CEPEO to Investigate EMF Balancers in Local Schools
As promised in our article It Is Unbelievable What a Tub of Soil Can Do, we have followed up on the claim that two local schools have installed EMF Balancers on their premises. The schools, Louis Riel secondary school and Trillium elementary school, are both under the same board of education – Le Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO).
The first step was to confirm whether the claim was even true. Starting with Louis Riel, I e-mailed on 25 September my local CEPEO trustee, M. Denis Chartrand, with a simple query:
M. Chartrand passed my e-mail to M. Roch Landriault, the CEPEO Director of Technical Services, who responded to me later the same day:
It seemed like a good start, but it was the last contact that I received from him.
I didn’t bother to check Trillium school since promotional material for the EMF Balancer includes a product endorsement by Mme. Edith Dumont, the Trillium principal:
[Since last December, the electromagnetic fields in our school have been balanced. The staff are experiencing fewer headaches. Given that a foundation in discipline is always our priority. We notice that our students seem to be moving more calmly around the hallways. With respect to the conflicts which I continue to manage while supervising, I notice a greater tolerance between students. (loose translation, added 23 October)]
Two subsequent e-mails to M. Landriault on 26 September and 7 October went unanswered, so on 20 October, I contacted M. Georges Orfali, the CEPEO President, and M. François Benoit, the CEPEO Director of Administration, with the following e-mail:
On September 24th, a fellow Ottawa Skeptic and I attended a presentation given by Mr. Peter Webb about EMF Balancers, a product that he manufactures and sells. At the presentation, Mr. Steve Priebe, the local distributor, stated that he sold six EMF Balancers to the Louis Riel school and five to the Trillium school. I have since confirmed that EMF Balancers have, in fact, been installed at both these schools after e-mailing Mr. Roch Landriault and reading a product endorsement by Ms. Edith Dumont.
A summary of Mr. Webb’s presentation can be found in the article It Is Unbelievable What a Tub of Soil Can Do on the Ottawa Skeptics website. The article was written in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, but the facts presented in the article are all true, at least according to Mr. Webb’s assertions.
In his briefing, Mr. Webb indicated that EMF Balancers are containers filled with clay, calcium carbonate and kelp, which are supposedly used to disrupt or repel geomagnetically induced lines variously called geopathic lines or Hartmann lines or ley lines. He got Mr. Priebe to show the Balancer’s operation with dowsing rods. Mr. Webb also stated that he updates all the Balancers in the world on a daily basis using a technology called “radionics”.
In my subsequent research on these products, I could find no basis in science for geopathic lines, dowsing or radionics, but I did find these subjects discussed in-depth on websites devoted to pseudoscience. Caution is therefore warranted in accepting Mr. Webb’s claims uncritically, especially if you consider some of the even wilder assertions that he made on other topics during his presentation. For example, he claimed that he worked with a company in Europe on a gel that cures IBS, leukemia and autism; that he participated in a clinical trial in Togo for a supplement that cured all but two of 120 patients diagnosed with AIDS; that he removed all the greenhouse gases in the skies over Ontario during Canadian Environment Week; and that he worked with a company in Florida that has the technical ability to neutralize hurricanes.
I accept that the administrators who procured these products for their schools likely did so for the sake of the students and with the best of intentions. However, from what I understand in researching this subject, I can only conclude that CEPEO has probably spent close to $2,000 on nearly a dozen inert canisters of dirt.
On behalf of Ottawa Skeptics, I would like to express our concern that public money has been wasted on pseudoscience and that the effective endorsement of these products by the administration at both schools undermines the foundation of the students’ science education. If you agree with me that this situation is improper and needs to be rectified, I would be interested in hearing how you address it.
If, on the other hand, CEPEO supports the continued use of these products, I would be interested in receiving answers to the following questions:
- Can you confirm that public funds were used to procure and install these products in both schools, and if so, how much was spent?
- What is the CEPEO policy for procuring unconventional and unproven technologies that claim to affect school environments? Can any administrator decide to procure and operate such products or does it require Board approval?
- What scientific opinion was sought to verify the claims being made by the producer and distributor of the products as part of the procurement process? Could you provide me with an explanation of the science behind the products and literature from a scientifically credible source that supports the claims being made for the products (i.e., not testimonials)?
- What credible testing (i.e. not dowsing) was done to verify the operation of these products after installation and on an ongoing basis? Are there any locally produced readings from a technical measuring device (i.e., not dowsing) that indicates a relevant effect to the environment when the products are operating?
- Have the parents of the students at both schools been informed of the existence and continued operation of these products? If so, what claim was used to describe the effect that these products were supposedly going to have on the school environment and on their children’s behaviour? What information was given to the parents about side-effects that these devices might have, and what was the substantiation for that information?
- Does the CEPEO formally endorse the apparent pseudoscientific underpinnings of these products? If so, does the CEPEO endorse New Age mysticism and any other areas of pseudoscience?
- If school administrators have made claims about the effectiveness of these products, what systematic methodology and controls were used to ensure that their observations and conclusions were not due to confirmation bias or some other type of cognitive bias?
The next day, I received the following responses from M. Benoit:
[Herein, I acknowledge receipt of your email below. We are studying the file and should be able to follow up in December. Yours sincerely. (loose translation, added 23 October)]
and M. Orfali:
[Hello Mr. Green, thank you for your letter. The administration is dealing with the file. We will contact you. Good day. (loose translation, added 23 October)]
I am confident that our concern has been formally registered and that the Board will carry out a review. I have indicated that I am available to answer any questions that they might have. We will see in December whether they will do the right thing.