'A huckster of junk science'

Forum Extra

November 06, 1991|By Kieron F. Quinn

ROBERT PARK, a physicist at the University of Maryland, makes the "point" (Other Voices, Sept. 12) that 60-hertz magnetic fields are no more dangerous than artichokes or shoe polish.

Clearly revealing why he is a professor of physics and not of biochemistry, epidemiology or medicine, Park advances increasingly tenuous analogies ultimately reaching the conclusion that dioxin, cyclamates and asbestos are not particularly harmful either.

In a long and very detailed 1990 report, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that electromagnetic radiation posed a "probable" cancer risk. The EPA report was killed by the White House for Kieron F.Quinnreasons that have nothing to do with science and everything to do with the political clout of the electric power industry and the U.S. Air Force. The political solution was to appoint a science advisory board to review the report. The appointed board merely requested that the EPA undertake a one-year "review" of the report.

At the June meeting of the Bioelectromagnetics Society in Salt Lake City, Park appeared on one of the panels. He attempted to demonstrate to the assembled physicists, chemists, biologists, engineers and epidemiologists that it was mathematically impossible for there to be any biological effects from low-frequency magnetic fields and suggested an analysis that the dangers of radiation were about the same as those of peanut butter. After Park spoke, W.R. Adey, one of the world's foremost researchers in this area, rose and expressed his outrage that Park had even been given the time to spread his nonsense to an audience of scientists. Adey laid out a long list of authorities and concepts of which Park seemed entirely ignorant, terming Park's level of analysis "high school physics" and essentially junk science.

Having failed to sell his high school physics to the EPA's advisory board, and then to the Bioelectromagnetics Society, Park has apparently decided that the readers of The Evening Sun are unlikely to have the scientific or technical expertise to discover that the professor himself is selling artichokes.

There are a number of epidemiological studies that find disturbing associations between electromagnetic radiation on the 60-hertz level and brain tumors, leukemia and male breast cancer.

Animal and cell studies support the thesis that 60-hertz fields have significant effects. Since the EPA report was written, there have been a number of additional studies, including those from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, and more will be published in the next year. By the time the EPA completes its one-year review, it will become even more evident that magnetic fields on the 60-hertz level are a health hazard to humans.

Park should be seen as essentially a flack for the electric power industry and a huckster of junk science.

Kieron F. Quinn is a Baltimore lawyer.

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