Tag: cancer

Roundup verdict in California: nothing to do with science

Roundup verdict in California: nothing to do with science

You have probably read about the verdict in California where a jury awarded the plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson $280 million in damages because he developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma while working as a groundskeeper and using Roundup.

You never know how juries make their decisions, as attorney and farmer, Amanda Zaluckyj explains. But we can be sure, that science had nothing to do with it. Maybe they chose to disregard the science because they sympathized with Mr Johnson’s severe lymphoma. But, as Monsanto pointed out in the trial, Johnson’s lymphoma was diagnosed some 10 years before he began using Roundup.

johnsons cancer monsanto

Maybe they didn’t  like Monsanto. The Organic Consumers Association, and US Right To Know have been pushing this anti-biotechnology line for years in order to scare people into using their pricier organic products. Henry Miller has even connected these attacks to the Russian government.

But the science is very clear and has been for years. Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup has about the same toxicity as salt or aspirin. It has been in use since 1974 and is incredible effective and incredibly safe.  Here’s one review on toxicity and here’s another on carcinogenicity.

Probably the only actual report of Roundup causing cancer was made by the IARC, a small French research unit, who when they lost their budget, joined the WHO as a small research division. The trouble with that group is that they were not scientifically driven, but politically driven, considering only a few cherry-picked papers out of the hundreds of papers available on Roundup. And their conclusion was driven by lobbyist Christopher Portier, who formerly worked for the Environmental Defense Fund. Portier is not, however, a toxicologist.  So, when the IARC declared that  Roundup was “probably carcinogenic” they were not considering scientific data, but driven by politics.  I wrote about this in detail here.

Soon after this, the WHO overrode the IARC, and, along with the UN, declared that Roundup was NOT carcinogenic, based on available scientific data. The EFSA quickly agreed.

Courtrooms are not a good place for science,  because juries do not try to understand the scientific method or scientific findings, and instead try to connect with the emotions of the case: poor, sick groundskeeper versus large agricultural company. Who would you predict would prevail?

Fortunately, Monsanto is appealing and we hope will prevail against these preposterous claims. You might also read Cameron English’s excellent analysis of this case here.

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No, cell phones do not cause cancer!

No, cell phones do not cause cancer!

Let’s start with a homely example. If a friend comes to you claiming to have a wonderful new pudding recipe, made only from grass clippings, your first response would be “how would that work?” You know that grass is really fibrous and doesn’t have a lot of flavor.

So, if another wacky friend comes to you claiming that cell phones cause cancer, you could ask the same question: “how would that work?” Because you know that the microwaves used in cell phones are so low in energy that they cannot disrupt any chemical bonds.  Prominent physicist and educator Bob Park dealt with this in 2001, in the journal article “Cell phones and cancer: how should science respond?

As Park points out, all known cancer causing agents work by breaking chemical bonds, producing mutant strands of DNA. The energy of such elector magnetic radiation runs from low energy microwaves through the visible spectrum, up to ultraviolet and eventually to X-rays, with the energy is determined by the wavelength, with the shorter wavelengths being more energetic. Only at the ultraviolet wavelengths and beyond do the photns that make up such radiation have enough energy to break bonds. Microwaves, infrared, and visible radiation just can’t do it, and thus, cannot cause cancer.

Knowing that one simple fact makes it easy to question alarmist articles like the one in last week’s issue of The Nation, on a conspiracy theory on how Big Wireless made us think cell phones are safe.  The report, by Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie details a conspiracy to shut up cell phone critics, which even if true does not establish the cell phones are dangerous. It is simply another example of The Nation reporting outside its political specialty, but ignoring established science.

But why believe Park and me? The American Cancer Society has a high readable report:  Cellular Phones that comes to the same conclusion.

But what about if you are in a room full of cell phones and make hundreds of calls a day? Is that any more dangerous? What about Michael Cohen’s 16 cell phones? To answer, consider the following thought experiment, which, I think, came originally from Bob Park.

Suppose that Napoleon stands at the Strait of Dover with his soldiers and orders them to throw rocks towards England. No one can throw a rock 21 miles, so nothing much happens. So, thinking he just needs more force, Napoleon brings in several more divisions of soldiers and has them all throw rocks towards England.

What happens? A lot of rocks fall into the water, but none get to England, because none of the soldiers is strong enough to throw a rock 21 miles. The same applies to all those cell phones. None can break a bond so even the whole group can’t cause cancer.

Hertsgaard and Dowie cite a well-designed 2016 experiment by the National Toxicology Program in which rats are raised in specially designed crates where they were irradiated with 2 different levels of cell phone radiation (or none for the control group)  for 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off for 9 hours a day, from birth to 2 years. Some rats got CDMA modulated radiation and some got GSM modulation. The original 2016 report was described in Scientific American, and it raised some concerns.

The final revised 2018 result, after adjusting for litter effects, was that there was no positive association between cell phones and brain neoplasms for female rats, male mice, or female mice. They found an association for male rate and only for CDMA modulation. Further, the irradiated male rates lived longer than the controls. In other words, this appeared to be a random effect of no significance. All of this is explained in detail in an article on Science Based Medicine.

While earlier 2016 preliminary analyses seemed to indicate an actual effect, it disappeared when the statistics were adjusted for litter effects (animals from the same litter would be expected to have similar responses).

So, physics is still true, and alarmism has lost out again. Your cell phones are safe.