An implicit assumption is that research is unbiased and the interpretation of the results is without political influence. I used to believe this, but I've since learned differently.
There are many ways to limit a research program! One is to select a peer review committee with little or no expertise in the subject to be evaluated. Another is to assume too simplistic an answer such as the idea that EMF actions have to overcome influences of heat induced molecular motion across the board, and reject reports that suggest a more complicated reality. Yet another method is to succumb to pressure from vested interests. Perhaps the more subtle way is to interfere with the basic funding process, seemingly with the best of intentions.
From its inception, the RAPID program has been under funded. Rather than the $6.5 million which should have been requested of Congress annually (and which would have been matched by non-federal funding sources to equal $13 million a year), The DOE (Department of Energy) asked for only $4 million each year. Why? And, isn't it curious that the only amendment made to section 2118 of the Energy Policy Act during the recent extension hearings was that which re-defined the overall program as a $46 million program down from its original $65 million over 5 years? And most confusing of all was a statement by a representative for the non-federal funding sources, in defense of that move, suggesting that there were insufficient EMF research "needs" to warrant the $65 million program after all.
Now, lets talk about another oblique way to shutdown a program prematurely. The NAS (National Academy of Science) issued its well-written 300 page report and stated on page 186, "The association between residential proximity to high wire code configuration and increased rates of childhood leukemia remain unexplained, as do the associations between occupational exposures and leukemia and brain cancer. The associations for childhood leukemia have been shown to be statistically reliable and robust findings that must be considered carefully in drawing conclusions about overall risk." The last page of the report states, "Continued research is important, however, because the possibility that some characteristic of the electric or magnetic field is biologically active at environmental strengths cannot be totally discounted."
If you recall, the lead for the NAS press release stated, "No ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS SEEN FROM RESIDENTIAL EXPOSURE TO EMF." The next sentence said, "No clear, convincing evidence exists to show that residential exposures to electric and magnetic fields are a threat to human health." This was taken out of context and made to sound like a conclusion when, in fact, that text within the report was a prelude to a far more complex, scientifically supported discussion.
By omission, the NAS press release was also guilty of deceit by not mentioning that they had ignored occupational study results. Or that they reviewed studies only through 1994 with a few taken from 1995. The impression was that everything had been reviewed by these experts. This was to be seen as the final and definitive statement. The puzzling thing is that page three of the press release did indeed point out that the report repeatedly called for additional research -- but we all know that by page three, reporters have essentially packed up and gone home. Why recommend more research if there are "no adverse health effects?"
The following are some examples of how one sided the press response was. The New York Times said, "Panel sees no proof of health hazards." USA Today said, "Power lines pose little threat." "Science panel rejects allegations on EMF," said the Philadelphia Enquirer and the Chicago Tribune trumpeted "Panel says power lines harmless."
Question:? Why did the NAS put a "spin" on the report? Was this professional stewardship or political expediency? Perhaps someone can explain to me why their "sound bite" was so at odds with their full report! If their aim was to curtail funding, they nearly succeeded. I was congratulated by many Congressional aides for having "laid this issue to rest."
It seems that another agency, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), certain that there were still misguided fools out there continuing to do EMF research, recently held a press conference to announce the results of their EMF childhood leukemia study. I won't comment upon the content of the paper presented -- only upon the way it was presented as "the definitive" study. Is it not hubris to consider a single study as the definitive study when the RAPID program's $45 million in EMF research is yet to be completed, and the huge British childhood leukemia study results will not be available until next summer? In addition, how is it possible for a sister agency of NIEHS to not know that there is $45 million worth of research still to be completed, evaluated and published? Is this appalling ignorance or competition for research dollars?
One has to question the motive of the NCI to include in its press kit an editorial opinion from the New England Journal of Medicine which was harshly critical of EMF research and demanded cessation of all EMF research funding. The author's principal area of expertise seems to be Geriatrics and it would appear from reading his C.V. (curriculum vitae) that he has done little, or no, basic research, much less EMF research. Nor does he list a single reference about childhood leukemia. Was the choice of this writer another example of political or corporate meddling?
The editors of the Journal, clearly stung by a flood of criticism in response to Dr. Campion's editorial, responded with a self-serving, back-pedaling editorial of their own, explaining that unlike other prestigious medical journals, the New England Journal does not stand behind its editorial comments -- that he was free to state what he likes. But, in explaining how this editorial came about, stated that, "they are solicited expert commentaries." Yet one would hope that the New England Journal would exercise greater care in selecting "expert" reviewers in the first place. How could they possibly represent Dr. Campion as an expert in EMF or childhood leukemia? And knowing this, why did the NCI choose to include his piece in their press kit? Surely, this implied agreement with his statements. What did the NCI hope to gain? The press response, of course, was predictable.
In short, the history of press releases from organizations of national stature asked to look into the status of EMF research leaves me with a chilling concern for what may come out of an NIEHS press release??? While I still believe we all want a factual report to congress containing carefully reviewed and considered examination of the research done to date, I now recognize that we need similar attention to the composition of the press release accompanying the report.
This is such an important task that I'm sure you understand why I am today asking that an advisory committee be established solely to review the press release accompanying the NIEHS report. At a minimum, this committee should consist of Drs. Boorman, Portier, Gyuk, Gailey, the Chair and at least two other members of the NEMFAC. We believe that this committee would not be intimidated or influenced by political expediency. It is imperative that the press release reflect the body of the report ... or the lack of credibility which will greet this release will destroy all we have striven to accomplish. WE MUST ALL ACCEPT THE RESPONSIBILITY TO BE EQUALLY VIGILANT.
I join all of you in looking forward, if not to the final answer, at least to an honest consideration and presentation of all the available science.
Thank you very much......