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The Economist Accused of Inaccurate Coverage of Cell Phone and Wireless Risks

Published: Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 03, 2012
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Specialists in public health, oncology, neurosurgery, electronic engineering, toxicology, cardiology and epidemiology have published a critique of an opinion piece published in The Economist (9/3/11), “Worrying about Wireless”.

In the critique, entitled “The Economist—and the Truth About Microwave Radiation Emitted from Wireless Technologies,” the experts say the Economist failed to provide critical information about the emerging public health issue related to cell phones and wireless technologies and that it owes its readers a better accounting of the science.

Ronald B. Herberman, MD, Founding Director Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Chairman of Environmental Health Trust and a distinguished cancer researcher, says of the Economist article, “The public the world over has been misled by this reporting.”

Dr. Herberman, who served as Professor of Medicine and Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Hillman Professor of Oncology and Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research at the University of Pittsburgh, and who is now Chief Medical Officer of Intrexon Corporation, in 2008 issued an advisory to his faculty and staff recommending a variety of simple steps to reduce potential health risks from the use of cell phones. He says:

“A disservice has been done in inaccurately depicting the body of science, which actually indicates that there are biological effects from the radiation emitted by wireless devices, including damage to DNA, and evidence for increased risk of cancer and other substantial health consequences.”  Dr. Herberman adds, “It would behoove The Economist to publicly correct the errors made in this unsigned opinion piece by publishing a retraction—and investigating how such inaccurate and unbalanced scientific reporting could have occurred in the first place.”

Lennart Hardell, MD, PhD, Professor of Oncology, Orebro Medical Center, Orebro, Sweden, and a widely published, internationally renowned neuro-oncologist, agrees. He says, “The Economist has misrepresented the science indicating biological effects, links to cancers, and damage to DNA and male fertility from exposures to microwave radiation emitted by wireless technologies. Given the wide scale use of cell phones and other wireless devices globally, for the sake of public health I consider it essential that The Economist’s reporting be corrected to adequately advise readers of the risks.”

Dr. Hardell’s research has repeatedly found increased risk of brain cancers in frequent users of cell phones and/or cordless phones for more than a decade. His team’s research was cited in May in the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) landmark decision to classify wireless radiation as a Class 2B ‘Possible Carcinogen’.

Policy advocate Deborah Kopald, MBA states, “It is exceedingly difficult to convince policy-makers to act in the public interest and parents and educators to give their charges proper guidance when they can point to a prestigious publication that provides false reassurance that not enough science exists to compel immediate behavior changes with wireless use.”

Swedish investigative journalist Mona Nilsson, says, “The publication of The Economist article ‘Worrying about Wireless’ was a sad day in journalism. If we cannot trust the media to accurately report the science on such an important subject in a balanced way, then who can we trust?” Nilsson was the journalist who broke the news that led to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) removing Anders Ahlbom of the Karolinska Institute last May from its panel of experts after learning Ahlbom had not disclosed he was a member of the board of his brother’s consulting firm, Gunnar Ahlbom AB, with links to the telecom industry.

Authors of the Economist critique, issued today, “The Economist—and the Truth About Microwave Radiation Emitted from Wireless Technologies”, include prominent scientists, physicians and oncologists from seven countries. They are requesting the Economist to correct its unsigned opinion piece so that it more accurately reflects the range of known biological effects and potential health risks from wireless radiation.

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