CHALLENGE for Dr. van Deventer of the WHO EMF Project

… this post is open for comments …

WHO EMF Project is preparing Environmental Health Criteria for the radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMF). In several blogs I wrote about the shortcomings of the writing process:

Now, as of December 15, 2014, commenting period for the EHC draft is over. In fact the sole purpose of commenting was to find out whether all relevant peer-reviewed studies were included in the EHC draft. Nothing else. The, yet unnamed (?), Task Group will determine the meaning of the evidence in the context of human health hazard.

The problem with the EHC draft, as I see it, is the lack of balanced presentation of the scientific evidence. The process of writing the EHC draft was clearly dominated by ICNIRP scientists because, first of all, current Head of the WHO EMF Project, Dr. Emilie van Deventer is an engineer and has no expertise in evaluation bio-medical research. She has to fully rely on others.

Furthermore, as I see it, the WHO EMF Project was not only hijacked by the ICNIRP but, from the inception, it was set up as a front for the ICNIRP agenda of unifying exposure standards to RF-EMF. Before the WHO EMF Project was set up, ICNIRP was somewhat unimportant group of scientists. Once ICNIRP Chairman become Head of the WHO EMF Project, and automatically he begun to rely on science evaluations by ICNIRP, the role and importance of ICNIRP skyrocketed – from obscurity to stardom. In order to remain important and influential, ICNIRP has to closely control the EHC that is being prepared under the front of WHO EMF Project. This document will have global impact on billions of users of wireless technology and on the multitrillion dollar business.

How it happened that the scientific evidence was presented in unbalanced way in the EHC draft?

As mentioned above, the process of writing was dominated by the ICNIRP scientists. Members of this “private club” are known to be selected for the similarity of their opinions on the subject of RF-EMF.

  • Epidemiological evidence was written under the leadership of Maria Feychting, known for the long standing opinion that there is no any evidence of brain cancer risk. She clearly dismisses evidence of risk provided by Interphone, Hardell and CERENAT studies and clearly lauds the evidence provided by Danish Cohort or the Million Women Study. So, it is no wonder that the epidemiological part of the EHC draft reflects these opinions but it does not reflect the currently available scientific evidence. Evidence that is uncertain and contradictory but, in spite of these shortcomings, provides red flags of possible (even probable) health risk.
  • Human studies evidence was written under the leadership of Dr. Gunhild Oftedal. Her opinion is firmly supporting the notion of the lack of correlation between EHS and EMF. I wrote about it in one of my posts in The Washington Times. The other prominent expert involves in writing this chapter was Dr. James Rubin, another scientist dismissing EHS and EMF link. I commented on his “voodoo science” in another of my posts in The Washington Times. When such-anti EHS experts as Oftedal and Rubin write a chapter on EHS the results is easily predictable – EHS is not caused by EMF.
  • Animal studies were written under the leadership of Dr. Eric van Rongen, another scientist known for his no-effects-whatsoever opinion. I was puzzled that animal studies were assigned to Dr. van Rongen. Looking at his publication record in the PubMed database, it is seen that he did not publish experimental animal studies on effects of RF-EMF. According to PubMed there are only total of 33 publications under his name and most of them are not original research studies but opinions and reviews of work of others. This is of course no problem. Scientists have different publication records. What is puzzling is that the expert writing on animal studies did not do research in this area. Is he an expert? To better understand this problem let me give an example – I am writing often about epidemiology but I would never agree to be in charge of writing an epidemiology chapter of an important document as EHC is. The explanation as to why Dr. van Rongen was in charge of writing about animal studies comes from a non-ICNIRP direction. Recently, the Health Council of the Netherlands published a review “Mobile phones and cancer. Part 2. Animal studies on carcinogenesis” and Dr. Eric van Rongen is listed as co-author of this review in his capacity as “Dr. E. van Rongen, scientific secretary, Radiobiologist, Health Council of the Netherlands, The Hague”. The document in question came to the conclusion that animal evidence shows lack of health risk for humans. No wonder that the same approach is seen in the EHC draft.
  • In vitro laboratory studies were written under the guidance of Dr. M. R. Scarfi, another no-effects-whatsoever expert. When the writing effort of Dr. Scarfi was combined with the support from Dr. Vijaylaxmi, the result is obvious – RF-EMF have no health effects whatsoever. Both of them just published a review article where they praise ICES and ICNIRP for their evaluation of science and recommendation of safety limits based on the so-called weight-of evidence. The weight-of-evidence is somewhat tricky term. When used correctly it is helpful to exclude poor quality studies. However, as I wrote already in 2009, the weight-of-evidence is often abused to dismiss the evidence of effects caused by EMF exposures. Interestingly, Dr. C-K. Chou, the recently retired chief scientists at Motorola is acknowledged for critical review of the manuscript before it was submitted for publication. So, in the review, all is in line with the opinions of Motorola and ICES but what about another view from the non-industry and non-ICES/non-ICNIRP experts?
  • Mechanisms studies were written for the EHC but it is not easy to determine who the author of this text is. However, as I wrote earlier, yet again the final conclusion is that only thermal effects exist. Apparently all studies showing effects at non-thermal exposure levels are wrong. If the question would be of few studies, one might suspect a problem but when in question are hundreds of studies then dismissing them should not be so easy. It is not enough to say that phenomenon does not exist because the mechanism is unknown. There are many phenomena that science has no knowledge of the mechanisms involved. Should all of them be automatically dismissed, as “experts” dismiss non-thermal effects of EMF?

Defenders of the EHC draft might say that my worries are unfounded. That the EHC draft is just the review of scientific studies, prepared for the Task Group. That it will be the Task Group that will develop conclusions on health hazard of RF-EMF exposures. Indeed, it is the process. However, it is important for the work of the Task Group, how the evidence was reviewed in the EHC draft. If the evidence is reviewed in biased way, towards the no-effect-whatsoever notion, then the work of the Task Group might be skewed and lead to biased conclusions. This is not a theoretical problem. This happened before. Few years ago the WHO EMF Project prepared EHC for ELF-EMF. According to one of the members of the ELF-EMF EHC Task Group, the EHC draft for ELF-EMF was written is such biased way that the Task Group was considering to trash it and start all over again, from scratch.

It will be up to the Task Group for EHC on RF-EMF to prepare scientifically unbiased conclusions using the scientifically biased review of science provided by the EHC draft.

The CHALLENGE for Dr. Emilie van Deventer, Head of the WHO EMF Project is significant. She has to approve members of the Task Group. The selection process will certainly involve ICNIRP Main Commission, including its Chairman Emeritus. I hope that Dr. van Deventer, in spite of the pressure from the ICNIRP, will consider appointing of scientists with diverse viewpoints. I hope that she will, similarly as IARC has done in 2011, appoint scientists with non-ICNIRP opinions to the Task Group. IARC dared to have such scientists as Armstrong, Belyaev, Blackman, Cardis, Hardell, Leszczynski, Portier.

I sincerely hope that Dr. Emilie van Deventer will stand up to the occasion and, in spite of lobbying to the contrary, she will appoint Task Group with diverse opinions, where science will be discussed and not only rubber-stamp ICNIRP no-effect-whatsoever opinion.

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11 thoughts on “CHALLENGE for Dr. van Deventer of the WHO EMF Project

  1. Pingback: ICNIRP did it again… | BRHP – Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  2. Pingback: Leszczynski: Statements for Hearing on Canadian Safety Code 6 | BRHP – Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  3. Pingback: Handling an Inquiry – The WHO-style | BRHP – Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  4. Doubting Thomas, your comment is too ridiculous to respond. No comment…

  5. Hi Dariusz,
    I fully agree with you, let’s hope to have scientists with different opinions on the Task Group, sharing their own experience, competence and position.
    Best Wishes

  6. I’m not sure that implementing your suggestion would produce the results that you are seeking.

    Firstly, assuming that you would want proportional representation on the task group, you would need to have at least 20 ‘no harmful health effects’ scientists for each ‘the sky is falling’ scientist in the group. The size of the task group would be unwieldy, and would dilute any fringe opinion.

    Much like it is doing now in the real world.

  7. Biron, this is not the point what Hardell is doing. The point is to have scientists with different opinions on the Task Group. Only mix of opinions will lead to scientific discussion. If everyone on Task Group has the same opinion then there will be only rubber-stamping.

  8. How does Hardell fit in as non-biased when he’s been testifying for trial attorneys suing telecoms since at least 2002? Let’s get real.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah.

  9. Charlotte,
    The answer is most likely: nobody. Neither WHO EMF Project nor ICNIRP are accountable before anyone for the scientific advice they give out…

  10. This is a well thought out depiction of the challenges at hand related to a very important worldly subject that requires the most appropriate, non-biased, skilled scientists.

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