UPDATE: the full report is now available here
When evaluating health risks of agents, the general notion is that, in an ideal situation, the three lines of evidence, coming from the epidemiological/human volunteer studies, from the animal studies and from the mechanistic laboratory in vitro studies, should point in the same direction. However, this is often not the case. The reasons for it might be diverse, but two of them are of most significance:
- difficulty to compare and validate different research studies, caused by the incomparable biological models and research methods,
- insufficient research in certain areas.
The insufficiency of the scientific evidence in certain areas of research, the so called gaps in the knowledge, makes it difficult to define the biological effects their consequences – the health effects.
In research on the biological and health effects of the EMF (ELF-EMF and RF-EMF) the to-date collected scientific evidence is often contradictory, with studies pointing in different, often opposite directions. In large part, responsibility for this situation lies on research funders and scientists themselves.
Research in the bioelectromagnetics arena, a relatively small arena of research in general, has been haphazard and lacking clear direction over the several decades. Research funding was provided but without clear direction of what is needed for the decision making on health effects and health hazard. Funding organizations, whether private or taxpayers, and decision making organizations did not provide clear directions for research but rather believed that, over the time, collected science will generated data-base for decision making.
This applies also to the attempts of the WHO EMF Program that from time to time published list of research needs. Without the oversight of what will be happening in practice in labs, publication of the list of research needs alone had not much impact. Still scientists were doing whatever they wanted, in line with the academic scientific freedom, and often had “better” suggestions for needed research topics.
Lots of money were used for small studies that produced outcomes completely irrelevant for human health risk evaluation. Studies, like these executed by the US National Toxicology Program, are rarity. But just such studies were and still are needed. Studies where effects are examined using stringent rules and designed to produce results directly applicable in human health risk estimates. Instead of this there were, and are, performed studies producing bits and pieces of knowledge that are often impossible to reliably evaluate due to e.g. too small sample studied. Even the large consortia, funded by the European Union, have the same problem. These consortia were not sufficiently “supervised” in the research planning phase and scientists often drifted “off the topic” into areas that are not immediately useful for decision makers.
Dream of gathering, through this haphazard research, of a sufficiently large and validated database remained as a dream. Bioelectromagnetics is a too small and too diverse (frequency wise) scientific community to rapidly collect enough research to generate self-correcting scientific database. Database where is enough information that the errors in research are corrected by science itself. This did not happen. We have database consisting of bits and pieces… For example, the number of to date executed experimental studies on the frequencies used in wireless communication is just 1133 studies dispersed over a broad variety of experimental models and experimental procedures, frequently very small studies, insufficient to claim what is “claimed” by the authors in conclusions of their studies.
Research studies that I co-authored and research consortia that I co-participated in (e.g. EU Reflex Project) are also part-culprit in this “phenomenon” of the haphazardness of research.
Numerous bioelectromagnetics studies on a diverse variety of EMF exposures were published, lots of money was used but not so much of reliably validated science, useful for human health risk estimate, was generated.
This lack of sufficient knowledge poses, continuously, a serious problem to all users and providers of the wireless communication technology – how to reliably decide whether radiation emitted by the wireless devices is dangerous or is it not dangerous? Of course, proponents and opponents of both stances can easily point out to research studies that support their claim. But, as a whole, the evidence is still insufficient to reliably claim ‘danger’ or ‘no danger’.
As I mentioned in my blogs and lectures over many years, we need, and urgently, targeted research projects that will generate scientific information, directly pertinent to human health hazard, for the use by the decision makers, the industry and the users. Projects need to be clearly defined and, somehow by someone, forced to stick to the original plans because leaving it to scientist alone will produce, yet again, haphazard data of little usefulness.
This is the introductory part for the report that I am currently preparing, for my colleagues from the South Korea: ‘BRIEF REPORT on the Gaps in the Knowledge’. This report will be ready in a couple of days’ time and, soon thereafter, it will be also published here, on the BRHP.