One of the plenary sessions at the BioEM2015 in Asilomar presented two views on EHS. Invited speakers were Kjell Hansson Mild and Gunnhild Oftedal.
To me the session was a big disappointment. It indicated a stagnation in EHS research and a lack of new ideas to resolve the problem of causality.
Kjell Hansson Mild reviewed the history of EHS research. There were no new ideas for further research. Talk showed a stagnation in research, focused on asking the volunteers “how they feel” and “what they feel” instead of devising studies that would objectively look at the differences in physiology of EHS sufferers. Kjell Hansson Mild arrived at the conclusion that EHS symptoms “fit” the already known Da Costa’s syndrome. By “definition”, Da Costa’s syndrome is exceptionally unspecific and the majority of human population “has it”. Thus is not the way to demonstrate that EMF causes EHS. [PowerPoint presentation of KHM is available at the bottom of this post]
Gunnhild Oftedal is known, among others, from her publications with James Rubin, the favorite EHS expert of the WHO, ICNIRP, SCENIHR and alike, “no effects whatsoever”, committees. Oftedal’s presentation went straight to the point – there is no link between EHS and EMF. Whatever causes symptoms in people is not EMF.
Oftedal went even so far as to state that:
“Physiological/health effects in humans in general are not relevant to EHS problem… because there are no known links to EHS.”
What is the scientific basis for such definite claim by Gunnhild Oftedal? She presented a summary table of EHS provocation and intervention studies:
This summary indicates that the number of participants in the EHS provocation and intervention studies was very low, totaling only 1063 persons in 44 studies, split between different exposures and experimental approaches.
Is this a sufficient scientific basis to make any definite claims and conclusions about causality between EMF and EHS? Certainly not. Such amount of “data” is like a small pilot study.
Therefore, it is not surprising that review by James Rubin and collaborators (Rubin et al. 2011, Bioelectromagnetics 32:593-609), quoted by Oftedal, came to the following conclusions:
- there are great variations between studies
- there are no systematic differences between studies with and without positive findings
Such conclusions are obvious for such small sample of population studied (1063 subjects) in 44 studies (only ca. 24 subjects per study!).
The other problem, besides the small sample, is the reliability of the experimental data – the answers from the study subjects. In my opinion data is not reliable because it is subjective. Study subjects are asked how and what they feel and their answers provide, automatically, subjective information.
It is not an objective data when EHS person, under stress in laboratory setting, answers questions about how they feel when being under real or sham exposure. Such data cannot provide evidence for final scientific proof of existence or non-existence of link between EHS and EMF…
…and Oftedal, in her presentation, provided evidence to that fact.
Gunnhild Oftedal has quoted study showing how media influences peoples’ opinions. In an experiment subjects were shown two movies, one warning about health risks of EMF and the other, neutral to EMF and health issue. Following the presentation, study subjects experienced more EHS symptoms after seeing the movie warning of EMF health risk danger. One important aspect of this study was, again, very small subject sample of 147 persons in total (76 + 71).
This study shows that, indeed, we are affected by what we see and hear around us. That is why court juries, in important cases, are sequestered… Nothing new… Just an obvious – we, the people, are affected by the media…
This study is being used as a “proof” that EHS link to EMF is imaginary and that the increasing prevalence of EHS in population is caused by the news media reports, and not by the EMF.
I am of the completely opposite opinion. To me there is a very important, but different, message coming out of this study. The data gathered in studies where persons are asked how they feel when in laboratory conditions are being exposed to real or sham radiation are unacceptable as scientific proof of lack of causality link between EMF and EHS… because the study subjects are affected by the experimental setting and their answers are subjective, not objective. The study subjects come to the experiment with their pre-conceptions of what is good and what is bad about EMF exposures. This all affects their reactions and responses made to investigators.
I think the major obstacle in solving the problem of EHS and EMF are the attitudes of researchers, lacking ideas for novel approaches. If research on EHS will continue the way, as Oftedal, Rubin, Croft and others are doing, we will never resolve this issue.
There was, however, a positive development. Not from Mild or Oftedal…
…after the plenary session on EHS, on the Asilomar beach, I met Junji Miyakoshi, a molecular biologist from Japan. We discussed the problem of EHS and we came to the same conclusion. We need studies where study subjects will be exposed to real or sham radiation and provide samples for biochemical analysis of proteins and genes before and after the exposure. I have been advocating such studies for many years and hit the “brick wall”, as I was directly forbidden to even think of such studies by my bosses at STUK – Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland.
It was very encouraging to hear that such recognized expert in biological effects of EMF, as Junji Miyakoshi, agrees with my opinion.
Now, who dares to fund such biochemical study on EHS? Any funding volunteers?
Presentation of Kjell Hansson Mild Kjell Hansson Mild EHS BioEM2015
Gunnhild Oftedal did not agree to provide presentation. Her concern was that, without narrative, slides alone are insufficient to speak her message.