By Kate Kheel, March 13, 2017

The Children’s Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council (CEHPAC), a Maryland state organization dedicated to protecting children from hazardous environmental exposures, recently released precautionary recommendations regarding WiFi in schools.   Shortly thereafter, an OpEd piece about these recommendations appeared in the Baltimore Sun.  The article, titled Recommendation to limit Md. School Wi-Fi based on ‘junk science’ by reporter Alex Berezow, was so filled with misleading and slanderous statements that it wreaked of a money trail behind the article. And here it is.

In a short video clip, reporter Alex Berezow shared a bit about himself. He explained he was a Senior Fellow at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) and as a journalist, the areas he liked most covering were biology, epidemiology, and health.  He explained, “I also do my fair share of debunking of organic food and anti-vaccine myths and other anti-chemical myths – and so it’s a mix of bio med and debunkery.”

It turns out that the organization Berezow works for, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), has a self-proclaimed mission to counter activists that seek healthy and non-toxic living for all.  According to their website,

“Activist groups have targeted GMOs, vaccines, conventional agriculture, [that is, Monsanto, factory f and agribusiness] nuclear power, natural gas, and ‘ chemicals,’ while peddling health scares and fad diets. Worse, they have attacked the credibility of academic and private sector scientists, undermining the integrity of the scientific enterprise, by claiming unless they are funded by the government their work is illegitimate.” 

ACSH also boasts that a letter they sent to Columbia University demanding that Dr. Oz be removed from their faculty, got “national attention” – but thankfully, Dr. Oz still holds his position at Columbia University.

Apparently, ACSH stopped disclosing the sources of their funding over 20 years ago, but a short Google search led to a 2014 Mother Jones article about ACSH –  Leaked Documents Reveal the Secret Finances of a Pro-Industry Science Group.  This article presents a veritable laundry list of donors and doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of the inner workings of the Council:

“ACSH’s donors and the potential backers the group has been targeting comprise a who’s-who of energy, agriculture, cosmetics, food, soda, chemical, pharmaceutical, and tobacco corporations. ACSH donors in the second half of 2012 included Chevron ($18,500), Coca-Cola ($50,000), the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation ($15,000), Dr. Pepper/Snapple ($5,000), Bayer Cropscience ($30,000), Procter and Gamble ($6,000), agribusiness giant Syngenta ($22,500), 3M ($30,000), McDonald’s ($30,000), and tobacco conglomerate Altria ($25,000). Among the corporations and foundations that ACSH has pursued for financial support since July 2012 are Pepsi, Monsanto, British American Tobacco, DowAgro, ExxonMobil Foundation, Phillip Morris International, Reynolds American, the Koch family-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Dow-linked Gerstacker Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the Searle Freedom Trust.”  

Further inquiry into Berezow’s quest to debunk revealed a recent article he had written about Dr. Joel Moskowitz (Ph.D), Director of Berkeley School of Public Health – UC Berkeley Psychologist Joel Moskowitz Is Cell Phone, Wi-Fi ‘Truther’

In this article, Berezow ridicules Dr. Moskowitz’s laudable push to get the California Department of Public Health to release a document containing safety guidelines for cell phones, which had been withheld from the public for seven years.  Berezow mockingly writes,

“On his website, Dr. Moskowitz promotes media stories that cover the supposed link between harmless kinds of electromagnetic radiation and cancer. It appears that needlessly scaring parents is how this professor of public health spends his free time.”

As it turned out, thankfully – and to Dr. Moskowitz’s credit – a few days after Berezow’s article, a California judge ruled that the recommendations were to be released. No comment to date from Berezow.

Berezow – quite the prolific reporter – wrote another piece entitled, Infographic: The Best and Worst Science News Sites, which has a graph of science news sites graded according to their “fundamental trustworthiness”.   BBC received a very favorable rating from Berezow which led to checking out what BBC had to say about precautionary measures regarding children and WiFi.  Turns out they have a very different take on this than Berezow.  Click here for their excellent 2014 video documentary on WiFi (15 minutes).

In theory, an organization can publish articles that are unfavorable to those from whom they receive funding. ACSH argues this point stating that  “…the sources of our support are irrelevant to our scientific investigations.”

So let’s see if the Op Ed piece indeed is truly objective or if perhaps it’s serving as a mouthpiece for industry.

Berezow criticizes CEHPAC for the use of the term “radiation.” “‘‘Radiation’ is a scary word,” he explains, and CEHPAC shows a “fundamental ignorance of scientific terminology.”

“It’s [the word ‘radiation’] so scary to so many people that even hospitals try to avoid using words like it, including ‘nuclear.’ For instance, the machine that we call MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is similar to a machine used by chemists called NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) to determine molecular structure. The word ‘nuclear,’ however, scared patients, so hospitals dropped it. A similar phobia exists over the word ‘radiation.’

Restated, Berezow is arguing that because radiation is a “scary” word, CEHPAC displayed a “fundamental ignorance of scientific terminology”  by using this term in their recommendations to describe the frequencies and pulses of radiofrequency microwave radiation that emanate from WiFi routers, tablets, and cell towers.

”The title of Berezow’s article states that the CEHPAC recommendations were based on “junk science.”

Following are a few links to some of the science submitted to CEHPAC in public comments that presumably were the “junk science” on which CEHPAC relied for their recommendations:

Behavior and memory – https://ehtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/TaylorPASSession.pdf

Autism – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24095003

Sperm damage – http://www.reproduction-online.org/content/early/2016/09/06/REP-16-0126

Brain damage – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25775055?dopt=Abstract

And of course, another “junk science” study CEHPAC based their recommendations on were the Partial findings from the $25 million NIEHS/NTP Study, released in May 2016 – the largest study to date the NTP has ever conducted on anything! This study showed showed a significantly higher rate of Glioma and Shwannomas of the heart in rats exposed to 2G cellular radiation. The findings were dose related, and corroborate similar findings in humans with heavy cellphone use. This study comes on the heels of thousands of other peer-reviewed studies showing harm from non-ionizing radiation. For a sampling of some of these studies, click herehere, and here.

Finally, click here for an International Appeal from over 230 scientists calling for better protection from “non-ionizing radiation” (is that a scary term??) – And please do check out Dr. Ronald M. Powell’s Message to Schools and Colleges about Wireless Devices and Health along with his bibliography of further resources.

After reviewing the science, you can decide if Berezow’s OpEd piece was about  “junk science” or was an example of “junk journalism”.