Fat in the Fire; October 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Beardsley; 2 Page(s)
Findings that a biochemist faked experimental results in two published papers have devastated research on possible effects of lowintensity electromagnetic fields. The Department of Health and Human Services's Office of Research Integrity has released a draft of an analysis concluding that Robert P. Liburdy, a biochemist who worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory until he was forced to retire this year, "intentionally falsified data" to show that such fields affected cultured cells. The assessment concurs with a committee at the Lawrence Berkeley laboratory that found Liburdy had engaged in scientific misconduct. Liburdy, the committee said, "deliberately created artificial data where no such data existed" and sat on data that contradicted his published claims.
Liburdy published the scientific papers at issue in 1992. Graphs in the papers purport to show that 60-hertz electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by power lines and electrical devices, alter the movement of calcium ions through channels in the membranes surrounding cultured cells. Because calcium ions are an important biological signal, the results suggested how fields might influence cells and perhaps cause illness.