By Deborah Kopald, Guest Columnist
Editor’s Note: This series of articles was written in 2011 by New York’s Deborah Kopald in response to Felicity Barringer’s Times Coverage of the anti-smart meter movement. Parts 2 & 3 will be published here shortly.
The day after I wrote a column, “Smart Meters a Dumb Idea” (download word doc), the New York Times ran a very similar piece, “New Electricity Meters Stir Fears.” The article covered many of the points I had made in mine: smart meter opposition cuts across party lines from liberals to libertarians to the Tea Party; Maine and California have ‘opt outs’ in place; and advocates oppose the meters on privacy and health grounds. The article’s author, Felicity Barringer, who is usually the Times’ media writer, wrote the Times’ Green Blog a couple days later. In her follow-up piece called “Are We Hard-Wired to Doubt Science?” Barringer questioned the rationality of some of the smart meter interview subjects from her previous day’s piece opining:
“some very intelligent people I interviewed had little use for the existing (if sparse) science. How, in a rational society, does one understand those who reject science, a common touchstone of what is real and verifiable?”
On its face her statement appeared to make sense. As I have discussed, it never ceases to amaze me how people ignore decades of science on radiofrequency radiation and the scientific evidence linking cell phone use to brain tumors, cognitive effects, ADHD, sperm count decreases and tinnitus. Then I saw the context.
Barringer went on to argue:
“The absence of scientific evidence doesn’t dissuade those who believe childhood vaccines are linked to autism, or those who believe their headaches, dizziness and other symptoms are caused by cellphones and smart meters. And the presence of large amounts of scientific evidence doesn’t convince those who reject the idea that human activities are disrupting the climate.”
To Barringer, people who questioned the safety of cell phones were on the fringe and were gripped by an excessive paranoia that itself could be explained scientifically. She cited a consultant who studies “perception” of risk:
“Humans are hard-wired to reject scientific conclusions that run counter to their instinctive belief that someone or something is out to get them.”
Here are some things she would have found out if she had investigated the rationales for peoples’ belief that cell phones are unsafe, and consulted actual scientists instead of someone who reduces people’s perception of risk to the fight-or-flight response. As early as 1962, G.E. Engineer Allen Frey showed that pulsed microwave radiation (emitted by wireless devices and antennae) affect cell membranes and can breach the blood-brain barrier, thereby allowing toxins to penetrate the specialized blood vessels that ordinarily protect the brain from toxins in the body’s bloodstream.
The U.S. wireless industry itself conducted a series of studies in the early 1990s that documented genetic damage at levels below the current safety limits set by the Federal Communications Commission. The industry studies also found a dose-response risk of acoustic neuroma with more than six years of cell phone use and a doubling of brain cancer risk.
These studies were discontinued after the wireless industry was informed of the results. At that time, biophysicist Henry Lai and biologist N.P. Singh at the University of Washington also reported double-strand DNA breaks from cell phone radiation on animal cells. Their findings were confirmed in studies of human cells by biochemist Jerry Phillips. There have been multiple studies since confirming DNA breaks in human cells from exposure to cell phone radiation.
Among the research work that points to safety hazards from cell phones:
- Independent studies conducted by Lennart Hardell of Sweden that suggest a 420 percent increase in brain tumors for people who regularly used cell phones before age 20 and a doubling of the risk of glioma or acoustic neuroma for adults on the same side of the head as the cell phone was used.
- A team led by Gursatej-Gandhi in India found genetic damage up to 10 times higher in the tissues of regular cell phone users than in the tissues of non-cell phone users.
- Argarwal et al. found that men who use a cell phone four hours a day or more experience a 59 percent decline in sperm count and a higher risk of testicular cancer.
- Divan et al. found that children who regularly use cell phones or whose mothers used cell phones when pregnant with these children had high rates of attention deficit disorder.
- Hutter, Moshammer et al. found that the risk of tinnitus doubled after four years of continual cell phone use.
- Salford et al. found that rats exposed for only two hours to GSM (European standard) mobile phones at levels 16 to 160 times lower than U.S. radiation exposure limits experienced the death of 2 percent of their brain cells. (SSM! opposes all animal – not to mention human animal testing but results are included here for reference -ed.)
It is disturbingly clear that Barringer herself is in fact the otherwise intelligent person who has “little use for science” whom she purported to describe. Instead of detouring into the political psychology and scientific underpinnings of paranoia, she should have examined the political forces (corporate interests) in this country that have caused science to be suppressed and policy to be perverted.
Deborah Kopald (BA, Harvard; MBA, MIT Sloan School of Management) is an environmental health and public policy advocate who has authored numerous articles and a forthcoming book about electromagnetic pollution. She developed and oversaw the promotion of successful legislative initiatives at the local, and county and state levels in New York State, has addressed 35 offices of Congress, has appeared as an expert guest on television and radio programs, and has been an invited speaker at SUNY campuses, Rotary Clubs, parents groups, two county legislatures, the NY State Senate, the Association of Towns and various municipal governments. She received an award from Orange Environment in October, 2011 for her public education efforts and advocacy of transmitter-free zones.
The way articles are written and language used creates a reality for naive readers. This is really too bad and I wish your debunking could appear alongside the original NYT piece somehow for general readers to see…
Given that “Part 1” suggests some future contribution, I would like to see any contributors—guest or otherwise—address the *significance* of any scientific results they choose to cite. Anyone who cares about this stuff needs to consider the results (positive or negative) along with the statistics and uncertainty of the results. Just because some effect was observed in a small number of subjects, that alone does not make the case… At best, the observation has led to a working hypothesis. The case against RF radiation and its supposed adverse health effects must be substantiated by repeated scientific investigation with reduced uncertainty. And since the individual studies are not bearing out, researchers have started conducting statistical analysis of numerous unrelated studies that have been completed (studies of studies, if you will)…Searching for something—anything—to substantiate the rumors, but it just hasn’t panned out; here’s one such reference [ http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/67/2/224.long ]. And before you dismiss the link, please read it and consider the data, and then we can talk about “science denial”.
Here’s some critical reading and responses toward that study:
Funding This study was funded by the Programme Management Committee (PMC) of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) programme (www.mthr.org.uk), an independent body set up to provide funding for research into the possible health effects of mobile telecommunications. The MTHR is itself jointly funded by the UK Department of Health and the mobile telecommunications industry. HERE’S YOUR ANSWER-ALWAYS FOLLOW THE MONEY
Chellis Glendinning has a fascinating book published in 91 called “When Technology Wounds.”
She covers this belittling of actual symptoms quite well.
And Devra Davis’ 2010 book about cell phones and the health risks they pose is a really interesting description of how industry funds scientific studies that are designed to make it appear that previous studies, which show damage and dose-response relationships, are not valid.
Money will buy a lot of science, and yes, it will buy peer-reviewed science.
As has been pointed out here and elsewhere numerous times, people who never knew they had smart meters and had no idea there were any health concerns have developed symptoms; after investigating they have often found that removing themselves from the source of rf radiation removed the symptoms.
These are not paranoid, fearful people, because their journey started with the symptoms, not knowledge of any smart meter or rf issue.
Davis describes in her book the experience of the woman who used to head the WHO.
I can’t remember her name, but this lady could tell whether someone in the room had a cell phone that was on and had banned them from her offices because she was electrically sensitive. The anecdote had to do with times people took cell phones into her office, hiding them in briefcases or whatnot, figuring she would not know there were cell phones turned on nearby, because she couldn’t see them.
She apparently was able to tell quite well, though.
Yup, more industry-funded propaganda from 8 years ago, spread like fresh manure to fertilize the anticipated build out of 3G, 4G, etc. It may have been effective, but it still stinks.
From the Mobile Phones Research Unit, Division of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry and Guy’s, King’s and St. Thomas’ School of Medicine, King’s College London, UK.
Conclusions: The symptoms described by “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” sufferers can be severe and are sometimes disabling. However, it has proved difficult to show under blind conditions that exposure to EMF can trigger these symptoms. This suggests that “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” is unrelated to the presence of EMF, although more research into this phenomenon is required.
Where have I read that before?
oh right… http://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/facts/fs296/en/index.html
I doubt it’s a coincidence that this “fact sheet” came out 6 months after the “review of provocation studies.”
Richard, have you watched the film Resonance yet? I know others have suggested you view it, but your post suggest you have not.
Do you still question the logic that an environment with low or no man-made electromagnetic fields is healthier than one with higher fields?
Lastly, please realize that it’s not the fault of the author or this website, if you fail to understand the significance of the studies listed in the article.
Whether or not one is satisfied with the conclusions of science, one is compelled to follow the lead of one’s own sincere inquiry into any matter. As an example, despite the debate of science in its so far elusive quest for conclusive evidence to many things (including EMF bio-effects), I find that after a few minutes of holding a cell phone to my head that my head feels hot, and that I begin to feel pain similar to that of any headache. If I switch sides, the same problem occurs on the other side. This is not a psychosomatic effect from thought-induced paranoia. This manifests whether or not I’m thinking about the fact that I’m on a cell phone. I do not have a fanaticism against it, I have concluded from examining experience that cell phone radiation causes discomfort in my head, headaches, etc. This began with the very first cell phone I used back in 1989 or so, before I had any idea whether or not the phone might be a danger.
I am educated in science having studied physics, math, and philosophy at IU, and I have a degree in Math and Philosophy, and I am a software engineer. I know the rules of thought and reason. The problem is that reason cannot deliver truth. All that it can do is analyze evidence. If the evidence is not present, then it cannot determine a truth, whether or not that truth exists. Consequently, every scientific fact is subject to revision and refinement, and at times complete obsolescence. There has to be another source to which one must appeal for truth. Unfortunately, our bottom-line driven society has decided that higher faculties of perception are taboo. But that’s the only course for those who seek truth and cannot be satisfied with the provisional conclusions derived from analyzing the existing evidence that has been sanctioned by the present science.
A path to verifiable truth cannot be other than an individual process, subject to error and revision just as is science. The difference is that the decisions of those who impose scientific conclusions on the basis of a “lack of evidence” against those conclusions can usurp individual choice, or the power of the individual to decide for him or herself what is true and what is not. This is counter to human decency and also against the principles of a republic. This is something that has to be carefully considered in any discussion about what is true and what isn’t. We have to ask ourselves, is the convenience or the profit derived from the present exploitation of the scientific method sufficient justification to force individuals to live a lifestyle that they have experienced to be harmful to them, whether or not such experience can be “justified” by the presently accepted scientific laws? Making the choice to impose a consensus view on others, especially when it deals with a matter of the well-being of the individual, is a grave step not to be taken without equally grave comprehension of the facts and the conditions of the impacted individual(s).
Unfortunately, science deals not with facts, but with perceptions, conclusions and theories, however well verified one perceives these to be, which are subject to revision, and which, due to their potential for varying interpretation, are subject to manipulation by the dominant forces, whatever they may be. Imposing a way of life that may be harmful to a person who’s made choices based on that person’s best, most sincere self-inquiry, is something that should not be done as easily as our profit-motivated “civilization” presently dispenses such decisions, frequently with ruthless disregard of the opinions of the individual.
One of the features of most of the stories related on this site of people who have experienced adverse responses to EMF from smart meters is that these effects came unexpected and after considerable time in most cases, during which the individual(s) didn’t even know or conceive that it might be the smart meter causing the issue or that they might have a problem with EMF. The conclusion was reached by eventually recognizing the smart meter as the only variable in the equation, and correlating it with the occurrence of adverse physiological events. In the face of such experience, rather than doubting the individual, one should, at least provisionally, accept that they may be correct in their assessment and give them the benefit of the doubt until the facts can be proven one way or the other. This is a far more compassionate and higher approach than forcefully doubting the person and forcing them to undergo the consequences of the imposed decision that smart meters must be considered harmless until proven otherwise. Given that science is continually evolving, the doubt lies against its presently accepted rules rather than on the sincere experience of the individual. Even if the individual is struggling with some psychosis, then rather than challenging the psychosis forcefully, one should offer to help, and until help is forthcoming and accepted, ease off and allow them to live in a way which comforts them so long as it is not a direct harm to others. A smart meter is certainly not critical to the well-being of others — there can certainly be no harm in allowing an individual alternatives to it until the truth of the matter is determined thoroughly. That it is a “cost to society” should never way against compassionate response. The cost to society would be in irrational denial of the validity of individual experience.
Compassion should be the rule in these situations. Doubt should favor the need of the individual. Truth should be the goal, not merely exploiting the changing state of scientific understanding in a way that denies the rights of persons before certainty is obtained. Even if certainty were realized on a matter and one knows that a particular technology is harmless to a particular individual, there should be sufficient compassion to allow for that individual’s needs until she or he can heal themselves of any actual misconception. Reason, to be reasonable, must allow for uncertainty in its viewpoints and place compassion first, whether or not there is doubt.
Thank you, Kevin. As for feeling bad effects, if we had complained about cigarette smoke effects on our sinuses/breathing we would have been pooh-poohed for decades about any harm potential.
Think of this, too: doctors use patient symptoms to determine illnesses and responses to medicines, etc. Since when do we stop discounting what people feel completely? Oh, yeah, just in the case of radiofrequency exposure. Otherwise, what you feel is real…
Well said, Kevin. You might be interested in a concept known as the Trivium in relation to your perceptive synopsis of the route to determining objective truth. A single version of the truth is there to be found; the question is, as you say, how much knowledge/information we expose ourselves to, and also how well we remove the contradictions between them and then how our explanation of reality stands up to the balanced and non-fallacious criticism of others.
Sadly, our schools do not teach us ‘how’ to think in this way, nor provide us with a methodology for finding objective truth; they instead teach us ‘what’ to think – often most a single, unchallenged version of the truth. This is conditioned and heavily shaped through rote learning, memorisation, regurgitation of mindless ‘facts’ at exam time, same-age classes, the fragmentation and disorganisation of subjects into unconnected disciplines, end-of-lesson bells which suggest no lesson is worth learning beyond an hour, marking of performance of memorisation against same-age peers, etc.
The outcome of 15,000 hours of schooling is our minds and perceptions are ripe to be predated on a daily basis. We spit out into society an enormous thinking ‘underclass’ who have low self-esteem and are thus a marketer’s dream – whether they are selling products, services, political policies or the next war. The pointless products many people buy with a promise that they will fill the esteem gaps never do. But we keep buying nonetheless.
You have to wonder why any discerning pedagogy policy maker would seek to remove our ability to think and determine objective truth and reality if they were not then minded to exploiting it.
Not to mention the years and years of social conditioning which teach that one must ask permission to even question a teaching.
I went to a school where we did not have to sit in desks or raise our hands to ask a question, through 2nd grade.
Upon entering public school in 3rd grade I found myself bored to tears.
In adult life I have found that most people are not only not willing to question, but they look sideways at those who do. And, in the process, they allow tyranny and unhappiness, bad rules, and inertia.
I’m just about fed up with it to tell you the truth.
Thanks for your thoughts about this.
There is plenty of science that does show rf radiation affects living cellular tissue. There is a US Navy study that came out in the 70’s which found 122 biological effects from microwave radiation; it compiled some two thousand studies.
The mechanism by which rf radiation impacts cellular function may not be understood, but it has been clearly proven in repeated experiments. Please do not believe the people who say it has not. They are simply wrong.
It’s wonderful that people of heart-felt intention seem to visit this site and so many have come together in spirit if not in physical action around this issue with the smart meters, apparently increasingly so around the world. Maybe a new wave of awareness is being embraced that supports and inspires the view that reason is good and useful, but only insofar as it begins to conflict with wisdom, at which point renewed and deepening inquiry towards truth is undertaken… as opposed to doing battle with the world when it conflicts with one’s self-centered desires and one’s coveted pretensions. Whether that’s the case or not, those who have experienced the grace of a centered beingness, which is inherently imbued with inspirational truth and the thrill of living happily without cause, are not satisfied with any other life and end up making everything part of the quest to deepen that reality for one’s self. It’s not the primary point of it, but such a life ends up shining outward, too, and becomes an inspiration to anyone else who happens to be nearby.
I enjoyed the comments of a few fellow visitors who share at least some of the views that I happened to give voice to in my earlier comment, views which I think echo the common fundamentals of what far more able sources have basically always taught. I appreciated Mike’s referral to the Trivium and the need for a wisdom keeping alternative to present educational methods, and the reference by czehfus to the fact that physicians have to rely on what the patient states about his state of health to get to the bottom of what’s keeping the patient from wellness — of course, we all know so well that whatever one is most devoted to determines the nature of one’s thought, speech and action, and that those who are pushing the smart meters so ruthlessly have no significant interest in the well-being of their fellows. That’s why it’s great that many are acting in a way that perpetuates the basic necessities of all viable community, that is, good faith and good will. Exploiters of technology for selfish gain fail to recognize that the “good life” which their wealth perpetuates is only possible when others enable them to enjoy it. It’s the whole community and its complex web of cause and effect that makes that lifestyle possible and that provides the means to its ends.
On the topic of education and wisdom as the heart and soul of civil society, Socrates, through Plato, said that true knowledge and wisdom already exist within the individual and that meaningful education is about rediscovering, or remembering, those realities already existing inside the soul of the individual. That’s what I personally think education would have to be if it were a loving undertaking.
The world won’t really ever embrace what it can’t understand. That’s why it’s such a grace that those with some measure of compassionate insight into truth are willing to lovingly live that truth whether or not anyone else cares.