Bad science in the New York Times

The “cell phone electromagnetic fields are giving you cancer” people have a new target: now it’s hybrid cars that are going to kill you. The NYT gasps:

While Americans live with E.M.F.’s all around — produced by everything from cellphones to electric blankets — there is no broad agreement over what level of exposure constitutes a health hazard, and there is no federal standard that sets allowable exposure levels.

Yeah, that may be because nobody’s ever managed to reliably, scientifically demonstrate a negative health effect from everyday electromagnetic fields applied to human beings.

Testing with a TriField meter led Brian Collins of Encinitas, Calif., to sell his 2001 Honda Insight just six months after he bought it — at a loss of $7,000. He said the driver was receiving “dangerously high” E.M.F. levels of up to 135 milligauss at the hip and up to 100 milligauss at the upper torso.

Who is this Brian Collins? Given the way the NYT quotes his verdict that 135 milligauss is “dangerously high”, I hope he’s a scientist. Wouldn’t want to think the NYT was scaremongering, eh?

Let’s go back to 1995 and see what the NYT had to say about electric fields then:

The world’s largest group of physicists, the American Physical Society, has taken a stance on a contentious public health issue by saying it can find no evidence that the electromagnetic fields that radiate from power lines cause cancer. […]

By comparison, at a distance of one foot, home appliances radiate fields from about 1 to 280 milligauss, the highest figure being for an electric can opener. […] The earth’s magnetic field, which humans are constantly exposed to, is about 500 milligauss.

Oh well. I guess that means Brian Collins is just a random crackpot with an EMF meter then.

So, if you’re worried about the electric field given off by a hybrid car, make sure you do all your laundry by hand, leave the planet as soon as possible, and for god’s sake don’t use an electric can opener.

Me, I use the phone in the car. I’m crazy that way. Yet my blood pressure has dropped over the last few years. You know what raises it, though? Stupid scaremongering.