The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The WHO And Their Cellphone Nonsense

or "Horton Heard a Whaaa?"

I keep hearing about the friggin' World Health Organization (WHO) and their position on cellphone radiation possibly causing cancer. This has made the lunatic fringe lose their collective shit and spray it all over us; especially with respect to the wifi in schools issue. I was listening to CBC radio recently and some lady (please read this like Jerry Lewis/Bill Burr) came on and declared that the WHO said cellphones and their radiation could maybe cause cancer and we should all be terrified and bury our heads and stay away from wifi at all costs and the sky is falling. ...I'm paraphrasing.

So I decided to check it out.

Reading the article Behind The World Health Organization's "Cancerous" Pronouncement On Cell Phones was interesting because it walked through the process of how the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) came to their conclusion regarding cellphone radiation. Check this:
Hints that not everything was harmonious in the IARC process seeped out but have not been pursued. These include the dismissal from the committee of one of the foremost experts on non-ionizing radiation, a Swedish epidemiologist, due to a “conflict of interest” and the resignation from the committee of an epidemiologist specializing in brain tumors at the National Cancer Institute.
Hmmm, seem weird to you? Seem like they, maybe, wanted a certain message to get out and, perhaps, dismissed the naysayers? What about this:
...in all of the evidence reviewed there was one animal study that showed “weak evidence” of carcinogenicity and one study in the “other evidence” category providing what was also judged to be “weak evidence.” The vast majority of the experimental evidence showed nothing.
So what the hell happened to make Sally Pee-Pants on the CBC get all freaked out? Where did the message come from? Then there was this bit of information:
...there were the human (epidemiology) studies. These have been reviewed critically by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, which found no convincing evidence of a link between cell phone use and the occurrence of brain tumors.
Well Jesus in Levi's, what the fuck? It struck me as odd as well that the group of about 30 people looking at the evidence for and against were broken up into four sub-groups that considered, "epidemiology, dosimetry, animal studies, and 'other relevant evidence'", but the only thing voted on at the end of the meetings with respect to the recommendation was epidemiology. Things that make you go, "hmmmm...."
...the conclusion should have been that – although we have not monitored the effects of cell phone use for long enough – the substantial evidence currently available provides no suggestion that cell phone use contributes to the risk of brain tumors.
Yeah, exactly, so what the fuck?

Then I checked out the reference within the previous article, Misdiagnosing Cell Threat. It was interesting because it talked about the evidence:
...brain tumors are extremely rare, and their incidence has changed little in most advanced industrial countries over the past two decades. In Scandinavia, which has excellent registration of all cancer cases and where cellphone use was widespread early on, there is no evidence of an increase in different types of brain tumor.
...and...
...cellphone technology makes use of radio frequency energy, which is millions of times less powerful than ionizing radiation, such as X-rays and gamma rays that can damage DNA and other molecules in a cell and potentially initiate cancer. There is no known mechanism whereby radio frequency energy can induce or promote cancer.
Right, so the electromagnetic spectrum is pretty wide and the reason that the light from a 60-watt bulb isn't harmful but an x-ray machine is, is that the waves from the light bulb are too big and far apart to do any damage to your cells/DNA/molecules. X-rays and the like are small and rapid and can wreck DNA and knock electrons off molecules, hence these are known as "ionizing radiation". Cellphones give off non-ionizing radiation, which can't hurt us and have never been shown to be dangerous. It's like trying to pound in a nail with a Nerf hammer. It won't work because the particles in the Nerf are too far apart and they'll just wrap around the nail and do nothing. A steel-head hammer has particles that are dense and hard and when they hit the nail, they'll drive that bastard into hardwood fast and clean. It's sort of like that.

The author here wraps up this article by stating:
...we can never prove a negative or exclude the possibility of a minuscule risk, no matter how large the study. So even when expert bodies concede that there is no convincing evidence of a threat, we get impossibly vague advisories like the current one warning us of "possible carcinogenicity."
Makes sense, and vagueness is one thing that the fringe weirdos take full advantage of to make it look like the beautiful blue above you is crashing down on your goddamn bregma.

Next I checked out the actual WHO document talking about the classification of materials at which they looked. It was a report called IARC Classifies Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields As Possibly Carcinogenic To Humans...catchy. The classification system they use goes from Group 1 (known carcinogens to humans), Group 2A (probable carcinogen to humans), Group 2B (possible carcinogen to humans), Group 3 (not classifiable as carcinogen in humans), and Group 4 (probably not carcinogenic to humans). Electromagnetic radiation from cellphones is included with "Group 2B"

In case you were wondering, Group 2B is defined as:
This category is used for agents for which there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. It may also be used when there is inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in humans but there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. In some instances, an agent for which there is inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals together with supporting evidence from mechanistic and other relevant data may be placed in this group. An agent may be classified in this category solely on the basis of strong evidence from mechanistic and other relevant data.
In case you were wondering, group 2B includes terrifying things and habits such as coffee, carpentry and joinery, the antioxidant caffic acid, gasoline, marine diesel fuel, perineal use of talc-based body powder, occupational exposures in printing processes, and Asian pickled vegetables. Horrifying.

I particularly enjoy "perineal use of talc-based body powder". I imagine a conversation between myself and a WHO-representative:

Me: Boy, I love talc on my balls and taint.
WHO-rep: You know, you might want to curb that habit as it is possibly carcinogenic.
Me: Oh, yeah, I read that report. You're a silly person and my under-carriage is in need of drying and friction-reduction. Good day, sir.
WHO-rep: I would encourage you to rethin...
Me: I SAID "GOOD DAY, SIR"!!

Ok, so we can say that the WHO likely had a pre-ordained message they wanted to get out, probably because they want to be all precautious and such. It seems like the same product the anti-vaccine assholes would put out on purpose to stir up the shit and make a controversy out of nothing. I don't think the WHO is as stupid or malicious as the anti-vaxxers, but you never know. Bottom line, cellphones and wifi are safe according to all available evidence.

Much like...for example...coffee.

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3 Barbaric Yawps:

At 18/9/11 8:26 pm, Blogger Shadeburst said...

I can't remember your blogging on:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/8462626/Energy-saving-light-bulbs-contain-cancer-causing-chemicals.html

As far as I can work out, CFC bulbs are pretty similar to neon tubes.

I hope someone says that neon tubes are also "possibly carcinogenic" because then it gives me a good excuse not to go to work.

 
At 6/10/11 4:55 pm, Blogger smeller said...

Thanks for this article. I'm going to bookmark this for the next time my mom calls me to warn me to use my cell phone because of radiation. Of course, she usually calls me on my cell phone to tell me this.

Question: "Asian pickled vegetables". Is it specifically the Asian ones that are out to get me?

 
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