Recent publication of the Canadian report on Safety Code 6 (RF-EMF and health) brought again to limelight the problem of electromagnetic hypersensitivity – EHS.
Yet again, scientists and lay audiences were fed with the standard mantra in the Canadian report: “The symptoms are real, but what causes them is a mystery”. The same mantra is propagated by WHO, ICNIRP and numerous expert committees.
I have the feeling that this mantra was introduced to the EMF research area few years ago for the sole purpose to “get the EHS people off our backs”. Designers of this mantra assumed that by showing compassion for the suffering of EHS people they will alleviate tensions that exist between EHS sufferers and decision-makers.
They were mistaken. The mantra did not alleviate tensions and EHS sufferers more and more forcefully demand solution to their problem. Simple admission that their symptoms and suffering are real is not enough. What is needed is both, precautionary approach and a serious research effort to find out what and how causes EHS.
Unfortunately the arena of EHS research is polluted with bad science. Badly designed studies waste money and produce bad conclusions. This status quo is perpetuated and new funding is granted for new badly designed studies. Are scientists gone mad? Don’t they understand what they are doing?
One of the problems with EHS research is its domination by psychologists and psychiatrists. This leads to generation of research studies that by design are unable to detect EHS. Using methods of psychology or psychiatry will not answer whether biochemically physiology of our body is affected by the exposure to EMF.
EHS is not a well defined ailment. The list of symptoms claimed to be caused by EMF is long and very unspecific. The same symptoms can be caused by a variety of factors, including simple, life accompanying, stress. The other problem is the presence, in our living environment, of not only EMF but also other stressors. Distinguishing which stressor is responsible for EHS symptoms might be challenging when doing this at home, in uncontrolled environment. And this is what EHS persons do. They self-diagnose own EHS. Without any specific tests for EHS, the self-diagnosis is certainly a challenging task to perform. I do strongly believe that some of the self-diagnosed EHS can be attributed to EMF exposures but some of them might be false and observed symptoms might be caused by other, non-EMF, stressors.
Look at the table of EHS studies in EMF Portal database shows what is the difficulty in finding what causes EHS. Column of ‘Endpoints’ confirms the broad scope of unspecific symptoms being associated and being studies in EHS research. The next column is ‘Parameter’ where diverse variety of exposures to cell phone radiation EMF are listed. Interestingly, without this ‘Parameter’ column, it would be difficult to guess what stressor was examined in all studies – so unspecific the endpoints are.
Some of the studies listed in the EMF Portal table are cohort studies. Their reliability is questionable because of the lack of control populations. We all and everywhere are exposed to wireless communication-emitted radiation. Since we do not know what might be the level of exposure that triggers EHS symptoms it is not possible to determine who can serve as control cohort. Furthermore, besides a diverse number of EMF sources in our environment, there is even more diverse number of other environmental stressors what leads to serious bias in evaluation of the results.
The other problem is with the studies where EHS persons are invited to laboratory to participate in tests. By default, these persons are afraid of EMF exposures and are concerned whether participation in experiments will cause any health harm. This is sufficient stressor, at least is some persons, to trigger the majority of symptoms examined in studies presented in the EMF Portal table.
The self-diagnosed EHS persons are either exposed to radiation or to sham-radiation and asked about their feelings. They are asked whether the feel any of the symptoms of EHS. The answers are, a priori, unreliable because they are given under stressful conditions that alone can trigger the symptoms.
The most ridiculous scientifically argument, often presented publicly, is that the EHS persons cannot distinguish when radiation is on and when it is off. This is often presented as sort of ultimate proof that EHS does not exist and EHS symptoms are not caused by EMF. That is really bad science. If the person recognized when radiation is on and when it is off, this would be a proof. But when person does not recognize it does not say anything. It does not say that EHS exists and it does not say that EHS does not exist. It does not prove anything. Who of us could “feel” X-rays or UV radiation – we do not feel it, see it, smell it, but it does what it does…
Another bad science problem associated with taking a group of self-diagnosed EHS persons for experimental study is the fact we most likely deal with mixed group of EHS and non-EHS persons caused by the self-diagnosis. In some cases self-diagnosis will be correct in some cases it will not. But when the study will combine answers of all experimental subjects, the mixed group of the correctly and thee incorrectly self-diagnosed persons, the statistical analysis will produce “fluff” and not reliable objective data.
But on this kind of subjective, unreliable, “fluff” data, the WHO, ICNIRP and now Canadian report use as the”scientific” basis of their claim of the lack of causality between EHS and EMF.
This is a bad science calling in question the quality of the research performed on EHS and the quality of the evaluation of such research by the WHO, ICNIRP, Canadian report and others.
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity must exist. We do not have yet scientific proof of it because wrong research was, and is, pursued. However, even without the ultimate scientific proof, the existence of EHS is a simple fact of life. The only question is what exposure levels are sufficient to trigger EHS.
For every radiation type, every chemical, every environmental pollutant there exist sub-populations of people who are more sensitive than others. This phenomenon, known as individual sensitivity, is encoded in our genetic diversity. It is a fact that individual sensitivity exists.
Sarcastically, the only circumstance where the existence of individual sensitivity is denied is when it affects the interests of the wireless communications industry.
It would be good to hear, at last, an explanation from the wireless industry scientists and pro-industry activists, what is so special about EMF that it cannot cause individual sensitivity? Anybody ready to answer?