Monday, January 27, 2014

Cone of Silence: Media Politics Against Microwave Reseachers

Cone of Silence: Media Politics Against Microwave Reseachers

EMR Issues    - EMF Politics & Research Analyses


The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Fifth Estate Program, from the February 9, 1999 segment entitled "Cone of Silence."

[ Note: numbers in square brackets correlate with actions described at the end of the document. ]

[1.] VICTOR MALAREK (commentator for The Fifth Estate): Welcome to the Fifth Estate. A lot of the inventions of the late 20th century, things we use every day, like cell phones, for example, are so handy, so useful, we sometimes wonder how we ever lived without them. Cell phones in particular have become so much a part of modern life that we just assume that somebody's made sure that they're safe. But in the case of cell phones, that assumption is dead wrong. There's still a lot we don't know about how cell phones held close to the head for long periods might affect us - after all they are powerful electronic transmitters - and they've been linked in some studies with possible DNA damage and other problems. Health Canada recently announced that it was going to investigate cell-phone safety, but for the most part, there's been a kind of cone of silence over the issue, and that's just the way the industry likes it. In fact, the cell-phone industry has conducted a sophisticated and, so far, very successful campaign to accentuate the positive and silence anyone who raises the possibility that their product might have a problem.

[2.] They're everywhere, lots of them. Cell-phone transmitters are sprouting up all across North America and you'll find them almost anywhere you look, from brick walls to rooftops to storefronts. No one even knows for sure where they all are. If you want to install one, there's no better place than a tall building sitting on a hilltop.

[3.] And in Vancouver's Fraserview neighborhood this building looked perfect to one cell company. Two years ago it got permission to put a microwave transmitter right on the roof. The problem: it was a school.

[4.] The bigger problem was this man, Milt Bowling, who has a son in that school. And as far as he was concerned they would put up that antenna over his dead body.

MILT BOWLING (opposed cell-phone transmitter): The cellular company approached the school board and what they made an arrangement to do was to put transmitters and receivers on top of this 85-year-old school in exchange for annual rent.

MALAREK: How much money are we talking here?

BOWLING: Well, I'm not sure exactly - they keep that confidential - but I believe it's around $9,000 or $10,000 a year.

MALAREK: Milt wanted to know if the darn things were safe or not, and to his surprise, he couldn't get a straight answer from anyone.

BOWLING: My concern I guess is worst-case. If the best scientists in the world can't agree that it's safe, who is anybody else to say that it is?

MALAREK: So Milt mobilized the neighborhood and eventually got the school board on side. There would be no antenna on this school.

(to Mr. Bowling) So you won.

[5.] BOWLING: Well, that's what we thought. I mean, the towers are gone and, you know, we won; everything is great. But then we get this: the church across the street is approached by another cellular provider, and they donated this cross to the church, and hidden inside the cross is microwave transmitters and receivers.

MALAREK: You've got to be kidding.


MALAREK: They put a microwave transmitter in the cross.

BOWLING: In the cross, yeah.

MALAREK: Taking on the school board was one thing, but the Almighty? Milt didn't hesitate.

MALAREK: You must have been popular with the church board.

BOWLING: I would doubt that.

[6.] MALAREK: But finally this: a beaming Milt watched as a giant crane took the microwave antenna out of the cross. He had taken on church and state - and won. But the fears about the towers are quite small. The real concern is what's at the other end of those towers - the cell phone itself and the invisible microwaves ... [7.] ... that hover around the small antenna stuck right next to your head. The cell companies will tell you the device is perfectly safe. The booming industry has a lot riding on those claims: today more than 4.9 million Canadians use a cell phone.

[8.] Jo-Anne Basile represents the global cell phone industry. (to Ms. Basile) How large is the cell phone industry? How big is it? What is it worth?

JO-ANNE BASILE (global cell phone industry representative): The industry in United States last year was estimated to be over $29 billion. There are about 67 million customers.

MALAREK: This is big time.

BASILE: This is a large industry that has grown in a very short period of time.

[9.] MALAREK: And David Reynard dared to take it on. He is a St. Petersburg, Florida, businessman whose wife, Susan, died of brain cancer. She had been a chronic user of this type of phone, and Reynard believed the cancer developed right where all those microwaves hit her head.

[10.] DAVID REYNARD (opposed cell phone industry): Her tumor was left- peridal; basically she was right-handed. Now, if you use a cellular phone, you usually put it in the other hand so that you can write. And it was right here, right in line with the antenna, in this part of the brain right here.

MALAREK: And so Reynard launched a lawsuit against the cell-phone industry. Could cell phones really cause cancer? The U.S. media were all over the story after CNN's Larry King Live gave him a national audience.

[11.] LARRY KING (clip from show): Welcome back to Larry King Live. When did you start to think this has something to do with the cellular phone?

REYNARD: I think when I saw the first MRI and saw the location of the tumour....

MALAREK: You created quite a stir: front-page news, even stock market prices were affected.

REYNARD: That's true, that's true, but that wasn't my intent. And Susie would say that if she was here. What we really wanted to do was to make the public aware of what was going on and what they were actually doing. Nowhere on this device does it say that this is a microwave device and that microwaves have been proven to have harmful effects.

[12.] MALAREK: The cell-phone industry admits it was paying close attention to the David Reynard lawsuit.

[13.] (to Ms. Basile) But was there serious anxiety within the cell-phone industry? I mean, when you hear cancer, brain cancer, you've got to think, Oh, my God, this is the last thing we need to hear.

BASILE: Well, I think there was anxiety - I think perhaps it was more concern on the part of the industry.

MALAREK: Do you believe that cell phones are safe?

BASILE: Of course I do. I would say that the mainstream research suggests that there is not a problem with respect to cell phones.

[14.] STEWART FIST (technology writer, Australia): Well, it's just complete balderdash.

MALAREK: Stewart Fist is a technology writer in Australia who has spent years studying the industry. He says a lot of the research raises serious concerns and that the jury is still out on just how safe cell phones really are.

FIST: You've got to remember this is the first time in history we've ever put a transmitter right up against the side of anyone's head, and switched it on.

[15.] MALAREK: And that's what bothers Dr. Ross Adey. He's a prominent research scientist in California who says we have to know more about the possible harm to our health.

ROSS ADEY (research scientist, California): If it's against my head, then about 40 percent of the energy will go into my head and into my hand.

MALAREK: So the problem really is in the antenna pressed up against the head.

ADEY: Right.

MALAREK: ...and the radiation coming from that.

ADEY: Yeah. In using the phone like this, you are in what is called the near field, which means that the oscillations, 800 million times a second, 16 hundred million times a second, are magnetically coupled into your head.

MALAREK: And it's in this near field with this oscillating in your head that we have to be concerned about?

ADEY: Yes. I really believe that.

[16.] MALAREK: Were the concerns raised by the Reynard lawsuit a real danger or a false alarm? The truth was no one knew for sure. The industry had been telling the public that cell phones were proven to be safe, but then had to admit that the science was at best incomplete. The cell phone industry needed to find a way to reassure their customers everything was fine, so they came up with a strategy that would be a textbook case for crisis management.

[17.] The headquarters for the campaign were these quaint offices in Washington, DC, that housed the industry's own private research institute - Wireless Technology Research. They would spend $25 million and five years to get to the bottom of the science, and they made sure that message got out.

[18.] DR. GEORGE CARLO (Wireless Technology Research head): I know that every day we are working our tails off doing science that we believe needs to be done to lay the appropriate foundation.

MALAREK: Dr. George Carlo was in charge, and he was "the right man for the job," according to writer Stewart Fist.

[19.] FIST: WTR was set up under Dr. Carlo, who was fairly well known as a scientist who worked for various industry associations, like the chlorine industry. He was consultant to them on the dioxin problems, and before that he worked on nuclear power, and since then he's worked on breast implants. I mean, Dr. Carlo is the sort of epidemiologist who runs an organization that will produce science for certain industry associations.

[20.] MALAREK: Soon enough the industry had another crisis on its hands. At the University of Washington, Dr. Henry Lai had already been conducting his own research into cell phones. In 1994 he and his partner reported they had evidence that microwaves could cause DNA to destruct. Normal rat DNA looks like this, but when zapped with microwaves, Lai found it could break up. DNA destruction has been linked to memory loss, cancer, and diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

[21.] DR. HENRY LAI (researcher, University of Washington): The data is still preliminary. We still have to do a lot more research to find out exactly what cell-phone radiation will do to people.

MALAREK: It may be preliminary, but it's scary.

LAI: Yes. I think it's alarming that cell-phone radiation can cause DNA damage.

[22.] MALAREK: It also appeared quite alarming to the people who funded WTR. A campaign was launched against Lai's study. They prepared a media strategy, publicly denounced the findings, then brought in their own researcher who said he could not reproduce Lai's results. One internal memo announced victory. Using the vernacular of a military exercise, it said the industry has successfully "war-gamed" the Lai study.

[23.] MALAREK: That must have shocked you.

LAI: Yes. Yes, that is very shocking. We are scientists and we are not going out to do politics, and suddenly we are involved in this... all this war-gaming, so-called.

[24.] MALAREK (to Ms. Basile): One of the memos that came out regarding Dr. Lai's study by Motorola was to war-game him, and a lot of critics are saying that immediately when research comes out that may show a problem, boy, you slam-dunk the researcher.

BASILE: Oh, I don't think you would find that to be the case in general. This industry, as I said before, has been very open, and I believe very responsible in looking at ....

MALAREK: Is the industry acting responsibly when they say, Let's war-game the guy? Is that the way to be going after researchers?

BASILE: That is not the way that we go after - we don't go after researchers.

[25.] MALAREK: In fact, after "war-gaming" him, the industry turned around and decided to hire him. They gave him money to do further research into potential DNA damage. But there was a catch: he could not publish his results without WTR's approval. And so far it looks like they're not any happier with the results of this study than they were with the first one. WTR's Dr. Carlo has told the media that Lai's research was "amateurish" and "unprofessional." And for now they won't let him publish his results.

[26.] LAI: We are not supposed to publish the data until the final report is approved by WTR.

MALAREK: What's the hold-up with your study?

LAI: WTR wants us to change and delete some conclusions that we put into the original versions. And right now we don't quite agree with what they want us to do.

MALAREK: Why would WTR want you to change the content?

LAI: Well that's .... According to the contract, I cannot tell you what data we got, but my impression is that they want to make the data look more preferable for them.

MALAREK: Less damning?

LAI: You can say that.

[27.] MALAREK: WTR seemed to be winning the scientific fight, but the battle against David Reynard's lawsuit was proving more difficult. For a time, Reynard was everywhere in the media, reminding people the industry had turned them all into human guinea pigs.

[28.] MALAREK: Did you ever feel like David going up against Goliath?

REYNARD: Yes I did. I just felt that something had to be done here. And as we got into it more and more, we found that there were a lot more people who supported the issues that we should not be putting microwave devices against our brain without the proper research.

MALAREK: When we come back, Milt Bowling takes on a bigger target.

[29.] BOWLING: I was under the impression when this whole issue started that if you had a Radiation Protection Branch, that it exists to protect Canadians from radiation. But what it really does is it exists to protect the radiation industry from Canadians.


VOICE-OVER ANNOUNCER: And now we return to the Fifth Estate.

[30.] MALAREK: Despite the cell phone industry's attempts to control the science, worrisome results were leaking out. In Sweden a publicly funded study of more than 11,000 cell phone users found that the phones contributed to headaches and fatigue. And in the fall of 1998 a team of independent scientists concluded without a doubt that cell phones had a "biological effect." Still there simply isn't enough evidence to conclude with certainty that cell phones are harmful to human health, and critics say that's just the way the industry wants it.

[31.] Ironically it was an industry-funded report that caused the biggest stir. In Australia scientists at this hospital discovered cancer rates had doubled in mice exposed to radiation similar to that in cell phones. But the results were kept quiet for two years. When it did come out, the industry campaign against it was enormous.

[32.] FIST: Every effort was made to play it down. I mean, it was just incredible the effort that they all went to to more or less say, Don't worry about this, it's only to do with mice. And of course it's not, it's to do with DNA, and DNA is DNA whether it's in mice or humans. So they tried everything they could to play down the results, but it still is now treated around the world as one of the most significant findings that anyone has made. And with very good reason.

[33.] MALAREK: Professor Ross Adey thought he was onto something as well. While doing research for Motorola, one of the world's largest cell phone companies, he discovered microwave radiation had an effect on the brains of rats. It was actually a good effect, but for Motorola any effect at all was bad news. Adey's contract with Motorola was not renewed.

MALAREK: So why did they terminate the support?

ADEY: My colleagues say because we were too inquisitive. We were of a scientific turn of mind, and we'd turn over the rocks to find out what was underneath.

MALAREK: But that's the job of a scientist, to be inquisitive.

ADEY: Of course it's the job of a scientist.

MALAREK: And you're tough as a scientist.

ADEY: Yes, I think I'm tough - too tough some people say.

MALAREK: As a result, you and your team lost your contract.

ADEY: That's correct.

[34.] MALAREK: Motorola claims it had nothing to do with his results, they simply found a better deal somewhere else. That better deal was with Battelle, a private research group well known for keeping its mouth shut. In one celebrated case from the 1960s, Battelle conducted studies showing how nicotine affected the brain, but never talked about it. Technology writer Stewart Fist says it's quite possible industry already has a lot of research it isn't talking about.

[35.] FIST: You have no idea how much. many effects are being found but never published. That's the other thing, you see, is we don't know what isn't published. That's the real big worry there, because it's quite likely that a lot of these problem findings have been replicated, but the replication has never been published.

[36.] MALAREK: And without all, the studies, it's difficult to prove anything about the safety of cell phones. In 1995 David Reynard lost his lawsuit. The judge said he couldn't prove cell phones had caused his wife's cancer. Reynard says leaving research in the hands of the companies that make the products has never been a good idea.

[37.] REYNARD: Are they carrying the how-to tobacco handbook in their back pocket? Yeah. It's almost directly in line with the tobacco industry and all the things that they did to try to keep information from the public, to try to suppress science, to try to only allow us to have the information that they want us to have. When the director of the cellular telephone industry made his statement, he said, We're going to spend this money to prove that we're right. I would have preferred that he said, We're looking to find the truth.

[38.] MALAREK: The organization set up in the wake of the cell phone scare is winding down. But $25 million and five years later, a lot of people are wondering where all that money went and what WTR actually accomplished. Some argue that not only was the science it promoted one-sided, but it actually prevented more independent research from taking place.

[39.] FIST: There's no doubt that the functions of the WTR have been to delay legitimate research in other areas, because you know, when an industry is supposedly funding the research itself, then the government withdraws its own funding from the independents that would have been doing the work in the first place.

[40.] MALAREK: WTR may be leaving the scene, but the industry has invented a new entity to promote good news about the cell-phone industry. It's confidently called WIN -Wireless Information Network - and represents the global industry. Jo-Anne Basile is its public face.

[41.] (to Ms. Basile) When critics say that research is funded by industry... industry has a vested interest, therefore the research must be suspect, how do you respond?

BASILE: I think it's unfortunate that we have gone to such kind of shorthanded ways of trying to explain a very complex issue.

MALAREK: When you hear critics compare the way the cell-phone industry is handling the issue to the tobacco industry's handling ....

BASILE: Oh, I'm so glad you asked me that question. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Again, I'd like to repeat: this industry has never shied away from an issue. This industry has always been up-front. This industry has always been open.

[42.] MALAREK: Ultimately the people with the final say in whether cell phones are safe work for government, and for a long time the Canadian government had been telling us not to worry. The science was well known and cell phones were safe. But that was before a Vancouver parent stirred things up.

[43.] Remember Milt Bowling, the fellow who got rid of those microwave transmitters? Milt would now poke his nose into Ottawa's Radiation Protection Branch. And he did most of the talking.

BOWLING: I was mentioning certain studies, and they'd say, well, where did you get that? Well, where did you get that? Can I get a copy of that? So I mean ...

MALAREK: What did that do to your confidence in health officials?

BOWLING: Well, I was under the impression when this whole issue started that if you had a Radiation Protection Branch, that it exists to protect Canadians from radiation. But what it really does is it exists to protect the radiation industry from Canadians.

[44.] MALAREK: But in this David and Goliath struggle, David won. Faced with an irrepressible Milt Bowling, the government did an about-face. Now, according to internal documents, Health Canada seems as concerned as Milt. Last year they hired Prof. William Leiss to assess the scientific evidence. His first piece of advice to the government: Don't tell the public cell phones are safe if you don't know.

[45.] WILLIAM LEISS (professor hired by Health Canada to review cell-phone studies): We have this latest document which says, geez, we really want to do all this research on all these really interesting and provocative questions about the effects on the brain and things like that, and you're saying, Well, my God, why you appear to have been telling us that it was no problem all along.

[46.] MALAREK: Professor Leiss's review is due out this spring. There's little doubt he'll call for studies that should have been started years ago, and he'll be very clear on one point: keep the research public.

[47.] (to Prof. Leiss): In the United States, the cell phone industry is funding a lot of the research. Is there not a vested interest here?

LEISS: Well, of course there is. This is my main concern. Where you have a technology with massive uncertainties in our knowledge of the risk factors, what you want is the most credible research, and that is always independent research. I think it should always be done in university-based centres, and everything should be out in the open.

[48.] MALAREK: David Reynard's lawsuit is behind him now. He thinks of his wife Susan often and says he's content knowing he helped put the debate on the public agenda.

[49.] (to Mr. Reynard) Do you ever think that the time will come where you will be vindicated, where what you say was a fact, is a fact?

REYNARD: I don't know the answer to that question. I think there's entirely too much money involved here. I think there are a lot of people who want to protect this industry more than they want to find out if there's a serious problem. I think we've allowed the foxes to keep an eye on the hen house a little too long. I think they bought themselves five or six very good years. I think they have it in their budget to buy five, six, ten, 20, 30 more years, until something really comes up and lays claim.

[50.] MALAREK: Stay with us. When the fifth estate returns, . . .

[Malarek closes this section of the Fifth Estate.]

"Cone of Silence" - Brief Descriptions of Actions

1. Victor Malarek introduces the program
2. Various shots of antennae - on roofs, walls, poles, etc.
3. A school in Vancouver
4. 2 men walking toward school (Malarek and Bowling)
5. Bowling points to church across the street
6. Shows cross being dismantled
7. Shows various citizens using cell phones, indoors and out
8. Jo-Anne Basile with Malarek
9. Old still picture of David Reynard and his wife, Susie
10. Reynard now, being interviewed by Malarek
11. Clip showing Reynard watching himself on Larry King Live show
12. Shot of hand dialing a cell phone
13. Basile with Malarek
14. Stewart Fist on camera
15. Ross Adey on camera
16. Malarek with overview, commenting
17. We see WTR headquarters in Washington, DC
18. Shows George Carlo with Malarek
19. Fist again
20. Scene moves to Henry Lai in laboratory (various lab shots)
21. Lai on camera with Malarek
22. Various shots of cell phones, memos, etc.
23. Back to Lai
24. Switch to Basile
25. Back to Lai's lab (various activities shown)
26. Lai with Malarek
27. Other still shots of David Reynard with his wife and child
28. Reynard being interviewed by Malarek
29. Malarek interviews Bowling
30. Malarek overview
31. Shots of memos, Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia
32. Fist on camera
33. Adey comes on camera (working in office)
34. A shot of the Motorola logo and scenes of buildings, cell phones, etc.
35. Fist on camera again
36. Old still photos of Reynard and his wife, Susie, again
37. Malarek interviews Reynard
38. Background scenes of cell phones, WTR headquarters
39. Malarek with Fist, again
40. A background shot of the WTN logo changing to WIN
41. Basile appears again
42. Malarek holding a cell phone (at arm's length) commenting
43. Change to Malarek with Bowling in Vancouver
44. Fade to view of cell phone, memos, etc., then to William Leiss
45. Leiss on camera
46. Various documents shown
47. Interview continues with Leiss
48. Scene showing Reynard leafing through diaries, albums, etc,
49. Malarek interviews Reynard
50. Malarek then closes this "Cone of Silence" section of the Fifth Estate

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