How Money and Power Dominate RF Research;

woensdag, 28 juni 2023 - Categorie: Berichten Internationaal

The Lai-Singh DNA Breaks 30 Years On; A Conversation with Henry Lai

Lous Slesin, June 12, 2023

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Unremarkable science can sometimes tell a remarkable story. Two papers that were published in the last few weeks —and passed mostly unnoticed— have important, though very different, backstories.

One offers a surprising glimpse of change in the usually static field of RF research, while the other shows how much has stayed the same over the last many years. Yet, in the end, they offer the same well-worn message, always worth repeating: Those who sign the checks, run the show.

The two papers come 30 years after Henry Lai and N.P. Singh began an experiment at the University of Washington in Seattle that would set off alarm bells across the still-young cell phone industry —and the U.S. military. Lai and Singh would show that a single, two-hour exposure to low-level microwave radiation (today, we’d say RF) could lead to breaks in the helical strands of DNA in the brains of live rats.

Physicists have long said that RF is too weak to break a chemical bond in DNA or anywhere else. Lai-Singh were not trying to rewrite the laws of physics, only reporting that they saw more DNA breaks when rats were exposed to RF radiation. They had some ideas about what might be going on but were the first to concede that they didn’t really know.

The news from Seattle spread quickly. Lai had a reputation as a careful investigator with years of experience. Singh was even better known. He had developed the comet assay, which had become a standard technique for measuring DNA damage. As for the university’s bioelectromagnetics lab, it was state-of-the-art. It had been designed and built with support from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) by Bill Guy, a talented engineer, who would become one of the cell phone industry’s most senior RF experts.

The DNA experiment came at a bad time for Motorola. Several months earlier, on January 21, 1993, David Reynard, a Florida businessman, told CNN’s Larry King that his wife, Susan, had died of a brain tumor which, he believed, had been caused by a cell phone. He was suing for damages. At the time, Larry King Live was the most widely watched show on the cable news channel. Reynard made headlines. Shares of Motorola tumbled the following day, losing four percent of their value on the New York Stock Exchange.

Lai-Singh offered the missing link: If RF could indeed break DNA, it was no stretch to believe that cell phone radiation could lead healthy brain cells down the path to cancer. “This is a possible mechanism for causing DNA damage that could have significant health effects,” a senior FDA official told me at the time. (That official, Mays Swicord, would later join Motorola as director of its RF bioeffects research program.)

The telecoms knew the Lai-Singh results spelled trouble. Six months before they appeared in print, Motorola scientists flew to Seattle to check out their lab. At the same time, Motorola PR was looking for ways to control potential fallout —they called it war-gaming Lai-Singh.

The DNA paper cleared peer review and was published in the summer of 1995. It took up just four pages in the journal Bioelectromagnetics. Lai-Singh became a rallying cry for those who maintained that the cancer threat is real. The radiation may well be too weak to break a chemical bond, they said, but RF could, by some as-yet unexplained mechanism, set off a cascade of reactions leading to the same result: broken DNA.

Threats from All Over

In the months and years that followed, Lai would be threatened —sometimes subtly, often less so— by telecom agents of one kind or another. Even Bill Guy, his former colleague, turned against him. Guy tried to stop the DNA experiments, going so far as to contact the NIH and call for Lai’s research grant to be terminated.

George Carlo, who was in charge of the wireless industry’s (CTIA) health research, wrote to the president of the University of Washington all but demanding that Lai be fired. His letter was laced with threats of litigation.

At one scientific conference, a Motorola consultant approached Lai with some “friendly” advice: Stop the DNA work or your career will be ruined. Lai didn’t stop, yet, it all worked out.

See the link at the top for the remaining part of this remarkable review of an important part of the historical developments in this field.
See also:


for later DNA work in this field.

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