Public Lecture Series
"Reporters: Fair, Balanced, and Gullible?"
Senior Project Director for Media Programs,
American Association for the Advancement of Science
& Host of Science Update Radio
The job of a journalist is to investigate
news stories to report the facts, as well
as they can be discerned, to the public.
As such, reporters should be our nation’s
leading skeptics. Yet newspapers are rife
with stories of clearly fraudulent claims,
reported as matter of fact, no different
than sports scores and weather reports.
Bob Hirshon rips the lid off this sensational
story, emerging from his years as a mole
within the labyrinth of journalistic secret
societies, revealing the dark secrets no one
has ever dared tell — until now!
For more information, visit
1:30 p.m. -
3:00 p.m., followed by refreshments
Science Foundation, Room 110
4201 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA
Ballston–Marymount University Metro)
Enter NSF from
the corner of N Stuart St & 9th St N.(map) (directions)
Torn From Today's
By Scott Snell
WUSA-TV's "9 News Now" "Disconnects" Viewers From the Full Story About Cell Phone Radiation Safety
December 14 story produced by WUSA-TV's "9 News Now" provided an
opportunity for Devra L. Davis, PhD, MPH* to promote her new book, Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family.
Most of her assertions regarding cell phone radiation safety were left
unchallenged except for her comment that "cell phones have never been
tested for safety." WUSA did show a brief rebuttal of this point by an
unidentified Johns Hopkins cancer researcher (Mahadevappa Mahesh, PhD).
earned her PhD in History of Culture/Science Studies at the University
of Chicago and her Master of Public Health degree at the Johns Hopkins
School of Public Health. She was Founding Director of the Center for
Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer
Institute, and Professor of Epidemiology at the University of
Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (2004-2009). She also
founded the non-profit Environmental Health Trust in 2007.)
any case, her recommendations sound reasonable enough: use a headset or
speakerphone, don't carry a powered-on phone in your pocket or sleep
with it, and keep cell phones away from children's heads. But WUSA
ignored fundamental scientific misconceptions in her book, its
controversial claims (including purported research conspiracies), and
its emphasis on studies showing harmful health effects while
downplaying significant studies indicating otherwise. These critiques
would be available to any well-prepared reporter using an Internet
Video of the WUSA story is available at
and a text summary is provided at
Professor Christopher Davis, NCAS’s September 2010 lecturer on
"Is the Radiation From Your Cell Phone a Health Hazard? Risk vs.
"Devra Davis has no expertise in radiofrequency technology and does not
know what she is talking about. She has never published any papers in
this area and has not been involved with either bioeffects or
epidemiological studies involving microwaves. She is capitalizing on
some irrational public concern about cell phones to try and enhance the
sale of her uninformed book.
"The only way that a cell phone interacts with the human body is by
causing a very small amount of heating - the best estimates are that a
cell phone placed right against the head operating at maximum power
will elevate the temperature of a small region of the brain by at most
0.2 degrees Celsius. This temperature increase does not go up with
prolonged phone use because the body's natural thermoregulatory system
removes the heat. Further reduction of the heating occurs most of the
time because cell phones rarely operate at maximum power unless one is
in a remote area far from a base station.
"The comment that children should not use cell phones because they are
more susceptible to energy absorption is silly. If you worry about your
child experiencing the small energy absorption from a cell phone, then
you should never let them exercise or drink hot cocoa because both
these activities will heat their brains more than a cell phone. I have
a useful analogy: if a brick falls on your head from a great height
that is not good. On the other hand, a falling small feather will not
hurt you -- nor will two small feathers.
"Devra Davis's assertion that we haven't waited long enough to see the
health effects from cell phone use emerge is a cop-out because she
cannot point to data demonstrating any health effects in the current
population. A recent published study from Scandinavia, where they have
used cell phones longer than anywhere, showed no increase in brain
tumors among cell phone users when compared with non-users (of whom
there may soon be very few). Pretty soon everybody who gets sick will
also be a cell phone user -- this does not show causality any more than
suggesting that eating broccoli causes cancer.
Davis makes much of the fact that cell phone manufacturers include
'fine print' warnings that specific absorbed radiation (SAR) levels may
exceed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) exposure guidelines
for body-worn operation (1.6 Watts/kilogram) if the phone is positioned
closer than a given distance from the body. Body-worn cell phones are
tested to ensure they meet the FCC SAR compliance value of 1.6 W/kg
averaged over any 1 gram of tissue by placing them in a holster next to
the body. The FCC allows this standard test protocol because of the
incredible variability of the ways people carry their phones.
including the fine-print warning, I believe that the manufacturers are
covering themselves legally by allowing for the possibility that people
will carry their phone in bizarre ways and locations. The warning
essentially tells consumers not to carry or use the phone closer than
the body separation for which it was tested. Given that there is a
factor of at least 50 between the FCC compliance value and values that
lead to behavioral effects in animals, then carrying a phone in a
pocket and exceeding the FCC exposure by a bit seems to me to be a
non-issue. For use near the head, all phones are tested with a 'head
phantom' having an ear, which of course prevents the phone from being
held directly on the head. Most public concern has after all been about
the possibility of brain cancer, hence the preponderance of testing
with a head model.
a pity that when the media seize on people like Devra Davis to stir up
the public they never seem to bring in an articulate expert to counter
unscientific statements that are not grounded in fact."
Professor Christopher Davis's NCAS lecture is available at the NCAS YouTube channel:
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