Subject: Latest U.S. Gov't position on EMF hazards...


10 October 1999

Hi everybody:

Take your time with this one.  There is a lot here!

My message below reviews a document which has just come into my hands -- a letter written by a middle level official in the Department of Agriculture.  Mr. Thomas L. Eddy is replying to a request from Ms. Linda S. Statham of Alpharetta, Georgia.  She wrote to "her" government seeking some honest answers to the questions in her mind about the possible health effects of EMF.

What follows is her government's reply.  I have forwarded only the three key paragraphs of Mr. Eddy's letter that deal with the EMF issue.  I have refrained from the urge to offer commentary in the text....   However, I do offer a long commentary and criticism of "the government's position" at the end of Mr. Eddy's letter.

It can be said, "Oh, this letter is just the opinion of a middle level bureaucrat."  True.  But, my own experience in the government taught me that such letters do not go out with out clearance from the "Secretary's office" at least.  And, it is quite possible that -- due to the controversial nature of the subject matter and the official nature of the reply -- it was "staffed" up to the White House as well.....

We cannot ever know the facts on that....  One of the "cardinal rules" of duty in Washington is that one must ALWAYS leave the President in a position of "plausible deniability."   It must NEVER be provable that he "knew about" or could be held "accountable" in any way on controversial matters..... That's the way our system works....  Yes, its a lousy system.


Roy Beavers (EMFguru)......


(Excerpts from a letter written to Ms. Linda S. Statham of Alpharette, Georgia, by Mr. Thomas L. Eddy, Director, Power Supply Division, U.S. Department of Agriculture....)

Dear Ms. Statham:


"We are aware that there is concern regarding possible cancer associated with electric and magnetic fields (EMF).  EMF exists around energized electric distribution and transmission lines and substations.  EMF also exists around a variety of common household appliances such as electric blankets, hair dryers, television sets, computers, and microwave ovens. There have been numerous studies to determine whether there are any health risks related to power line EMF.  Results from most of these studies indicated that there appear to be no recognizable health risks related to EMF.  However, some study results identified possible correlation of health risks.  Because of the obvious concern and the conflicting conclusions, Congress, in 1992, authorized funding for the Research and Public Information Dissemination (RAPID) program, a 5-year study to research EMF.

Recent reports of RAPID findings have broadened our knowledge of EMF, but have not definitely answered the cause-effect question. One RAPID project task called for an independent review and report from the National Research Council (NRC).  The NRC concluded that the results of its study into the EMF concern do not support the contention that the use of electric power poses a major unrecognized public health danger.  Another phase of the RAPID project called for a similar review and report from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).  NIEHS recently reported that it concluded that extra low frequency EMF exposure can not be recognized as entirely safe because of weak scientific evidence that exposure may pose a leukemia risk.

More EMF research and study is needed.  NIEHS's conclusion is based on those laboratory experiments and epidemiological studies that suggest there is some correlation between exposure of people to EMF and certain biological effects.  Although the correlation has been identified as being weak, it nevertheless is a concern that cannot be ignored. In addition to the indication of weak correlation, there is insufficient information available to establish either a cause-effect relationship or a dose-effect relationship.  Knowledge of these relationships is needed to identify EMF sources involved with many risks.  The Rural Utilities service will continue to monitor the available literature, studies and reviews for new developments in the EMF concerns."


//s// Thomas L. Eddy       Director Power Supply Division

Guru responds......

Keep in mind my statement above -- that we can be confident that this letter has been reviewed "higher up."  Perhaps to "the top."   Though, of course, the White House will always be in a position to deny that....

The letter, itself, is pure paternalistic bureaucratese. (A condescending response to one of the poor unknowledgeable "peons" out there among the great unwashed.)  Pure bureaucratic Gobbledy-Gook.....

Let us consider, however, what larger significance it may have.....

First paragraph:

Mr. Eddy covers the waterfront with his description of all the places one may encounter EMF, as if to suggest that they are all potentially the same in their health consequences.  He is suggesting that your household appliances may be a more serious threat than the power line in your front yard.  Where have you heard that before?  Wasn't it at the last utility briefing you attended on this subject?

--"Other" EMF sources, of course, should be taken seriously as potential risks.  (We call it the "Blue World," don't we?)  But, in its May 4, 1999 report, the NIEHS has recognized that (in those homes where EMF measurements are high), "transmission lines and certain types of distribution lines produced the greatest [EMF] fields."

--The important question, then, is NOT, to ignore those other sources, but:  The question is, is it appropriate to place them on the same level of concern ... with the much stronger and more constant (in exposure time) "power line" sources???....

--None of the experts it has been my experience to meet at the nearly six years worth of meetings which I attended while monitoring the EMF RAPID project, ... (I attended every scientific meeting but one during the run of the project.) ... has ever suggested that these "other" household sources pose as great a threat as the electric lines themselves, overall, within the big picture.

--More importantly!  In those situations where eminent domain is being exercised to FORCE the power line into your environment -- i.e., you have no choice of the matter as you do in the case of your hair dryer or your computer, etc.  So, the question (which Mr. Eddy totally finesses) really is:  Is it "fair" or appropriate for the government to take an 'industry supportive' position against you in cases where eminent domain is being exercised?

--That is exactly what Mr. Eddy is doing in his first paragraph.....  He is embracing all of the "industry arguments" and some of the evidence which you are likely to encounter in court.  (Indeed, throughout the letter, that seems to be Mr. Eddy's goal:  to give all the reassuring "help" he can ... to the power company that is building "bullying" that potential health hazard into your environment....)

But, there is another, far more serious, flaw in Mr. Eddy's first paragraph that needs to be noted:

Mr. Eddy writes that:  (in the "numerous" studies about the EMF problem) "Results from most of these studies indicated that there appear to be no recognizable health risks related to EMF."

--That statement is patently untrue!!  It is there to placate industry and to give them a sentence which they can quote out of context for the benefit of the "unknowing" public and press!!!  The untruthfulness of the statement can be shown, in part, by the extent to which it is contradicted later in the letter.  But, the evidence below (next paragraphs) is better.

--If the epidemiological studies -- which tie "power line frequency" exposure to a consistently higher incidence of leukemia -- are not telling us that EMF poses a "recognizable health risk," what are they telling us?

--In order to justify his statement, perhaps Mr. Eddy is "weighing" the number of studies pro and con, thereby implying that ALL the studies are of the same quality, and thereby entitled to be "weighted" the same. Thus, he may be thinking that he can get by with saying "most" of the studies did not indicate a problem???  Wrong...  In fact, Mr. Eddy, you are wrong on all counts with regard to the epidemiological evidence.....

--Both, by the NUMBERS of studies that found a problem, and differentiating by studies of the best "quality" (as did the RAPID study group), clearly the result is a flat-out contradiction of Mr. Eddy's claim that "no recognizable health risk" was found..... (Even the NRC, which he later cites to support his position, has found that the "association" between "closeness to power lines" and the incidence of childhood leukemia -- though the NRC avoided trying to explain it -- is a genuine "finding" in the published research documentation which they reviewed, and they so stated in their final report in 1995.)

--Mr. Eddy:  Don't let it escape the attention of ANYBODY: Scientifically, the epidemiological evidence accumulated on a world wide basis over the last twenty years ... showing a linkage between EMF and childhood leukemia ... is unmistakably consistent!!

--Most recently, one could add the results of the Toronto study (sponsored by a Canadian utility company) which found the risk factors to be in the range of 2.0 to 4.0.  This study, of course, was completed just some six months ago, after the RAPID results were published.

--The so-called "weak" association issue, mentioned in Mr. Eddy's letter, will be dealt with below.

Second paragraph of Mr. Eddy's letter:

--Here, we hear about the NRC, which (predictably) recently said of the RAPID results:  "We don't agree."  OF COURSE, that body -- which is chosen, financed, and in many cases directly employed -- by the vested industries, does not agree.  That is not surprising. Ignore them..... Everybody else does..... (Speaking of the science community, which knows them for what they are --  A "science" special interest group.... )

--It is time, though, that somebody should point out the DISTURBING proclivity of the U.S. Government (Congress, the Executive and the Bureaucracies) to rely on "vested interest" study groups and "science" 'second opinion' bodies (like the NCR) when the government wants to persuade the public of the government's objectivity.... Balder-dash!!! (Or, as we say it in Missouri:  B___ S___!!!)  The public interest is "naked" in its vulnerability to the biased misinformation which these groups -- created and funded by "conflict of interest" industry and "conflict of interest" government (like the military Project SANGUINE) -- habitually use to "officially" inject government or industry "party line" conclusions into an unsuspecting public.....

--These phony "scientific review" organizations are too transparent to be ignored any longer.  It is a pattern of bureaucratic activity that deserves the attention of a congressional inquiry on the grounds that they are a threat to the very well being of the Republic and the health and welfare of the body politic.  We have seen this pattern repeat, and repeat again, and again, the dissemination of  misleading information to the public over recent decades in, e.g., the tobacco case, the lead case, the dioxin case, etc.  Mr Eddy does not strengthen his letter (or the government's position) by relying on such readily identifiable, and well known, "conflict of interest" sources as the NRC (actually created out of the National Academy of Science -- another conflict of interest group that consistently serves its "master" industry/government sponsors rather than public objectivity.....)

But, it is also in Mr. Eddy's second paragraph that we find the issue of the so-called "weak" EMF/leukemia association:

--That word "weak" was provided by the NIEHS (and its Director, Ken Olden) in the final report from that agency to the Congress.  Here is Eddy's sentence:  "NIEHS recently reported that it concluded that extra low frequency EMF exposure can not be recognized as entirely safe because of weak scientific evidence that exposure may pose a leukemia risk."

[....italics by guru....]

--First, don't forget the judgment!!  The part that is in italics.  EMF can NOT be recognized as entirely safe....  That IS the final judgment of the NIEHS paper....

--Few, who know all of the facts about the RAPID study and the NIEHS published conclusions, have any doubts that the word "weak" was added to get the government off the hook.  Any pronouncement stronger than that would have left the government with a problem it would HAVE to deal with, like it or not.  Absent the word "weak," the press and a large portion of the public would now be clamoring for some action.  Well they should, anyway!!!

--As one who participated in the original lobbying effort to gain congressional passage of the RAPID project, guru can testify that RAPID was created to "get rid" of the EMF problem -- not to solve it..... Thus, the word "weak" was "attached" to a judgment that is really "not so weak."   (See further discussion of this below.) Its purpose, clearly, is to stem the tide of demand for public action that otherwise would now be knocking at the doors of government at all levels.

--The purpose of RAPID was to "kill" or "sweep under the rug" any thought that EMF was a genuine health problem!!!  Lo and behold!!! The scientists at the working level -- those who did the actual research (not their bureaucratic bosses) -- were too honest and found out too much about what Mother Nature is really hiding under her skirts concerning the bioeffects of EMF.

--Those honest (and courageous) working level scientists found that EMF bioeffects on the cells and tissue of mankind are real!!  And, that these bioeffects can occur as a result of exposures we are receiving in our home and work environments....  We don't know very much about them, yet.  But we DO know NOW that bioeffects are occurring. And that judgment is not one that generates much controversy or doubt anymore. The evidence is also gaining acceptability (as more research confirms earlier work) that SOME of those bioeffects CAN have adverse health consequences.....  (Not a conclusion one could find in Mr. Eddy's letter, is it???.....)  That is what the government SHOULD have answered to Ms. Statham ... or any other citizen who asks......

--Indeed, if the major criterion for saying that results are "weak" is based upon the 'risk factor' results shown by the epidemiological studies, then one (who WANTS that judgment) can "justify" it by the consistent 1.5 to 3.5 risk factor results that are being found -- even in the most recent Toronto study, where the numbers were 2.0 to 4,0..  But, good science is more than that!!  Virtually ALL of the epidemiologists who have confronted this aspect ... are saying something very different!!!

--They are saying:  The "calculated" risk factor results are low (and we must hereafter expect them to remain so) because of the ubiquitous presence of EMF in our environment today.  It is everywhere.  That means that researchers are not getting unexposed "control groups" (to compare with the "exposed" groups) in their studies.  That means that control groups which HAVE ALREADY BEEN EXPOSED TO EMF -- to a degree that can rarely be even estimated -- skews the comparisons between the two groups ... ALWAYS in the direction of calculating the low risk factor results.....  (Look again at the first sentence in this paragraph.)

--Thus, the scientific judgment that SHOULD be driven by the above reality is:  NOT one of low risk assessment (weak association); instead it should be that the ACTUAL (real world) risk factors  are almost certainly higher than what we are able to show....!!! Thus, scientifically speaking, the "weak" association (we get from our studies) is misleading and should not be used as the basis for our assessment of the actual risk.....  THAT is what the overwhelming majority of the epidemiologists who have worked these studies are saying.....!!!

--That is something very different than the 'reading' we get of the government's position in accordance with Mr. Eddy's letter....

Third paragraph:

Here, Mr. Eddy's letter raises the often heard "smokescreen" issue. "We cannot accept the epidemiological evidence," it is being said, "because our laboratory results (in vivo and in vitro) did  not provide any/enough substantiation of the epidemiology."  That statement is simply a smokescreen or a "red herring," depending on which metaphor you prefer.

--Folks, that assumes that our laboratory research was looking in the RIGHT PLACES and using the CORRECT ASSUMPTIONS for that "proof" of the elusive biological "mechanism" (s) to be discovered as the product of our research....   The simple and now well recognized fact is: we weren't! So, let us not give undue importance to our failure. Certainly NOT to the point of "throwing out" or invalidating the epidemiology....

--Very germane, here, but too long and complicated to get into (because it is not part of the Eddy letter) is the matter of "where" we were looking and "what assumptions" we were using as the active aspect(s) of the EMF exposure.  I'll just list a few words, here, which will trigger in the minds of the knowledgeable, the many doubts about this aspect of the research that were raised during RAPID and since:  time weighted average, electrical field effect, transients effect, harmonics effect, induced current effects, is the cell "vulnerable" to EMF effect on its surface membrane as well as beneath the membrane (?), etc...  The list of "doubts" about the direction of our research in RAPID could go on and on.

--There were/are just a myriad of "questionable" assumptions that guided the research, which -- the more we learned -- the more we were caused to doubt.  They raise serious questions about the validity of the direction of the total RAPID (laboratory) effort....  So, do not let yourselves be taken in (Mr. Eddy!) by the "no confirming laboratory results" smokescreen which now, after the RAPID project has been ended, is being elevated to a position of prominence it did not enjoy during the research.

--It is fair to ask:  Has this occurred in order to suggest that the failure to find a suitable mechanism justifies doubt about the validity of the epidemiological work???.....  That just isn't so!!!  The two disciplines (epidemiology and the laboratory) are entirely separate, and the weak laboratory results do not justify a "weak" judgment about the epidemiology -- which, though not ever "robust" in risk factor numbers, was very consistent.....

--What the "weak" laboratory results justify is many questions about some of the assumptions that were in vogue at the time.....

--Mechanism "proof" would be nice to have.  There is no arguing against that.  Someday, no doubt, we will find the mechanism, or, more likely, the mechanisms.  But, that has NOTHING to do with the need for defensive measures that should be instituted NOW on the basis of what WE DO KNOW from the epidemiology!!

--More importantly, the public (Ms. Statham) has a right to know -- from her government -- the truth about the extent of the alarm bell warnings we are being given by the epidemiology!!!  Think about science's and the government's experience with: tobacco, lead, a long list of chemicals for which we have no biological explanation as to "how" the damage is being triggered, etc.....  Surely, the lessons of these many failures to respond in a timely fashion to the alarm bells we got, are not unknown to you, Mr. Eddy ... or Mr. President....???

--To talk about the "failure" of the "laboratory" results is to join in an effort to raise a "straw man" ... a "smoke screen" ... behind which more "Inertia and Malfeasance" of government policy and inaction can take place.....  (See "Inertia and Malfeasance" on the guru's web-site....)

As the lead sentence in paragraph three, we find:

--"More research is needed."   Are those just words??? Where is the Administration's proposal for more research?  And what is the Administration prepared to do to ensure that future EMF research will not be tainted with the "conflict of interest" by the vested interests that was manifest in the RAPID project???

Finally, the issue about which the loudest clamor should be raised; in paragraph three, Mr. Eddy states:  "In addition to the indication of weak correlation, there is insufficient information available to establish either a cause-effect relationship or a dose-effect relationship."

--Is that so!?!  What about the government's policy and legal court cases that are being mounted in the case of tobacco -- and second hand smoke?!?  The risk factors for second hand smoke have consistently been reported in the 1.3 to 1.5 range.  That is far below the 1.5 to 3.5 that has been found in the case of EMF/leukemia.....

--The cause or dose-effect relationship in the EMF case is at least as valid as is the second hand smoke case.  If I were one of the tobacco industry lawyers, I would put that into their case against the Justice Department.  It shows very dramatically the hypocrisy of our government in the two instances......  (Guru's regular readers, however, know very well that he is no "friend" of tobacco....)


So, what are the conclusions that can be drawn from Mr. Eddy's letter about the position of the U.S. Government on EMF health hazards?

1)  The government (Clinton Administration) is more concerned about protecting "industry" than it is concerned about protecting the public health....

2)  Clearly, the government realizes that it DOES have a problem here. But it has adopted a policy of "keep the problem out of sight."  Save it for the next administration.  Don't let it happen on our watch.  Pursue the "damage control" strategy....  (Like the Monica Lewinsky strategy.)

3)  TALK about the need for more research, but don't DO anything about it.

4)  Join in with industry (and the other vested interests, e.g., the military, the international trade interests) in conducting a campaign of obfuscation and misinformation about the extent of the EMF hazards.... After all, it takes a long time for cancer or Alzheimer's or some of the other highly suspect illnesses to "show up."  That (latency period) lag-time will protect them until they are out of office...

5)  Try to ignore the most damning judgment of the NIEHS study:  that EMF cannot be recognized as "entirely safe."  i.e., Let that study "swing slowly in the wind."  (Washington parlance for "hang 'em high, ignore 'em until natural death occurs.")

6)  Join-in with the power companies (and the telecom industry) ... to build and build and build ... as fast as we can ...  power lines, cell phone systems, HDTV, etc. ... before the public fully understands what may be at stake here!!!

7)  Above all -- don't do anything to offend the big $$$$$$$ contributors ... or the Wall Street crowd.....

8)  The government's position vis-a-vis the second hand smoke tobacco hazard case is inconsistent with the government's lack of action on the EMF case....  Hypocritical is the word.....

9)  When you get an inquiry from some little "smart alek" like Ms. Statham, brush her off. Turn it over to some middle level bureaucrat to send her a letter of Gobbledy Gook......


October 10, 1999

Roy Beavers (EMFguru)

Back to Top