choices in pregnancy and parenting.”
“Her goal: creating a world of more relaxed pregnant women and parents.”
The article “Should You Worry About EMFs and Radio-Frequency Fields? Unpacking the data” appears to be designed to support her goal of relaxing parents, by assuring them not to worry about cell phones and power lines.
Her article, and the work of many mainstream voices, points to larger questions.
Do readers want to be assured that commonly used devices are safe, or do readers want to know the truth about whether or not “the wireless ecosystem” is safe?
How can individuals and society-at-large reach a point where they are willing to question deeply held beliefs?
Her article states, “The question I typically get about this is along the lines of “Should I change where I live as a result of power lines?” Looking at the evidence, I would say no. The evidence base here for any link at all is weak, and even at the top end, any effects identified are extremely small.”
“There are some papers, and at least one meta-analysis, that have suggested that cellphone usage might be correlated with cancer incidence. These have come under a lot of scrutiny, though, and a lot of criticism. [ ] Bottom line: there is no reason to think your cellphone gives you cancer.”
An Admired History of Correcting the Record
According to Wikipedia, “In 2005, Oster published a dissertation for her economics Ph.D. from Harvard University, which suggested that the unusually high ratio of men to women in China was partially due to the effects of the hepatitis B virus.” “In April 2008, Oster released a working paper “Hepatitis B Does Not Explain Male-Biased Sex Ratios in China” in which she evaluated new data, which showed that her original research was incorrect. Freakonomics author Steven Levitt saw this as a sign of integrity.”
Will that integrity extend to reconsidering her advice about radio frequency exposures?
Tobacco Industry Playbook Again: Brain Tumors and Cellphones
Emily Oster and the young parents who seek her expertise are too young to remember the tobacco industry lying to Congress about whether or not cigarettes were addictive.
In 1994, Rep. Waxman began a congressional hearing stating, “Companies that sell aspirin, cars, and soda are all held to strict standards when they cause harm. We don’t allow those companies to sell goods that recklessly endanger consumers. We don’t allow them to suppress evidence of dangers when harm occurs. We don’t allow them to ignore science and good sense. And we demand that when problems occur, corporations and their senior executives be accountable to Congress and the public. [ ] The old rules are out, the standards that apply to every other company are in. We look forward to [ ] working with these companies to begin to reduce the extraordinary public health threat that tobacco poses.”
The tobacco industry succeeded in misleading decision-makers and the public for decades, by focusing only on the question of whether or not cigarettes caused lung cancer. By narrowing the inquiry to only one health risk with a long gestation period, they were given carte blanch to continue to cause direct harm and premature death in millions of smokers.
Alan Brand’s book The Cigarette Century is an excellent reference.
PubMed explains, “Allan Brandt, a leading US historian of medicine, provides a superb history of the century of the cigarette in the USA. He explains the technological and social reasons for the victory of the cigarette over all other methods of tobacco use; the key role played by the first world war in legitimating cigarette smoking; and the success of advertising and public relations in the 1920s and 1930s in making smoking such a pervasive habit that by 1950 over half of all men and a fifth of all women in the United States smoked cigarettes.
Brandt also provides a detailed excellent account of the discovery of the health harms of cigarette smoking. He describes the clinical observations in the 1920s, actuarial analyses of smokers’ life expectancies in 1930s, and the epidemiological research [ ] in the early 1950s. The subsequent debate within the medical profession about the probative value of epidemiological evidence is well covered, as is the industry’s PR strategy of maintaining a spurious controversy by amplifying the views of skeptics.
The 1964 US Surgeon General’s report is justifiably given a central role in convincing the medical community that cigarette smoking was a contributory cause of lung cancer, heart disease, and obstructive pulmonary disease. Brandt makes good use of industry documents in describing the industry’s response to the report, reassuring anxious smokers by promoting cigarette filters and “low tar” cigarettes without explicitly acknowledging that smoking was harmful.
The most depressing aspect of the history is the success of the tobacco industry over 40 years in delaying and subverting attempts to regulate their product. In the 1960s they bought Congressional votes and used corporate lawyers to write legislation that allowed them to evade legal liability for the health consequences of smoking. [ ]
Success for tobacco control efforts comes later in the story with the use of evidence on environmental tobacco smoke in the 1980s to justify restrictions on smoking that undermined the idea that it was permissible to smoke anywhere, anytime. The release of incriminating internal industry documents in the 1990s (a byproduct of tort suits and whistle‐blowers) eliminated any residual credibility of the industry by exposing the amorality and duplicity of its executives.”
Mercenary Tobacco Science Meets Wireless
The story chronicled in Alan Brandt’s research is being actively re-written in regard to radio frequency exposures and EMFs, including decades-old research reporting harm.
Lung cancer is only one of many adverse effects associated with cigarettes.
Brain tumors in cell phone users are not the only adverse effect associated with RFR exposure.
Research conducted by Bournemouth University (U.K) researchers Colin Pritchard and Emily Rosenorn-Lanng in 2019 asks, “Are rises in Electro-Magnetic Field in the human environment, interacting with multiple environmental pollutions, the tipping point for increases in neurological deaths in the Western World?”
In 2008, the National Academies identified 20 areas where the research record on RFR is inadequate.
“The task of the 2008 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report, Identification of Research Needs Relating to Adverse Health Effects of Wireless Communication, was to identify any inadequacies in the research upon which the current US Radiofrequency radiation (RF) safety guidelines are based. The NAS Report did indeed find numerous inadequacies in that research record. An inadequate research record results in safety regulations that fail to address all exposures encountered by the public. Based on the 2008 NAS findings it cannot be asserted that US RF safety policy protects all members of the public from all mechanisms of harm in all exposure scenarios.”- Janet Newton
The list of twenty inadequacies outlined by the National Academies includes: Exposure of juveniles, children, pregnant women, and fetuses; Variability of exposures to the actual use of the device, the environment in which it is used, and exposures from other sources; Multilateral exposures; Multiple frequency exposures; Exposure to pulsed radiofrequency radiation; Models for men and women of various heights and for children of various ages; Exposure to the eyes, hand or the human lap or parts of the body close to the device; RF exposure in close proximity to metallic adornments and implanted medical devices (IMDs) including metal rim glasses, earrings, and various prostheses (e.g., hearing aids, cochlear implants, cardiac pacemakers, insulin pumps, Deep Brain Stimulators); Sufficiently long exposure and follow‐up to allow for detection of effects that occur with a latency of several years; Lack of information concerning the health effects associated with living in close proximity to base stations; Research that includes children, the elderly, and people with underlying diseases.
Until the research record is more robust, and until the FCC stops testing cellphone safety by measuring the temperature of a plastic head filled with the equivalent of Jell-O for 6 minutes, it might be prudent to ask more questions.
Hopefully, Emily Oster is not a mercenary scientist, but she is, perhaps unwittingly, promoting the tobacco industry playbook by focusing on brain tumors and cellphones.
There are many more recent resources, including a clarifying summary available at the website Electromagnetic Radiation Safety entitled, SPIN vs FACT: National Toxicology Program report on cancer risk from cellphone radiation. Also “Evidence for a health risk by RF on humans living around mobile phone base stations.” Also “Moskowitz: Cellphone radiation is harmful, but few want to believe it.” Also “American Academy of Pediatrics: Protect Children from Cell Phone & Wireless Radiation.”
Maybe relaxing around the issue of RF/EMF/5G is not such a great idea.
Who will be on the right side of history?