[update: this blog is now also available in French]
Some say that EHS (called also IEI-EMF) is caused by the EMF exposures. Some disagree entirely.
In the absence of the conclusive scientific evidence to support either of the opinions, the debate goes on and will go on indefinitely… unless a real scientific research studies will examine the possibility of causal link between EHS and EMF.
Reading today a column by Rajeev Bansal “Nocebo: Reading this Column May Affect Your Health” published in 2013 in IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, Vol. 55, No. 6, December 2013, prompted me to write this blog on nocebo and EHS.
I dare to say that the, to-date executed, research on EHS is very unreliable, scientifically speaking. Based on it claims that EHS is unrelated to EMF are illogical and unscientific. What is the most worrisome, the “guardian of our health”, the World Health Organization, using this illogical and unscientific evidence jumped to conclusion that it is proven that EHS is unrelated to EMF. This conclusion is incorrect. We have no evidence linking EHS with EMF or showing that link does not exist because the currently available scientific studies on EHS are worthless.
The majority of EHS studies were performed on small numbers of subjects and predominantly by asking how the subjects feel. In some studies was measured also e.g. blood pressure, but such data is, similarly to data as responses to how-do-you-feel-question, a very unreliable information. It can be dramatically affected by the experimental conditions. Even if the scientists try their best to avoid stressing the subjects.
I made a small “experiment” and, while writing this story, I measured my blood pressure and pulse, three times in time span of 5 minutes. Results are following (I am suffering of too high blood pressure so my numbers are higher than normally should be):
- 168/92 pulse 78,
- 149/87 pulse 74,
- 153/98 pulse 83.
I was sitting at my desk, peacefully at home in most optimal conditions to measure reliably blood pressure. However, the three measurements made within 5 minutes time span, vary. I bet that these numbers would show higher variability in EHS suspecting person stressed by experimentalists in laboratory conditions.
Any EHS data obtained to date are unreliable because these data are overshadowed by subjectivity of the information provided by the study subjects. Any definitive conclusions made using such data are, as mentioned already above, useless or even, worthless.
Interestingly, the proof of worthlessness of such “data” was provided a couple years ago by the most renown “anti-EHS-guru”, Dr. G. James Rubin.
In a study, by M. Witthoeft and G.J. Rubin, “Are Media Warnings About the Adverse Health Effects of Modern Life Self-Fulfilling? An Experimental Study on Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance Attributed to Electromagnetic Fields (IEI-EMF),” published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research (74, 2013, pp. 206-212), the authors claimed that the existence of nocebo effect provides the final proof that EHS is unrelated to EMF exposures.
It is not so. The existence of nocebo effect proves neither lack nor existence of causal link between EHS and EMF. However, the nocebo effect proves that the research data collected in the to-date executed EHS studies is absolutely unreliable.
Witthoeft and Rubin performed a nocebo experiment.
From wikipedia: “In medicine, a nocebo (Latin for “I shall harm”) is an inert substance or form of therapy that creates harmful effects in a patient. The nocebo effect is the adverse reaction experienced by a patient who receives such a therapy.”
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.
The only thing this study proves is that, indeed, we are affected by what we see and hear around us. It does not say anything about an potential impact of EMF exposures. It is easily possible to envision that some persons will experience EHS symptoms just by worrying about EMF exposures. This, however, does not prove that others may not respond to EHS exposures.
The study by Witthoeft and Rubin demonstrates something well known already – the basis of commercial advertizing – we, the people, are affected by what we see and hear around us, by the variety of media…
What is not spoken about is that Witthoeft and Rubin study proves how unreliable, subjective and influenced by what we think and see around us, is the “scientific data” obtained in to-date executed EHS studies. The answers provided by study subjects are certainly influences by what they know and think about EMF exposures. The data is tainted by subjective opinions. Using such “tainted data” as scientific evidence of the lack of casual link between EHS and EMF is unscientific.
We need reliable, objective scientific data to prove or to disprove the causality link between EHS and EMF. I mentioned what we need in my previous blog “BioEM2015: Plenary session on EHS“. In this earlier post you can also find more info on how unreliable the EHS research was and is…
Strictly scientifically, I do not know if EHS is causally linked to EMF exposures. My uncertainty stems from the lack of reliable scientific evidence. Scientists should stop wasting money and time on collecting useless, biased by subjectivity, data on EHS.
The problem is that EHS research arena is dominated by scientists who prefer collection of subjective data from small groups of study subjects to prove… well, it is a good question – what they wish to prove?