Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The World's Largest Experiment
“The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.” -Marcus Aurelius
We live in a dangerous world. We are threatened by natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and blizzards. We can just as easily fall victim to microbes too small to be seen by the naked eye such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. We may suffer physical injury as a result of our own actions or those of others. One can die as swiftly by falling off one’s own roof as by being hit by a drunk driver or blown to bits by a terrorist.
There are also unseen and generally unrecognized hazards. While we pride ourselves on ridding the environment of second-hand smoke and turn our societal attention to the elimination of trans-fats in prepared foods, we are willfully ignoring more real and present dangers. It is quite likely that we are in the process of demonstrating that suicide is just as deadly if committed as a civilization as it is when one person takes his or her own life.
There has been a dramatic change in disease incidence over the past half-century. It is also clear that the rate of change is accelerating. For the past five years I have been speaking about the change in cancer rates from the 1950s to the turn of the century. In 1955, I have explained, the lifetime risk of cancer was 1 in 12. One out of every twelve people in the United States could expect to develop cancer at some point in his or her life. This would almost always be late in onset – in one’s sixties, seventies, or eighties. By 2000, I have been telling audiences, the lifetime cancer risk stood at 1 in 4 and was expected to reach 1 in 3 by the end of the decade.
I was wrong. Very wrong! According to the SEER Cancer Statistics Review released by the National Cancer Institute in April, 2006, the lifetime risk of developing cancer is now closer to 1 in 2 (47 % for men and 42 % for women). This estimate is based upon data collected from 2001 to 2003 (the most recent years for which statistics are available). This means that while we thought the risk of developing cancer at the turn of the twenty-first century was 1 in 4 it was actually 1 in 2!
It appears that the incidence of cancer is increasing so rapidly that we can no longer accurately project what the future holds for each of us. In a 2000 interview with reporter Linda Howe, Dr. Robert Becker, who has been following the increasing incidence of cancer and other diseases, suggested that it is not unreasonable to expect the lifetime risk of cancer to reach 100 % or even 200 % -two cancers per person.
Another disease process that is increasing in frequency is Alzheimer’s disease. First identified one hundred years ago and relatively rare in the mid-twentieth century, it has risen to the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. In November 2006 the Los Angeles Times reported that the death rate from Alzheimer’s disease in Los Angeles County had risen an astounding 220 % in the decade between 1994 and 2003. The report was based upon statistics released by the Los Angeles Health Department.
Attention Deficit Disorder did not exist in 1950. It was rare in the 1970s. Today it is present in epidemic proportions. Ten percent of the United States’ population is said to be affected. One out of every three boys in some classrooms is classified as having ADD or ADHD, and girls are being diagnosed with increasing frequency.
Fibromyalgia syndrome, rarely described before 1975, was not officially declared a syndrome and accepted as a medical diagnosis until 1993. In its Copenhagen Declaration the World Health Organization stated, "Fibromyalgia is part of a wider syndrome encompassing headaches, irritable bladder, dysmenorrhea, cold sensitivity, Reynaud's phenomenon, restless legs, atypical patterns of numbness and tingling, exercise intolerance, and complaints of weakness." Depression was also mentioned as a common finding in individuals with the syndrome.
It is believed that up to 5 % of the population of the United States is currently affected by fibromyalgia and some believe that 1 out of 3 people will experience its symptoms at some point during their lives.
The prevalence of sleep disorders is currently felt to be 1 in 6 – approximately 40 million people in the United States having sleep difficulty at any given time. Restless legs syndrome, recognized but rare thirty years ago, is now believed to be present in approximately 3 % of the U.S. populace.
It is possible to summarize the change in disease prevalence by stating that cancer and rheumatic, psychiatric, and neurological disorders have been occurring with increasing frequency since 1955 and that they have been rising exponentially since 1975. Attempts to explain this unprecedented rise in illness as due to “improved diagnosis and reporting”, “poor eating habits”, an “aging population”, or “mass hysteria” can not be taken seriously. Something is systematically destroying the integrity of the human body.
During my days as a respected physician within the mainstream medical community I subscribed to the Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter, thinking that I was keeping up to date in the field of nutrition. The Tufts Letter took a dim view of nutritional supplementation. When I expanded my reading to include sources supportive of supplementation, I started to incorporate nutritional supplementation into my treatment regimens. Naively, I still viewed myself as an upstanding member of the medical community.
One day a new issue of the Diet and Nutrition Letter arrived, which contained an article titled “Twenty ways to spot a quack.” I took the quiz and, to my amazement, met 18 of the 20 criteria. Without knowing it I had become a certifiable quack, a derogatory term applied by “real doctors” to anyone who dares to step outside the narrowly defined boundaries of allopathic medical practice. After the shock wore off I accepted the label with a newfound sense of freedom, knowing that it was futile to continue to strive to maintain an appearance of propriety within the medical community.
I mention this because I know of nothing that will raise the cry of “quackery” more loudly than what I am going to propose. It is important that you understand that “quackery” does not mean the absence of logic, scientific study, accuracy or effectiveness. It simply means “something not currently recognized or accepted by mainstream allopathic medicine.”
We live in an electromagnetic universe. The light we see is only a small portion of what is called the electromagnetic spectrum. You and I emit infrared energy that is slightly outside of the visible spectrum. Electromagnetic radiation consists of vibrations or waves. It is classified by wavelength, the distance from the peak of one wave to the peak of the next, frequency (speed), and energy level. On one end of the spectrum are gamma rays, which have short wavelengths, high frequency and high energy. At the other end are AM radio waves that have long wavelengths, low frequencies and low energy (See Figure 1).
Figure 1. From Advanced Light Source (www-als.lbl.gov)
Radiation on the short wavelength, high frequency side of the spectrum is referred to as ionizing radiation. Radiation of long wavelength and low frequency is called non-ionizing radiation. The most significant forms of non-ionizing radiation are radio frequencies and microwaves (RF/MW).
That ionizing radiation can damage living tissues and trigger disease is universally accepted by the medical community. On the other hand, the suggestion that non-ionizing radiation, such as FM radio and television broadcasts, cellular telephone signals, and computer WiFi networks, can cause harm is almost universally rejected. Nevertheless, I am convinced, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the unprecedented rise in cancer and diseases of the neuromuscular system is due largely, if not exclusively, to the increased presence of RF/MW radiation in the environment. That holding such an opinion raises my quack score is of no consequence. I cannot remain silent in the light of what is known about the relationship of RF/MW to human illness.
I am aware that published studies in major journals overwhelmingly support the opinion that RF/MW is safe and has no effect upon human health. That does not surprise me. Researchers who report adverse effects from RF/MW lose their funding. Dr. Jerry Phillips, for example, received a research grant from Motorola Corporation. When he found evidence of damage caused by RF/MW radiation and reported his findings to Motorola he was told that his work was not ready for publication. He was offered additional funding to continue his experiment (get it right). Phillips refused to cover up his data and did publish it, but his funding was cut off and he has not been able to do any additional RF/MW studies. Inexplicably, when Dr. Phillips article appeared in print it concluded with the statement that while changes were observed, they were “probably of no physiological significance.”
The source of funding for RF/MW research is of grave concern given the marked difference in results of industry or military sponsored studies and those of independent researchers. While the number of published studies showing no DNA damage from RF/MW radiation is approximately equal to the number of studies that report DNA damage, the funding bias is immediately apparent (Figure 2).
Similarly, a University of Washington analysis found that biological effects of RF/MW are reported in 81 % of non-industry funded studies, but in only 19 % of those funded by industry – which, outside of the military, is the only source of funding today. When confronted with these statistics the response of Dr. Mays Swicord, director of electromagnetic research at Motorola, responded that industry funds quality work while independent research is “sloppy”.
When the work of researchers critical to RF/MW is cited the authors are often referred to not as scientists, but as “scientists”, the brackets giving the same implication for PhDs as the word quack does for physicians. They are no longer real scientists; they are “scientists” who do not deserve the title, and their work is “controversial”. Professor Henry Lai of the University of Washington, who was the first to demonstrate RF/MW induced DNA damage, was subsequently threatened with litigation by an industry group, which also sought his firing by the university.
Closely related to the loss of funding issue is the ability of RF/MW safety advocates to state that studies demonstrating an adverse effect have not been replicated. No funding, no research, no replication. Yet this charge is used regularly to discredit the original findings.
Industries that rely heavily upon radio wave or microwave technology liberally support individuals and institutions that publish studies that support the contention that the technologies are safe. It is not particularly difficult to design studies to achieve a predetermined or desired result. This may be happening in the area of RF/MW, as I have observed that whenever a study has been published that demonstrates an adverse effect of RF/MW others soon follow to rebut the findings. This was almost certainly true in the case of the “Dead Mice Walking” study, which I will detail later.
There are many reasons why studies would fail to demonstrate that a problem exists. The most glaring miscalculation is the assumption that there are “safe” and “unsafe” levels of radiation. The overwhelming majority of studies compare the prevalence of disease in subjects who live close to a broadcast or cellular telephone tower to those living some distance away from the tower. Likewise, they may compare cell phone users to non-users. If, as independent research has shown, there is no “safe” level of RF/MW, the results of such studies are meaningless, as they are simply comparing one group of people who are being radiated with another group of people who are being radiated. Failing to find a difference in disease incidence does not prove that radiation is “safe” unless one assumes (and there is no basis upon which to do so) that only intense radiation has the capability of producing adverse effects.
Another indefensible assumption used in most RF/MW studies is that only the generation of heat will cause damage. The heat theory of safety was shown to be false by a Walter Reed Army Research program finding that, “Microwave energy of the militarily significant range of 1 to 15 GHz enters into all organ systems of the body and therefore constitutes a danger to all organ systems.” (Cellular telephones operate in the 2.4 to 5.8 GHz range.)
“Safe” levels of RF/MW radiation were set by determining, for example, how much RF/MW radiation is required to heat water in a balloon. The fact that the human body relies upon low-level electrical and magnetic gradients to maintain integrity and to carry on intercellular communication was never considered when “safe” levels were being established.
One of the recurring arguments against funding research into the health effects of RF/MW is that “levels of microwave radiation used for cellular telephone or WiFi networks are well below the levels that are known to be safe.” The industry is able to discount any health challenge perceived to be related to RF/MW because “the level of radiation is 100 times below the level that has been shown to be safe.”
The greatest difficulty, however, is investigative bias. Mark Twain cleverly quipped, “There are three types of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” His observation was profound – investigators can flip the conclusion of a study 180 degrees depending upon which form of statistical analysis they choose to apply. Next month I will contrast two studies that looked at exactly the same data. One, which gained publication in a United States journal, found a cluster of cancer cases to be completely random. The other, published in an obscure journal, used more sophisticated methods of analysis and found the relationship of the cancer cases to RF radiation to be so strong that the computer program could not calculate the odds of it occurring by chance.
Closely related to investigator bias is editorial bias, commonly referred to as “peer review”. Journal editors review submitted papers, purportedly to weed out those that do not follow high research standards. In reality, journal editors arbitrarily select articles that support the position the journal wishes to promote.
A prime example of editorial bias is the journal Radiation Research. The July 2006 issue of Microwave Newscarried the results of an investigation into Radiation Research’s editorial record. Over the past 16 yearsRadiation Research has published only one paper that showed an adverse effect of RF/MW. In contrast, the journal has carried twenty-one articles that claim that RF/MW radiation does not cause any adverse effects. (The author of the only adverse study published lost her funding, and was forced to move to a different line of research.)
While the editors of Radiation Research contend that they are publishing based upon quality rather than study conclusions, the evidence suggests otherwise. One of the studies Radiation Research chose to publish has come to be known as “Dead Mice Walking”. Supported by Motorola, the study was published soon after an independent study had shown an increased cancer rate in mice exposed to RF/MW radiation. The study is widely used today to support the contention that RF/MW radiation is harmless, but mice that were shown to have died at one point in the study were still being counted and weighed in another.
The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in RF/MW radiation. We have seen the introduction of high-speed cellular communication networks, WiFi hot spots, and Bluetooth connectivity. Looming on the horizon is WiMax, which will create citywide RF/MW networks.
The total affect that RF/MW expansion will have on human health is as yet unknown, but the outlook is ominous. I will continue next month discussing what has been called, “The largest experiment in the history of the world.”