Book Review: The Triumph of Doubt Exposes the Disinformation Playbook in Action
What do tobacco, silica, diesel, teflon, asbestos, lead, PFAS, sugar, talc, alcohol, opiods, climate change, and even football head injuries have in common? Aside from their inherent dangers and significant public health and environmental impacts? Aside from the rigor of the scientific evidence about these impacts? And aside from powerful industries whose profits derive from their use?
The answer: They are examples in a well-honed industry public relations playbook based on deception and used to manufacture doubt and uncertainty about the dangers of these products. The playbook’s goal? Confuse the public, stymie any governmental action to protect the public from harm, and protect producer profits for as long as possible.
We can credit Big Sugar for originally crafting the playbook in the early 1950s. Big Tobacco followed and adopted, perfected, and used the playbook for decades with great success. And the playbook’s basic elements have become standard operating procedures for numerous industries whose products threaten public health.
Dark money and the science of deception
UCS has written extensively about this disinformation playbook (here, here, here). And now a new book by David Michaels—faculty member at the George Washington University School of Public Health and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) under President Obama and Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety, and Health in the Department of Energy (DOE) under President Clinton—provides a compelling and courageous account of how corporations, trade associations, and their hired guns have used this playbook to the detriment of public health – and to their own benefit. And how they have hijacked the language of science to undermine scientific evidence that shines a light on the danger of their products.
The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception is a no-holds barred page-turner. In a series of case studies, it names names and describes how powerful players prioritize a requirement of absolute proof over precaution when it comes to exposures’ impacts on human health. For them, there’s never enough proof or never enough proof of enough harm to warrant regulatory action.
In story after story, the book chronicles how corporate actors and those with vested financial interests have used and misused science and co-opted scientists to manufacture doubt about scientific evidence. How a lucrative product defense industry—with some tried and true go-to players—has grown up to provide the doubt, disinformation, and delay the corporate actors seek in their efforts to discredit established science, downplay risks, and prevent or at least delay (sometimes for even decades) regulation of their dangerous products.
Common strategies and tactics of the disinformation playbook
Over the years, industries using the disinformation playbook have honed a number of methods to confuse the public and sow doubt. They:
- Attack the science. There are lots of tools in this toolbox: commission new “scientific” studies to reanalyze existing data with methodologies biased toward predetermined results; review the literature and risk assessments to question the weight of the evidence; publish these reviews and re-analyses in selected scientific journals; shop for and hire so-called “independent” experts to question the science; provide tasty and contrarian soundbites for the media and public consumption; and more.
- Create and deploy front groups with innocuous-sounding names to undermine science, influence public opinion, and gain access to policy makers while maintaining the illusion of independence.
- Harass and intimidate independent scientists whose research demonstrates or suggests harm. Or alternatively, curry favor with academic institutions and scientists by providing some form of financial support while also varnishing their public interest image.
- Overwhelm regulatory agencies with comments on proposed regulations.
- Use their outsized money, power, and access to influence actions/inactions of elected policymakers and agency officials. (Oh, and there’s also that well-oiled revolving door. Just take a look at how many agency leaders and decision-makers in the Trump administration come straight from the very industries they are now supposed to regulate.)
There are more layers to tactics used in this playbook, but the connective tissue between them all involves doubt, denial, delay, distraction, deflection, and defense of the products in question.
A call to action
Michaels’ book is a powerful call to action. Science is under siege, public health safeguards are being eroded, and we the people are paying the price with our health and our wallets. The book is meticulously documented, leaving no doubt that the playbook works. Yes, it’s depressing and discouraging. And yes, these days are especially exhausting. And yes, stemming and turning the tide will take some time. Restoring, respecting, and rebuilding government agencies charged with protecting us is a basic building block. (At UCS, we have some ideas for that.) As are the laws and regulations that govern corporate behavior.
Michaels offers some bold suggestions. He notes, for example, that unlike humans accused of crimes, chemicals should not be considered innocent until proven guilty. Manufacturing and importing firms should be required to establish the safety of their products before they can be sold—and they should pay for the toxicity studies and risk determinations but not design them or control the scientists who do them. The government should regulate classes of chemicals as a whole instead of individual chemicals. (For example, we know the risks of some specific PFAS chemicals but there are thousands of similar PFAS compounds.)
Finally, Michaels calls on scientists and citizens to organize, demand change, and hold policy makers and corporate decision makers accountable. At UCS, we couldn’t agree more, and have some resources to help (here, here, here).
If we don’t know the tricks and don’t defend ourselves, the playbook will continue to rule, the players will continue to prosper, and our children, families, and communities will pay the price. But now we know, and Michaels’ unflinching work has unearthed their secrets and sounded the alarm for all to see.
We can and must stand up a tough defense. We all have a role in retiring and rewriting this playbook.
“Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the “body of fact” that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” Tobacco executive (22) in Doubt is Our Product by David Michaels
Headlines on Industry Influence
- The 5G con that could make you sick. – BBC – File on Four. Guest Blog. June 20, 2020. https://whatis5g.info/5g/2020/06/the-5g-con-that-could-make-you-sick-bbc-file-on-four/
- AVAATE Publishes White Paper on Industry Influence at ICNIRP
THERE APPEARS TO BE A CONFLICT OF INTEREST BETWEEN THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION NON-IONIZING RADIATION: https://www.avaate.org/documentos/article/conflictos-de-interes-existentes-en-la-comision-internacional-para-la or to go
- Endocrine disruptors in Europe: Nineteen “experts” are polluting the debate. June 23, 2020. Stephane Horel and Stephan Foucart. https://www.ehn.org/european-parliament-endocrine-disruptors-2646227143.html
- The Real Threat of Fake Voices in a Time of Crisis. Deepfake Text is a Real Threat to Democracy. May 16, 2020. Jinyan Zang. Tech Crunch. https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/16/the-real-threat-of-fake-voices-in-a-time-of-crisis/
- Regarding ICNIRP’S Evaluation of the National Toxicology Program’s Carcinogenicity Studies on Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields. Correspondence. Melnick R. Health Physics. June 2020; 118(6): 678-682. https://journals.lww.com/health-physics/Citation/2020/06000/Regarding_ICNIRP_S_Evaluation_of_the_National.11.aspx
- The different sources of electromagnetic fields: Dangers are not limited to physical health. (2020) Deruelle F. Electromagn Biol Med. 2020 Mar 10:1-10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32151189/
- [Comment] Appeals that matter or not on a moratorium on the deployment of the fifth generation, 5G, for microwave radiation. Hardell and Nyberg. Molecular and Clinical Oncology. January 22, 2020. https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/mco.2020.1984
- The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception. David Michaels. Jan 2, 2020.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44244968-the-triumph-of-doubt
- Investing for “Impact” or Investing for profit? Social Impact Bonds, pay for success, and the next wave of privatization of social services and education. School of Education, University of Colorado Boulder. Martin Carnoy, Stanford University, Roxana Marachi, San José State University. This in depth report explores Big Tech industry influence and exploitation through an “innovative” public/private finance structure called Social Impact Bonds, which could shift policy towards private schools with no oversight, collect children’s personal school data for “science” and thus “turn public services into centers for the extraction of private profit… and remove community voice and control from governance of public services.” https://nepc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PB%20Carnoy-Marachi_1.pdf
- Union of Concerned Scientists Book Review. The Triumph of Doubt Exposes the Disinformation Playbook in Action. David Michaels. Feb 14, 2020. https://blog.ucsusa.org/kathleen-rest/book-review-the-triumph-of-doubt-exposes-the-disinformation-playbook-in-action
- Dr. Lennart Hardell Letter to Swiss Confederation about ICNIRP, Roosli and Reevaluation of radiofrequency and 5G. Jan 2, 2020 – Highlights scientific flaws in ICNIRP assessment. Lettter Hardell -re: Roosli to Mrs. SommarugaSwiss Confederation Reevalaution of safety Standards, ICNIRP 5G -BERENIS_UVEK_January 2, 2020
- Distract, delay, disrupt: examples of manufactured doubt from five industries. (2019) Golderg and Vandenberg. Rev Environ Health. 2019 Jul 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31271562
- Public health and evidence-informed policy-making: The case of a commonly used herbicide. (2019) Vainio H. Scandalizes J Work Environ Health. 2019 Sep 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31486846
- Public Meets Private: Conversations Between Coca-Cola and the CDC. (2019) Hessari M et al. Milbank Q. 2019 Mar;97(1):74-90. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30693564
- Conflicts of Interest and Misleading Statements in Official Reports about the Health Consequences of Radiofrequency Radiation and Some New Measurements of Exposure Levels. (2019) Susan Pockett. Magnetochemistry 2019, 5(2), 31. May 5, 2019. https://www.mdpi.com/2312-7481/5/2/31/htm
- CTIA Answers to Your Questions About RF, Wireless and Health. Wireless Industry Association Sponsored Spin. Great read on how to twist science. July 2019. https://www.wirelesshealthfacts.com/faq/
- The WHO Coverup That is Costing Us the Earth. https://www.emfoff.com/cover-up/
- Cancer Society Executive Resigns Amid Upset Over Corporate Partnerships. By Sheila Kaplan. New York Times. Nov. 5, 2018. Cancer Society Executive Resigns Amid Upset Over Corporate Partnerships
- John Dvork: 5G Got Me Fired- After publishing an article in PC Magazine. Sept 2018. John Dvorak:5G Got Me Fired
- John Dvorak: The Problem with 5G. Commentary The Problem with 5G.
- The inconvenient truth about cancer and mobile phones: We dismiss claims about mobiles being bad for our health – but is that because studies showing a link to cancer have been cast into doubt by the industry? July 14, 2018. The Guardian. Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/14/mobile-phones-cancer-inconvenient-truths
- How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe: A Special Investigation. The disinformation campaign—and massive radiation increase—behind the 5G rollout. By Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie. March 29, 2018. The Nation. How Big Wireless made Us think Wireless Was Safe
- How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones are Safe: Writers Voice. Radio Interview starts at 30 min. Interview Mark Hartsgaard , The Nations Investigative Editor
- Dr.Birnbaum and Toxic Chemicals. Government Scientist Investigated Jan 22, 2018
- Scientific Advice on the Move: The UK mobile phone risk issue as a public experiment. Jack Stilgoe. Nature. June 2016. https://www.nature.com/articles/palcomms201628?proof=true&platform=oscar&draft=collection
A Long History of Industry Influence Over Science
The United States has a long history of excessive and damaging corporate influence on science. From tobacco, to asbestos, to DDT, to leaded gasoline, to sugar. Similar tactics used to obfuscate science then are being used now.
The telecommunications industry has a well-established successful lobbying network and uses similar language and strategies to create doubt about harm. Federal Communications Commission executive leadership either is from industry or goes into industry after serving. (9) Money is a big driver for industry influence and the Citizen’s United decision has unleashed even more funds to affect public policy decisions which favor industry. Without adequate regulation and monitoring of the wireless industry public and environmental health impacts are dismissed and ignored. Public interest groups and concerned scientists are not well funded and struggle to educate the public about risks from toxic exposures.
Key Phrases to Dismiss Science
If you are looking to dismiss harm from any number of toxic exposures that have been studied and cited in the scientific literature, you will find very effective language that makes you feel much better. It does not discuss the glaring issue of funding sources of the speaker or group they represent, among other back door exchanges that the public is unaware of. Another key tactic to manipulate public opinion is to state that the toxic exposure is actually good for you. A 2019 research article, Distract, Delay, Disrupt, explores the underlying industry strategies, including ghostwriting, used for tobacco (health), coal (black lung), Atrazine (herbicide), sugar (cardiovascular disease), Marshall institute (climate change). Milbank in 2019 highlights in his published article, Public Meets Private: Conversations Between Coca-Cola and the CDC, partnerships between government and industry that influence health professionals over public health concerns. He terms this “corporate” or “commercial” determinants of health.
Here are commonly used phrases used when issues of safety are raised.
- No conclusive evidence
- No consistent pattern
- No research to support
- Lacks scientific evidence
- Lacks scientific consensus
- Results are inconclusive
A brilliant and powerful tobacco industry has influenced science, public opinion and legislation using strategies that are models for other industries today. With tobacco, two legal settlements led to the release of 40 million pages of previously confidential tobacco industry documents that revealed profound efforts to manipulate science in several ways. (1, 22)
The tobacco lobby developed a well-financed research infrastructure that funded scientists and pressured them to accept positions favorable to the tobacco industry. They dismantled credible independent research institutes when research linked tobacco to cancer. They suppressed dissemination of research papers showing an unfavorable result toward tobacco. They concealed their industry connection with scientific papers which showed a beneficial result. They manipulated and distorted results and conclusions of scientific papers before publication to favor industry. (1,22)
The Funding Effect in Science: Tobacco Leads… Others Follow
Sheldon Krimsky, writing in the Journal of Law and Policy, The Funding Effect in Science and its Implications for the Judiciary (2005), notes, “If there were a poster-child for “the best science money could buy,” it would certainly be the tobacco industry. Through tobacco litigation and the discovery process, internal documents of cigarette manufacturers became public and revealed a systematic campaign to construct a science around tobacco safety while attempting to dismiss as “junk science” findings that connect tobacco use to excess morbidity and mortality.”
The methods used have been expanded to include other toxic exposures. He States, “Justice Castille correctly identified a corporate research strategy that has been used to fund core methodologies and develop standards of proof that support the long-term financial interests of companies. This strategy has been used to address a variety of scientific issues, including low dose effects, second-hand smoke, endocrine disrupting chemicals, ambient air quality, global warming, and even punitive damage awards by juries.”
He goes on to discuss the funding effect in drug research, cites legal opinions based on false science, and highlights the limitations of the Daubert test in federal courts. Regarding disclosure he concludes, “Considering that the disclosure of conflicts of interest fails to provide an adequate solution in the judicial setting, it follows that mere disclosure may also prove insufficient to protect the integrity of scientific research. In fact, evidence shows that even though the norms and conduct of science are believed to conform to a set of universal and inviolable principles, they are not insulated from financial conflicts of interest. Thus, the judiciary could benefit from an understanding of the means by which advocacy science surreptitiously enters the courtroom…”
“Warning: This research may contain funding bias hazardous to your decision-making, health and welfare.” (34)
Sponsorship Bias in Clinical Research
Sponsorship bias in clinical research. Lexchin in 2012 documented industry influence in the pharmaceutical industry and sponsorship. He noted, “Bias in favour of industry is apparent in every one of the themes examined with the result that research funded by industry undermines confidence in medical knowledge.” He concluded, “Bias induced by commercial concerns can be countered in one of two ways. The first is to erect a firewall between the money and the people doing the research and the data analysis. The other approach is to develop an entirely separate funding source that is independent of the pharmaceutical industry.” Tarbell suggests. “Perhaps every industry-funded study should include a Surgeon General-style warning: This research may contain funding bias hazardous to your decision-making, health and welfare.”
Industry Bias and Conflict-of-Interest Continue
Clever methods to sell products and dissolve concerns of harm abound. Ad agencies are hired to shift perception of demand. Consumer support is manufactured by industry front groups with a respectable name which hides their true identity. (13,14,15)
The Union of Concerned Scientists has identified the 5 major ways industry today inappropriately influences science with many relevant examples. (2) How Industry Corrupts Science
5 Industry Methods of Influencing Science
1) Corrupting science with suppression of research, intimidation of scientists, ghost-writing, selective publication
2) Shaping public perception by downplaying evidence, exaggerating uncertainty, vilifying scientists, hiding behind front groups, and feeding the media slanted news stories
3) Restricting agency effectiveness by corrupting advisory panels, hindering the regulatory process, exploiting the “revolving door” between corporate and government employment, censoring scientists and withholding information form the public
4) Influencing congress by spending billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions, delaying action on critical problems, asking congress to question scientific consensus
5) Expanding the influence of the judicial system to undermine science and to bully and undermine scientists
Distract, Delay, Disrupt: How industry Manufactures Doubt
In a 2019 research publication, Distract, Delay Disrupt, Goldberg and Vandenberg of the University of Massachusetts,
Asbestos Junk Science
Georgia Pacific funded junk science to remove liability in lawsuit over the use of asbestos in a Joint compound it produced in the 1970’s. The Center for Public Integrity reports on this example of well funded industry manipulated science in 2013. Facing Lawsuits Over Deadly Asbestos,Paper Giant Launched Secretive Research Program.
Sweet Little Lies: Sugar, it’s a Nutrient!
As the public and medical professionals were becoming aware that the increase in sugar consumption was associated with chronic disease in the 70’s, the sugar industry hired PR firms and researchers “for sale” to weaken public opinion against sugar. They used Big Tobacco-style tactics to create uncertainty, and effectively block scientific research for some time. This is described in a Mother Jones article in 2012
Industry lobbying Groups
Several industry lobbying groups today work on a broad range of issues that benefit corporate America.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an industry lobbying group that writes model legislation that benefits industry and then encourages states to adopt legislation by partnering with specific legislators. (3) This is a successful tactic to change laws state by state that could not be passed in a federal landscape.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is another industry lobbying group founded in 1872 and has an annual budget of more than $100 million dollars. Board members include Dow, DuPont, Exxon-Mobile. The ACC works with ALEC to create and lobby for industry favorable bills in addition to discrediting scientists who question the safety of industry products and practices.
The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is an industry funded organization founded in 1978. They are self-described as a group providing a balanced view to educate the public on issues related to chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, nutrition, biotechnology, and the environment. The founder of ACSH, Elizabeth Whelan, was known for challenging government regulations on consumer products, foods and pharmaceuticals calling their research documentation “junk science”. This term was originally intended to refer to misuse or fraudulence in science. The term has been taken up by industry and according to the detailed and well referenced book, “Trust Us , We’re Experts”by Stauber and Rampton, “Junk Science” is now used to dismiss credible scientific research which could harm industry profits. Products the ACSH has defended over the years include DDT, Asbestos, and Agent Orange, according to an investigative journalist group Source Watch. Source Watch on ACSH. A 2013 investigation of leaked documents regarding industry funding for the American Council on Science and Health has revealed long term corporate ties and notes recent efforts of the ACSH to support GMO’s, e-Cigarettes, and fracking.
Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) and The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) are two other major lobbying industry groups that are perpetually at the table in Washington, DC. CTIA spent about $10 million in 2016 for lobbying efforts. According to the Center for Responsive Politics the telecom industry spent about $88 million in lobbying services in 2016 in addition to about $10 million in campaign contributions. (12)
Federal Communications Commission (FCC): A Captured Agency and Under the Influence
The telecommunication industry also influences science, public perception and legislation in novel ways. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was created in 1934 as an independent government agency to make wired and radio communications available to all Americans for national defense and to promote safety of life and property. FCC policy was amended in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to set safety standards for wireless communications and devices.
The FCC is now considered a “Captured Agency” according to investigative journalist Norm Alster who wrote a book of the same title while a journalism fellow with the Investigative Journalism Project at Harvard University in 2015. He states the FCC is “essentially controlled by the industries they are supposed to regulate .” (9) He notes that the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) are among Washington’s top lobbying spender. In all, CTIA, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and Sprint spent roughly $45 million lobbying in 2013 with an annual spending bill of about $800 million for the communications and electronics sector in 2013-2014. According to Alster’s report, a former executive with CTIA boasted that CTIA meets with FCC officials about “500 times a year.”
Norm Alster notes ” Over the years the FCC has granted the wireless industry pretty much what it has wanted….More broadly , the FCC has again and again echoed the lobbying points of major technology interests. ” With unchecked industry influence there has been consolidation of cable and cellular telecommunications corporations. Simultaneously public safety, public health, privacy, security and consumer affordability have been overlooked. The revolving doors of industry executives fill the top spots at the FCC to help grease the political wheels. Well documented facts and figures back up his writing.
Captured Agency How the Federal Communications Commission is Dominated by the Industries it Presumably Regulates , by Norm Alster Harvard University Journalism Fellow in Edmond J Safra Center for Ethics
Telecommunications Industry: Sources of Funding and Scientific Bias
Reviews of the literature on cell phones and brain cancer have demonstrated that the mostly industry-funded research found no increase in brain tumors, while almost all of the independent studies found a significant increase in brain tumors from cell phones and cordless phones. Despite that, inconsistent findings are still cited in the literature and the press.
These studies indicate the funding source appears to have an influence. (20, 21, 22 ) Research to define effects of radiofrequency EMR on causation of brain cancer are complicated by shifts in phone usage, changes in device use, latency for brain cancer development and need for robust brain tumor registries with robust data questionnaires as well as funding bias. The weight of evidence may appear to be equal on both sides, however, taking into account inherent bias may shift the “weight of evidence” into a more precautionary perspective.
Oncologist, Dr. Lennart Hardell et al, wrote a revealing article in 2007 Secret Ties to Industry and Conflicting Interests in Cancer Research. He notes that a Swedish professor in environmental health worked as a consultant for Philip Morris for decades without reporting his employment or conflict of interest to the university he worked for. Dr. Hardell gives examples in Sweden, UK and the USA of similar conflicts of interest that need to be guarded against. He states “there is reason to suspect that editors and journal staff may suppress publication of scientific results that are adverse to industry owing to internal conflict of interest between editorial integrity and business needs.” He calls for greater transparency and regulations “that will help curb abuses as well as instruments for control and enforcement against abuses.”
Dr Lennart Hardell sent another letter January 2, 2020 to the Swiss Confederation regarding ICNIRP guidelines and how the scientific literature has been deleted, distorted and misrepresented, to justify publishing headlines and comments that state there is no harm or a question of harm from wireless technologies. Dr. Hardell states, “We are concerned that the related reports led by Martin Röösli may be influenced by his ties to the wireless industry (Conflicts of Interests). This can be the situation for other members of the evaluating group as well.”
Dr. Lennart Hardell and Dr. Rainer Nyberg penned another important report on the deployment of 5G, Appeals that matter or not on a moratorium on the deployment of the fifth generation, 5G, for microwave radiation, explaining in detail why the 5G Appeal is so valuable and incorruptible. He points out, “However, with the deployment of the 5th generation of microwave radiation, 5G, even the obsolete ICNIRP guidelines may be exceeded and may become an obstacle for the deployment of 5G (20)… as already published (9,10), the ICNIRP guidelines may be contradictory to a vast number of existing scientific reports demonstrating the harmful effects of RF radiation.”
The Interphone Study was initiated in 2000 as an international set of case-controlled studies in 13 countries to assess the relationship between brain cancer risk and phone use. Many use this study to state there is no increase in brain cancer with cell phone use. A closer look indicates that with the highest user group there is an association.
The World Health Organization (WHO) commented on the study, “the largest ever international study of mobile phone safety has concluded that the devices do not raise the risk of brain cancer, except for a possible slight increase in tumours among the most intensive users. ….. Biases and errors limit the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn from these analyses and prevent a causal interpretation.” (17)
The WHO also notes that at the time of the study cell phone use was not prevalent. They state, “The majority of subjects were not heavy mobile phone users by today’s standards. The median lifetime cumulative call time was around 100 hours, with a median of 2 to 21⁄2 hours of reported use per month. The cut-point for the heaviest 10% of users (1640 hours lifetime), spread out over 10 years, corresponds to about a half-hour per day.” (17)
Sources of Funding and Positive Findings
In 2007, Dr. Anke Huss, a researcher with the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Bern, Switzerland, examined the source of funding and results regarding the association of cell phone use and brain tumors with a large systematic review. He found that “Studies funded exclusively by industry reported the largest number of outcomes, but were least likely to report a statistically significant result.” They used only 59 high quality studies out of the 222 that were potentially relevant. For industry studies, 33% of the time an effect was found whereas non-industry studies showed an 82% association. In addition, they found that none of the 31 peer reviewed journals listed conflicts of interest for the authors. (20)
A 2009 Meta-Analysis of mobile phone use and brain cancer was led by Dr. Seung-Kwon Myung, of the National Cancer Center in Korea. (21) They found that there was a mild increase in the risk of tumors with cell phone use. The most significant effects were seen in the highest quality studies, where phone use was 10 years or longer and with ipsilateral phone use. They state “all of the studies by Hardell et al used blinding to the status of patient cases or controls at the interview and were categorized as having a high methodologic quality when assessed based on the NOS, whereas most of the INTERPHONE-related studies and studies by other groups did not use blinding and were thus categorized as having low methodologic quality.”
They also noted the Hardell group was supported by grants from independent sources while most of the INTERPHONE-related studies were mainly supported by funds originally derived from industry, i.e. the Mobile Manufacturers Forum and the Global System for Mobile Communication Association. Myung concludes that an increased risk of tumors is linked to mobile phone use when low-biased studies are used and more prospective cohort studies are needed to provide a higher level of evidence.
In 2017 Dr. Prasad , an Indian neurologist, medical researcher and head of the department of Neurology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi (AIIMS), also discovered an interesting pattern looking at risk of brain tumors and cell phone use. His team analyzed results of 22 case-controlled studies conducted globally on 48,452 participants from 1966 to 2016 that reported the results for the risk of brain tumour. He found that government-funded studies show increased risk of brain tumor on long-term exposure to mobile phone radiation while industry-funded research tended to underestimate the risk.
He stated, “Our aim is not to denigrate the technology that has revolutionized the way we communicate. We want people to avoid non-essential use to reduce the risk of health hazards such as brain tumour,”. (27)
Money and Media Ownership
We would be naive not to know that money has an influence in media. Forbes in 2016 highlighted These 15 Billionaires Own America’s News Media Companies.
The Center for Internet & Society Stanford Law School wrote an online book that took over 2 decades to complete. The piece entitled MEDIA OWNERSHIP and DEMOCRACY in the DIGITAL INFORMATION AGE: Promoting Diversity with First Amendment Principles and Market Structure Analysis, is a thorough analysis of how the internet has been effective at giving us information but lacking in true are speech due to consolidated ownership.
Their conclusions state, “If the empirical record shows anything, it shows that over the past two decades lax antitrust enforcement and a narrowing view of First Amendment policy by federal agencies have allowed media markets to become far too concentrated. A vibrant forum for democratic discourse demands many more media voices, especially if the focus is on freedom of speech, not freedom of listening.
Advocates of elimination of the limits on ownership harp on the fact that there are more listening/viewing choices than ever. More is not the issue; enough is the question. Listening/viewing is not the central concern; speech is the focal point.
Three networks were certainly not enough; but eight (or four broadcast news stations) are not enough either, not when the average designated market area has almost two million people. By these standards, electronic voices, particularly the right to speak with a TV license, are scarce indeed.
The claim that the Internet levels the playing field between Joe Six Pack and the major media owners should not be taken as an excuse to allow greater concentration of broadcast voices. It is absurd on its face, but even if it were true, it would easily support the proposition that current holders of broadcast licenses should not mind if they are prevented from acquiring any more licenses. After all, if they want more distribution, they can use the Internet. Why should anyone hold two licenses, when 99.999% of those who might want a license in their local area cannot have one?
Indeed, we might carry the argument one step farther. The networks should be given a reasonable time period to migrate their distribution to the Internet and give the spectrum back to the people, who own it. As suggested in the introduction, it could then be used to empower millions of people to find an electronic voice through unlicensed use of the spectrum. The networks would protest, of course. The reason is simple – the TV broadcast spectrum to which they hold exclusive licenses has immensely greater reach and power than the Internet addresses they can easily obtain.
Hundreds of national entertainment channels controlled by a handful of companies may produce variety for consumers as viewers, although even that claim is subject to question. But, they certainly do not create an abundance of opportunity for citizens to be speakers. And, they do not provide the diversity of information necessary for citizens to make informed decisions about the increasingly complex and demanding set of local, national and international issues confronting the nation.
Money Talks: Industry Ties to ICNIRP
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation, who sets standards worldwide for the safety of wireless Radiofrequency Radiation, has been criticized as being biased with industry influence of some of it’s members.
The funding of one ICNIRP member, Leeka Kheifets, has been followed by microwaves News in this group of articles. She studied the breast cancer cluster in the Literature Building at the University of California San Diego Campus (UCSD) in 2009. For much of her career Kheifets worked for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an arm of the electric utility industry. The Microwave News article explains the convoluted connections and methods of industry suppression of science.
Here are some articles on ICNIRP’S flawed assessments on RF harms and conflicts of interest.
- The ICNIRP Cartel. Moskowitz. (2020) ICNIRP’s Revised RF Exposure Limits Will Ignore Expert Opinions of Most EMF Scientists. https://www.saferemr.com/2018/07/icnirps-exposure-guidelines-for-radio.html
- The ICNIRP Cartel by Investigate Europe. https://www.investigate-europe.eu/publications/the-5g-mass-experiment/
- ICNIRP Cartel Interactive Map by investigate Europe. WHO’s Who’s. Click on map to see industry r name connection to industry. https://www.kumu.io/Investigate-Europe/whos-who
- Hardell (2020). Letter to the Swiss Confederation regarding ICNIRP guidelines https://mdsafetech.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/lettter-hardell-roosli-to-swiss-confederation-mrs.-sommaruga-reevalaution-of-safety-standards-icnirp-5g-berenis_uvek_january-2020.pdf
- Hardell and Carlberg (2019) Comments on the US National Toxicology Program technical reports on toxicology and carcinogenesis study in rats exposed to whole-body radiofrequency radiation at 900 MHz and in mice exposed to whole-body radiofrequency radiation at 1,900 MHz. Int J Oncol. 2019 Jan;54(1):111-127. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30365129
- (Microwave News (2019) Will WHO Kick Its ICNIRP Habit? Non-Thermal Effects Hang in the Balance. Repacholi’s Legacy of Industry Cronyism. https://microwavenews.com/news-center/can-who-kick-icnirp-habit
- Melnick (2018) Commentary on the utility of the National Toxicology Program study on cell phone radiofrequency radiation data for assessing human health risks despite unfounded criticisms aimed at minimizing the findings of adverse health effects. Melnick RL. Environmental Research. 2019 Jan;168:1-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30243215
- ICNIRP “Note” on NTP and Ramizzani Institute studies. (2018) April 9, 2018 https://www.icnirp.org/cms/upload/publications/ICNIRPnote2018.pdf
- Hardell (2017) World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation and health – a hard nut to crack (Review). Int J Oncol. 2017 Aug;51(2):405-413. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28656257
CITA Answers to Your Questions About RF, Wireless and Health
CITA has put out a frequently asked questions about wireless radiation and health. Read for yourself between the lines to see how dismissal, distortion, distractions and redirection can make all of this seem fine. Sound familiar? https://www.wirelesshealthfacts.com/faq/
“Radiofrequency energy from wireless devices and networks, including radiofrequencies used by 5G, have not been shown to cause health problems, according to the international scientific community. To cite one example, the Food and Drug Administration said, “Based on our ongoing evaluation of this issue, the totality of the available scientific evidence continues to not support adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at or under the current radiofrequency energy exposure limits.”
Cell Phone Russian Roulette
In 2001 research engineer and product designer for portable phones, Robert Kane, published an important but not well known book called “Cellular Telephone Russian Roulette: A Historical and Scientific Perspective.” (25) The book summarizes the history and science of the cell phone industry and tactics used to minimize or ignore warnings from scientists who found radiofrequency radiation could be harmful. As an executive designer at Motorola, he worked on radiofrequency mobile radios, microwave telecommunications systems, video display systems, and research on the biological effects of radiofrequencies. Dr. Kane developed a brain tumor in 1992 and blamed his work on cellular antennas for his cancer. (26) He died of his brain tumor several years after his book was published.
He states “Many of the problems of the industry could have been avoided had the influences of the scientific researchers superseded those of the product marketers. But the industry chose to ignore researchers who were providing unfavorable answers. The industry instead organized a broad and comprehensive public relations campaign to persuade users of portable cellular telephones that the operation was safe. The cellular telephone industry engaged in the business of preaching a ‘belief system’.”
First Court Case Concludes Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer: Industry Studies Dismissed
The first court case won by the plaintiff was in Italy where they found that the excessive use of cell phones caused a person’s cancer. In the judgement the key element was that the judge removed evidence from industry and only looked at the non-industry funded studies, all or most of which showed a positive association between cell phone use and cancer. Cancer Linked to Cell Phone Use 2017
Is the Tech Industry the New Tobacco?
Psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Dunckley in her article Is the Tech Industry the New Big Tobacco? discusses the similarities between Tobacco and Technology encouraging us to view technology in a different light. She reminds us that 1) technology is an industry beholden to shareholders 2) Industry is motivated by profit not scientific truth 3) Early warnings of harm were dismissed and undermined 4) Industry fought regulation as a violation of personal freedom but with data from internet use, especially for children, being “mined” individual freedom is being eroded 5) Industry funded studies to counteract independent research showing harm 6) Industry “spins” healthy education technology just as tobacco spins “safe cigarettes”
Disconnect: Scientists vs Industry
Epidemiologist Dr. Devra Davis, in 2010 published a book documenting how experienced scientists were discredited and lost their jobs when their research uncovered harm from radiofrequency radiation emitted from common wireless devices. Her book, Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family, is an alarming and critical publication in this era of industry dominance over public health. Her book received the Silver Medal from Nautilus Books for courageous investigation in 2013. (29)
Dr. Beatrice Golomb, UCSD Professor on Deceptive Pharmaceutical Industry Tactics
In one of the most important and eye opening discussions of industry influence in science, Professor Beatrice Golomb, MD, carefully examines the extensive deceptive methods pharmaceutical companies use to spin science towards favorable results for their drugs to be approved. She looks at scientific analysis, conflicts of interest, how studies are funded, how they are performed to influence the outcome, how they are published, who really does the research (ghostwriting), transparency, how the conclusions and data are opposite, and the ever present dilemma of accurate statistical analysis in studies. Dr. Golomb uses the statin drug as an example of how manufacturers have been able to promote this drug for populations that may not actually benefit from it.
Doubt is Their Product
In his book “Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your health”, epidemiologist and former Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Heath in the Department of Energy, David Michaels accurately documents how scientific integrity was compromised not only for cigarettes but also for lead, asbestos, hexavalent chromium(6), beryllium and other hazardous chemicals when attempting to set protective health standards. The title of his book, he notes, is from a cigarette executive who wrote “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the “body of fact” that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” (22)
Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation
In this CBC broadcast epidemiologist and public health expert Dr. Devra Davis is interviewed about her 2010 book which investigates industry influence in the telecommunications industry towards science and scientists. Dr. Davis is author of three books, including Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family
Articles Industry Influence and Science
- Not Entirely Reliable: Private Scientific Organizations and Risk Regulation – The Case of Electromagnetic Fields. (2013) Pascual GD. European Journal of Risk Regulation. Volume 4, Issue 1. March 2013 , pp. 29-42. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/european-journal-of-risk-regulation/article/not-entirely-reliable-private-scientific-organizations-and-risk-regulation-the-case-of-electromagnetic-fields/B6160849ECF378D24E717E930E30287C
- Source of funding in experimental studies of mobile phone use on health: Update of systematic review. (2010) Sources de financement et études expérimentales sur les effets sur la santé du téléphone mobile : Mise à jour d’une revue systématique. Comptes Rendus Physique. van Nieop et al. (2010) Volume 11, Issues 9-10. November–December 2010, Pages 622-627.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1631070510001465
1) Tobacco Industry Influence on Science and Scientists in Germany. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470431/
2) How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public’s Expense (2012). http://www.ucsusa.org/center-science-and-democracy/promoting-scientific-integrity/how-corporations-corrupt-science.html#.WWWcwHeZNo4
3) ALEC’s influence Over Lawmaking in State Legislators. Dec 6,2013. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/alecs-influence-over-lawmaking-in-state-legislatures/
4) In new battleground over toxic reform, American Chemistry Council targets the states. Sept. 9, 2013.https://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/09/09/13323/new-battleground-over-toxic-reform-american-chemistry-council-targets-states
5) Bad Chemistry: How the Chemical Industry’s Trade Association Undermines the Policies That Protect Us (2015) . http://www.ucsusa.org/center-science-and-democracy/fighting-misinformation/american-chemistry-council-report#.WWWpfHeZNo4
6) List Of US State Bills Streamlining Wireless Small Cells/DAS/Nodes On Rights Of Way. https://ehtrust.org/list-us-state-bills-streamlining-wireless-small-cellsdasnodes-rights-way/
7) You Tube- Texas Small Cell Bill Streamlining Wireless Would Cost State Millions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwMA-3uY-ZA
8) AT&T grudgingly accepts $428 million in annual government funding. 8/28/15. https://arstechnica.com/business/2015/08/att-grudgingly-accepts-428-million-in-annual-government-funding/
9) Captured agency: How the FCC is dominated by the industries it presumably regulates. Alster, N (2015) Harvard University. https://ethics.harvard.edu/files/center-for-ethics/files/capturedagency_alster.pdf
10) Consumer Reports (2015). “Does cell-phone radiation cause cancer?” http://bit.ly/CRoncellphoneradiation
11) World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation and health – a hard nut to crack (Review).(2017) Lennart Hardell. International Journal of Oncology. Published online June 21, 2017. https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/ijo.2017.4046
12) Center for Responsive Politics. Telecom Services 2016. https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indusclient.php?id=B09&year=2016
13) Public Interest Pretenders. Consumer Reports. 1994.Vol 59. http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/9406171432/public-interest-pretenders
14) Toxic Sludge is Good for You. John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton. 1995. Common Courage Press.
15) Chemical companies, Big Tobacco and the toxic products in your home. Chicago Tribune. 2014. http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/flames/index.html
16) Interphone study reports on mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. May 17, 2010. https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2010/pdfs/pr200_E.pdf
17) Interphone study on mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. August 6, 2010. http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/cancer/news/news/2010/7/interphone-study-on-mobile-phone-use-and-brain-cancer-risk
18) Cellular Telephones and Brain Tumors. https://dceg.cancer.gov/research/how-we-study/exposure-assessment/cellular-telephones-brain-tumors
19) U.S. population data show no increase in brain cancer rates during period of expanding cell phone use. March 8, 2012. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/press-releases/2012/GliomaCellPhoneUse
20) Source of funding and results of studies of health effects of mobile phone use: systematic review of experimental studies. Huss et al. Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Jan;115(1):1-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1797826/
21) Mobile Phone Use and Risk of Tumors: A Meta-Analysis (2009) Seung-Kwon Myung, Woong Ju, Diana D. McDonnell, Yeon Ji Lee, Gene Kazinets, Chih-Tao Cheng, and Joel M. Moskowitz. Mobile Phone Use and Risk of Tumors: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 20(33):5565-5572. Nov 20, 2009. (Published online first Oct 13, 2009.) http://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/jco.2008.21.6366
22) Estimating the risk of brain tumors from cellphone use: Published case- control studies. LL Morgan Pathophysiology. 2009 Aug;16(2-3):137-47. Epub 2009 Apr 7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19356911
23) “Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health.” David Michael’s. Oxford university Press. 2008
24) UW Scientist Henry Lai Makes Waves in the Cell Phone Industry. UW scientist Dr. Henry Lai never set out to link cell phones to cancer, but his work—and efforts. January 2011. http://www.seattlemag.com/article/uw-scientist-henry-lai-makes-waves-cell-phone-industry
25) Cellular Telephone Russian Roulette: A Historical and Scientific Perspective. 2001. Robert Kane, PhD. Vantage Press. https://www.icems.eu/docs/Robert_C_Kane.pdf
26) Blamed for tumor: A 45-year-old engineer for Motorola Inc… . December 15, 1993. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1993-12-15/business/9312150021_1_antenna-phones-motorola
27) Mobile phone use and risk of brain tumours: a systematic review of association between study quality, source of funding, and research outcomes. Prasad et al. (2017) Neurol Sci. 2017 May;38(5):797-810. . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28213724
28) Industry-funded research plays down risk from mobiles: Study. March 6, 2017. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/industry-funded-research-plays-down-risk-from-mobiles-study/articleshow/57485854.cm
29) Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family. Dr. Devra Davis. 2010.
30) Video. Canadian Broadcasting Company. Disconnect 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xtd-y2C9lH4
31) Secret Ties to Industry and Conflicting Interests in Cancer Research. (2007) Hardell L et al. Am J Ind Med. 2007 Mar;50(3):227-33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=10.1002%2Fajim.20357
33) The Funding Effect in Science and its Implications for the Judiciary (2005) Sheldon Krimsky. Journal of Law and Policy. Vol 13, Issue 1. Science for Judges. III. https://brooklynworks.brooklaw.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?httpsredir=1&article=1262&context=jlp
34) Funding Bias: The Hidden Danger Lurking in Industry Studies. David Hatch. Tarbell. April 25, 2018. https://tarbell.org/2018/04/funding-bias-the-hidden-danger-lurking-in-industry-studies/
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41) The Association Between Funding By Commercial Interests and Study Outcome in Randomized Controlled Drug Trials (2001). 18 FAMILYPRACTICE 565, 567 John Yaphe et al.,
42) Research into Smoking or Nicotine and Human Cognitive Performance: Does the Source of Funding Make a Difference? (1997). 92 ADDICTION 1423, 1426 (1997). Christina Turner & George J. Spilich
42) Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies. How the industry kept scientists from asking: Does sugar kill? Gary Taubes and Cristen Kearns Couzens. Nov/Dec 2012. Mother Jones. https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign/
43) The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception. David Michaels. Jan 2, 2020.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44244968-the-triumph-of-doubt
44) [Comment] Notes on parliament hearing in Tallinn, Estonia June 4, 2019 as regards the deployment of the fifth generation, 5G, of wireless communication. Lennart Hardell. November 18, 2019. Spandidos Publications. https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/wasj.2019.28
45) [Comment] Appeals that matter or not on a moratorium on the deployment of the fifth generation, 5G, for microwave radiation. Lennart Hardell and Rainer Nyberg. Jan 22, 2020. Molecular and Clinical Oncology. https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/mco.2020.1984
46) Top 5 academic institutions leading in 5G research. Fierce Wireless. July 6, 2015. https://www.fiercewireless.com/special-report/top-5-academic-institutions-leading-5g-research
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