In 1996 the World Health Organization began what it said was a program to assess the scientific evidence of possible health effects of EMFs. But the project was corrupted from the start because it was controlled by the power- and cell-phone companies in the industrialized countries. The companies designated Michael Repacholi as the project head. He had long been a consultant and spokesman for power companies, so it was unrealistic to expect him to conduct an open and honest inquiry, but his performance in office was even more miserable than could have been anticipated based on his known conflict-of-interest.
While heading the EMF program at WHO, Repacholi dealt almost exclusively with experts on the payroll of cell-phone and power companies. Scientists who disagreed with the viewpoint of the EMF companies were excluded from the EMF evaluation process. The public was also excluded from participation even though it was a major stakeholder in the EMF debate. Only pro-industry spokesmen were heard in Repocholi’s star-chamber processes, which ultimately resulted in reports and evaluations that exonerated the companies from any responsibility for human disease produced by their EMFs.
Repacholi gave many speeches, but only in friendly forums and under conditions that insulated him from the necessity for explanation or reasoned discussion. He was never held accountable in any serious dialogue or debate, and was never required to identify the experts whose individual and collective opinions were transmuted into opinions broadly imputed to WHO, whatever that exactly is.
I saw him at the Annual Meeting of the Bioelectromagnetics Society (BEMS) in Cancun, Mexico, in June, 2006. The Mobile Manufacturers Forum, a consortium of the world’s major cell-phone companies, were “Gold Sponsors” of the BEMS meeting, and the leaders of BEMS had invited Repacholi to give a talk entitled “Results from 10 Years of WHO’s International EMF Project,” which he delivered at a plenary session of the meeting. Unsurprisingly, his talk was a paean to his EMF activities at WHO. He was proud of having successfully stemmed the tide of concern regarding the link between environmental EMFs and other human diseases, and of having defended the principle that man-made environmental EMFs were harmless. He touted model legislation that he had drafted, and said that he hoped it would be enacted by various governments so that the fact that environmental fields were safe would be enshrined in law.
At the end of his talk, despite the forum rules which made focused debate difficult, I rose and said, “Dr. Repacholi, I’m Andrew Marino from Shreveport, Louisiana. When you say that WHO assessed research about EMFs, can you tell us exactly who at WHO did that assessing?” He began his answer by describing a formal process for considering scientific evidence, but without naming names or saying anything meaningful. His amplified voice flooded the room, like polluted water overflowing a retaining dam. From my awkward strategic position deep in the audience I interrupted Repacholi. and said, “Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I didn’t ask what the process was from a procedural point-of-view. I would like to know the names of the human beings who make the judgments regarding the safety of environmental EMFs.” I spoke in a tone that I hoped was loud enough to prompt Repacholi to stop talking but not so loud that Mays Swicord, the chair of the plenary session and the director of research at Motorola, would feel justified in cutting off my attempt to question Repacholi. But his answer was again evasive in the sense that it dealt with process but did not name names, so I interrupted him again and said, “I am trying to get at the names of the individuals, the human beings who made the judgments of EMF safety that are contained in the WHO reports. Will you please tell me their names?” Swicord looked at me and at Repacholi, and made the split-second decision to not protect Repacholi from the necessity of replying to me. He replied, but said nothing. For a third time he refused to name names. Had he done so, the names would have been immediately recognizable as paid consultants or employees of the EMF-producing industries, including himself. I felt I had done as much as I could, considering the circumstances Although the exchange left Swicord looking nervous, the toady Repocholi was smiling and affable, as toadies usually are when they know their protagonists can’t get at them under the forum rules.
From his bully pulpit at WHO, Repocholi encouraged innocent and naïve people, including young children, to chronically irradiate their brains with electromagnetic fields by falsely proclaiming that they were safe. He therefore bears direct personal responsibility for many cases of human disease. He is not the most evil man I met in my life, but he is in the top three.