In January 2011 I have been interviewed by RF Gateway (http://www.rs-inc.com/). The summary of the interview was distributed today by RF Gateway to its customers. This is a copyrighted document and can not be presented here. However, I got permission from the RF Gateway to present here my full answers to their questions (RF Gateway for space reasons could present only part of my answers). Previously RF Gateway has interviewed David Black and Michael Repacholi so it was exciting to be the third one…
RF Gateway: You have been an expert scientist in the field for years and in the last decade have focused particularly on this subject of RF and health effects research.
Q: Can you briefly describe how you think the issue has evolved over this time?
A: The issue of possible health effects induced by RF-EMF remained controversial over the last decade. Numerous inconclusive studies have been executed. The development of dosimetry and the development of more reliable exposure hardware have been very rapid. Unfortunately, this can not be said about the studies examining biomedical issues. One of the major problems is the decline of funding and funding of the “wrong”, in my opinion, research areas.
Q: How have your research interests changed?
A: My research interests remain the same: search for proof that human cells respond to RF-EMF. The only change is that now I am more than ever convinced that we need to perform human studies as much as ethically possible. In vitro or animal studies will not give us convincing answers about the possibility of human health risk. Also epidemiology seems to be ineffective because of the low sensitivity of this method and because the brain cancer is a relatively rare disease.
Q: Can you describe some aspect of your own research that you think has made a meaningful contribution to the science? Why?
A: My research has brought attention to two issues. First, the RF-EMF induced cellular stress. However, my intentions were also misinterpreted. My search for stress response induced by RF-EMF was not to prove that there is a health effect but to prove that cells respond to low-level RF-EMF exposure. Second, the use of modern high-throughput screening techniques of transcriptomics and proteomics in search for the genes and proteins that respond to RF-EMF. Sadly, the progress in both research areas is slow due to lack of funding caused by the notion that such research will not help with answering the question of the health effects. It is a mistake. We should look for the effects of RF-EMF in living humans in order to find out whether human body responds to low-lever RF-EMF exposure. We still do not have proof of it and not because it is so difficult to do but because the studies that would examine it were not executed.
RF Gateway: Over the years, you have developed broad experience beyond your own research by working in several countries and playing an active role in many organizations.
Q: What are the plans for your current research taking place in Australia?
A: I have just been appointed Adjunct Professor at the Swinburne University of Technology. The purpose of this appointment is to allow me to execute research project in the laboratory of Professor Andrew Wood and in collaboration with Professor Vitas Anderson. The project will examine whether RF-EMF exposure causes stress response in human endothelial cells leading to changes in cell size and shape. This aspect of endothelial cell physiology is of paramount importance for the proper functioning of blood-brain barrier. What will differ between this project and our study published in 2002 is that in the current project it will be possible to observe behavior of cells during the irradiation and not as previously only after the end of irradiation.
Q: What do you see as the benefit of conducting your work in or with other countries or different laboratories ? Is there a particular experience that stands out for you? Why was it special?
A: International collaborations are an important and integral part of research. In this particular case the reason for my work in Australia is the available there an unique exposure equipment necessary for my project.
Q: Other than your own research, can you identify the most rewarding contribution you have made to the EMF community (e.g., positions in COST, BEMS)? Why?
A: Every researcher, after gaining experience in certain research area, likes to share it to help others and to build consensus about the state of the knowledge. The most valuable experiences were for me chairing the Technical Program Committees for the BioEM 2009 in Davos, Switzerland, and for the BEMS 2010 in Seoul, South Korea. This work has given me the opportunity to use my experience and knowledge to organize interesting for all scientific programs for the two large bioelectromagnetics meetings what helped in exchange of knowledge and ideas within the scientific community.
RF Gateway: You are a respected colleague, well-informed scientist, and an active contributor to the field.
Q: Would you please characterize what you see as the heart (or main issue(s)) of the current debate among scientists? Among policy makers?
A: The main issue remains the same – is RF-EMF able to cause health effects. There seems to be no chances for the reliable answer in the near future.
Q: Do you have a suggestion on how to proceed?
A: The only way is to promote what I call targeted research. When the funding is scarce, we should carefully select the areas of research where we need more knowledge. At the same time we should no go for “quick fix” (e.g. Interphone “disaster”). We should set research targets for the near future (5-10 years). As the priority I see research on human volunteers that would identify genes and proteins that respond to RF-EMF exposures, followed by examining in volunteers or in animals of health related hypotheses formulated with the knowledge of responding genes and proteins.
Q: Can you describe your overall opinion on what the science has revealed and not revealed so far?
A: We know that low-level exposures to RF-EMF can induce biological effects in vitro. But we do not know, because we did not study it, whether such effects can be induced in living humans. Only after we determine that humans react to low-level exposures to RF-EMF, we can be convinced that the eventual health effects might be possible.
Q: Do you wish to offer your thoughts on how the relationship between science and public policy can be improved?
A: Policy makers have often problems with understanding science. These problems are often potentiated by scientists themselves by overstating importance of their own findings. We need balanced and easily understandable scientific information to be provided for decision makers. Balanced risk evaluation. But as we know this is no easy task. Right now we seem to have two camps, one saying that health effects are proven and the other saying that health effects are unlikely and there seems that the compromise can not be reached. In my opinion we are somewhere “in-between” and this “inaccurate” information should be clearly and forcefully presented to public policy makers.
RF Gateway: After many years and many research studies, it appears that scientists and policy makers are more divided than ever. One group concludes that enough research has been conducted and it can be reasonably concluded that there are no health effects; others seem to take the position that there is sufficient evidence that there are health effects or it is inevitable that they will be found. It appears that you have not aligned yourself strictly with either camp and are maintaining an open mind on the subject, but you are a strong advocate for further research.
Q: Why do you hold this opinion (more research is needed)?
A: My understanding of science dictates this position. There are still significant gaps in our knowledge and many important research topics have not bee examined at all. Yes, we need more research, more targeted research…
Q: How are the opinions that you hold different from those who believe there are health effects? From those who believe there are not?
A: I have not seen sufficient scientific evidence that would prove the existence of human health effects. Please remember that we still do not know whether human body reacts to low-level RF-EMF. On the other hand, however, the scientific evidence that we have suggests that the health effects might be possible. Therefore, I do not agree with those saying that they are unlikely. At this point we simply do not know, or rather, we know too little to make reliable decision.
Q: What more do you think can be reasonably accomplished with more research?
A: Further research should focus on proving, or disproving, that human body reacts of low-level RF-EMF exposure. This is the key information that is necessary before we can reliably decide whether the health effects are possible or unlikely.
Q: Can you identify the fundamental questions that remain unanswered? What kind of answers (discoveries) to these questions would be sufficiently convincing for you to confidently conclude that there aren’t important health effects?
A: As said above, we need to find out whether human body responds to RF-EMF or not. The best way to achieve it is to screen for responding genes and proteins.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: I guess that I have briefly presented my views on the current state of RF-EMF research. Anyone interested in my more detailed opinions should read my science blog.