REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive
and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 327

Revolt news 23/05/2011 Print (pdf) Version

1. Further concern has been published by various scientific groups about transparency and bias in IARC, specifically in relation to mobile phones and RF EMF. Partly this is about repeated failure to disclose full results from the IARC Interphone studies, and partly it is about the ‘intimidating’ presence of representatives from industry which controls research grants in otherwise closed assessment groups. There is a close connection and some commonality of assessors between IARC groups for RF and for power-frequency EMFs, the WHO EMF project having taken both under its span. Therefore these matters and the credibility of IARC are of direct interest to concerns about powerlines. (entry for 19 May 2011)

2. Don Maisch has produced a 15-page report 5-5-11 on conflict of interest in IARC over EMFs. The report refers to a letter from IARC to Dr Alexander Lerchl (the antagonist in the Rudiger controversy) rejecting Lerchl’s application to serve on an IARC Working Group on grounds of conflict of interest. The plot thickens! Maisch’s report also notes that half of the WHO EMF project group are ICNIRP members, so these two assessment bodies are not independent.

3. A serious and undisclosed conflict of interest is alleged in the senior IARC assessor Anders Ahlbom, who had been regarded as an eminent impartial adviser. Ahlbom’s work has also been central to IARC consideration of powerline EMFs. Concern about Ahlbom is mentioned in a former DEFRA publication Energy and Environmental Management.

4. Coming on the eve of the much anticipated (but selective and private) IARC meeting tomorrow (24-5-11) to consider the hot topic of EMFs for mobile phones (etc.), the sudden removal of its chairman Prof Anders Ahlbom, their senior and long-serving epidemiologist, may be seen as sensational.

5. From Microwave News today 23-5-11: “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has removed Anders Ahlbom of the Karolinska Institute from its panel of experts which is set to evaluate the cancer risks posed by mobile phones. The committee will meet in Lyon, France, for a week beginning this coming Tuesday, May 24. In an e-mail sent out earlier today, Ahlbom wrote, "IARC has excluded me from the RF Working Group because of 'possible perception of conflict of interest'." IARC moved quickly after learning that Ahlbom is a director of his brother's consulting firm, Gunnar Ahlbom AB. The company, which is based in Brussels, was established to help clients on telecom issues, with an emphasis on environmental and energy regulations.”

6. Credit where it’s due, IARC acted quickly upon the news of the specific conflict of interest becoming public. However, public concern about pro-industry interests in IARC has been much wider and longer-term, relating to several of IARC’s selected experts and selected observers who can influence decisions. On this occasion it seems Ahlbom was caught red-handed and IARC was forced to act. It is of further concern to read that IARC, in spite of the transgression, invited Ahlbom nevertheless to be present at this week’s meeting as an expert observer! That speaks volumes about IARC’s partiality, not to mention naivety.

7. Ahlbom’s directorship of a lobbying company was an obviously declarable interest which he reportedly failed to declare. So was his long-term family interest lobbying for industry. If he had declared it, or even raised the question with IARC, then IARC would be culpable of collusion. If he had not declared it nor raised the question, this puts in doubt Ahlbom’s fitness to advise in any capacity. The EMF ‘establishment’ of IARC and ICNIRP for both mobile phones and powerlines is incestuously constructed with strong overlap of membership and influence. Ahlbom should be removed as an IARC adviser on any EMF matters including powerlines.

8. Ahlbom was a member of the Expert Review Panel commissioned by the Irish government in 2007 that concluded on powerline fields and cancer: “There is limited scientific evidence of an association between ELF magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia. This does not mean that ELF magnetic fields cause cancer, but the possibility cannot be excluded. However considerable research carried out in laboratories has not supported this possibility, and overall the evidence is considered weak, suggesting it is unlikely that ELF magnetic fields cause leukaemia in children. Nevertheless the evidence should not be discounted and so no or low cost precautionary measures to lower people’s exposure to these fields have been suggested.”

9. The above conclusion, on which Ahlbom would be the central adviser, errs from the established position when suggesting the possibility is “unlikely”. That does not reflect the IARC classification. This kind of insidious deviation favours industry. In my evidence to the Irish interconnector public inquiry in 2010 I said “The Expert Group is far from independent and the leaflets are in parts unreasonable and misleading” and “The Expert Group represents exactly the defensive viewpoint on which industry draws and which has excited so much dissent among scientists. Governments have been known to select “safe” experts, and to dismiss them if they step out of line.” The Irish government should take into account that its key adviser Ahlbom had important undeclared interests in 2007 when its Expert Group report was produced, and should review its report accordingly.

10. And finally … coalition minister Chris Huhne (under police enquiry - you can’t seem to get away from it, can you!) is calling, with National Grid, for new pylon designs to try to subdue public horror at the scale of new powerline projects his manic windfarm policies demand. “About 80 miles of high-voltage pylons are planned in the Lake District, 50 miles in Snowdonia and 30 miles in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, according to calculations by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).”

Statements made by the editor or by other parties and quoted for information do not necessarily represent the views of Revolt. Criticism of government and industry, and grievances from members of the public, are in the nature of Revolt's work, though we try to give credit where it is due. Revolt is strictly non-party-political and regrets any offence which may be inadvertently caused.




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