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"Cell Phone Fear in San Francisco," my article in Forbes.com
By Michael Fumento
The king is dead. More accurately, Larry King is hanging up his suspenders after 25 years on TV interviewing essentially everybody who was anybody. His secret? A studio that "felt less like a hot seat than a warm bath," as one critic put it. But by letting his guests spout off unchallenged, leaving the impression they were telling the truth, he has occasionally caused lasting damage.
So we saw just recently in San Francisco's decision requiring retailers to prominently post cellphone radiation emission levels, tantamount to warning labels. In a 10-1 decision that the mayor has said he'll sign into law, the board of supervisors is making the city the first U.S. jurisdiction to label cellphones in any way.
The board expressly stated its desire to get the rest of the nation to follow suit. And it all started when a guest on King's show in 1993 announced he was suing a cellphone maker for giving his wife a fatal brain tumor. The media ran with the story, cellphone makers’ stocks plummeted, and all over America phones, however briefly, clicked off.
Wait until you read in my Forbes.com investigative report WHAT that guest said that set off the hysteria and how specifically San Fran came to its decision. If you don't audibly groan, I'll double your money back.
No incidentally, much of the article came from my January report "Celling Fear: The Cell Phone Fear that Refuses to Die."
July 7, 2010 10:00 AM · Permalink
Bisphenol baloney takes another hit
By Michael Fumento
In a provocatively entitled paper in the current issue of the prestigious journal Toxicological Sciences, Richard M. Sharpe asks "Is It Time to End Concerns over the Estrogenic Effects of Bisphenol A?"
In a word, "yes." Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an incredibly valuable chemical added to plastics like baby bottles to make them harder and stronger. It's been in use for many decades. And the greens want to get rid of it because they say it's dangerous.
Yet as I wrote recently in Investor's Business Daily,"Countries that have evaluated BPA in the last three years, as Trevor Butterworth of the STATS think tank has documented, include Norway, France, Germany (twice), Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Add to that a World Health Organization collaborative center. Each has found BPA safe."
(CEI's Angela Logomasini also recently wrote an excellent paper on BPA safety.)
The lynch mob is after BPA because it's a weak synthetic estrogen. These chemicals have been under fire since the publication of the 1996 book "Our Stolen Future," which one review aptly described as "an alarmist tract with a polemical style clearly crafted for its political, not scientific, impact." (With a foreword by Al Gore, no less.)
And so we keep throwing massive amounts of money to scientists to study it more and study it more and study it more.
Recently National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Director Linda Birnbaum announced $30 million in grants for two more years of BPA research, using money from the stimulus act, to "address many of the research gaps" regarding the chemical. Yet over 5,400 medical journal articles have already been published on BPA safety. How many gaps can that leave?
Sharpe comments on poorly done initial studies by an environmental aspect that I described, then writes:
Fundamental, repetitive work on bisphenol A has sucked in tens, probably hundreds, of millions of dollars from government bodies and industry which, at a time when research money is thin on the ground, looks increasingly like an investment with a nil return. All it has done is to show that there is a huge price to pay when initial studies are adhered to as being correct when the second phase of scientific peer review, namely, the inability of other laboratories to repeat the initial studies, says otherwise.
At some point it's time to say "Enough!" and we passed that point with BPA a long time ago.
February 15, 2010 05:17 PM · Permalink
A disease cluster scare implodes; a new one is born
By Michael Fumento
Yesterday I wrote that a scare over a scleroderma cluster in South Boston had been resolved when the state department of health found no links to anything manmade, but rather than the sufferers were simply genetically more inclined to developing the disease.
But now Florida activists have just goaded the Palm Beach County Health Department into declaring a cluster of child cancer cases in the town of Acreage. Residents are alternately angered and terrified, including by none other than uber-activist Erin Brockovich herself, about whose cold-blooded antics I've published 15 articles. She came to town to express her concern and outrage, with two law firms in tow handing out contracts labeled "Contingency Fee Agreement & Power of Attorney."
Implicated have been radioactive well water, pesticides, solvents, jet fuel, and other causes. Everything but coincidence, as health officials obviously believe. Meanwhile, in addition to being terrified over their kids' health, people in the town have found they can't move if they want to because their property values have collapsed.
Implicated have been pesticides, solvents, radium, jet fuel, and other causes. Everything but coincidence, as health officials obviously believe.
I found out about this because I received an email today that read in part:
I wrote to you earlier because Erin Brockovich was starting hysteria and pressing the government to call our community a cancer cluster. Now, with skewed population numbers and a number as small as three, the health officials have deemed us a pediatric cancer cluster. Now people are calling to condemn this community with 12,000 CHILDREN (not total). People are scared and trying to blame whatever and whoever.
An unofficial poll by a newspaper online website found two-thirds of those voting thought Brocko was only out for personal gain (Oh, such ingrates!), and some comments by townspeople seemed to reflect, shall we say, a certain degree of anger. Here's one.
The people of the Acreage have alot to lose, cant move, cant refi, cant sell, cant do anything with your property but still pay taxes and your mortgage for how ever many years this takes.
I dunno. Call me insensitive. But I don't think doing this to people is right.
February 8, 2010 07:55 PM · Permalink
"Killer Cans And Toxic Baby Bottles," my piece in Investor's Business Daily
By Michael Fumento
Should we worry about a common chemical almost all of us carry in our bodies that activists claim causes a list of diseases longer than you'll find in a major medical center?
Yet aside from Canada, which is banning BPA baby bottles, nobody else in the world seems worried. What's our problem?
Partly it reflects media adoration for a single homegrown scientist. And strangely enough, it's also a consequence of President Obama's economic stimulus package.
Read the rest here!
And for an excellent longer treatment, my colleague Angela Logomasini has just completed an excellent report on "The Nanny State Attack on BPA: Oregon and Beyond.
February 6, 2010 12:29 PM · Permalink
No, yet again, cell phones do not cause cancer
By Michael Fumento
If you're getting a headache from spending to much time on your cell phone, it's probably from yakking too much. But it's not from brain cancer. Not from the phone, anyway, as yet another shows. No, this wasn't one of those "let's put some mouse brain cells in a Petri dish and stimulate it with magnetic waves and see if it makes them do anything unusual" tests. This was an epidemiological study of lots and lots of Scandinavian cell phone users.
Specifically, as reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, "national registry data from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden from 1974 to 2003 showed rates of the brain cancers glioma and meningioma had either remained stable, decreased, or followed the same gradual increase observed before mobile phones became popular in the 1990s."
On average, it's believed it takes about 20 years for a brain tumor to appear after the initial insult. But that's spread over a wide bell curve of a few years to 40 years. Five to 10 years, if using a large enough population, is enough for trends to start showing up. Yet the four Scandinavian countries had a mobile phone network since 1981, two years before the service launched in the U.S. So there's been plenty of time for tumors to show up.
All that's appeared is crummy science perpetrated by the usual anti-technology cell-out doomsayers.
December 30, 2009 06:35 PM · Permalink
"Tanning beds as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas" (Not.)
By Michael Fumento
"Tanning beds as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas," declares the headline of one of many similar stories about a new study.
"According to new research tanning beds are as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas, which confirms what doctors long suspected," it declares. Wrongly.
The article was about cancer risks, which you would know without reading a word of it insofar as it appeared in the medical journal Lancet Oncology and was authored by scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Most people probably never even knew arsenic caused cancer and even I didn't know mustard gas does. It's not the most important information in the world, seeing as most of us are pretty careful to keep our exposure to arsenic and mustard gas to a minimum.
The writer confused acute toxicity, for which both arsenic and mustard gas are quite famous, with carcinogenicity. But was the writer truly confused? It was, after all, a study entirely about causes of human cancer. UV radiation from tanning beds just happened to be one of them. No, it was just a bit more disinformation to draw the reader's eye away from more responsible journalism.
July 30, 2009 07:43 AM · Permalink
Does racism cause breast cancer?
By Michael Fumento
"Breast Cancer Link to Racial Discrimination" No doubt that Reuters headline pleases demagogues who would have us think every problem blacks have is due to persistent racism.
The headline comes from a study conducted at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. In it, black women completed a questionnaire in 1997 that included questions on perceived discrimination in two domains: "everyday" discrimination (such as being treated as dishonest) and major experiences of unfair treatment due to race (such as job, housing, and police). From 1997 to 2003, 593 incident cases of breast cancer were found.
There was a weak but non-statistically significant association between women claiming discrimination and breast cancer. No significance means even that apparent weak association means nothing. So the authors sliced the data at the 50-year mark and - voila! - statistical significance. Among women under 50, those who reported discrimination on the job had a 32% higher rate of breast cancer than those who didn't report it. There was a 48% increase for those who reported discrimination in all three situations - housing, job, and police - relative to those who reported none.
"These findings," concluded the authors, "suggest that perceived experiences of racism are associated with increased incidence of breast cancer among U.S. black women, particularly younger women."
Now here's what they didn't tell you.
First, overall breast cancer rates are much lower for black women than for white women, with 118 cases per 100,000 for blacks versus 132 per 100,000 for whites for the years 2000-2004.
That doesn't exactly jibe with racism as a carcinogen.
Second, not only was there no significant association until the authors starting slicing the data, but even after the slicing the data were barely within the realm of statistical significance. In other words, the association is far weaker than it appears.
Third, there is no known biological explanation for the alleged phenomenon. The one suggested in the news stories is stress. Stress can indeed cause terrible health problems, as I have documented in countless articles. With faux media-spread syndromes, we're literally making people sick by telling they should be sick. Stress can even kill, as with heart disease. But although many have looked, nobody has yet found a link between stress and cancer.
Assuming the Howard study shows any kind of connection between perceived racism and breast cancer, "perceived" may be the key word. People who perceive things differently from other people are different from other people. There may be a link between discrimination-perceivers and non-perceivers that we ought to look for.
Meanwhile it is true that younger black women (those under 54) have a slightly higher rate of breast cancer than their white counterparts, 94 versus 91 per 100,000 for 2004. Why might that be? And why might older black women be less at risk?
There are many differences between black and white women that we know of that do have biological plausibility. The most obvious is genetics. This notwithstanding a recent quote from a black doctor that - I'm not making this up - anybody who says blacks and whites are genetically different is a racist. So blacks are just darker than whites because they spend more time in the sun, right?
Meanwhile, we know that Ashkenazi Jews are especially prone to breast cancer because of specific identified genes. Therefore we must scientifically conclude that ... Mike Fumento is both a racist and an anti-Semite.
Yet we know of many other differences, such as weight, diet, and smoking. Bottom line: If you're really interested in exploring differences between breast cancer rates among different groups, you should probably devote your resources to paths that actually might lead to answers rather than to headlines.
July 5, 2007 11:19 PM · Permalink
Perform Miracles with Your PC
By Michael Fumento
"Distributed computing" could theoretically lead to such massive supercomputers as to cure every disease known to man. It works by tapping into the unused portion of your PC's CPU. One percent of all CPUs so linked would absolutely blow away the most powerful stand-alone supercomputers in existence. Read more about how this works and why you need to become a part of it in my new TCS.daily article, "An Idle Computer Is the Lord's Workshop."
March 26, 2007 07:53 PM · Permalink
We're all smokers now
By Michael Fumento
Just came back from a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. The volcanoes were terrific but the rain was incredible. If we'd looked at the sky for more than three minutes with mouths open we'd have drowned. As we got there Dana Reeve just died and suddenly it was "all Reeve, all the time" on CNN and other stations, with tons of talking heads and lots of callers. Reeve's lung cancer as well as those of callers or their deceased loved ones who had contracted cancer and claimed to be non-smokers were all blamed on passive smoke. The idea that anybody could possibly contract lung cancer without an airborne insult of some type occurred to absolutely nobody, yet until political correctness took over from science it's always been accepted that lungs so clean you can eat off them can nevertheless give rise to malignancies, and indeed studies such as one in 2004 have found clear distinctions between the types of malignancies in smokers and non-smokers, indicating that genetics were the culprit in non-smokers. Add to this that there is no good evidence that passive smoke causes any lung cancers.
All that said, if either me or my non-smoking wife ever contract lung-cancer we're going to blame it on breathing in vapors from Hawaiian volcanos and sue the National Park Service.
March 15, 2006 02:36 PM · Permalink