Does wireless radiation affect people’s health—and is it safe to even ask the question?
On 16 February, ABC TV’s ‘Catalyst’ aired a program on wireless radiation called ’Wi- Fried?’ that sparked a media backlash of the ugliest kind.
The theme of the program, presented by award-winning journalist, Dr Maryanne Demasi, was ‘Could WiFi-enabled devices be harmful to our health?’—a question of importance to every single Australian.
Demasi revealed that people may be using wireless devices in ways that expose them to more radiation than allowed by the Australian standard. She reported that the International Agency for Research on Cancer had concluded that mobile phone radiation may possibly cause cancer. She showed that studies found that mobile phone radiation damaged sperm and was linked to increased brain tumour rates in heavy and long-term users. She said that Lloyds of London does not provide insurance cover for injuries caused by electromagnetic radiation; that children’s brains absorb more radiation than those of adults and that some countries have stricter radiation standards than Australia.(1)
These are indisputable facts—and Dr Demasi provided documentary evidence on the Catalyst website to support her claims.
Nevertheless, within 24 hours, the program, Demasi and Professor Devra Davis, who appeared on the program, were all under fire.
‘I was particularly disappointed to see “Wi-Fried” air yesterday in the guise of science journalism, and felt it important to reassure other viewers that the fringe position provided by Dr Davis and associates is merely that, a fringe position that is not supported by science,’ said Dr Rodney Croft, head of the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research. (2)
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency accused the program of ‘raising concerns’ about the health effects of wireless radiation. (3) ‘Media Watch’ criticised Demasi for previous, unrelated programs and accused her report of being ’shockingly one-sided’, (4) supporting its claims with views that that were, well, shockingly one-sided.
Two other vociferous critics of the program were Drs Bernard Stewart and Simon Chapman. Professor Stewart was quoted as saying the program was “scientifically bankrupt” and “without scientific merit” (5) while Dr Chapman was quoted as saying, ‘That is just complete rubbish. It is just crap.’(6 )
Yet, according to Catalyst, Drs Stewart and Chapman were both invited to appear on the program but declined to accept. ‘Had they agreed to be interviewed, their views would have been included as well,’ Catalyst said.
Unfortunately, none of the negative responses to the program addressed the aforementioned issues raised by Demasi or the scientific evidence she presented. Rather, the attacks concentrated on the program in general and the presenter herself.
This is not a scientific debate. It’s an unscientific assault that stoops to the lowest level of personal degradation and threatens investigative journalism itself.
Perhaps the answer lies in the words of Plato, quoted by one respondent to the program: ‘They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.’
But don’t believe us. If you’re unsure whether Demasi’s claims have merit, why not read the references she provided (1) and make up your own mind?
3. http://www.arpansa.gov.au/News/whatsnew/ news1_160217.cfm
4. http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/ s4411611.htm
5. http://thenewdaily.com.au/life/2016/02/17/abc- catalyst-wifi-wrong/
6. http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/abcs- catalyst-criticised-for-linking-wifi-with-brain-tumours- 20160216-gmw45o.html