Posts Tagged ‘safety’
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 18, 2013
This recent silliness by “Doctor” Oz came to my attention: apparently, during a recent show he took seriously the notion that women shouldn’t carry cell phones in their bras because it could give them breast cancer. My skeptical colleague Dr. David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine summarizes Oz’s idiocy and fear-mongering here…
… The story aired on December 6 and was entitled Why You Should Keep Your Cell Phone Out of Your Bra. The entire segment, lasting ten minutes or so, is one blatant piece of fear mongering. Even by the usual low standards of a typical Dr. Oz segment, this one was bad. How bad? I’ll give you a taste. Let me start just by asking what you might expect in a segment claiming a link between an environmental exposure of some sort and a specific cancer? You’d expect some actual scientific evidence, wouldn’t you? Some epidemiology, perhaps, showing that women who hold their cell phones in their bras have a higher risk of breast cancer, perhaps with some relative risks that were at least statistically significant. You might expect some scientific evidence suggesting why the proposed mechanism is plausible. You might even expect that there would be convincing (or at least suggestive) evidence that women who put their cell phones in their bras, when they develop breast cancer, develop it more frequently on the side where they stick their cell phone. These would be reasonable things to expect that, even though they wouldn’t be convincing proof, would at least raise concerns.
There was none of that at all. Zero. Nada. Zip. In fact, I was shocked at how evidence-free this whole segment was. Usually Oz at least tries to slather a patina of scientific evidence on his pseudoscience. OK, maybe not usually, but he does at least sometimes try when he’s not doing a story on alternative medicine, “complementary and alternative medicine,” or “integrative medicine,” anyway. Not here. It’s as if Dr. Oz’s producers weren’t even trying for this one. …
If you want a good analysis that thrashes the hell out of Oz’s claims from a medical perspective, definitely read through all of Dr. Gorski’s blog post. Seeing as how I’m not a medical doctor, I won’t rehash his analysis here; but I am a physics professor, so what I can do is go through the basic physics of why it is implausible that cell phones are even physically capable of causing cancer. In fact, I’ve written numerous posts on this topic already…
This first post is probably the most thorough on the fundamental physics of how electromagnetic radiation/waves (also known as light) are generated and propagate; also included is a basic primer on the different kinds of EM waves, the EM spectrum, what role frequency and energy of light play in these issues, and the all important difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Here’s the upshot: cell phones emit non-ionizing (i.e. non-cancer causing) radiation.
This article about a hysterical politician in Maine points out the implications of allowing basic scientific literacy to be trumped by the kind of psuedoscience and fear-mongering propagated by “Doctor” Oz and his ilk.
Just a more up-to-date article outlining some more research from the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark after it looked at more than 350,000 people with mobile phones over an 18-year period. Conclusion: even while looking for supposed long-term negative effects, none were found.
Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo, Uncategorized | Tagged: bra, breast cancer, cancer, cell phones, David Gorski, DNA, doctor, Doctor Oz, Dr. David Gorski, Dr. Oz, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, light, medical, medicine, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, science-based medicine, show, skeptic, skepticism, television, TV, wi-fi | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 1, 2011
Okay, I’ve said it before, and no doubt I will have to say it again, but here goes… there is no causal connection between cell phone use and cancer! Not only is it physically implausible, but there is no solid research showing such a connection; in fact, the research shows quite the opposite, as evidenced by this recent article from the BBC News…
By Nick Triggle Health correspondent, BBC News
Mobile phone safety has been much debated over the past two decades
Further research has been published suggesting there is no link between mobile phones and brain cancer.
The risk mobiles present has been much debated over the past 20 years as use of the phones has soared.
The latest study led by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark looked at more than 350,000 people with mobile phones over an 18-year period.
Researchers concluded users were at no greater risk than anyone else of developing brain cancer.
The findings, published on the British Medical Journal website, come after a series of studies have come to similar conclusions. …
Posted in environmental hysteria, physics denial/woo | Tagged: BBC, BBC News, brain, British Medical Journal, cancer, cell phones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, light, medicine, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 21, 2011
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization rather irresponsibly scared the hell out of a lot of people when they reported a link between cell phone use and cancer. Of course, as I’ve mentioned in the past, we know of no plausible physical mechanism by which cell phones (or low frequency EMFs in general) can cause cancer; for a really detailed article on this issue, I highly recommend Orac’s post at Respectful Insolence.
But, while Orac’s article is excellent from a technical and medical standpoint, I think the best response to this scaremongering from the WHO comes from satirist Stephen Colbert :)
Posted in environmental hysteria, humor, physics denial/woo | Tagged: cancer, cell phones, Colbert Report, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, funny, health, humor, ionizing radiation, light, medicine, National Research Council, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, Stephen Colbert, WHO, wi-fi, World Health Organization | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 25, 2011
I’m very excited to (finally!) let you all know about a behind-the-scenes project that I’ve been assisting with for quite some time now: a joint effort between two skeptical organizations, the Women Thinking Free Foundation and James Randi Educational Foundation, to conduct survey research & understand the opinions of parents regarding vaccines, vaccine safety, and the effect(s) that anti-vaccine propaganda might have upon their decisions. We feel that this information is vital to have if we are to be effective in countering the spread of this deceitful & dangerous fear-mongering.
For more details on this joint effort, I now refer you to this press release from the JREF…
LOS ANGELES—At the start of National Infant Immunization Week, the Women Thinking Free Foundation (WTFF) and the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) announced they are joining together for a new research project aimed at understanding the spread of the unfounded “vaccine panic” that prevents some parents from getting important immunizations for their children.
“Misinformation about vaccines isn’t just a concern for scientific skeptics, it’s now a public health concern.” said WTFF President Elyse Anders. “There are millions of parents right now who are making decisions about immunization for their children, who are trying to make sense of the conflicting information they’re getting from the media. The research we’re conducting with the JREF will help us understand how parents make those decisions, and what information will help them give their kids the best start in life.”
The joint project is an opinion survey, already underway, that will include data from hundreds of parents of young children by the time survey gathering is complete. The surveys are being collected by volunteers at events where parents may be especially vulnerable to anti-vaccine messages. When the research is completed next spring, the JREF will be make the results freely available to public health advocates to help inform their efforts to support childhood immunity.
“Our goal is to help save lives,” said JREF President D.J. Grothe. “Although the scientific community has done a good job refuting the misinformation of the most vocal anti-scientific anti-vaccine campaigners, we don’t really know what information is getting through to the parents who need it. We want to help parents get the unbiased information they need to know that they’re making the healthiest choice when they give their child immunity from dangerous diseases.”
The JREF-WTFF project aims to fill gaps in the skeptical movement’s understanding of the vaccine panic. The opinion survey asks specific questions about parents’ beliefs and fears about immunization, their media consumption, and their conversations with friends, family, and doctors. The survey should identify the ideas and information parents have heard both for and against immunization, and which they found most important in making their decisions. …
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: activism, anti-vaccinationist, anti-vaccine, anti-vaccine movement, anti-vax, AVM, children, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, opinion, parents, research, safety, skepticism, survey, vaccines, vax, Women Thinking Free, Women Thinking Free Foundation, WTFF | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 27, 2010
Last October I posted about a really crappy piece of “journalism” in the New York Post regarding a supposed link between cellphone use and cancer. The punchline was that the headline-grubbing morons at the NYPost ran their story before the actual study had been published!
Well, now the actual study by the real scientists & researchers involved has been published, and – lo and behold – it paints a very different picture from the fear-mongering goobers at the NYPost. In part, their conclusion states:
“Overall, no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma was observed with use of mobile phones.”
For reference, the entire study is available here in PDF format. Now of course I’m not surprised in the least by these results, seeing as how, based upon the laws of physics as we know them, there is no plausible mechanism by which such low-energy emissions from cellphones could cause cancer!
One would hope that various media outlets would take a lesson from this fiasco, but I suppose some people are more interested in selling paper than responsible news reporting.
Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo | Tagged: cancer, cell phones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, journalism, light, media, medicine, National Research Council, New York Post, news, NY Post, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 15, 2010
Yes, we’ve all been hearing in the media lately about how Toyota is issuing major recalls for many of its most popular vehicles, such as the Camry & Prius. The problems, we are told, range from sticky accelerator pedals to brakes that don’t function properly. In addition, the media have made a really big point of noting that the accelerator problem has likely led to a whopping 19 deaths over the last decade!!! ZOMG!!!11!1
Errr… that’s it? 19 deaths in a decade? Really, that’s the big news? Not to sound cold & heartless, but this seems so like the making of a molehill into a mountain in an effort by the media to keep a story going, when it’s obviously well past its “sell by” date. To get a little perspective, let’s take a look at this responsible article by NPR on this issue…
Most Auto Accidents Caused By Drivers, Not Defects
Driving a Toyota may feel pretty risky these days, given all the scary stories about sudden acceleration, failing brakes and recalled vehicles. But that feeling has a lot more to do with emotion than statistics, experts say. That’s because defective vehicles are almost never the cause of serious crashes.
“The whole history of U.S. traffic safety in the U.S. has been one focusing on the vehicle, one of the least important factors,” says Leonard Evans, a physicist who worked for General Motors for three decades and wrote the book Traffic Safety.
To Err Is Human
Studies show that the vehicle itself is the sole cause of an accident only about 2 percent of the time. Drivers, on the other hand, are wholly to blame more than half the time and partly to blame more 90 percent of the time.
A look at data on Toyotas from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms this pattern. The data show that in the decade ending in 2008, about 22,000 people were killed in vehicles made by Toyota or Lexus, Evans says. “All these people were killed because of factors that had absolutely nothing to do with any vehicle defect,” he says.
During that same period it’s possible, though not yet certain, that accelerator problems in Toyotas played a role in an additional 19 deaths, or about two each year, Evans says. And even if an accelerator does stick, drivers should be able to prevent most crashes by simply stepping on the brakes, Evans says. “The weakest brakes are stronger than the strongest engine,” he says.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in mathematics, media woo | Tagged: accelerator, accident, automobile, brake, Camry, car, crash, death, fear, math, mathematics, media, National Public Radio, NPR, pedal, Prius, probability, recall, risk, safety, scare, statistics, Toyota, traffic, vehicle | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 21, 2009
In another *facepalm* moment, the state legislature in Maine will soon be considering a bill that would require cell phones to carry warning labels that they, you guessed it, might cause brain cancer. Ugh – I have posted about this topic before (in my post “Electromagnetic Fields & Cancer Myths”), and I cannot state strongly enough that there is no evidence that cell phone use causes cancer! Not only is there no conclusive evidence that cell phone radiation causes cancer, but according to the known laws of physics there is no physical mechanism by which this is even possible. But that won’t stop some non-scientifically minded nut with political clout from pushing this nonsense into a useless law…
Maine to consider cell phone cancer warning
A Maine legislator wants to make the state the first to require cell phones to carry warnings that they can cause brain cancer, although there is no consensus among scientists that they do and industry leaders dispute the claim.
The now-ubiquitous devices carry such warnings in some countries, though no U.S. states require them, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. A similar effort is afoot in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom wants his city to be the nation’s first to require the warnings.
Maine Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, said numerous studies point to the cancer risk, and she has persuaded legislative leaders to allow her proposal to come up for discussion during the 2010 session that begins in January, a session usually reserved for emergency and governors’ bills.
And here’s my favorite part of the article…
While there’s little agreement about the health hazards, Boland said Maine’s roughly 950,000 cell phone users among its 1.3 million residents “do not know what the risks are.”
Ahem, Rep. Boland, this is an argument that is essentially begging the question… the assumption is that there is a risk, despite there being any conclusive evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship (not to be confused with correlation) between cancer & cell phone use AND a lack of any kind of physical mechanism to even facilitate that process. Folks, this is what happens when you mix political power with the Paralyzing Precautionary Principle. Now this may be crappy science, but I’m sure it’ll raise Rep. Boland’s political profile – too bad she couldn’t just stick to the actual science as opposed to pushing pseudoscientific & fear-mongering woo woo.
Folks, if you live in Maine, please take a moment to contact your state representatives and ask them to – for the sake of good science & sound legislative policies – just throw Boland’s bill in the trash heap where it belongs. I’m sure there are far better, more important, and real issues the Maine legislature could be dealing with on behalf of that state’s citizens.
Rep. Boland, this one’s for you…
Posted in environmental hysteria, physics denial/woo, politics | Tagged: Andrea Boland, Boland, cancer, cell phones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, legislature, light, Maine, medicine, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, politics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 26, 2009
In another media *facepalm* moment, the New York Post is reporting of a supposed “link” between cellphone use and cancer…
Study: Cell Phone Cancer Link
A groundbreaking, $30 million study into cell phones has found a link between long term use and brain tumors.
The World Health Organization is about to reveal that its decade-long investigation has found the devices can lead to cancer — and the internationally-respected body will soon issue a public health message with its findings, London’s Daily Telegraph reported today.
The conclusion goes against years of assurances by cell phone companies and scientists that cell phone use is safe.
But last month, Sen. Arlen Specter (D – Pa) organized Senate hearings to examine health implications of talking on-the-go.
elizabeth lippman/N.Y. Post
CAN YOU KILL ME NOW? — A groundbreaking, 10-year study will show that long-term cell phone use can lead to brain tumors.
The WHO’s Interphone investigation’s results showed, “a significantly increased risk” of some brain tumors “related to use of mobile phones for a period of ten years or more,” the Telegraph reported today.
The study’s head, Dr. Elisabeth Cardis, said, “In the absence of definitive results and in the light of a number of studies which, though limited, suggest a possible effect of radiofrequency radiation, precautions are important.”
The project carried out studies in 13 countries, talking to tumor sufferers as well as healthy cell phone users, It interviewed 12,800 people.
The results will be officially published before the end of the year, according to the Telegraph.
This is a perfect example of how some in the media misuse science to make headlines, while at the same time spreading misinformation. Notice that the article is citing research which hasn’t even been published yet! So, if the research isn’t yet published for scrutiny, how in blazes do the morons at NY Post know what the research says? I always thought that a good journalist was supposed to check their facts before reporting a story, not the other way around. Apparently, the folks at the NY Post live in an alternate universe.
In addition, some other tidbits that pop up in this article:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo | Tagged: cancer, cell phones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, journalism, light, media, medicine, National Research Council, New York Post, news, NY Post, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 7 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on September 28, 2009
While cruising around the Internet I stumbled upon this website over at Engadget.com where they ask people to rate their cellphones – by the amount of (spooky word here) RADIATION output!
The irony here is the fact that a website which seems to advertise itself as tech-savvy would appear to embrace such a stupidly pseudoscientific concept as cellphone radiation being dangerous. As has been outlined repeatedly in the scientific literature – as well as in my Electromagnetic Fields & Cancer Myths blog entry – there is NO danger from cellphone radiation… none!
As for the Engadget article, note the scale they show and the subsequent commentary…
You’re surely aware that your cellphone bleeds radiation into your face the whole time you’re on the phone with your mom, best friend or lover, right? Yes, it’s a fact we try not to think about most of the time, but now there’s a tool out there on the internets for the more reality-facing folks among us. The Environmental Working Group’s launched a website dedicated to rating cellphones on their radiation output alone. Ranking highly (meaning they put out the lowest levels of radiation) are the Motorola RAZR V8, and AT&T’s Samsung Impression. In fact, it seems that Samsung is cranking out the healthiest phones these days! Phones with poor showings includes T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G and the Blackberry Curve 8830. So hit the read link and tell us, how does your phone rate?
The scale leaves out one important fact… that all of these phones likely operate at the same frequencies of radiation. The only thing this scale is studying is the intensity, which is entirely different! For example, the frequency of a photon of electromagnetic energy is what determines how energetic (and therefore how dangerous in the context of causing cancer) the radiation is. Low-frequency radiation like that from cellphones simply cannot cause cancer, as far as we know, because it is non–ionizing radiation. The fact that these goofs at Engadget.com can’t even get this basic bit of physics right will ensure that they won’t be getting any of my business.
I don’t know about you, but I know how I’d rate this website for scientific validity. I give it a rating of FAIL.
Posted in physics denial/woo | Tagged: cancer, cell phones, cellphones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, Engadget, environment, health, ionizing radiation, light, medicine, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 2, 2009
Every year when I teach my students about electromagnetism, I take some time to discuss with them the physics of electromagnetic waves (a.k.a. “light”). EM-waves go by another name common to scientists, electromagnetic radiation, and it’s that second word – radiation – which scares the hell out of so many people and makes them vulnerable to all manner of woo.
Case in point, there is a lot of bunk out there concerning EM-radiation and cancer. Specifically, there is a group of folks who try to push the idea that cell phones, power lines, and wi-fi are emitting radiation (called EMFs, or electromagnetic fields) which will give people exposed to them all manner of cancers. I’m here to tell you that this is just plain b.s. – people who make these pseudoscientific arguments do not understand the physics of EMFs, at all.
First off, the physical mechanism which creates an electromagnetic wave (or “EM-radiation” or “light” or “EMFs” – they’re all the same thing) is basically wiggling an electric charge back and forth. This process generates a self-reinforcing set of electric & magnetic fields which form the wave, and the frequency of these waves (which matches the frequency at which the charge is wiggled) is what determines exactly what kind of EM-radiation is created. Depending upon the frequency of the wave, it will fall along what is called the electromagnetic spectrum…
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in environmental hysteria, physics denial/woo | Tagged: cancer, cell phones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, light, medicine, National Research Council, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 20 Comments »