To ABC staff at Media Watch
Media Watch used phrases such as “supposed dangers of wi-fi and mobile phones”, “Demasi’s so-called ‘investigation’, “scorned in this way”, “Demasi’s program was shockingly one-sided” and “the scientific consensus weighs heavily in the opposite direction”. We bring together our expertise to make the case (below) that such claims are patently wrong, in so doing adding to and supporting Dr Demasi’s own defence.
We believe that to promote the public good, science needs an informed media. The issues raised by Catalyst in Demasi’s investigation are highly complex and uncertain, and there is insufficient space in the letter format here to review the scientific considerations involved.
In our view, there are good arguments to promote the use of mobile phones and wi-fi, but there are also well-documented safety concerns. We recognise, at the moment, that social consensus in Australia accepts that the benefits of mobile phones and wi-fi exceed their risks, although there are insufficient data to conduct a meaningful risk-benefit evaluation. Catalyst provided a valuable service in not only reminding the public of these risks, but of describing several practical ways to lower them, including reduced exposure of the head to mobile phone use (eg a hands-free kit, speaker phone use) reduced body contact during mobile phone carriage, and the thoughtful placement of routers with the additional suggestion to turn them off during sleep.
Contrary to the assertion in Media Watch, our view is that programmes such as Catalyst should not necessarily follow formulae that give equal time to the dominant view, often sponsored by vested interests, especially when it is based on limited relatively early data. In scientific papers (other than reviews) this is rarely the case. Scientists seek to advance knowledge. Hypotheses are tested and literature interpreted in ways that explore our theories. Over time, good science discards false theories and approaches truth. Rather than balance, science seeks knowledge. Catalyst is a mix of science and media; we did not find its presentation to be unfair, but refreshing and a valued public service.
Professor Colin D Butler BMed, BMedSci(Hons), DTM&H, MSc(epidemiology), PhD (epidemiology and population health)
Faculty of Health and Health Research Institute, University of Canberra, Australia;, Canberra
Visiting Fellow, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Founding co-chair: Health-Earth
Co-Founder: BODHI and BODHI Australia
Associate Professor Mark Diesendorf BSc (Hons), PhD
Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences UNSW
Australia Sydney NSW 2052 Australia
Dr Murray May BSc (Hons), DipEd, MEd, PhD
Visiting Fellow, School of Physical Environmental and Mathematical Sciences,
Em Professor Colin L Soskolne PhD
University of Alberta;
Adjunct Professor, University of Canberra
Fellow, American College of Epidemiology;
Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini Chair, International Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology (IJPC-SE)
Plus one colleague to be confirmed
PS As of today (May 16, 2016) our letter has not been acknowledged.