We’re gonna die of electromagnetic radiation! Oh wait…

The Stichting Kennisplatform Elektromagnetische Straling (SKES, ‘Knowledge Platform Electomagnetic Radiation Foundation’) has published an alarming press release about a research paper from the German scientific journal Reviews on Environmental Health (Belyaev et al. 2015), assessing potential harm done by electromagnetic fields (EMF). It starts as follows:

Too much exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) from mobile and wireless telephones, WiFi, electric devices, electric cables and other sources at home and in public places, can cause several health complaints, infertility and even cancer or Alzheimer. The best way to treat and prevent these ailments is to reduce exposure to EMF, an international group of scientists concludes.

Obviously, too much of anything is bad by definition, but do we actually run this alleged risk of EMF exposure in our modern daily lives, surrounded as we are by electricity-powered technologies?
Stichting Skepsis secretary and mathematician Jan Willem Nienhuys responded:

SKES wrote to the [Dutch] government: ‘With this, we aim to provide honest information…’ (Eindhovens Dagblad 29 June 2013). The ‘we’ refers to just [Peter] van der Vleuten himself, because he is the only board member (chairman, secretary and treasurer) of this foundation. His website also proclaims that the Earth’s magnetic field is also radiation. You don’t really need to read any further after such nonsense. Van der Vleuten thinks communication happens in our bodies through electromagnetic signals, and that fields produced by humans work as a radio jammer. Well, that is complete nonsense from an alternative dream world. Also, telephone waves and magnetic fields cannot damage DNA, so they can’t cause cancer. It’s just baseless scaremongering.

On the German journal and study, Nienhuys commented:

That bulletin has got a so-called impact factor of 0.00 . I may not know much about impact factors, but the British Medical Journal has got an impact factor of 17,445 and reviewed journals often have impact factors of 50 or higher. I think you could say we’re talking about a completely obscure journal. The fact that it’s ‘peer reviewed’ may mean nothing more than that articles are carelessly looked over by fellow believers.

The paper starts by listing all kinds of complaints that are on the rise (mental complaints, ADHD, asthma, etc.) and then, out of the blue, it goes: ‘It is suspected that environmental conditions such as the increasing exposure of the population to electromagnetic fields…do play a causal role for EMF-related health effects.’
Apparently, the reviewer didn’t notice that there’s an instance of circular reasoning here, for example.

When a journalist from The Post Online inquired SKES spokesman Van der Vleuten by telephone (!) about these and other critiques of the validity of the EMF study, he replied annoyed:

I’m not going to respond to this. People who are only out to find things to grumble about, going after renowned scientists, I’m not going to waste my time on that.

Author: Leon Korteweg
Date: 10th February 2016