Day 3 of BioEM2014: Thermal or non-thermal… or… unimportant…

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This day is traditionally short, because this one afternoon is at every meeting reserved for free time sightseeing. However, this does not mean that the day was uneventful. Just the opposite.

The opening session of the day was a tutorial session “Overview of 50 years of laboratory, animal and human studies” and the presentation was made by Bernard Veyret. The content of the talk was very superficial. It was obvious to expect it when someone has to review 50 years of EMF research in just well under one hour of time.

There were, however, few statements in Bernard’s talk that got mine, and not only mine, attention.

The first one was on thermal and non-thermal effects of RF exposures. When presenting microwave hearing effects on cochlea, Bernard said that it was a thermal effect even if the temperature increase is only a millionth part of a degree Celsius. After the talk, there was just one question from the audience, by Rene DeSeze, who, as I, wondered at this “thermal” classification. The response from Bernard was that it is a thermal effect because without the increase in temperature, it does not happen. Then, came a “shocker”, when Bernard said that defining non-thermal effects as effects where a temperature increase is less than one degree Celsius in useless. It means that Bernard, former member of ICNIRP, questioned the validity of ICNIRP’s way of distinguishing between thermal and non-thermal effects.

I agree with Bernard. Attempts, to classify effects as thermal and non-thermal, are useless, unless really strong heating happens; strong enough to overwhelm the thermoregulatory mechanisms of a living organism.

Important is whether EMF exposure, at levels below the safety standards, causes a measurable biological effect. Apparently, depending on the situation the very minute change in temperature (a millionth part of degree) can induce a measurable effect – e.g. on the cochlea.

The other interesting statement concerned omics techniques of research. Bernard stated that the future lies in the application of omics techniques in EMF research. To me, it shows how much Bernard’s attitude towards this kind of research has changed over the years. I vividly remember, in 2003 at the WHO EMF Project meeting to revise the research agenda, during the coffee break discussion Bernard said that epidemiology was the only research that can provide answers about health effects of cellphone exposures. He did not like my approach, proteomics (my group just published in 2002 first study on stress response using proteomics) and called it a fishing expedition without a hypothesis to examine. The same repeated in 2007, at the meeting at the National Academies in Washington, DC. There, however, I had a strong defender of my idea of using proteomics and other omics techniques – Joe Roti Roti.

Over the last 10 years Bernard, in my opinion, came to his senses and finally acknowledged that use of omics in necessary in order to find out.

Finally, bad news for EHS. Bernard, speaking about EHS, mentioned that some week ago was meeting at the WHO in Geneva where EHS was debated. The conclusion of this meeting was that 44 of the EHS studies were negative… Meaning, there is no causal link between EHS and EMF, at least in WHO, Geneva…