Controversy surrounding research into the effects of microwave radiation has accelerated with doctors and researchers from both sides of the Atlantic calling for Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, president of the Karolinka Institute in Stockholm, to intervene and protect the institute’s reputation for academic freedom.
More than usual jockeying for coveted space in an academic environment, the attempt to convert a noted professor’s microwave research offices and lab into a microscopic imaging facility is seen by professionals and activists alike as interference and timed to block crucial research that could damage the lucrative $153 billion wireless communications industry.
At the centre of the controversy is Olle Johansson, associate professor, head of the Experimental Dermatology Unit, Department of Neuroscience, at the Karolinska Institute (famous for it's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine) in Stockholm, Sweden. He is a world-leading authority in the field of EMF radiation and health effects. Johansson also occupies the position of Professor at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology.
Last Autumn Johansson was notified that his offices and lab were to be converted to “an animal house for ferrets.” Following a point-blank refusal the proposal was dropped and Johansson prepared for an independently-funded experiment to replicate the science of a Canadian professor whose work led to the cancellation of wi-fi and the labeling of cell phones in San Francisco. These experiments were to commence in August.
Replication of original scientific research is a standard procedure of verification of the original and leads to the establishment of official public health / industry standards. The wireless industry is largely unregulated and relies on standards that are 10 years old and widely regarded as hopelessly out of date.
Earlier this month, Prof. Staffan Cullheim, chair of the Department of Neuroscience, informed Johansson that his premises were required for construction of an imaging centre effective July 31, immediately before Johansson was to begin a potentially industry changing set of tests.
Opposition of the industry to what is seen as any interference came last month when the industry threatened to cancel it’s annual conference which attracts 68,000 visitors in San Francisco. Loss of the conference would cost the city an estimated $80 million in economic activity generated by the three-day Enterprise and Applications Show. (CTIA, The Wireless Association, continues to promote the Oct. 6-8 show on it’s web site http://www.ctia.org/.)
Cullheim claims that the replacement of Johansson’s work space is standard procedure in a move to “optimise the effectivity of the organisation”. In what he calls a “correction”, Prof. Cullheim noted that “other researchers at the department have started to question the special support given to Olle Johansson by the department.”
Against objections that the new facility should be located in vacant space elsewhere in the building, Cullheim noted, Johansson “will be offered alternative premises as those he is currently using. A certain degree of down-sizing the area will be necessary.”
Cullheim failed to address the issue of the timing of the demand for Johansson to leave his offices and immediately after posting his comments, explained that he is on holiday and that e-mails would be checked on an irregular basis only.
Predictably, Dr. Magda Havas, the Canadian researcher whose work Johansson plans to replicate, has issued an impassioned public statement proclaiming the Karolinska Institute’s action as an assault on academic enquiry. “Without academic freedom we are doomed to be corporate pawns,” she claims.
Havas, with Camilla Rees is co-author of Public Health SOS: The Shadow Side of the Wireless Revolution. She is Associate Professor of Environmental & Resource Studies at Trent University, teaching and conducting research on the biological effects of environmental contamination. Havas holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, did Post-Doctoral research at Cornell University and taught at the University of Toronto before going to Trent University in Peterborough, Canada.
“We have a history of this type of activity that delayed policy and cost millions of people their health and their lives. It happened with asbestos, with tobacco, with pesticides and is happening now with electrosmog,” claims Havas.
In a pointed response to Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, president of the Karolinska Institute, Havas warned, “Sweden has had a reputation for caring about the environment and about human health and many of your guidelines are among the best in the world. It would be a shame if you allowed the work of Dr. Olle Johansson to be compromised by taking away his lab and office. He is among a handful of truly great scientists in Sweden doing this type of work and we cannot afford to lose him.”
Support for Johansson has spread across the North American continent and Europe. In Canada and the United States, Christine Hoch, executive director of the group Moms for Safer Wireless based in Gainesville Virginia, is circulating a letter to Wallberg-Henriksson which states in part, “Please ensure that Dr. Johansson’s independent work continues in his current lab and office. With over 4,000,000,000 (four billion) cell phone users globally, including children, his research could prevent cancer’s silent growth in millions of people.”
Signatories to the letter include groups such as the American Association for Cell Phone Safety of Los Angeles, Citizens for Safe Technology Society and Citizens Against UnSafe Emissions (CAUSE) in Canada, The People’s Initiative Foundation of Los Angeles, California and Prof. Elihu D Richter MD
In her letter to President Wallberg-Henriksson, Hoch, executive director for the Moms group said, ‘We do not want history repeated as with neglected awareness of health outcomes associated with tobacco, pesticides, lead poisoning, and asbestos. It is important that the Karolinska Institute maintain its world-renowned reputation.”
The Swedish part of the Cohort Study on Mobile Communications (COSMOS) study (a longitudinal study which could take 20-30 years to complete) is conducted by the Karolinska Institute. Ericsson, the massive Swedish mobile phone company that has more than 1,000 networks in more than 175 countries using network equipment and handles 40% of all mobile calls worldwide, is a co-sponsor of the study. As with the previous Interphone study, proponents claim a firewall has been established to ensure scientific independence.
COSMOS differs from previous attempts to examine links between cellphone use and diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders, organisers claim, because it will follow the behavior of users in real time.
Professor Wallberg-Henriksson, president of the Karolinska Insitute, is also a member of Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science, a group which promotes the development of the life-science sector the region itself on the
If you should wish to add your voice to the protests:
Professor Wallberg-Henriksson – Harriet.Wallberg-Henriksson@ki.se
First Publishd in 2010