Dr. Robert P. Liburdy was former staff biochemist
at Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory. His claim to fame, however, derives not from his accomplishments there, but rather from the academic fraud he perpetuated.
Liburdy published two papers in 1992 that suggested damaging cellular effects from electromagnetic radiation. Liburdy claimed to have observed EMF
interfere with the entry of Calcium
to the cell. To a public that was already alarmed about health effects vis-a-vis power lines and cancer
, this study seemed to confirm a common belief; that power lines were dangerous.
There is one problem with this fear: EMF isn't dangerous
. The notion that power lines were dangerous came from a flawed 1979 leukemia
study by Wertheimer and Leeper, who inferred electromagnetic field strength based on the wiring code. They never measured the EM field, and when subsequent researchers bothered, they found no correlation between EM strength and leukemia
. Indeed, nobody could even suggest a plausible mechanism for adverse effects of EM radiation. Until Liburdy, that is.
In June 1999, the NIH
Office of Research Integrity determined that Liburdy had been engaged in intentional falsification of data. He had invented his claims, which subsequently took hold in the public imagination. As a result of his actions, millions of people erroneously fear EM radiation.
Liburdy RP. Calcium signaling in lymphocytes and ELF fields. Evidence for an electric field metric and a site of interaction involving the calcium ion channel.
Liburdy RP. Biological interactions of cellular systems with time-varying magnetic fields. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 649:74-95, 1992.