Bridlewood Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) Information Service

The Liburdy Affair

Federal Register Notice, June 17, 1999

[Federal Register: June 17, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 116)]
[Page 32503-32504]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



Office of the Secretary

Findings of Scientific Misconduct

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, HHS.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has made a final finding of scientific misconduct in the following case:

 Robert P. Liburdy, Ph.D., Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: Based on an investigation report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) dated July 7, 1995, and an analysis of the data and information from Dr. Liburdy obtained by ORI during its oversight review, ORI found that Dr. Liburdy, former staff biochemist at LBNL, engaged in scientific misconduct in biomedical research by intentionally falsifying and fabricating data and claims about the purported cellular effects of electric and magnetic fields (EMF) that were reported in two scientific papers: (1) Liburdy, R.P. ``Biological interactions of cellular systems with time-varying magnetic fields. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 649:74-95, 1992 (``ANYAS paper''); and (2) Liburdy, R.P. ``Calcium signaling in lymphocytes and ELF fields.'' FEBS Letters 301:53-59, 1992 (the ``FEBS Letters paper''). The ANYAS and FEBS Letters papers were supported by a National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant.

 The ANYAS and FEBS Letters papers reported data indicating that EMF exert a biological effect by altering the entry of calcium across a cell's surface membrane. EMF, which are ubiquitous forms of radiation that arise from diverse sources such as power lines, home wiring, and household appliances, have been of public concern for potential health effects. Dr. Liburdy's claims were potentially very important when published in 1992 because they purported to link EMF and calcium signaling, a fundamental cell process governing many important cellular functions.

[[Page 32504]]

Dr. Liburdy has entered into Voluntary Exclusion Agreement with ORI. As part of this Agreement, Dr. Liburdy neither admits nor denies ORI's finding of scientific misconduct. The settlement is not an admission of liability on the part of the respondent. As part of the Voluntary Exclusion Agreement, Dr. Liburdy has voluntarily agreed:

(1) To exclude himself from any contracting or subcontracting with any agency of the United States Government and from eligibility for, or involvement in, nonprocurement transactions (e.g., grants and cooperative agreements) of the United States Government as defined in 45 C.F. R. Part 76 (Debarment Regulations) for the three (3) year period beginning May 28, 1999;

(2) To exclude himself from serving in any advisory capacity to the Public Health Service (PHS), including but not limited to service on any PHS advisory committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as a consultant for the three (3) year period beginning May 28, 1999; and

(3) To submit letters to the journals ANYAS and FEBS Letters, requesting retraction of Figure 12 of the ANYAS paper and of Figures 6 and 7 of the FEBS Letters paper within 30 days of the date of the agreement.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Acting Director, Division of Research Investigations, Office of Research Integrity, 5515 Security Lane, Suite 700, Rockville, MD 20852, (301) 443-5330.
Chris B. Pascal, Acting Director, Office of Research Integrity.
[FR Doc. 99-15416 Filed 6-16-99; 8:45 am]

Federal Register

Dr. Liburdy Responds

By Robert P. Liburdy Ph.D.
Tuesday, July 20, 1999
Here are presented two statements I have prepared which address allegations against me of scientific misconduct. A charge of misconduct is a serious allegation and all facts relevant to the issues should be considered carefully.

Thus, I feel it is important to present the following statements, below, which contain facts which were not mentioned in the Federal Register notice posted by the government. One statement was read by me at the 1999 Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting, and the second is a recently published letter-to-the-editor of Science in response to a news article. Further information will be available at the website

The key facts, presented in the statements below, are:

1) The allegations involve a disagreement over how calcium (fura) data were graphed in three figures in two papers from 1992. My raw data for these figures remain valid, and they support my findings, as published.

2) In these two 1992 papers I also present calcium-45 data which cross-validate the fura data. Thus, the findings of the papers are supported by data obtained using two different, complementary techniques.

3) No papers of mine are being retracted. Not a single word of my scientific conclusions are invalid, and they remain as published.

4) Independent scientists have reviewed the graphing issues and each has concluded that no misconduct occurred, and that my data supports my findings.

5) I do not admit any scientific wrongdoing. However, I could not afford to challenge the federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in a protracted legal battle, and I entered into a settlement in which I admit no liability.


The Bioelectromagnetics Society 1999 Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Long Beach, CA

Read at the annual business meeting on June 23, 1999.
At our annual meeting this week I learned that a charge of scientific misconduct was announced against me in the Federal Register. I saw this text yesterday and I have already spoken to some colleagues but not all of those I wanted to contact, and I thank them for their time. I would like to provide some comments here to the rest of my colleagues and professional friends.

I wish to state several facts not mentioned in the announcement. First, at my request other scientists have independently reviewed the facts and do not agree with this charge. The allegations stem from a disgruntled employee who claimed my research was not reproducible. LBL used this as an opportunity to extensively review my research and to forward a complaint to the Office of Research Intergrity (ORI). The ORI charges center on graphic techniques I used in presenting fura data depicting calcium changes in one figure in a 1992 review paper, and two figures in a 1992 research paper. For example, in one graph I used a computer to process fura data for graphical presentation including a baseline adjustment and normalization to graphically overlay and compare exposed vs. control traces. Techniques like these are used in the literature, however, I did not mention this computer processing in the methods section. Such "processed" data was then characterized by ORI as being intentionally "fabricated" data in the charge.

I emphasize that the fura data in my studies are valid. Moreover, this data was complemented by calcium-45 data presented in the same papers. This data support my conclusions and the scientific findings in my papers, and they stand as published. This fact was not mentioned in the government notice. It is important to emphasize that I am not retracting any papers nor any scientific conclusions from these studies because they remain valid. I am retracting three fura figures, which are supported by calcium-45 data in the same papers, and I intend on submitting for publication a description of the graphical methods with new corrected figures to complete the record. I emphasize that several independent scientists have reviewed these facts at my request and they do not agree with a charge of scientific misconduct. However, I cannot financially afford to continue to legally challenge these charges over the next several years. As a result I have agreed to a voluntary exclusion with ORI, and this is not an admission of liability on my part, as stated in the government announcement.

I trust that my colleagues in the Society will consider the above issues in a fair and unbiased manner.

Finally, and importantly, I should state for clarity that the breast cancer research I have conducted over the past six years is not part of these charges and has never been challenged. My published studies stand and these findings have been independently replicated by four other laboratories. For example, at this meeting Dr. Kabuto and Dr. Ishido and their colleagues from Japan report in poster P40 that they successfully replicated our melatonin findings at 12mG. This constitutes the fourth independent laboratory replication of this finding.

In closing I would like to thank you very much for the opportunity to make these comments to you today.

Robert P. Liburdy, Ph.D.


Letter to the Editor of Science Published in the July 16, 1999 issue
Calcium and EMFs: Graphing the Data

The article "EMF Researcher made up data, ORI says" (News of the Week, 2 July, p. 23) by Dan Vergano deals with research I did on the effect of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) on calcium in lymphocytes that was published in 1992. An allegation of scientific misconduct is a serious charge, and a balanced and neutral review of the facts is essential for truthful conclusions to be drawn about the science. I was attending the annual Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting in June when Vergano sent me a fax (and thus I missed the opprotunity to be interviewed by him), but I would like to now provide several facts. The raw data for my two calcium studies (1) are valid. Thus, these two papers are not being retracted, and my scientific conclusions stand as published. I admit no scientific wrongdoing. I could not afford a protracted legal battle with the federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI), and a settlement was reached in which I admit no liability. The crux of the charges by ORI center on the way fura data (obtained using the fura fluorescent probe) were graphed. For example, to overlay calcium traces for visual comparison, a baseline adjustment was done, and traces were normalized and synchronized for reagent addition. My error was in not describing these procedures in the methods section. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and ORI then characterized this "processed" data as "fabricated" data, which technically meets the definition of misconduct, but these techniques are used in the literature: for example, baseline adjustment and normalization of calcium traces have been graphically depicted in (2). In my 1992 papers calcium-45 isotope data were also presented to cross-validate the fura data; these calcium-45 data fully support my scientific conclusions, as published.

Neutral, scientific experts reviewed the graphical issues independently at my request: Carl Blackman (Environmental Protection Agency); Richard Nuccitelli (University of California, Davis); James W. Putney, Jr. (National Institutes of Health). Each one constructively criticized me for not reporting these details, but each concluded there was no intent to deceive, that data supports the conclusions, and this was not misconduct. Since 1992 additional experimental studies have provided support for alterations in calcium in cells exposed to EMFs (3). Replication of findings is critical to the scientific process and, since 1993, in our laboratory, environmental level magnetic fields have been shown to block tamoxifen and melatonin action in human breast cancer cells (4). Four independent replications of these findings have been reported at scientific meetings in 1998 and 1999 (5).

Robert P. Liburdy, Ph.D.
1820 Mountain View Drive
Tiburon, CA 94920, USA

  1. R.P. Liburdy, Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 649, 74 (1992); R.P. Liburdy, FEBS Lett. 301, 53 (1992).
  2. D.O. Ruehlmann et al., FASEB J. 12, 613 (1998).
  3. These studies are reviewed, in part, at
  4. R.P. Liburdy et al., J. Pineal Res. 14, 89 (1993); J.D. Harland and R.P. Liburdy, Bioelectromagnetics 18, 555 (1997); J.D. Harland, S. Engstrom, R.P. Liburdy, Cell Biochem.Biophys., in press.
  5. C.F. Blackman, S.G. Benane, D.E. House, EPA, Research Triangle Park, NC, poster P-11, The Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting, St. Pete Beach, June 7-11, 1998; R.A. Luben and A.P. Morgan, University of California, Riverside, CA, presentation A-3-4, ibid.; J.E. Morris, W.B. Chrisler, D.L. Miller, L.B. Sasser, L.E. Anderson, Battelle, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA; poster P-12, ibid.; M. Ishido, Y. Kurokawa, H. Nitta, M. Kabuto, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, Japan, poster P-40, The Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting, Long Beach, CA June 20-24, 1999. Battelle, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a National Replication Laboratory in the National Institutes of Envirnmental Health Sciences/Department of Energy RAPID program. 6. Further information on the topic of this letter can be found on the discussion page of The Biolectromagnetics Society website,
  6. U.S. Says Fake Data Tied Cancer: Power Lines:
    Berkeley researcher denies wrongdoing

    Tanya Schevitz, Staff Writer
    San Francisco Chronicle
    July 23, 1999
    A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researcher fabricated data in 1992 studies that were considered tantalizing evidence that electric and magnetic radiation could cause cancer, a federal watchdog agency has found.

    The dangers of exposure to electromagnetic fields generated by power lines, home wiring and household appliances have been hotly debated. A recent congressional report found that evidence of a link is weak.

    But the studies by Robert P. Liburdy, reported in scientific journals, were significant at the time because they purported to show the first plausible biological mechanism linking electromagnetic fields exposure to cancer and other diseases including childhood leukemia.

    In a recently released report, the federal Office of Research Integrity said Liburdy committed ``scientific misconduct'' by ``intentionally falsifying and fabricating'' his data to support assertions of cellular effects from electric and magnetic fields.

    Liburdy, 51, resigned his 15-year position in March after the lab yanked his funding and agreed in May with the federal Office of Research Integrity to retract three data graphs he used to back up his conclusions in two 1992 journal articles.

    The Tiburon resident, who received $3.3 million in federal grants for the research, also agreed to a three-year ban on receiving federal funds.

    Liburdy denies any wrongdoing and said he agreed to the sanctions imposed by the Office of Research Integrity only because he could not afford a lengthy legal battle. He insists that the overall conclusions of the articles remain valid and will not be withdrawn.

    Liburdy's studies purported to link electric and magnetic radiation and calcium signaling, a process governing many important cellular functions, including turning genes on and off and cell division.

    He published the results in two 1992 journal reports, the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences and FEBS Letters -- a publication of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies. He also presented it at several medical conferences.

    He also used the papers to advance a research proposal and to get federal funding.

    Liburdy's findings prompted many more studies. Since 1992, at least 20 scientific papers have discussed the connection to calcium signaling but have failed to find a conclusive link, said Chris Portier, an associate director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

    Cases of scientific misconduct are rare. Lawrence Berkeley Lab officials said there have been only two or three charges of wrongdoing by its researchers in the past 10 years, but they were not proved.

    The Office of Research Integrity, charged with protecting federal health research funds, reviews only 12 to 15 cases of scientific fraud a year, said Chris Pascal, the agency's director. But he said many cases probably go unreported because people are afraid of repercussions.

    Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, said that when fraud does take place, it is usually because of pressures on researchers to capture grants, publish papers and get tenure.

    Most scientists realize that such allegations can be the death knell for a research career, and it is rare that a scientist gets caught in outright fraud, Caplan said. ``It is a field that depends on trust,'' he said.

    Scientists caught engaging in misconduct have been barred from federal funds for up to 10 years and sometimes face civil suits if their sponsoring institutions are forced to pay back grant funds. That is not the case with the Liburdy investigation.

    Lawrence Berkeley Lab undertook its investigation of Liburdy after an unidentified whistle-blower challenged his results in 1994. In July 1995, the lab concluded that Liburdy had deliberately falsified data.

    The lab alerted the Office of Research Integrity, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The federal agency's own review, which lasted two years, showed that the deception went deeper, said Chris Pascal, the office's director.

    Using Liburdy's raw data, the agency found that in one graph he had used only 7.1 percent of the data points from his experiment and discarded the rest that did not agree with his hypothesis that the electric and magnetic fields affected living cells.

    ``In contrast to the data shown in the figure, the full set of primary data does not show that exposure to low strength electromagnetic fields results in an inhibition or in a lower level of calcium ions in the cells,'' the Office of Research Integrity's analysis says.

    The report also said he magnified the response in his data and fabricated data to cover up his original deception. ``The evidence demonstrates Liburdy knew his data manipulations were significant to the conclusions of the paper,'' the analysis says.

    Liburdy, who disputed the allegations of wrongdoing in a letter to the journal Science, said this week that he graphed the data by accepted methods and that all he would do in recanting his figures would be to clarify his technical procedures that were not detailed in the reports.

    ``The scientific findings are not wrong. They criticized me for how I graphed the data,'' Liburdy said. ``It is a matter of scientific opinion. They are not talking about the data being invalid. They are talking about the interpretation of the data.''

    Three independent scientists who evaluated the facts at Liburdy's request criticized him for not explaining his graphing procedures but determined that he did not engage in scientific misconduct. The scientific conclusions are valid, they said.

    One of the scientists, Richard Nuccitelli, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at the University of California at Davis, this week called the controversy ``crazy.''

    ``In a sense, it really is splitting hairs,'' he said. ``If you take the definition very strictly, he was guilty of presenting misleading data. But if you look at the overall result -- is this a valid conclusion or not -- it is.''

    But he and the other two scientists did not see the entire collection of data, said Stephen Godek, an attorney with the Office of Research Integrity.

    The agency's report states that Liburdy's actions ``were significant misrepresentations that were intentional and not due to honest error or judgments about the interpretation of the data.''

    As part of the negotiations with Liburdy, federal investigators agreed not to force Liburdy to retract the articles in their entirety because ``any scientist who would read those papers would know that without the falsified figures, the conclusions are meaningless,'' Godek said.

    ©1999 San Francisco Chronicle

    Data Tying Cancer to Electric Power Found to be False

    By William Broad
    The New York Times
    July 24, 1999
    A Federal investigation has concluded that a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., faked what had been considered crucial evidence of a tie between electric power lines and cancer. The disclosure appears to strengthen the case that electric power is safe.

    Robert P. Liburdy, a cell biologist at the laboratory, an arm of the Energy Department, was found to have published two papers with misleading data on the biological effect of electromagnetic fields on human cells.

    Investigators with the Office of Research Integrity of the Department of Health and Human Services said Dr. Liburdy eliminated data that did not his conclusions. After the investigation, he resigned quietly from the laboratory in March and has agreed to withdraw his research findings, Federal officials said yesterday.

    The officials say his misrepresentations helped him win $3.3 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to investigate a link between electric power and cancer. The findings against Dr. Liburdy were published last month in the Federal Register but have not been widely reported outside scientific publications.

    Debate has raged for two decades over whether power lines cause cancer even though top scientific groups such as the National Academy of Sciences have repeatedly found no evidence of danger. And the fears of some such link have generated conflicts between homeowners, especially those with children, and power companies with high-tension lines running through neighborhoods.

    Critics of the power industry and the scientific status quo say enough tantalizing clues keep emerging to warrant further investigations of possible links between electromagnetic radiation and killer diseases.

    "If he hadn't gotten these results, nobody would have paid any attention," a Federal investigator in the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said yesterday.

    Dr. Liburdy's papers reported data indicating that electromagnetic fields, also known as EMF, alter the entry of calcium across a cell's surface membrane. The fields are ubiquitous forms of radiation that arise from all power lines, home wiring and computers.

    Federal officials say Dr. Liburdy's claims were potentially very important when published in 1992 because they purported to link electromagnetic fields to calcium signaling, which is a fundamental process governing many important cellular functions.

    "When he originally published these papers, there was quite a bit of interest in it," Glenn R. Woods, the laboratory's counsel, said yesterday. "Now both the lab, and the Office of Research Integrity, have found that data on which he based his conclusions were fabricated."

    As part of his settlement, Dr. Liburdy has agreed to make no applications for Federal grants for three years and not contest the findings in administrative proceedings.

    Dr. Liburdy can, however, disagree publicly with the misconduct findings, and he is doing so vigorously, professing his innocence.

    The ethics investigation of Dr. Liburdy began after a whistle blower challenged his intriguing results. In July 1995, the Lawrence Berkeley Lab found he had indeed falsified data, and it alerted the Office of Research Integrity.

    In announcing its findings last month in the Federal Register, the integrity office said Dr. Liburdy had "engaged in scientific misconduct in biomedical research by falsifying and fabricating data and claims about the purported cellular effects of electric and magnetic fields."

    Recently, in letters sent over the Internet to colleagues and interested parties, Dr. Liburdy has denied that his research is wrong and said he agreed to the settlement only because he was unable to spend $1 million to mount a legal defense.

    "The raw data for these figures is not challenged, and is valid," Dr. Liburdy wrote in one letter. "How I graphed them is a matter of disagreement among scientists. Independent scientists have reviewed this for me and concluded that misconduct is not warranted."

    He also emphasized that "none of my scientific conclusions in the two papers are being retracted," only the disputed published data.

    Yesterday, requests for further comments left at Dr. Liburdy's residence in Tiburon, just north of San Francisco, went unanswered.

    Federal experts vigorously disagree with Dr. Liburdy's defense.

    "This is not a matter of interpretation or graphing," the investigator said. "This is fabrication and falsification. He can express his opinion, but not to an appeal board."

    In misconduct cases, especially ones involving large sums of money, the Federal Government can bring civil or criminal charges, and the defendant can be fined and sentenced to jail. In this case, officials say, they concluded that an administrative remedy was sufficient.

    The terms of the settlement are detailed in the June 17 Federal Register. The notice says Dr. Liburdy "neither admits or denies" the finding of scientific misconduct.

    Federal officials say Dr. Liburdy did not spend all of the $3.3 million in grant money, and that the remainder is controlled by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

    "It's being used for other science" and none of it has been returned to the Federal Government, Mr. Woods, the laboratory's counsel, said.

    Dr. Liburdy's two disputed papers both appeared in 1992, and in both cases he was the lone author.

    The paper, "Biological interactions of cellular systems with time-varying magnetic fields," appeared in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. "Calcium signaling in lymphocytes in ELF fields" appeared in FEBS Letters, published by the Federation of European Biochemical Societies.

    In the years since Dr. Liburdy's research appeared, more than 20 studies have found no hard evidence that electric power causes cancer, a National Institutes of Health panel concluded recently.

    Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland who has long questioned the power-cancer link, said Dr. Liburdy's deception was probably typical for the field, which has sometimes been belittled as crusaders out to vilify industry.

    "It's often not deliberate fraud either," Dr. Park said of slanted data. "People are awfully good at fooling themselves. They're so sure they know the answer that they don't want to confuse people with ugly-looking data."

    In the power line debate, he added, the proponents of danger "were desperately looking for a physical effect, and the nearest they could come by was the calcium signal."

    The growing consensus among researchers seems to be that electric power is safe.

    Two years ago, a large, meticulously designed study found no evidence that electric power lines cause leukemia in children. The study was a collaboration between scientists at the National Cancer Institute and childhood leukemia specialists from the nation's leading medical centers. It involved 636 children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer, and 620 healthy children who were matched to the cancer patients by race, age and residential neighborhood.

    Scientists tracked the children's exposure to the magnetic fields that power lines produce, but found no link between exposure and risk.

    Dr. Park said the new findings of power-cancer misrepresentation would aid the emerging consensuses on safety. "But I'm not sure how strongly," he added, as other scientists are still investigating and advancing the idea of a cancer linkage.

    Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company

    Louis Slesin of Microwave News Responds

    July 27, 1999
    Dear Colleagues:

    The feeding frenzy over the misconduct charges against Dr. Robert Liburdy has gotten out of hand. The enemies of prudent policies towards EMF safety and the continuation of EMF health research are using the Liburdy affair to further their own agendas.

    All the usual suspects have had their say: Junk journalists, rabid physicists and industry apologists.

    But first, a few words about Liburdy. The case made by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) against him is complex and not easy to summarize, but two things are clear:

    (1) Liburdy has not withdrawn any of his scientific conclusions. He has retracted three graphs.

    (2) The Liburdy work that ORI has challenged is but a small part of the many lab studies on EMFs and calcium and, more importantly, only a footnote to the ongoing EMF-cancer debate.

    Anyone who has followed this debate over the last 20 years knows that it turns on epidemiological studies showing that children and workers exposed to power line EMFs have higher than expected rates of leukemia. In fact, one of the reasons some scientists have trouble accepting that EMFs promote cancer is the lack of clear supporting data from laboratory experiments.

    Science magazine ran a short item on the Liburdy affair in its July 2 issue and the matter receded into the background until Friday, July 23, when the San Francisco Chronicle put it on its front page. The Chronicle tried to make the connection between Liburdy's calcium work and cancer by noting that Liburdy's 1992 studies "were considered tantalizing evidence that electric and magnetic radiation could cause cancer." In the 28 paragraphs that followed, there was not a single word to back up this claim.

    The next day, the New York Times took the story to a new low with a front page, above-the-fold, story headlined: DATA TYING CANCER TO ELECTRIC POWER FOUND TO BE FALSE. Reporter William Broad led with: "A federal investigation has concluded that a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. faked what had been considered crucial evidence of a tie between electric power lines and cancer. The disclosure appears to strengthen the case that electric power is safe."

    A few paragraphs later and still on page 1, Broad offers the following quote from an unnamed federal investigator (presumably from ORI): "If he hadn't gotten these results, nobody would have paid any attention."

    In the 33-paragraph story, Broad fails to offer a single word from a cancer researcher or a biologist or a biophysicist to back this claim -- or even to show that Liburdy's work is related to cancer. Instead, Broad offers some quotes from Dr. Robert Park, a lobbyist for the American Physical Society, who has turned his anti-EMF opinions into a crusade. Park did not miss this opportunity to strike a blow against EMF research. According to Broad, Park believes that, "Liburdy's deception was probably typical for the field."

    Broad's story appeared in newspapers across the country that Saturday (July 24), including the front page of the Denver Post and the Providence Journal.

    Broad failed to tell the readers of the Times that a few weeks ago, in mid-June, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) issued a report to the U.S. Congress which concluded that although there is only "weak" evidence for an EMF-cancer risk, there is a "consistent pattern of a small increased risk with increasing exposure." As a result, Dr. Kenneth Olden, the director of the NIEHS, advised the adoption of a policy of prudent avoidance, that is to use of low-cost methods to reduce exposure to EMFs.

    In fact, the Times has never covered the NIEHS report. Nor has the Times ever said a word about the conclusions of a working group assembled by the NIEHS in June 1998, which found that the epidemiological evidence was strong enough to classify EMFs as "possible human carcinogens."

    Broad, who worked for Science magazine before he moved to the Times many years ago, ignored the statement from Dr. Christopher Portier, the principal author of the NIEHS report, who told Science for its story on Liburdy that the Liburdy calcium studies had had "no impact whatsoever" on the NIEHS report's conclusions.

    Today, July 27, the voice of industry has joined the chorus: They want Liburdy's head for an appetizer and the end of prudent avoidance for dessert. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Whelan of the American Council on Science and Health, an industry front group, seeks to close the book on the EMF health debate: We "now know" she writes, that it was all a "phony health risk." Whose medical opinion does Whelan cite? Robert Park's, of course.

    Why do journalists like Broad and physicists like Park rail against any concerns over EMFs? (Some years ago, Broad compared concern over EMFs to claims on the "earthly presence of space aliens.") Hard to say, but the net effect is anti-science. Strange qualities for a science journalist and a lobbyist for science.

    As we say in New York: Enough Already!

    The only way to settle the EMF health debate is with good science -- not with junk journalism, industry propaganda and ideological agendas.

    Louis Slesin
    Editor, Microwave News

    Louis Slesin, PhD
    Editor, Microwave News
    A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation
    Phone: 212-517-2800; Fax: 212-734-0316
    Mail: PO Box 1799, Grand Central Station
    New York, NY 10163, U.S.A.

    James Butler Responds to Globe & Mail Article [New York Times reprint]

    By James Butler
    July, 28, 1999
    The Globe & Mail editors form the headline, € Faked findings mean power-line electrical fields appear to be safe after all € and attached it to an article by William Broad of the New York Times. Its the long running saga of electromagnetic fields, E-M-Fs.

    Stop and listen, you can hear the media exhale. The sigh of relief. Relief from legal exposure that drives this rabid vigor in media corporations who believe they feel the legal noose loosen. Electromagnetic fields are everywhere electric current flows. In the news room people have been sitting in front of high emission monitors for 30 years.

    The story - or I should say the 40,000 plus stories - over the past 20 years is about whether this ubiquitous radiation from everyday appliances and our electric power grid is affecting our health. Its no small public health concern.

    The story of alleged fraud in research of these electromagnetic fields by Dr. Robert P. Liburdy of Lawrence Berkeley Labs caused a giddy feeding frenzy in the media. By the media. The Associated Press writers was so excited they got his name wrong.

    It is 20 years, and the media has managed to avoid getting to the bottom of the story of electromagnetic fields. The question is basic, Is electricity killing us?. Trouble is, the media has never had a vested self-interest of this size in any story in history. And Watergates Woodward-Berstein model long subsumed by profitable self-service.

    With few words, the Globe may have strayed farthest from the truth on a per line basis than any other media spinners and twisters. You offer no original input.

    The New York Times story was about one single scientist and the three graphs he removed from his data. It is yet an open question as to whether it was fraudulent because it would take this scientist an airing in a court of law for which he has no resources. Dr. Liburdy had three research inquiries affected by this controversy.

    Lets get to the science but make it simple and shed some light on the matter. The science is Greek to your readers as much as it is to your editors, evidenced by your second-rate headline. So instead, here is a simpler approach accessible to all.

    I will ignore the facts of the case and the legions of defenders. Lets say Dr. Liburdy is guilty for the sake of argument. What does this mean in this critical health debate?

    For starters, hes one guy. In June, the National Institute for Environmental Health { NIEHS } just completed a five year investigation of electromagnetic fields. They classified EMF as a Class 2B carcinogen or €possible carcinogen€. This category includes Carbon Tetrachloride, Chlordane, DDT, Diesel fuel among other substances.

    This New York Times writer omitted this fact. The most anxiously awaited document on the subject of EMF in 7 years and he failed to mention it? The New York Times didnt even cover it! Amazing. And bizarre. This surely has no connection with the lawsuit the New York Times lost on EMF exposure from computers and cataracts.

    There are 50,000 scientific papers on the biological effects of electromagnetic fields. What does this suggest to even the layman? One single agent implicated in many dozens of diseases. Dozens of scientific specialties are involved who cant even speak with each other let alone converge in the very narrow confines of scientific method. And Dr. Liburdy was looking as something called €calcium e-flux€ as the possible €mechanism of action€. We cant find hazard unless we have this €mechanism of action€, it is as the name suggests, a plausible way for an effect to happen.

    The power companies have held the EMF issue at bay by funding mainly leukemia, designing the studies and having their shills scream €no mechanism of action€. We didn¹t have a € mechanism of action€ for how smoking causes lung cancer until 1996! You will notice that is when the tobacco companies started negotiating.

    We had no €mechanism of action€ for aspirin til 1997 but that didnt stop us from enjoying its benefits. Today, we still don¹t have a real MOA for how water molecules are heated in a microwave but still use them in over 90% of homes in N. America.

    With EMF, there are a half a dozen active areas of investigation into mechanism. We may ultimately identify a half a dozen and a dozen more may go undetected. No prior agent has had this scope. But then, humans are composed of electromagnetic waves.

    Back to Dr. Liburdy, the one man tempest in a teapot. The National Institute of Environmental Health Science in had just looked at Liburdy¹s stuff prior to it¹s report. As Microwave News reports, principal authour, Dr. Chris Portier, told Science Liburdys calcium studies had € no impact whatsoever € on their conclusions.

    Yet the New York Times article would have us all believe this was the only EMF science, the lynch pin of discovery. Baloney. The NIEHS looked at 300 studies and were criticized for looking at too few - curiously missing many with positive findings. Examples include Dr. Michael Persinger at Laurentian University and his staggering findings suggesting mental disorders. Also, Dr. Gilles Theriault at McGill with Dr. Ben Armstrong and their landmark lung cancer findings. But they are foreigners, eh?

    In the United States there was also the National Academy of Sciences [ NAS ] report on the carcinogenicity of electromagnetic fields. The New York Times authour refers to the NAS report as evidence of no health effects findings. They precisely said things like €there is no consistent and conclusive evidence€ of a €causal€ relationship. In scientific terms you can drive a Mac truck through this weasely wordsmithing.

    In the NAS overview of the scientific material the most cited authour was a Dr. Kjell Hansson Mild. Thats right, a Swedish guy. Americas NAS investigation did extend beyond their borders. Good thing since much of the science is in Sweden and Russia.

    The bad news is this same Dr. Mild, authour of 100 papers on EMF over 20 years, was unhappy with the NAS report. He wrote the Chairman asking, € how it can be that the report has turned out to be so biased in the selection of papers included?€ Wondering why his €work has been grossly misquoted € and on and on. No response.

    The questions the media should ask are:

    1.) What happened to the Environmental Protection Agency [ EPA ] Report on Electromagnetic fields in 1990? The conclusions of €probable carcinogen€ were enough to get that information buried.

    2.) What about the bold investigation by Mr. Clinton, €I have asked Carol Browning, head of the EPA to look into this...€. That report was completed in 1996. It¹s chief authour called it €the most serious indictment of EMF as a cancer promoter so far €.

    3.) What of the prestigious National Radiation Protection Board report on EMF? The only blue ribbon board of EMF scientists assembled to answer the question. They advise reducing electromagnetic fields in all new schools, hospital and commercial building to 2 mG. So you know, that¹s way low, in line with the large Swedish leukemia studies of 1992. They also advise reducing EMF in all existing buildings - residential and commercial to 2mG within 10 years. But what would they know next to political appointees? The report has been stalled for years €in committee€.

    4.) Why did Hazel OLeary, the head of the Department of Energy, kill a 20 year research project into the biological effects of electromagnetic fields just five days before leaving office... to work for the utilities? What does this suggest?

    5.) In the Telecom Act of 1996 was stated [ a little jargon here ] in Sec.704, 7.) B (iv) € No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commissions regulations concerning such emissions €.

    What the hell does this mean? If any city council in America stops a cell tower antenna from going up for health reasons then it is against U.S. law. As such, the cell phone companies can sue the little city council. And they are, by the hundreds!

    The most obnoxious breech of human rights ever visited upon a free nation. In America, you are not allowed to ask - €Is this thing killing me and my family?€.

    What does this tell your inquiring minds? OK, let us add a key detail. While this legislation was being written by the telecom industry there was $ 26 billion flowing into Washington from the auction of the airwaves. Electromagnetic waves.

    In any event youre the media and by definition a main part of the problem. There is a story to tell and you refuse to tell it. NBC is owned by General Electric, CBS by Westinghouse and Disney has huge EMF legal exposure. You have thus willfully obstructed the inquiry due to your legal liability and unwillingness to be impartial.

    This EMF network of obfuscation includes 9 U.S. government agencies. Add the active antagonism of the computer and telecom industries plus the utilities etc. No time to share the full coercive story. Its one you have missed. Over and over.

    The money is the thing. Electromagnetic fields critically impact 8 of the top 10 industries in North America. Not just power companies, computers and telecom groups but real estate, insurance, media - no one is immune. The financial fallout will dwarf the largest of tobacco settlements. To bury the power lines in America would cost $ 1.2 trillion and we haven¹t even tallied €the court costs€ yet. These could never be settled. A new amendment to the U.S. constitution will be required.

    In case Im not clear, this is not just leukemia and brain tumours here. Leukemia has been the subject of study because it is very rare and utilities provided 82% of the funding. If you have any inkling of €science for sale€ in America you know you can get any result you choose. Ask Dr. Henry Lai and Dr. Ross Adey, two of the world¹s best EMF researchers. They will recount the ethical entanglements of dealing with the €objective€ Wireless Technology Research group and Motorola respectively.

    The larger concern is with breast cancer, lung cancer, Alzheimers, immune system, neurological and mental disorders. I am concerned EMF is a common denominator of disease. It is there in the scientific literature for any with a modicum of common sense and the patience to pour through it. Evidently, not current traits of reporters.

    The Russians level of safety for electromagnetic field exposure at power line frequencies and microwave frequencies is 1,000X lower than ours. What can you deduce from that? Russia is many years advanced in the science of EMF weaponry, mind control and therapeutic applications i.e. curing diseases like cancer with EMF.

    Why do I exclude Canada, or not reserve any prospect we might act independently? We have had the chance. Dr. Theriault at McGill found an incidence of 667% the lung cancer in power line workers at Quebec Hydro. Quebec Hydro responded by canceling the contact with McGill, firing Dr. Gilles Theriault and legally barring him from sharing his data with the scientific medical community. Thats EMF in Canada.

    The Hospital for Sick Kids in June just found another link between leukemia and magnetic field exposure in children. This time up to 4.5X the risk, higher than the 2-2.5X of previous studies. €As the methods of assessing exposure were refined, we found that the association between magnetic fields and the risk of developing childhood leukemia became stronger, particularly in children diagnosed at a younger age,€ said lead author Dr. Lois Green, epidemiologist in the department of public health sciences at U of T and at Ontario Power Generation. The Globe didn¹t consider this?

    No, the Globe & Mail throws a €Case Closed! €banner atop the imported news item. No Canadian perspective. No Canadian response. No impartial query as to whether the New York Times article was, in large part, bullshit. No recalling Canadian research inputs. Assuming Americas opinion [ through its paper of record ] is final.

    So what of the New York Times article and the Globe & Mail's interpretative banner. The writer has a point of view uncommon at the New York Times. Usually facts supersede most personal agendas. But not with the health hazard of EMF.

    The writer employees industry hack Robert Park to fling mud. Park says €deception was probably typical for the field€. This groundless swipe is at thousands of dedicated people in 24 countries, many who have 20 or more years at this research.

    Rather than excessive bias, this is a juicy quote to writer Broad. Park is no research scientist but a political influencer. He is a physicist defending the honour of the American Physical Society who are up to their ass in ass-covering rhetoric with respect to electromagnetic fields. Try figuratively pulling down the trousers of one of these dinosaurs in public you get a feeling for the acute embarrassment they seek to avoid. There will be an accounting and the American Physical Society tops the list.

    In future, people will want to know why all health professionals, public officials and scientists they have trusted missed this. It will be profoundly embarrassing. This is what engenders such visceral denials irrespective of the facts as well as the reality that most of us are inadvertently part of the problem.

    The New York Times title, €Data Tying Cancer to Electric Power Found to be False€ was misleading enough. The implication here is that this unprecedented mass of scientific data going back before WWII turns on one guys science. Ludicrous.

    But still the NYT's writer builds this €case €with his industry lobbyist and an unnamed government source saying €If he hadn¹t gotten these results nobody would have paid any attention€. The source means attention to Liburdy¹s stuff, the writer trys to couch it, with his physicist lackey, to mean the entire research of EMF. More ludicrous. And unethical with the worst of intentions.

    With every incident the vested interests media machine goes into action. Other incidents are typically a finding of €no hazard € or €inconclusive€. These groups have been at the lobby and influence game for 100 years many of them. They were the founders of our countries in many ways. But they couldnt pull the EMF wool over our eyes without being aided and abetted by the media. These same guys are bringing us the future too. Motorola sees even the smallest amongst us with global satellite cell phones in their little pockets. The fact many people believe they are serving up brain tumors with the efficiency of McDonalds is of little concern to these financial juggernauts of planetary communications.

    There is a physicist you might ask, Dr. Robert Kane who holds some 40 patents from his time at Motorola and did their cell phone testing. He would be delighted to share with you the hazards of EMF from cell phones were he not so ill with a brain tumor. I was unable to confirm if he is alive at this writing.

    Striking similarities exist between tobacco and electromagnetic fields. The Surgeon General¹s Report in January 1964 finally denounced the hazards of cigarette smoking. The next August, Dr. Clarence Cook Little announced results of a study by the Council for Tobacco Research after evaluating 350 separate reports.

    The tobacco folks declared there was €little to support€ the charge cigarette smoking caused cancer. The American Medical Association - representing the doctors of America - refused to join the fray, actually defending tobacco interests. They had $ 10 million from the tobacco industry for research into the possible hazards of smoking.

    In 1945 the first studies linking smoking and lung cancer appeared - the relative increased risk was 2 X. This is exactly the same as the early epidemiological studies of populations with electromagnetic fields. Today, we know smoking increases the risk of lung cancer by 10X and up to 50 X based on the length of time smoked.

    The large Ontario Hydro/Quebec Hydro occupational study had statistical spikes. It showed a middle exposed group with acute myeloid leukemia having an increased risk of 37.76 X. That is a big number. Is it an anomaly or a harbinger of future results?

    Dr. Anthony Miller of University of Toronto released a follow-up study, another watershed event in this longstanding global debate were it not Canadian in origin. Dr. Miller teased out the electric field exposure as distinct from the magnetic field exposure. The EMF studies have historically focused on magnetic not electric fields.

    The Swedes have been saying for years that its the electric component thats the hazard. Along with the very persistent Dr. Roger Coghill in the United Kingdom.

    Dr. Miller found a 12X increased incidence of leukemia. This is a robust finding and if replicated easily conforms to the definition of broad public health risk. Whoops, too late - all the funds are expired on the wrong exposure parameters. Dr. Green of Sick Kids alludes to it in her statement, €As the methods of assessing exposure were refined..€. After 20 years we have just now arrived at identifying the bad stuff and how to measure it. To close the book now is to close the book on page one.

    Which brings us to the Globe & Mail's spurious headline. Not content to merely carry the information your editors further spun it. €Faked findings mean power-line electrical fields appear to be safe after all € was what you chose to say.

    The New York Times article did not conclude € power-line electrical fields appear to be safe after all€. How could this witless pair, writer Broad and physicist Park, possible divine such long-sought intelligence. They implied, suggested, alluded to, presumed, insinuated and inferred. But nothing here respects scientific inquiry.

    For the record, 95% of the studies are magnetic not electric fields. The Globe & Mail unintentionally hit on one of the big EMF issues. All the studies in the past have merely been experiments to get the structure of investigation right.

    To call your thoughtless editorial foray unethical may be too strong simply because I warrant it stems from deep-rooted and genuine ignorance. But there are clear ethical ramifications. People are busy. They want to hear that electricity isnt killing them. They dont want to read the article because the whole thing gives them a headache. Or maybe its their electromagnetic field exposure?

    On the EMF hazard, Canadians now have the official seal of approval of the Globe & Mail most reliably bearing the irreproachable word of the New York Times. All the News Thats Fit to Print! And dont you forget it, damn it! Well, not all the news.

    Thousands of scientists in 27 countries for 50 years have nearly found the questions. The Globe & Mail gives you the answer in a mere 7 seconds. A wondrous achievement.

    Who is on the wrong side of history ? And what part will you have played as a corporation, a parent, a business executive or a human being ? Like electricity itself all the €EMF industries € take the least line of resistance. People need to resist.

    Whos responsible for our health, our kids health? Today, given our irretrievably corroded mass communications conduits - its you and I.

    James Butler ( is CEO of HomeSafe, Inc. During the past seven years he has been an environmental activist in the advocacy of electromagnetic field ( EMF) hazard awareness in California.

    Something Is Terribly Wrong

    From Microwave News
    In June 1999, these three events happen in just three days:

    o The NIEHS issues its report to Congress, which concludes that the evidence that EMFs pose a cancer risk cannot be dismissed. Though this evidence is weak, the NIEHS says, it is reason enough for prudent avoidance (see p.1).

    o EMFs are linked to as much as a sixfold increase in the risk of leukemia among young children, in a new study released by the University of Toronto (see p.12).

    o Dr. Robert Liburdy agrees to withdraw three graphs in seven-year-old papers on EMF effects on cellular calcium (see p.1).

    Which of these stories makes page-one headlines across the country? The Liburdy affair. And what is the lesson that the New York Times draws from the Liburdy business? That "electric power is safe."

    Liburdy's calcium experiments were not cancer studies and had only the most speculative relationship to cancer biology. When they were published in 1992, anyone who had said, "This shows that EMFs cause cancer" would have been laughed out of the room. It would have been a ridiculous thing to say, and no one ever did.

    Yet now these three Liburdy graphs seem to become more powerful each time they are mentioned in the media. The Associated Press (July 23) claimed that Liburdy's calcium work "was thought to be the first plausible biological explanation" of an EMF-cancer connection. Not one cancer researcher, biologist or biophysicist was quoted in support of this assertion, perhaps because it is not true.

    The AP conceded that concerns about EMFs "had been raised well before Liburdy's study," but the New York Times (July 24) wasted no space on such qualifications. In the Times' hands, Liburdy's graphs became "crucial evidence of a tie between electric power lines and cancer"-which had been "faked." Soon the Cleveland Plain Dealer (July 30) was writing that Liburdy "managed to scare the bejabbers out of a lot of people by spinning a yarn about electrical transmission lines causing cancer," and applauded government fraud-busters for exposing this "hoax."

    The power of the Liburdy graphs continued to grow. It was in fact "Liburdy's deception" which "sparked a campaign of 'prudent avoidance'," according to Dr. Elizabeth Whelan of the pro-industry American Council on Science and Health, writing in the Wall Street Journal (July 27). "We now know" that the EMF issue "is a phony health risk," added Whelan. Ken Hall of the Edison Electric Institute seems to agree: "As long as you don't touch the wire, it's okay," Hall told the Los Angeles Times (July 29), in a story about commercial development directly beneath high-voltage power lines. The paper estimated that EMFs in the proposed development would average about 60 mG.

    What's ironic is that of the three June events, only two have much to do with EMFs and cancer: the NIEHS report and the Canadian study. Yet those were precisely the two that the media ignored.

    There is a serious double standard at work here. The stories on the Liburdy affair are full of false statement which are repeated so often, without rebuttal, that they are already accepted as fact. Where are the moderating voices of public health, of epidemiologists, of consumer advocates?

    We don't believe in conspiracies. But at times the influence of corporate power in both science and the media is so overwhelming that it starts to resemble one. Industries worth hundreds of billions of dollars defend their interests, and they do so in many ways.

    Recently, a leading epidemiologist at a world-famous medical institution wrote to us on the Liburdy media blitz. He said, "One reason I left this field was that I saw it was virtually impossible to get decent science funded or done without interference in the face of such massive commercial interest." But we can't tell you who he is. His next sentence was, "Don't quote me."

    Microwave News

    California lab asked to repay grants over faked data

    August 11, 1999
    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The National Cancer Institute wants grant money back from a California laboratory where a researcher allegedly faked data suggesting a link between electromagnetic radiation and cancer, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Wednesday.

    A letter sent this month by the National Cancer Institute to officials at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, said the agency seeks the return of $804,321 in grant money that supported research by Robert Liburdy between Jan. 1, 1991 and March 31, 1994.

    But the lab opposed repayment, saying it would amount to a penalty for investigating and reporting the case.

    ``The institution was brave enough to question the validity of some findings,'' lab spokesman Ron Kolb told the Chronicle. ''We took a stand, and we believe this is a chilling message to to other institutions who are expected to police themselves.''

    Laboratory officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

    Liburdy claimed that his studies had located the first plausible biological mechanism linking electromagnetic fields generated by power lines, home wiring and household appliances to cancer and other diseases, including leukemia.

    But an investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Research Integrity concluded that Liburdy committed ``scientific misconduct'' by intentionally falsifying and fabricating data to support his assertions that electromagnetic fields could cause effects in human cells.

    Liburdy, 51, resigned his 15-year position in March after the lab withdrew his funding and in May agreed with the Office of Research Integrity to retract three data graphs he had used to back up his conclusions in two 1992 scientific articles.

    Liburdy, who also agreed to a three-year ban on receiving any federal funding, has denied any wrongdoing in the case and said he agreed to the conditions imposed by the Office of Research Integrity because he could not afford a lengthy legal battle to clear his name, the Chronicle reported.

    The possibility of links between electromagnetic fields and cancer has long been hotly debated, but remains unproven.

    Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited - All rights reserved