Our paper “Testing the bioelectric shield” was published in 2002 in the peer-reviewed journal Alternative Therapies. The results provided no support for several claims made for the shield.
In February 2003 I received, from the journal’s editor, a letter sent to her by Charles Brown, inventor of the bioelectric shield, claiming that our experiments were invalid. I was extremely surprised and, as requested by the editor, wrote a response for possible publication. Charles Brown replied again and I responded. The editors then decided not to publish the letters because in their opinion Brown’s claim was unfounded.
This correspondence is interesting because it reveals how the manufacturers of an alternative health product have refused to accept the results of properly conducted scientific studies that challenge their claims. I therefore asked permission from Charles and Virginia Brown to publish the whole correspondence verbatim on this site. They gave their permission but Virginia Brown asked me to include a further letter from her and asked that this be placed first. I am therefore placing her letter first.
It is followed by the entire correspondence between Charles Brown, the editor of Alternative Therapies, and me.
Letter from Virginia Brown
South Route, Box 107
Lavina, Montana, 59046 USA
31 Berkeley Road
Bristol BS7 8HF September 20, 2003
Dear Dr. Blackmore,
Regarding the Bioelectric Shield study: over the last several weeks, you and I have determined that there was an email sent to you from our company that you never received. In this email we informed you that the samples we had given you for your study had mixed up the real Shields with the sham Shields. Not knowing this, you published your study, and in return, we were quite surprised to see the study published.
Since that time, another trial study done by an independent group of researchers used a heart rate variability test to judge the effectiveness of 3 devices that claim to reduce the effects of the electromagnetic radiation from cell phones. It was published in Alternative Medicine, September 2002. Here is the link for the article. (http://www.alternativemedicine.com/AMHome.asp?cn=Catalog&act=GetProduct&crt=ProductKey=3097&style=\AMXSL\ArticleDetail.xsl)Results from those trials found that holding a mobile/cellular phone elevate heart rate (indicating a stressful reaction from the body). When the same subject wore a BioElectric Shield while holding a cellular phone, heart rate remained stable.
Given the results of your study, and the potentially damaging effect it could have on public perception of the effectiveness of the Shield, I simply ask that you include this letter, as the FIRST letter in our correspondence that you readers see prior to actually reading the research. They need to know that other studies have found the Shield very effective in protecting the wearer from the ill effects of cell phone radiation.
Virginia Brown, MS, Occupational Therapist President of the BioElectric Shield Company
Dear Sir or Madam,
In your September/October 2002 issue, you published a study by Dr. Blackmore entitled Testing the BioElectric Shield. The Published article was brought to my attention and I surprised that it had been even submitted for publication. Please publish this letter under Corrections in the next available issue.
The study states the 2 groups of Shields shams and real Shields) were validated prior to the study beginning. The BioElectric Company representative did open the box of shields and match the number code on each Shield. The study was completed. The Shields were then returned to the Company. When they returned they were physically opened to see if the coded numbers had been correctly assigned.
This revealed that there HAD BEEN A MISTAKE in the numbering of some of
the Shields. This meant that some of the Shields designated as real had been incorrectly numbered as shams, thereby invalidating the study. We informed Dr. Blackmore of the situation.
We understand that the study was probably published as a doctoral requirement for the co-author, the graduate student who performed the study under the supervision of his supervisor, Dr. Blackmore. We were very surprised to see this study published, and request that you publish the accurate information about the circumstances. While we regret the confusion over the Shields, we cannot have false research information circulating in professional journals.
A more recent study was completed by a staff or researchers from Alternative Medicine magazine and published in their June issue. The results showed the effectiveness of 3 devices against phone radiation.
Charles Brown, DC, DABCN
Inventor of the BioElectric Shield
I was surprised to receive Charles Brown’s letter claiming, nearly four years after our experiment was completed, that “there HAD BEEN A MISTAKE in the numbering of some of the Shields.”
At the end of our experiment, on 26th May 1999, Virginia Brown, from the Bioelectric Shield company, and David Chambers, the UK distributor of Bioelectric shields, came to our lab to bring the coding key and to observe the decoding of the results. In view of the negative findings, we discussed whether there could have been any mistake in the coding and Virginia said that, although it was very unlikely, she would check for sure and let us know.
The next day I received a phone message from Virginia saying that she was 99.9% sure that they were correct. On 8th June 1999 she emailed me, listing several points. The first was “1. Coding. All the shields were all correctly coded.”
Mr Brown requests “that you publish the accurate information about the circumstances.” Everything we published in our original paper is accurate to the best of our ability. To clarify his other points: Nicholas Rose was a graduate student but at the time of the study he was working as my research assistant, funded by the Perrott-Warrick Fund for psychical research, from Trinity College, Cambridge.
I am very sorry that Mr Brown has chosen to make this odd claim so long after the event. I would like to point out that if it were true, he would, by his mistake, have wasted many months of our research time, invalidated the whole study and compounded the problem by failing to tell us straight away. As it is, the study is valid. It shows that, under the circumstances of our experiments, the shields had a measurable placebo effect but it made no difference whether or not the shields contained the supposedly active crystals.
Dr Susan Blackmore
Melanie Le Tourneau
169 Saxony Road, Suite 104
Encinitas, CA 92024
Response to Dr. Susan Blackmore’s letter
In June of 1999 Virginia said that she was 99.9% sure that the numbering was correct. As Dr. Blackmore’s results were markedly different than eleven other studies done with the BioElectric Shield I thought further investigation was in order. The making of BioElectric Shields is a multi-step process by different people. This is where the mix-up occurred. The Shields from the study were broken down to completely examine them and determine whether or not there was a mix up in the numbering. It turns out there was a mix-up in the labeling of several Shields.
After this, Virginia again contacted Dr. Blackmore to tell her about the error and apologize for this. (Unfortunately, we do not keep our e-mails going back 3+ years.) We thought that this would be the end of it and that because the results were invalid, the study would not be published. While I appreciate the work that Dr. Blackmore and her graduate student did, in the interest of scientific integrity I want the record to be corrected.
Last June an independent study was published by another alternative medicine journal. This study demonstrated the effectiveness of the BioEelctric Shield in deterring EMF side effects while using a cell phone. Specifically, heart rate variable testing showed that without a Shield, heart rate increased when a person used a cell phone and with a Shield, heart rate remained stable and healthy.
Thank you for setting the record straight.
Charles Brown, DC, DABCN
Mr Brown expects us to throw away all the results of our study because of his undocumented claim that he was responsible for a mix-up in the numbering. I would surely remember if Virginia had changed her statement that the numbering was correct, and I have no record of an email to that effect. Mr Brown speaks of scientific integrity, but he does not appear to be following the most basic principles of scientific good practice. I do not know which guidelines he follows but, as a psychologist, I use British Psychological Society guidelines which include, among many other recommendations, keeping all data for at least five years.
Scientific integrity is especially important when testing alternative therapies because we simply do not know which therapies work and which do not and we need to find out. Mr Brown has obvious reasons for wishing our negative results to be invalidated. On the basis of the work we did, and all the documentation available to me I am sure that our negative results are valid.
Dr Susan Blackmore
Blackmore, S.J. and Rose, N. (2002) Testing the bioelectric shield. Alternative Therapies, 8;5, 62-67. Correspondence about the research on bioelectric shields.