Research Studies on Industry Influence and Involvement in the Science of EMFs
Scientific analyses show industry funding can and does influence research on radiofrequency radiation.
“Any study in my country which is funded by private industry, I am not going to accept it.” Dr. R S Sharma, Indian government Senior Scientist, Deputy Director General & Scientist of the Indian Council of Medical Research
Hardell, Lennart. “World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation and health – a hard nut to crack (Review).” International Journal of Oncology, vol. 51, no. 2, 2017, pp. 405-13.
“In May 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated cancer risks from radiofrequency (RF) radiation. Human epidemiological studies gave evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma. RF radiation was classified as Group 2B, a possible human carcinogen. Further epidemiological, animal and mechanistic studies have strengthened the association. In spite of this, in most countries little or nothing has been done to reduce exposure and educate people on health hazards from RF radiation. On the contrary ambient levels have increased. In 2014 the WHO launched a draft of a Monograph on RF fields and health for public comments. It turned out that five of the six members of the Core Group in charge of the draft are affiliated with International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an industry loyal NGO, and thus have a serious conflict of interest. Just as by ICNIRP, evaluation of non-thermal biological effects from RF radiation are dismissed as scientific evidence of adverse health effects in the Monograph. This has provoked many comments sent to the WHO. However, at a meeting on March 3, 2017 at the WHO Geneva office it was stated that the WHO has no intention to change the Core Group.”
Prasad, M., et al. “Mobile phone use and risk of brain tumours: a systematic review of association between study quality, source of funding, and research outcomes.” Neurological Sciences, 2017.
“In our review of the literature and meta-analysis of case–control studies, we found evidence linking mobile phone use and risk of brain tumours especially in long-term users (greater than 10 years). We also found a significantly positive correlation between study quality and outcome in the form of risk of brain tumour associated with use of mobile phones. Higher quality studies show a statistically significant association between mobile phone use and risk of brain tumour. Even the source of funding was found to affect the quality of results produced by the studies.”
Carlberg, Michael and Lennart Hardell. “Evaluation of Mobile Phone and Cordless Phone Use and Glioma Risk Using the Bradford Hill Viewpoints from 1965 on Association or Causation.” BioMed Research International, vol. 2017, no. 9218486, 2017.
Hardell and Carlberg analyze the current body of science- including the National Toxicology program results- with the Bradford Hill viewpoints to conclude that RF is a human carcinogen. They also point out that several scientific bodies have declined from acknowledging an increased risk for brain tumours from wireless phones. They explain how the same persons appear in these different expert groups and are therefore citing their own conclusions.
“It is striking how ICNIRP has infiltrated the WHO Monograph core group making it less likely that the conclusions in that Monograph will differ from ICNIRP’s conclusions.”
“There seems also to be conflict of interests among these members.”
Marino, Andrew A. and Simona Carrubba. “The Effects of Mobile-Phone Electromagnetic Fields on Brain Electrical Activity: A Critical Analysis of the Literature.” Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, vol. 28, no. 3, 2009, pp. 250-74.
The article stated that with 87% of brain activity studies sponsored by the mobile phone industry, the issue of conflicts of interest cannot be ignored.
“Overall, the doubt regarding the existence of reproducible mobile-phone EMFs on brain activity created by the reports appeared to legitimate the knowledge claims of the mobile-phone industry. However, it funded, partly or wholly, at least 87% of the reports. From an analysis of their cognitive framework, the common use of disclaimers, the absence of information concerning conflicts of interest, and the industry’s donations to the principal EMF journal, we inferred that the doubt was manufactured by the industry. The crucial scientific question of the pathophysiology of mobile-phone EMFs as reflected in measurements of brain electrical activity remains unanswered, and essentially unaddressed.”
Huss, Anke, et al. “Source of Funding and Results of Studies of Health Effects of Mobile Phone Use: Systematic Review of Experimental Studies.” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 115, no. 1, 2007, pp. 1-4.
This 2007 systematic review examined whether the source of funding of studies of the effects of low-level radiofrequency radiation is associated with the results of studies and found industry funded studies were substantially less likely to report effects.
“We examined the methodologic quality and results of experimental studies investigating the effects of the type of radiofrequency radiation emitted by handheld cellular telephones. We hypothesized that studies would be less likely to show an effect of the exposure if funded by the telecommunications industry, which has a vested interest in portraying the use of mobile phones as safe. We found that the studies funded exclusively by industry were indeed substantially less likely to report statistically significant effects on a range of end points that may be relevant to health. Conclusions: The interpretation of results from studies of health effects of radiofrequency radiation should take sponsorship into account.”
Starkey, Sarah J. “Inaccurate official assessment of radiofrequency safety by the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation” Reviews on Environmental Health, vol. 31, no. 4, 2016.
This review analyzes the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) 2012 report which guides Public Health England and details the inaccuracies, omissions and conflict of interest“which make it unsuitable for health risk assessment”. The review states that the “executive summary and overall conclusions did not accurately reflect the scientific evidence available” and the “conflict of interest critically needs to be addressed for the forthcoming World Health Organisation (WHO) Environmental Health Criteria Monograph on Radiofrequency Fields”.
Valentini, E., et al. “Republished review: systematic review and meta-analysis of psychomotor effects of mobile phone electromagnetic fields.” Postgraduate Medical Journal, vol. 87, no. 1031, 2011, pp. 643-51.
This 2011 published review focused on studies published since 1999 on the human cognitive and performance effects of mobile phone-related electromagnetic fields and found the existence of sponsorship and publication biases.
“The existence of sponsorship and publication biases should encourage WHO intervention to develop official research standards and guidelines. In addition, future research should address critical and neglected issues such as investigation of repeated, intensive and chronic exposures, especially in highly sensitive populations such as children.”
Hardell L., et al. “Secret ties to industry and conflicting interests in cancer research.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine, vol. 50, no. 3, 2007, pp. 227–33.
“Another example of industry ties to research, but not one where there was a failure to disclose, involves the potential association between cellular phones and brain tumors. In 2002 the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI) hired two US epidemiologists to review published epidemiological studies on the relationship between the use of cellular telephones and cancer risk. They were Dr. John D. Boice, Jr. and Dr. Joseph K. McLaughlin from the private company International Epidemiology Institute (IEI).”
“A number of research projects have taken place at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm with participation of Boice and McLaughlin, with a funding model through IEI. One of the studies was published in British Medical Journal [Nyre´n et al., 1998] with Adami as a co-author. A cohort of Swedish women with breast implants was studied with regard to connective tissue disease. No risk was found. Thanks to strict rules of stating conflicts of interest in the British Medical Journal it can be seen that the project was initiated by IEI, and that the funding from IEI was on behalf of Dow Corning, producer of silicon breast implants.”
Walker, Martin J. Corporate Ties That Bind: An Examination of Corporate Manipulation and Vested Interest in Public Health. Skyhorse, 2017.
Corporate Ties that Bind is a collection of essays addressing corporations influence to the scientific discussion on the products they sell. Dr. Lennart Hardell’s Chapter in this book is titled, “Chapter 3: A Battleground–From Phenoxyacetic Acids, Chlorphenyls and Dioxins to Mobile Phones–Cancer Risks, Greenwashing and Vested Interests.’
Additional Documentation on Industry Influence
“‘Radiation Research’ and The Cult of Negative Results.” Microwave News, vol. 26, no. 4, 2006.
This analysis reviewed a subset of health studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. They selected papers on microwave-induced genotoxicity and identified 85 radiofrequency (RF)/microwave-genotox papers published since 1990 and detail the following findings:
43 found some type of biological effect and 42 did not.
32 of the 35 studies that were paid for by the mobile phone industry and the U.S. Air Force show no effect. These make up more than 75% of all the negative studies.
They looked at the journal Radiation Research which in over the last 16 years, only one positive paper on microwave genotoxicity has appeared and found:
- 80% of the negative papers (17 out of 21) published in Radiation Research were paid for by either industry or the U.S. Air Force.
- The lead author of the lone positive paper, was denied money for a follow-up and soon moved on to other research areas.
- They suspect the Radiation Research’s bias against EMF effects is attributed to John Moulder, (editor in 1991 and senior editor in 2000) a long standing consultant to the power, electronics and communications industries.
- “Radiation Research has become a repository for negative papers and thus an important part of the industry and military strategy to neutralize those who dare to challenge the no-effects dogma. Their work had been made much easier with John Moulder on the inside to ease industry papers into print.”
This research is cited in a Seattle Magazine 2011 article.
Ishisaka, Naomi. “UW Scientist Henry Lai Makes Waves in the Cell Phone Industry.” Seattle Magazine, 2011.
“Lai’s frustration with the increasing body of contradictory research led him to do an analysis in 2006 of the available studies on cell phone radiation between 1990 and 2006, and where their funding came from. What he found was that 50 percent of the 326 studies showed a biological effect from radio-frequency radiation and 50 percent did not. But when he filtered the studies into two stacks—those funded by the wireless industry and those funded independently—Lai discovered industry-funded studies were 30 percent likely to find an effect, as opposed to 70 percent of the independent studies.”
Ledford, Brandon. “Cell Phones, Electromagnetic Radiation, and Cancer: A Study of Author Affiliation, Funding, Bias, and Results.” Proceedings of the Policy Studies Organization, no. 11, 2010.
This 2010 paper detailed a qualitative and quantitative review of the current research with statistical analysis and concludes “there appears to be a relationship between the place of funding or author affiliation of a study and whether or not the author(s) find a correlation between cell phones and cancer.”
Systematic reviews of the influence of financial interests in medical research have found strong associations between industry sponsorship and pro-industry conclusions.
Bekelman, Justin E., Li, Yan and Cary P. Gross. “Scope and impact of financial conflicts of interest in biomedical research: a systematic review.” Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 289, no. 4, 2003, pp. 454-65.
This 2003 review found widespread relationships between industry, scientific investigators, and academic institutions.
“Approximately one fourth of investigators have industry affiliations, and roughly two thirds of academic institutions hold equity in start-ups that sponsor research performed at the same institutions. Eight articles, which together evaluated 1140 original studies, assessed the relation between industry sponsorship and outcome in original research. Aggregating the results of these articles showed a statistically significant association between industry sponsorship and pro-industry conclusions (pooled Mantel-Haenszel odds ratio, 3.60; 95% confidence interval, 2.63-4.91). Industry sponsorship was also associated with restrictions on publication and data sharing. The approach to managing financial conflicts varied substantially across academic institutions and peer-reviewed journals.
CONCLUSIONS: Financial relationships among industry, scientific investigators, and academic institutions are widespread. Conflicts of interest arising from these ties can influence biomedical research in important ways.”
Yaphe, J. ,et al. “The association between funding by commercial interests and study outcome in randomized controlled drug trials.” Family Practice, vol. 18, no. 6, 2001, pp. 565-8.
This 2001 study found an association between source of support of research and published outcomes of randomized controlled drug trials in general interest medical journals.
“An association was found between the source of study support and the published outcome. Though the reason for this association cannot be determined from the data collected, future studies may clarify the importance of this finding for readers concerned with the relationship of funding bodies to the publication of research outcomes.”
Systematic reviews of the influence of financial interests in environmental health have found strong associations between industry sponsorship and pro-industry conclusions.
Published science backs media has coverage on how the lead industry, asbestos industry and petroleum industry funded science that minimized health effects.
Friedman, Michael and Lee Friedman. “Financial Conflicts of Interest and Study Results in Environmental and Occupational Health Research.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, vol. 58, no. 3, 2016, pp. 238-47.
A 2016 comprehensive analysis published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine found a relationship between financial conflict of interest and a potential publication bias in environmental and occupational health studies concludes:
“Results: Of the 373 studies included in the analysis, 17.2% had a financial COI associated with organizations involved with the processing, use, or disposal of industrial and commercial products, and studies with this type of COI were more likely to report negative results (Adjusted Odds Ratio = 4.31), as were studies with any COI associated with the military (employment or funding; Adjusted Odds Ratio = 9.15).
Conclusions: Our findings show a clear relationship between direction of reported findings and specific types of financial COI.”
Ruff, Kathleen. “Scientific journals and conflict of interest disclosure: what progress has been made?” Environmental Health, vol. 14, no. 45, 2015.
This 2015 published commentary “addresses the failure of the scientific community to create an effective mechanism to protect the integrity of the scientific literature from improper influence by vested interests.” 5 prominent journals are used as examples by the author showing the failure of COPE member journals (with initiatives to establish international standards for Conflict of Interest (COI) disclosure) to comply with COPE’s Code of Conduct.
Additional Documentation on Conflicts of Industry in Health and Environmental Health Research
Baur X, et al. “Ethics, morality, and conflicting interests: How questionable professional integrity in some scientists supports global corporate influence in public health.” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, vol. 21, no. 2, 2015, pp. 172–5.
“Both privately and publicly funded research should be scrutinized for potential bias, and research funding should be transparent through full disclosure of any potential financial interests….However, developments over the last 10 years have shown transparency alone is not enough to mitigate bias. Widely distributed “pro-industry habit of thoughts” perpetuated by corporate sponsoring of undisclosed grants, contracts, travel expenses and accommodation, honoraria, consultation, and gifts should be banned.”
“Members of guideline panels and decision-making regulatory boards and researchers should be scrutinized and demonstrate integrity by remaining independent from vested interests.”
“Hardell and colleagues have called for actions to ensure the ethical credibility of medical research. They referenced a publication evaluating funding sources in published manuscripts from two well-recognized medical journals. They found that when one or more of the authors reported a financial association with the funding source, the resulting research was twice as likely to report results supporting the funding sources’ products or views. Others have also identified this so-called “funding effect.”
Bes-Rastrollo, Maira, et al. “Financial Conflicts of Interest and Reporting Bias Regarding the Association between Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews.” PLoS Medicine, vol. 10, no. 12, 2013.
“Those reviews with conflicts of interest were five times more likely to present a conclusion of no positive association than those without them. Conclusions: Financial conflicts of interest may bias conclusions from SRs on SSB consumption and weight gain or obesity.”
Dunn, Adam G., et al. “Conflict of interest disclosure in biomedical research: a review of current practices, biases, and the role of public registries in improving transparency.” Research Integrity and Peer Review, vol. 1, no. 1, 2016.
A 2016 article in Research Integrity and Peer Review found conflicts of interest are common and underreported and that these COI introduce biases that lead to harm
“Researchers with conflicts of interest were found to be more likely to choose comparators that would produce favorable results selectively include only certain outcomes in published reports publish conclusions that are inconsistent with the study results or complete a clinical trial without subsequent publication of the results. These types of biases can also impact the quality and reliability of systematic reviews, arguably the most critical publications guiding clinical care. When authors of systematic reviews hold financial conflicts of interest, they are more likely to interpret data as evidence supporting an intervention. Contributors to clinical practice guidelines are more likely to recommend the intervention in clinical practice if they hold a conflict of interest.”
Rosner, David and Gerald Markowitz. “The politics of lead toxicology and the devastating consequences for children.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine, vol. 50, no. 10, 2007, pp. 740-56.
“At virtually every step in the history of the uncovering of lead’s toxic qualities, resistance was shown by a variety of industrial interests to the association of lead and toxicity. During the first half of the last century, three primary means were used to undermine the growing body of evidence: first, the lead industry sought to control lead research by sponsoring and funding university research. In the 1920s, the General Motors Company, with the aide of DuPont and Standard Oil Companies, established the Kettering Labs, a research unit at the University of Cincinnati which, for many decades was largely supported by industry funds. In the same decade, the lead industry sponsored the research of Joseph Aub at Harvard who worked on neurophysiology of lead. A second way was to shape our understanding of lead itself, portraying it as an indispensable and healthful element essential for all modern life. Lead was portrayed as safe for children to use, be around, and even touch. The third way that lead was exempted from the normal public health measures and regulatory apparatus that had largely controlled phosphorus poisoning, poor quality food and meats and other potential public health hazards was more insidious and involved directly influencing the scientific integrity of the clinical observations and research. Throughout the past century tremendous pressure by the lead industry itself was brought to bear to quiet, even intimidate, researchers and clinicians who reported on or identified lead as a hazard. This article will draw on our previous work and add new documentation of the trajectory of industry attempts to keep out of the public view the tremendous threat of lead poisoning to children.”
“Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice.” Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice, 2009.
“Several systematic reviews and other studies provide substantial evidence that clinical trials with industry ties are more likely to have results that favor industry. There are multiple cases in which industry sponsors have withheld important study results and in which the conclusions presented in the reports appear to overstate the study findings. In addition, a study of materials submitted to the FDA in support of successful new drug applications found that clinical trials with statistically favorable results were almost twice as likely to be published as industry-funded studies that did not have favorable results (Lee et al., 2008
). Overall, the results of more than half of clinical trials submitted to the FDA in support of a new drug application remained unpublished more than 5 years after approval of the drug.”
Heath, David. “Meet the ‘rented white coats’ who defend toxic chemicals. How corporate-funded research is corrupting America’s courts and regulatory agencies” The Center for Public Integrity, 2016.
The 2016 article by the Center for Public Integrity details a story of asbestos litigation involving Peter Valberg, a former professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, and then a principal at the environmental consulting firm Gradient Corporation. According to the article, Evan Nelson of the law firm Tucker Ellis & West needed a scientist willing to publish a theory in a medical journal so that this science could be used win lawsuits and released emails detail how Peter Valberg “wrote back within hours, calling Nelson’s scientific theory “very intriguing.” He was game to try to disseminate it in peer-reviewed journals. He later sent Nelson a contract agreeing to write the first of three articles and even offered him a 10-percent discount. In the meantime, Valberg would adopt Nelson’s theory as an expert witness in lawsuits, using it against mesothelioma victims such as Pam Collins of Bellevue, Ohio..”
Peter Valberg is now an expert witness on the issue of radiofrequency radiation. Read the final paragraph of the article:
“Pam Collins’s lawyer said efforts by industry consultants to absolve asbestos of blame show they will say almost anything.
“Why are some of these companies putting so much money into research to be published in scientific and medical journals years and sometimes decades after they stop making the product?” Acton asked rhetorically. “Is its purpose for the advancement of medicine? Is its purpose to address a public health concern? Its purpose is for litigation. It’s science for sale.”
Caulfield, Timothy. “Profit and the production of the knowledge: the impact of industry on representations of research results.” Harvard Health Policy Review, vol. 8, no. 1, 2007, pp. 51-60.
“Industry involvement in biomedical research has been associated
with less than ideal publication and research practices, such as ghost writing- that is, the use of unnamed industry writers to author some or all of research manuscripts. One recently published analysis found that of the forty-four industry initiated trials in the study, forty of the published results had some contribution from a ghost writer, usually an industry statistician.”
“In Canada, for example, most of the national funding agencies explicitly encourage collaborations with industry. Even the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the primary public funding agency for biomedical work, has embraced this trend. In fact, the federal legislation that created the CIHR has declared “commercialization of health research” and “economic development through health research” to be central goals of the agency… As a result, many of the relevant players are acting as expected and as market forces would dictate.”
Gøtzsche et al. “Ghost Authorship in Industry-Initiated Randomised Trials.”. PLoS Medicine, vol. 4, no. 1, 2007.
“We found evidence of ghost authorship for 33 trials (75%; 95% confidence interval 60%–87%). The prevalence of ghost authorship was increased to 91% (40 of 44 articles; 95% confidence interval 78%–98%) when we included cases where a person qualifying for authorship was acknowledged rather than appearing as an author. In 31 trials, the ghost authors we identified were statisticians.
Conclusions: Ghost authorship in industry-initiated trials is very common. Its prevalence could be considerably reduced, and transparency improved, if existing guidelines were followed, and if protocols were publicly available.”
Joly, Yann, Flora Wahnon and Bartha Maria Knoppers. “Impact of the Commercialization of Biotechnology Research on the Communication of Research Results: North American Perspective.” Harvard Health Policy Review, vol. 8, no. 1, 2007.
“Evidence demonstrates that academic biotechnology research has become increasingly commercial in the last twenty years in Canada and in the US . This obvious realization does not only carry negative implications. Private funds have helped American universities remain on the cutting edge of scientific research and provide the best learning environment for their students. However, it would seem that this increasing emphasis on research commercialization has also created situations where university teachers and researchers could now find themselves in conflict between their traditional academic duties and the new commercial imperatives. This situation is especially worrisome in that it could lead researchers to delay the communication of important findings over substantial periods of time in order to protect commercial interests. In our article, we first demonstrated the existence of a significant correlation between commercialization and withholding of information in the biotechnology research field in Canada and in the US . We then set out to find where and how, in the commercialization chain, the free dissemination of information was put in jeopardy. We conclude that policy changes may be required to improve the free flow of information.”
Sharma, R.S. “Radio Frequency Radiations and Human Health: An Indian Scenario.” George Washington University, 2015.
“Any study in my country which is funded by private industry, I am not going to accept it” stated Dr. RS Sharma, Indian government Senior Scientist, Deputy Director General & Scientist of the Indian Council of Medical Research. Dr Sharma reviewed the research showing genetic damage and health effects from wireless exposures which are informing India’s new telecommunications policy. He put a slide up showing an analysis by Chris Busby and Roger Coghill in 2006 detailing how the majority of industry funded studies on radiofrequency radiation indicate no effect from EMR radiation and the majority of independent studies do show adverse effects.