Monday, 20 May 2019

BioInitiative group’s second self-published report ‘represents the views of a small minority’

Bio2012A new report from anti-wireless campaigners that claims the health of mobile phone users, parents-to-be, young children and pregnant women are at risk from mobile phone signals “cherry picks” research to support their own alarmist views, according to a review by two leading experts.


“Science-based medicine is great, but it all depends on how you evaluate the scientific evidence,” the review by Kenneth R. Foster, professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania and Lorne Trottier, President of the Board of the Montreal Science Center Foundation (Centre iSCi) said.


“A bad example is the BioInitiative Report (BIR), an egregiously slanted review of health and biological effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) of the sort that are produced by power lines, cellular telephones, Wi-Fi, and other mainstays of modern life.”


The 2012 report published on the BioInitiative Working Group’s website in January this year, supports its calls for lower exposure standards by pointing to more than 1,800 scientific papers published since the group’s first highly criticised report was produced in 2007.


Of the more than 30 independent expert reviews of all the scientific evidence on EMF and health published in recent years, all have concluded that there is no credible evidence to suggest a health hazard – except for the BioInitiative group’s 2007 report.


Foster and Trottier said that is because the BioInitiative authors choose only to highlight studies which support their controversial views and ignore those that don’t - the same fundamental flaw of the group’s new 1,479 page document.


“Selective attention to data, colloquially known as “cherry-picking” or more technically as confirmation bias, is a failure in reasoning that affects all aspects of life,” Foster and Trottier said.


“The authors of the BIR commit exactly this error with EMF bioeffects studies, by speculating at length about possible implications of studies reporting effects of EMF while saying little about studies that failed to find effects.”


The 2012 report claims that the evidence for health risks from electromagnetic fields and wireless technologies has substantially increased since 2007, and that new safety standards, one million times lower than current international safety limits are urgently needed to protect the public from wireless signals.


“The first edition of the BIR was widely quoted by activist groups, but had no significant effect on public policy,” Foster and Trottier said.


“The “cautionary” recommendations of the latest 2012 edition of the BIR, which are more than 100 times lower than the previous one, are made without clear scientific justification and at levels that would all but eliminate broadcasting and wireless technology.”


“Perhaps they are hoping to gain more attention with such an extreme position. It will certainly excite the activists but it is unlikely to influence public policy any more than the first edition did.”


Foster and Trottier also said the latest report contained the same weaknesses of their earlier report, outlined in a 2008 review by the Health Council of the Netherlands which concluded that it was selective and unbalanced.


“In view of the way the BioInitiative report was compiled, the selective use of scientific data and the other shortcomings mentioned above, the Committee concludes that the BioInitiative report is not an objective and balanced reflection of the current state of scientific knowledge,” the Health Council of the Netherlands said.


Foster and Trottier also questioned the motives of the BioInitiative groups authors.


“[The report] was prepared by a group of 29 individuals, most of them scientists who have long held controversial positions on health effects of electromagnetic fields,” Foster and Trottier said.


“Two individuals (Carpenter and Sage) wrote the introductory and concluding sections. One of them, Cindy Sage, is not a scientist but a long time activist on the issue who runs a consulting firm on hazards of EMF exposure.”


“The overall impression is that the BIR has been structured to give scientific support to Sage’s activist ideas.”


The experts said the consensus of scientific opinion was against the groups claims, unlike the legitimate concerns about the environment and climate change that images of natural landscapes on the BioInitiative report’s website evoke.


“The consensus of the vast majority of climate scientists is that human caused climate change is real. Only a small minority of climate scientists is opposed to this consensus,” Foster and Trottier said.


“In the case of EMF and health, the overwhelming majority of scientists see no good evidence for health effects. The BIR represents the views of a small minority. 

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