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Open letter to Time Magazine and Catherine Sharick

Open letter to Time Magazine and Catherine Sharick

September 5, 2010

Dear Ms. Sharick,

Thank you for your interest in Belly Armor and coverage in your Time magazine review, “Do Belly Blankets Protect Baby from Radiation?”. I am writing this open letter to you in order to set the record straight on several misleading points. You take a personal stance of choosing to avoid radiation exposure, and yet present the opinion of a single medical professional to represent the entire health community – a community that is decidedly mixed on the issue.

You misleadingly reference the World Health Organization, Food and Drug Administration, and Federal Communications Commission. First of all, why is it these three organizations that you decide to reference? It is the duty of these organizations, especially given the prevalence and obvious benefits of wireless technology, to not cause a major disruption in society until the evidence of health risks (which they all acknowledge exists) is convincingly against. Despite that, all three of these organizations acknowledge the uncertainty – that there are significant and credible studies showing negative health impacts and therefore a potential risk. All three also advise the use of the “precautionary principle” of avoiding exposure to everyday radiation and dedicate the majority of their advisories on the health issue to recommending ways to reduce exposure. It took nearly 15 years after strong scientific evidence on the health impacts of cigarettes until the Federal Trade Commission took action against cigarette companies claiming health benefits. It took over 30 years until the Surgeon General took a stance on the issue. And it took over 60 years until the FDA labeled cigarettes as an “addictive drug” in 1996!

Why did you not pay any attention to the governing bodies that, rather than having to give the wireless technologies the benefit of the doubt, have a duty to highlight the potential hazards? The Environmental Working Group, President’s Cancer Council, and National Research Council all take a stance that the US is not doing enough to protect against and understand the health risks from everyday radiation. As the Environmental Working Group stated in their 2009 Cell Phone Radiation Science Review, “the two U.S. federal agencies that regulate cell phones, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), have all but ignored evidence that long term cell phone use may be risky.”

Why also, did you speak with only one health professional? There are many doctors and researchers who are actively advocating for awareness and precaution. Dr. Martin Blank, MD and associate professor at Columbia University states, “There is enough evidence of a plausible mechanism to link EMF exposure to increased risk of cancer, and therefore of a need to limit exposure, especially of children.” Or Dr. Devra Davis who under the Clinton administration headed the Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and was a Senior Advisor for the Department of Health and Human Services whose new book on the dangers of cell phones will be out at the end of September. Or even reading over the article in TIME magazine itself about the dangers of cell phones written earlier this year (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1969732,00.html?xid=rss-topstories).

As an organization, we make a strong effort to put the risk of radiation exposure in context – a point that we emphasized strongly to you in our discussions. To do an honest assessment of the risk of radiation exposure in the context of all the health risks during pregnancy – alcohol, cigarettes, nutrition, exercise, etc. – radiation is not at the top of the list of concerns; but it is a valid and real concern. In the purest sense of the word “risk”, radiation exposure is a risk – for every study that shows no harm, there is a study that shows a real harm. There are hundreds of credible studies that indicate health hazards – from cancer, to miscarriage, to developmental disruptions. There is uncertainty on the issue, we do not have enough data, and much of the data we do have shows significant risk. Even as your expert, Dr. Riley, acknowledges, “I really don’t know”. She states, “there are no conclusive studies that have shown that low radiation from everyday devices is harmful to anyone, much less to a pregnant woman.” Well, there are also no conclusive studies showing that everyday radiation is safe, which is exactly the point. Furthermore, to state “much less to a pregnant women” seems disingenuous – implying that there is a higher bar for evidence of health risk during pregnancy than for the general population. The fact is, very little research has been done specific to the health risks to children and during pregnancy; but the types of health risks that current research indicate would all be more harmful during this period because they deal with DNA and cell growth.

To disparage those pregnant women and families that decide to take pre-cautions in the light of credible uncertainty, or even to suggest that they do so without scientific cause is both unfair and irresponsible. Belly Armor provides a compromise to avoiding the technology that has become the reality of the modern world and the other extreme of simply ignoring a body of evidence that is acknowledged to be inconclusive by every credible source that assesses it. If it is a choice of eating healthy and avoiding alcohol or taking action against the risk of everyday radiation – please address the larger risks. However, this is not a trade-off that we face. A trade-off that many of us do face is the choice of buying an extra maternity top or getting a Belly Band that will protect against a potential risk to your child.

Sincerely,

Michael Lam
Co-founder of Belly Armor