Devra Davis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Devra Lee Davis
Devra Davis 2012 (cropped).jpg
Davis speaking in 2012
Born (1946-06-07) June 7, 1946 (age 75)
OrganizationEnvironmental Health Trust
Spouse(s)Richard D. Morgenstern

Devra Lee Davis, (born June 7, 1946) is an American epidemiologist, toxicologist, and author of three books about environmental hazards.[1][2] She was founding director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and is a former professor of epidemiology at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. She has served on several governmental and non-governmental organizations, conducting research and advocacy into effects of pesticides, asbestos, and wireless radiation on human health, especially cancers.

Davis is the founder and president of the Environmental Health Trust,[3] a non-profit organization which argues that mobile devices, WiFi, 5G, and other radio-frequency systems pose a health risk to humans and the environment.[1]

She has been called a "crusader in the fight over cell phone safety"[4] and has raised concerns over that radio frequencies could cause cancer.[5][6] These claims are disputed and have sometimes been labelled "alarmist".[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Devra Lee Davis was born June 7, 1946 in Washington, D.C., to Harry and Jean Langer Davis,[8] and raised in the coal and steel milling town of Donora, Pennsylvania, where in 1948 a severe smog event killed 20 people and sickened thousands.[9] Her father was a chemist and machinist in the steel mills, as well as a brigadier general in the Pennsylvania National Guard and her mother, Jean, was a homemaker.[9] Raised in a Jewish family, as a child she briefly considered becoming a rabbi.[10] At age 14, her family moved to Pittsburgh, where she attended Taylor Allderdice High School and the University of Pittsburgh, where in 1967 she earned a BSc in physiological psychology and an MA in sociology.[9][1][8] She learned of the Donora smog incident as a university student, which inspired her interest in epidemiology.[11][10][12]

She completed a PhD in science studies at the University of Chicago as a Danforth Foundation graduate fellow in 1972, and in 1982 earned a master of public health degree in epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University as a senior National Cancer Institute post-doctoral fellow.[11]

In 1975 she married Richard D. Morgenstern, an economist with Resources for the Future and former Environmental Protection Agency official. They have two children.[8][9] Her father died from multiple myeloma in 1984,[12][10] and her mother from stomach cancer in 2003.[10] She devoted herself to cancer research soon after her father's death, but told The New York Times Magazine his illness didn't affect her decision.[12]


In the late 1970s, as a policy advisor for the Environmental Law Institute, Davis and colleagues began publishing a series of articles examining links between environmental chemicals and cancer.[12] Davis was appointed as resident scholar the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences in 1989.[12]

In 1990, she led a study published in The Lancet journal along with National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences director David Hoel, British census director John Fox, and World Health Organization statistician Alan Lopez, examining cancer rates in the United States, Japan, and several European countries, concluding "all forms of cancer are increasing in persons over age 54 except lung and stomach" and "the changes in cancer other than lung are so great and rapid that their causes demand intensive investigation." [13][14][12] The paper reignited debate between prominent epidemiologists over how to interpret cancer trends: Bruce Ames, Richard Doll, and Richard Peto, among others argued the trends were unimportant: more attributed to better diagnoses and increasing human longevity, while Davis' views gained support from Philip J. Landrigan and biostatisticians such as John C. Bailar and Thomas C. Chalmers.[14][12][15]

Davis was appointed by President Clinton to the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. In 1997, not long before the UN’s Kyoto Protocol Climate Conference, Davis was working as a consultant to the World Health Organization.[11] Davis served as a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the US National Toxicology Program.[16]

Davis served five years as the founding director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI). In 2009, she stepped down to become professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.[17]

Her 2002 book, When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution, described how environmental toxins are linked to cancers and other health problems,[18] and was a finalist for that year's National Book Award for Nonfiction.[19] She provides accounts of the 1948 Donora smog in her hometown, the 1952 Great Smog of London, and [20] Epidemiologist Bert Brunekreef wrote the book is "at its best when describing how commercial interests have harassed well known environmental health scientists in attempts to downplay the seriousness of, say, the effects of environmental lead on the IQ of children," but found "an alarming number of errors" regarding air pollution.[21]

Her next book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, was published in 2007.[22][23][24] James Huff, associate director for chemical carcinogenesis of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. called it "exhaustively researched and deftly written, illuminat[ing] more of the truth about chemicals and cancer and the relatively simple means of preventing or reducing cancer burdens." Epidemiologist Peter Boyle wrote that "devotees of conspiracy theories and aficionados of gossip and innuendo will be drawn towards this book like wasps to a juicy piece of meat" and discussed how the book suggested that the link between tobacco and cancer was used to distract from other possible sources.[25]

Davis's third book, Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family, was published in 2010.[26][27]

Breast cancer prevention research[edit]

Davis founded the International Breast Cancer Prevention Collaborative Research Group, an organization dedicated to exploring the causes of breast cancer.[28] As senior adviser to the US Assistant Secretary for Health, Davis claimed that extra doses of estrogen-like compounds in the environment may increase the quantities of hormone some women receive to dangerous levels and can cause serious illness.[29]

5G campaign[edit]

Davis claims that radio-frequency systems such as WiFi and cellular phones pose a health risk to humans and other animals. Davis believes that 5G is particularly harmful and should be subject to additional study before it is widely deployed.[30]

Davis has claimed that radiation from mobile phones and WiFi are significant causes of cancer and are responsible for significant increases in cancer, but her claims are disputed by leading cancer research organizations.[7][31] Davis has been accused of cherry-picking evidence[32] and misrepresenting the studies upon which her conclusions were drawn.[33] Davis and the Environmental Health Trust have been accused of using low quality sources.[34]

An excerpt of a lecture by Davis was featured in 5G Apocalypse: Extinction Event, a 2020 film produced by conspiracy theory promoter Sacha Stone.[35]


  • Ng, Lorenz K.Y.; Davis, Devra Lee, eds. (1981). Strategies For Public Health: Promoting Health and Preventing Disease. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISBN 0442244282.
  • Davis, Devra Lee; Hoel, David, eds. (1990). Trends in Cancer Mortality in Industrial Countries. New York: New York Academy of Sciences. ISBN 978-0897666435.
  • Davis, Devra Lee (2002). When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 9781903985502.
  • Davis, Devra Lee (2007). The Secret History of the War on Cancer. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 9780465015665.
  • Davis, Devra Lee (2010). Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family. New York: Dutton. ISBN 9780525951940.


  1. ^ a b c "Devra Davis". Environmental Health Trust.
  2. ^ Rysavy, Tracy Fernandez (January–February 2011). "Our Interview With Dr. Devra Davis". Green American. Green America. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  3. ^ Mann, Denise (December 13, 2019). "Cell Phone Radiation Damages DNA in Mice: Are Humans At Risk, Too?". Reader's Digest. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  4. ^ Reardon, Marguerite (May 31, 2011). "Cell phone radiation: Harmless or health risk?". CNET.
  5. ^ Bonessi, Dominique Maria (December 6, 2019). "The Promise of 5G Comes With a Regulatory Headache and Health Risk Concerns". WAMU.
  6. ^ German, Kent (May 31, 2011). "Researcher's strong signal on cell phone risk (Q&A)". CNET.
  7. ^ a b Chapman, Simon (September 1, 2016). "Mobile phone health alarmists bereft of credible arguments". The Conversation.
  8. ^ a b c "Davis, Devra Lee". Contemporary Authors. 223. Detroit: Gale. 2004. ISBN 978-0-7876-6703-0.
  9. ^ a b c d Curran, Ann (October 19, 2010). "Your Health vs. the Environment". Pittsburgh Magazine.
  10. ^ a b c d Miller, Sue Katz (March–April 2008). "A Crusader Rising". Moment. pp. 26–30 – via Gale General OneFile.
  11. ^ a b c Kott, Ruth E. (2010). "Roaming crusader". The University of Chicago Magazine.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Wright, Karen (December 15, 1991). "Going by the Numbers". The New York Times Magazine.
  13. ^ Davis, D. L.; Hoel, D.; Fox, J.; Lopez, A. (1990). "International trends in cancer mortality in France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, England and Wales, and the USA". The Lancet. 336 (8713): 474–481. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(90)92020-I.
  14. ^ a b Marshall, Eliot (1990). "Experts clash over cancer data". Science. 250 (4983): 900–902. doi:10.1126/science.2237436.
  15. ^ Beardsley, Tim (January 1994). "A War Not Won". Scientific American. Vol. 270 no. 1. pp. 118–126.
  16. ^ "Devra Lee Davis, PhD". WebMD. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  17. ^ "Devra Davis to Focus on Environmental Research". University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  18. ^ "National Book Award Finalist: When Smoke Ran Like Water". VOA News. October 27, 2009. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  19. ^ "When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution". National Book Foundation. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  20. ^ Hood, Clifton (2004). "When Smoke Ran like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle against Pollution". Environmental History. 9 (3): 549. doi:10.2307/3985785.
  21. ^ Brunekreef, Bert (February 22, 2003). "When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution". British Medical Journal. 326 (7386): 452. PMC 1125339.
  22. ^ Huff, James (2008). "The Secret History of the War on Cancer". Environmental Health Perspectives. 116 (2): A90. doi:10.1289/ehp.116-a90a. PMC 2235200.
  23. ^ DuBois, Raymond N. (2008). "The secret history of the war on cancer". Journal of Clinical Investigation. 118 (6): 1978. doi:10.1172/JCI36051. PMC 2396903.
  24. ^ Parascandola, Mark (2008). "The Secret History of the War on Cancer: By Devra Davis". American Journal of Epidemiology. 168 (10): 1211–1212. doi:10.1093/aje/kwn210.
  25. ^ Boyle, Peter (November 24, 2007). "Conspiracy theories of cancer". The Lancet. 370 (9601): 1751. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(07)61735-8. ISSN 0140-6736.
  26. ^ Tachover, Dafna; Stein, Richard A. (2011). "Review of Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family". World Medical & Health Policy. 3 (1): 62–63. doi:10.2202/1948-4682.1135.
  27. ^ Walsh, Bryan (September 27, 2010). "Health: A Cancer Muckraker Takes on Cell Phones". Time.
  28. ^ Robson, B. (April 15, 1996). "Conferences point to growing concern about possible links between breast cancer, environment". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 154 (8): 1253–1255. ISSN 0820-3946. PMC 1487668. PMID 8612261.
  29. ^ Vines, Gail (September 24, 1993). "Pesticides linked to breast cancer". New Scientist. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  30. ^ Davis, Devra. "Published Scientific Research on 5G, 4G Small Cells, Wireless Radiation and Health". Environmental Health Trust.
  31. ^ Wright, Tom (June 16, 2020). "Panorama: The 5G Con That Could Make You Sick" (PDF). BBC News. Now, how many of you had heard that in 2011, the World Health Organisation had reviewed all of the evidence and decided that mobile phone radiation was a possible human carcinogen? It’s interesting that that information isn’t more widely known.
  32. ^ King, Stephen. "To 5G, or not to 5G?". Bailiwick Express.
  33. ^ Trottier, Lorne (December 31, 2010). "A Disconnect between cell phone fears and science". Science Based Medicine. Retrieved December 10, 2014.
  34. ^ Timmer, John (March 23, 2018). "A critical analysis of the latest cellphone safety scare". ARS Technica.
  35. ^ Wright, Tom (June 6, 2020). "File On 4: The 5G Con That Could Make You Sick" (PDF). BBC Radio 4. Devra Davis is adamant that she neither believes in nor condones conspiracy theories. But that doesn’t stop people with some very strange ideas using her words to spread fear. And they’ve found that fear is a great way to make money. Devra Davis’ lectures were recently used in a film called 5G Apocalypse.

External links[edit]