Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public," H.L. Mencken, the American journalist, famously said years ago. And so it continues today, not only in the U.S. but most everywhere else. The continuing EMF controversy, stimulated by three new books —Sam Milham's Dirty Electricity, Devra Davis's Disconnect and Ann Gittleman's Zapped, — has fueled the demand for quick fixes. (None of these authors recommends them.) Just about every day, someone contacts us, pitching a new product or, on the consumer side, asking if they do any good.
The gizmos promising protection include bracelets, pendants and headbands. Two of the best-known are BioPro and Q-Link, which have been around for years. They are really no different from all the others. That's to say, they don't work. The most charitable way to describe them would be as placebos, or more appropriately, very expensive placebos.
Last week, for instance, a Canadian outfit called MicroAlpha wrote to us about its Neutralizer, which if installed "before the first frost" would stop "bad electric energy" from rising and stunting plants and trees. It promises that a vineyard, once neutralized, would yield grapes as good as those in France and Italy. The Neutralizer is also available as a "Peace Ball," designed to be worn as a necklace. It's yours for C$100. Or you can get the ball in an industrial strength version (600 times stronger) for C$450. In line with the old saying, never give a sucker an even break, MicroAlpha recommends that you go for the strongest one you can afford, that is, the most expensive. And for those who have money to burn, there is the mighty Diamond Edition Peace Ball, yours for up to C$8,000. While you're at it, you might want to protect your pets with the "Happy Ball" (C$165-$650).
We should acknowledge that there is one paper in the peer-reviewed literature that claims that these things might actually do something. In 2002, a group led by Rodney Croft, currently the head of the Australian Centre for RF Bioeffects Research, reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine that the Q-Link and its Sympathetic Resonance Technology did in fact "have an affect [sic] on neural function." Croft's paper was sponsored by Clarus Products International, which makes and markets the Q-Link. Croft is now well known as one of Australia's leading defenders of cell phone safety.
Alasdair Philips, the director of Powerwatch, a U.K. advocacy group, took a look at how Croft had carried out his experiment and determined that the results were "virtually worthless." Philips also took the Q-Link "Ally" apart and found that it had been put together "in such a way as it could never, even vaguely, work."
What sets BioPro apart is that its business model is not too different from a pyramid scheme, or to use a more genteel term, it's a multilevel marketing company. You too can get in on the scam and make money by becoming a BioPro Independent Consultant and selling these worthless gadgets and recruiting others to do so too.
Don Bauder provides an inside look at how such companies work in a recent article for the San Diego Reader. One take-home lesson is that BioPro and its latest incarnation, Gia Wellness, look for any possible way to make you part with your money. There is nothing special about preying on people's fears of EMFs. Gia Wellness also sells "inspired nutrition" products. The most amazing (and appalling) of these is the Gia Smart Card™. It looks very much like a credit card, but, apparently, has some very special properties: It "is designed to transfer its vital energy onto any food or beverage you consume, to release its natural energetic potential," according to Gia.
Now that BioPro has lost whatever cachet it once had, Gia is marketing another cell phone protection device, the Cell Guard. You can buy a pack of four for $147.50. Cell Guard looks a lot like BioPro and there is every reason to believe that it is just as effective.
For a time, the most notable proponent of BioPro Technology was George Carlo, the sometime epidemiologist, lawyer and entrepreneur. They formed a "Strategic Alliance" about five years ago. In a video archived on YouTube, Carlo describes this alliance as a way to fulfill his "moral and ethical obligation to get [BioPro] in the hands of thousands and thousands of people as soon as [possible]." In 2008, however, the relationship soured and Carlo confessed that BioPro is nothing but quackery. This was one of "my most regrettable professional mistakes," he said. That's saying quite a lot given that in the 1990s he ran a $25 million scam, known as Wireless Technology Research (WTR) on behalf of the cell phone industry trade group, CTIA. Carlo and CTIA had promised a research program on the health effects of cell phone radiation but delivered practically nothing, except to show, yet again, that H.L. Mencken knew what he was talking about.