EXPERT REACTION: ABC's Catalyst programme 'Wi-Fried' about EM radiation and health

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A recent edition of the ABC’s Catalyst programme looked into the issues of the health effects of electromagnetic (EM) radiation. The episode "takes a closer look at the link between mobile phones & brain cancer & explores whether our wireless devices could be putting our health at risk". Below Australian experts respond to the episode's claims.

Organisation/s: Australian Science Media Centre

Media release

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  • Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)
    Web page
    Statement from ARPANSA in response to Catalyst episode

Expert Reaction

These comments have been collated by the Science Media Centre to provide a variety of expert perspectives on this issue. Feel free to use these quotes in your stories. Views expressed are the personal opinions of the experts named. They do not represent the views of the SMC or any other organisation unless specifically stated.

Professor Rodney Croft is Director of the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia’s Centre for Research Excellence in Electromagnetic Energy, he is a current ICNIRP Commissioner, and Professor of Health Psychology at University of Wollongong

I was particularly disappointed to see “Wi-Fried” air yesterday in the guise of science journalism, and felt it important to reassure other viewers that the fringe position provided by Dr Davis and associates is merely that, a fringe position that is not supported by science. There is very strong scientific consensus that, even after considering such personal views as Dr Davis’, there is no substantiated evidence that the low levels of radiofrequency emissions encountered by mobile telecommunications can cause any harm. Of course it is impossible for science to demonstrate that anything is absolutely safe, and so regardless of whether we’re talking about Wi-Fi or orange juice, science cannot demonstrate absolute safety. However, given that radiofrequency emissions are one of the most heavily researched agents that science has ever assessed, and given that (contrary to Catalyst’s claims) no substantiated health effects have emerged, we can be very confident that the emissions are indeed safe. For further information about the international consensus view in this area, you may find the website of the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) of interest (

Last updated: 03 Nov 2016 4:41pm
Dr Geza Benke is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University

During the programme, Prof Davis claims that the Australian brain cancer incidence rates (a graph was shown) cannot be used as evidence of no problem because brain cancer latency is 40 years. This firstly contradicts her own argument then, because she spends a lot of time saying current studies are showing increased cancer risk!

Secondly, Prof Davis's claims are incorrect, since solid tumors have a much shorter minimum latency (see reference in the downloads table). This means we should be seeing increased rates now if there was an association. This reference also contradicts her claims that there are no environmental tumors that occur before 10 years.

Last updated: 03 Nov 2016 4:34pm

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