The “unbought” truth of electrical pollution

Dr. Weeks’ Comment: Here is a deft example of why the truth (all that is fit to print) rarely finds its way into media which is indebted to big corporate dollars.


NY Times article on Berkeley cellphone ordinance puts the Times at the forefront of the debate

Comments of my friend, Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D.

In my opinion, the story that the New York Times will publish tomorrow in its print edition about the Berkeley cell phone ordinance is a travesty if it reads like the online article it published today, “Cellphone Ordinance Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate.”

Over the past six years, the New York Times has failed to cover many major news stories about cell phone radiation and health. If the Times considers the story below to be a balanced and objective analysis, then it would be better if the paper does not cover this topic at all.

On July 1, I was interviewed for this story by Carol Pogash, the author of this article. She said she had seen my ongoing blog about the Berkeley ordinance and had read the story in The Guardian. I explained to her why The Guardian covered the International EMF Scientist Appeal as part of the story about the Berkeley ordinance.

Ms. Pogash informed me that she was not interested in the science. I responded positively as the ordinance is really not about the science (although the CTIA wants to argue the science). The Berkeley cell phone “right to know” ordinance is simply a consumer disclosure law which brings to the consumer’s attention the cell phone manufacturers’ safety information that the FCC mandates manufacturers provide to consumers.

Throughout our conversation, Ms. Pogash requested several times that I not provide additional information as she could only write 1,000-1,200 words. I did share with her my concerns that the Times may publish a biased article. These concerns stemmed from the few pieces that the paper published on wireless radiation. I mentioned how the Timestreated Nick Bilton’s column in March ( “Wireless Technology Health Risks –The New York Times Fuels the Debate”).

After our conversation I emailed Ms. Pogash several messages over the next week as I was concerned that she might change her mind and write about the science. I offered to discuss the science with her and sent her the following links which I thought were most relevant to the Berkeley cell phone ordinance:

International EMF Scientist Appeal

Effect of Mobile Phones on Sperm Quality: Summary of a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Doctors Caution Pregnant Women About Wireless Radiation Health Risks

Gandhi, Om. Yes the Children are more exposed to radio-frequency energy from mobile telephones than adults. IEEE Spectrum. PP(99):1. Jun 23, 2015.

“Captured agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is dominated by the industries it presumably regulates”

Update on Berkeley Cell Phone “Right to Know” Ordinance

Why did the New York Times publish such a biased review of the science today in the article that appears below? Is this just poor journalism or does the Times have conflicts of interest in covering this topic?

In the first quarter of 2015, the Times’ total advertising revenue amounted to $150 million or 39% of its total revenue. How much of this was due to telecommunications advertising?

Does the Times have another potential conflict of interest? Carlos Slim is the paper’s largest shareholder, and most of this billionaire’s fortune was made in telecommunications (“Is Mexican Billionaire Carlos Slim Becoming The New York Times’ Largest Investor Purely Business?”)?

Read the article below and decide for yourself whether this news story is consistent with the Times‘ motto, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

If you are concerned about the objectivity of this news story, I suggest you write Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor for the New York Times at

Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D.

Cellphone Ordinance Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate

Carol Pogash, New York Times, Jul 21, 2015  (to appear in print edition on Jul 22)

Photo caption: A cellphone user near the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. An ordinance passed by the city in May requires retailers to warn customers that the phones may be hazardous to their health. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

BERKELEY, Calif. ”” Leave it to Berkeley: This city, which has led the nation in passing all manner of laws favored by the left, has done it again. This time, the city passed a measure ”” not actually backed by science ”” requiring cellphone stores to warn customers that the products could be hazardous to their health, presumably by emitting dangerous levels of cancer-causing radiation.

Under the so-called Right to Know ordinance, passed unanimously in May by the Berkeley City Council, retailers are supposed to notify customers, starting in August, that “you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure” to radio frequency radiation by carrying a cellphone in a pants or shirt pocket, or tucked into a bra. The potential risk, the warning continues, “is greater for children.”

Even supporters of the ordinance acknowledge that there is no definitive, scientific link between cellphones and cancer, although they argue that it may take years for cancers to develop. The American Cancer Society says that cases of people developing cancer after carrying cellphones may be coincidental or anecdotal. But some supporters are undeterred, noting that there are similar warnings in the fine print of cellphone manuals, and that the Berkeley warning is carefully written to reflect that language, albeit with additional cautionary words.

Photo caption: Radio frequency-shielded handsets plugged into Ellie Marks’s iPhone. Ms. Marks, the founder of the California Brain Tumor Association, said she believes that her husband contracted brain cancer from often having a cellphone pressed to his ear. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times 

“We want to raise awareness,” said Ellie Marks, the founder of the California Brain Tumor Association. Ms. Marks does not live in Berkeley but brought her case here because, she said, “Berkeley has a reputation for taking progressive action.” She said she is convinced that her husband, Alan, a real estate agent, contracted brain cancer at age 56 from often having a cellphone pressed to his ear.

Not surprisingly, the cellphone industry is not allowing such insinuations to go unchallenged. A few weeks after the law passed, CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group, filed a First Amendment lawsuit against Berkeley, charging that retailers cannot be forced to say something that is “false.” A hearing is set for Aug. 6 in federal court in San Francisco, and the ordinance will not go into effect until the matter is settled.

Theodore B. Olson, a lawyer with the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who was solicitor general under President George W. Bush, represents CTIA (formerly known as the Cellular Telephone Industries Association) and said in an email that the Berkeley ordinance was “alarmist” and that it “violates the most fundamental principles of the First Amendment.”

In its lawsuit, the trade group said there was no safety concern “no matter how the phone is worn.”

Many doctors and scientists tend to agree. “X-rays, which emit ionizing radiation, are known to cause adverse biological effects at high doses including cancer,” said Jerrold T. Bushberg, a medical physicist and a professor of radiology and radiation oncology at the University of California, Davis. Cellphones, which emit non-ionizing radiation, do not, he said.

Speaking for himself and as a representative of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, Dr. Bushberg said that possible connections between cellphones and cancer have been studied exhaustively. “We”˜ve been looking for signs of adverse effects at low levels for over 50 years without success,” he said. “We can’t say it’s impossible, but if there is a risk it would be very, very low, or we would have seen an increase in brain cancers.”

If cellphones were carcinogenic, Dr. Bushberg said, researchers would have seen an increase in brain cancer in Scandinavian countries, where cellphones have been used longer and where, because of socialized medicine, excellent cancer registries exist. That has not happened, he said.

Photo caption: Max Anderson, right, a Berkeley City Council  member, helped write the ordinance on cellphone warnings. “Even if the science isn’t firm,” he said, “if there’s a risk, we should proceed with caution.” Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times 

At the heart of the debate is “simply one word: radiation,” said Robert Cahn, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Just because cellphones emit radiation doesn’t make them dangerous,” he said. Other devices that emit low-energy radio frequency radiation and that have not proved harmful include baby monitors, garage door openers, wireless routers and smart meters.

Nevertheless, Berkeley has a habit of passing first-in-the-nation laws that seem radical but are promptly copied by other municipalities. The city has led the way on a variety of initiatives creating smoking bans, a sanctuary for immigrants in the country illegally, a Styrofoam ban and health benefits for domestic partners. So if Berkeley succeeds in its fight to warn people about cellphones, can Cambridge, Mass., and other cities be far behind?

“If you can get it passed in Berkeley, you have a beginning,” said Susan Wengraf, a City Council member. “If you can’t, forget it, or come back three years later.”

On the streets of Berkeley, reviews for the ordinance were mixed. “Labeling things that have a potential threat is always good,” said Benjamin Fahrer, a farmer who said he creates “urban agriculture on rooftops.” He likened the new law to notifying the public about secondhand smoke and genetically modified foods.

Bill Doran, an engineer from Pasadena who had his cellphone out while waiting in line for ice cream, said, “I’m a little skeptical about cellphones causing harm.” He was more concerned “that I’m not able to get reception here.”

At a phone store here, Calico Rose said the law would not change the way she carries her phone. She demonstrated by tucking her cellphone in her wallet, which she pressed into her bra. “It would probably take substantial use to cause cancer,” she said.

Nevertheless, a Berkeley City Council member who helped write the legislation, Max Anderson, said he had appealed to his colleagues in May to pass the ordinance on ethical grounds. “Even if the science isn’t firm, if there’s a risk, we should proceed with caution,” he said.

Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School, and Robert Post, the dean of Yale Law School and an expert on the First Amendment, have agreed to defend Berkeley, pro bono. “The First Amendment is being contorted to all sorts of wrong ends,” Mr. Lessig said.

“We’re not intending to challenge the science of cellphones,” Mr. Lessig said, speaking from his home landline. “We’re just making people aware of existing regulations.”

Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director
Center for Family and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley

Electromagnetic Radiation Safety


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