The UK Advertising Standards Authority Rules: Wireless Armour Are Pants – Podcast Report

On The Skeptic Zone Podcast #306 {Permalink}, Evidence, Please provides an update on Wireless Armour.

Below are supplemental links and a transcript of the report, which you should really listen to rather than read, as I said the words “nonpendulous scrotum”. Conversely, you may wish to listen to it in spite of my enunciation of the above words. It is a fine podcast indeed – as is Science on Top, who were kind enough to invite me on to their panel as a guest last week!

sexy-Flexible-Smart-pants-underwear-Silicone-soft-phone-case-universal-home-button-protective-Cover-for-iphone

..!

Previous Evidence, Please report on Wireless Armour: Skeptic Zone, episode #290.

Previous Evidence, Please Blog Post: Wireless Armour: A Pseudoscientific Bunch of Pants

 

ASA Adjudication on Wireless Armour Ltd

Wireless Armour blog entry: Banned Advert

 

The Guardian; Hi-tech underwear advert banned

The Independent; Adverts for Richard Branson-backed ‘radiation-repelling’ underpants banned by ASA

London Loves Business; Branson-backed radiation-repelling underpants hit bum-note

The Drum; ASA bans ad that claims new underwear shields men’s balls from cellphone radiation

 

Report transcript behind the jump.

The Skeptic Zone #306 – Evidence Please

Hello, this is Jo Alabaster

This week, a follow up report on the underwear that claimed to offer protection against allegedly harmful electromagnetic radiation.

Back in May this year, in episode #290, I brought you a story on an Indiegogo campaign and its subsequent media coverage, for Wireless Armour – underpants made of fabric which contained a silver mesh, which was claimed to protect men’s testicles from radiation from mobile devices such as smart phones and laptops, by behaving as a Faraday cage. This story was also featured in The Skeptic magazine.

Subsequent to my report, a complaint was lodged with US based crowd funding platform Indiegogo. Unfortunately, Indiegogo’s Trust and Safety Team didn’t have a problem with facilitating fundraising for a non-evidence based product, stating that, “Indiegogo is an equal opportunity platform, we let our users decide whether they want to contribute and support the campaign after performing their own due diligence on the company, campaign owner, and its cause.”

As such, I would recommend that anybody looking at supporting an Indiegogo campaign practise due diligence.

Another complaint was lodged, this time with the Advertising Standards Association (the ASA) in the UK, where the founder of Wireless Armour, Joseph Perkins, resides.

As a result of this complaint, the ASA investigated two claims made by Wireless Armour –

  1. regarding the link between electromagnetic radiation (EM) and infertility in men; and
  2. that the product could protect a user from EM.

In response to point one, Wireless Armour Ltd provided brief summaries of eight studies and three full papers, which they believed demonstrated that mobile phone radiation had a negative impact on male fertility.

These were reviewed by the ASA, their assessment is as follows:

“The ASA reviewed only those papers supplied in full, as we considered the summaries of the other studies did not provide sufficient detail regarding the subjects and methodology used, to ascertain whether they had been conducted robustly. We noted that the first paper studied the impact of EM from a mobile phone only when it was emitting a blue-tooth signal, for an hour, on in vitro human sperm. We understood that the study involved samples collected from 32 males, which were exposed to EM from a phone positioned 2.5 cm away, to mimic the close proximity of the testes to a cell phone in a trouser pocket. We noted that the paper concluded that mobile phone radiation led to a decrease in the motility and viability of the sperm, but that because male productive organs were separated by multiple tissue layers, it was not possible to extrapolate the effects seen under in vitro conditions to real-life conditions without further research.

The second study focused on the impact of EM from mobile phone on male rat sperm in vivo. The authors concluded that the EM resulted in low sperm motility. We considered, however, that a paper focused on the impact of mobile phone radiation on rats did not provide adequate evidence that the same impact would be experienced by humans. In particular, we noted that another of the papers provided stated that it was “impractical to compare a rat model to humans because of its small testicular size, nonpendulous scrotum, and the fact that its testis can migrate between the abdomen and scrotum in the inguinal canal”.

The third paper explored the correlation, if any, between infertility and mobile phone usage. The study involved 361 men who were undergoing infertility evaluation, and who were divided into four groups according to their active mobile phone usage. Samples of the men’s sperm were collected and analysed, and the results collected appeared to show an inverse correlation between mobile phone use and sperm count, motility, viability and normal morphology. We noted, however, the authors acknowledged that the study was limited as it had not taken into account relevant confounding factors such as the occupational history of the subjects, and their EM exposure from other sources such as radio towers, PDAs, Bluetooth devices, computers and so forth. The study also relied on the subjects’ self-perceived history, as their mobile phone usage was not validated, and did not consider the effects of mobile phones when in the standby position. We also noted that the paper was unable to conclude whether the perceived negative impact was the result of EM emitted from the phone or of the temperature of the testes increasing, or both. We therefore considered that none of the papers that had been provided demonstrated that mobile phone radiation had a proven negative impact on human male fertility, and concluded that the claims asserting a link between the two were misleading.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).”

Responding to point two, that the product could protect a user from EM, Wireless Armour provided a test report from a third party, showing the results achieved when the fabric utilised by the product was tested for electromagnetic shielding. They said the report showed the fabric was able to shield a high degree of EM. Wireless Armour also explained that although the product had openings to allow a consumer to wear it, it was only when worn that the product approximated a Faraday cage, as the holes were filled with a wearer’s body. As human flesh was not a good conductor of EM, it would dissipate the energy.

The ASA’s assessment?

“Notwithstanding our assessment of point 1 above, we reviewed the test report provided to see whether the product was able to shield wearers from EM. We noted, however, that the report referred to a sample of the fabric that was used to construct the product and not to the product when assembled into pants, and worn by consumers. We therefore considered that the evidence provided was not sufficient to show that the product, when utilised by consumers, was able to prevent EM from reaching the genitals. In the absence of any such evidence, we concluded that the claims were misleading.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).”

And here’s the ASA’s ruling:

“Action
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Wireless Armour Ltd to ensure they held adequate evidence to substantiate the efficacy claims in their marketing in future.”

You know, I think that this is fantastic – that a thorough investigation into some shonky-sounding advertising and a subsequent a ruling prohibiting an advertiser from continuing to make misleading claims, can be the result of one person writing a letter.

If you see something questionable being advertised, go for it – your letter could have an effect. The ACCC are your go-to guys if you’re in Australia.

There’s actually been some media coverage on the ASA’s ruling on Wireless Armour, I’ll provide some links to news stories on my blog at evidenceplease.net – and also a link to the ASA’s ruling itself, and to Wireless Armour’s public statement following the ban on their advertising.

Wireless Armour themselves have retained over sixteen thousand pounds raised via their Indiegogo campaign and are still accepting pre-orders for their underwear range. Currently not a lot can be done about that, but hopefully the ASA’s investigation, the ban on advertising and the media coverage surrounding the ruling will detract somewhat from the percieved credibility of this product.

Before I go this week, I’d like to give a shout out to the Science on Top podcast, The Australian podcast about science, health and technology news. They were kind enough to invite me to join their panel as a guest last week, and I had a fantastic time, chatting with Ed, Lucas and Penny – thanks for having me on! Science on Top can be found at scienceontop.com, it’s a fun show and a great way to stay on top of some of the latest research and discoveries in the world of science.

 

 

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. Mobile phone radiation does affect sperm, and it is very likely that this product would afford some protection. I speak as a skeptical academic research biologist with no financial, or other, interest in these types of products.

    Effect of mobile telephones on sperm quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412014001354

    We used ten studies in the meta-analysis, including 1492 samples. Exposure to mobile phones was associated with reduced sperm motility (mean difference − 8.1% (95% CI − 13.1, − 3.2)) and viability (mean difference − 9.1% (95% CI − 18.4, 0.2)), but the effects on concentration were more equivocal. The results were consistent across experimental in vitro and observational in vivo studies. We conclude that pooled results from in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that mobile phone exposure negatively affects sperm quality.

    1. Hi Peter,

      I hope you don’t mind – I’ve approved one of your comments instead of both, as you’ve linked to the same data each time.

      The meta-analysis is interesting. I’ll forward it to a friend who has a particular interest in EMR.

      Alas, it hadn’t been published at the time the post above (and of course, the previous post) were written. Have you brought it to the attention of the ASA? And why do you think the ASA ruled as it did on Wireless Armours’ claims that EMR is linked to infertility in men?

      Thanks for your comment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s