At the recent BioEM2017 meeting in Hangzhou, China, I spoke at length with Emilie van Deventer (EvD), Head of the WHO EMF Project, about the current status of the work on the Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) for the RF-EMF.
Emilie van Deventer has doctorate in electrical engineering and she is an Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Toronto in Canada.
Below is what I got to know and what I did not get to know from Emilie van Deventer, in our face-to-face discussion in Hangzhou and subsequent e-mail exchange…
Current status of the EHC draft document
- EHC draft was prepared by a group of individual scientists and made available to RF experts for comments (Blogs on BRHP critically commented on these past developments: link-1, link-2, link-3, link-4, link-5, link-6 )
- Experts’ comments were received and incorporated into the EHC draft by team of 30+ scientists (The names of the 30+ scientists were not provided/revealed by EvD; it is possible to assume that the majority of them were the same who prepared the EHC draft: link-4 )
- The revised draft of the EHC, with incorporated comments, is “ready” but it is not available for viewing at this stage
- All received experts’ comments were collated into a table and all actions concerning all comments documented (A question about the possibility to view the table was not answered by EvD)
Current status of assembling the expert group for evaluation of the revised draft of the EHC
- The formation of the group of experts that will prepare the final version of the EHC is delayed because of the new policies being implemented at the WHO
- For more information regarding the new policies/process at the WHO, see this link: http://www.who.int/publications/guidelines/handbook_2nd_ed.pdf?ua=1
- The membership of the expert group has not been finalized and no information is being provided on how far the process went already and who is potentially under consideration
- The membership of the expert group will be finalized before the systematic reviews are commissioned by the WHO (systematic reviews and Systematic Review Teams are part of the new policy of the WHO; see link above)
- The expert group that will prepare scientific evaluation for the EHC will be called Systematic Review Team (SRT)
- The experts for SRT will be selected based on their expertise of systematic review methods
- A WHO Internal Steering Group (ISG) will select the systematic review team’s experts for the appraisal of risk of bias of studies (Membership of the WHO internal steering group was not provided for me by EvD)
New approach of removal of the potential article selection bias, as requested by the new WHO policy
- Currently, WHO requests that all articles used as references in the EHC will be evaluated and scored for their quality and relevance for the EHC
- Systematic review teams (SRT) will be doing this evaluation and scoring of references
- At this stage it is still uncertain whether the references’ evaluation results, made by the SRT, will be publicly available on WHO website, to show what studies and why were approved as relevant and what were excluded and for what reason because:
- The WHO employed process mentions that “The flow of articles throughout the search and up to the final cohort of included studies should be depicted with the PRISMA flow diagram, which includes the number of excluded articles and the reasons for any exclusions at the full-text screening stage… However, excessive detail in the text of the characteristics and findings at the individual study level is unnecessary.”
The time-frame for the preparation of the EHC is currently unknown and it is not possible to estimate it before the appraisal of risk of bias of the scientific studies will be completed by the SRT. It is a long and costly process (apparently experts will be paid for the job) and WHO EMF Project has no available funding for such work.
In conclusion, it would be better for all involved parties if the process of preparation of the Environmental Health Criteria for RF-EMF would be more open and transparent. The currently applied “slow trickle” of information coming out of the WHO EMF Project is a bad public relations policy. It causes, and justifiably, a suspicion of secrecy and hiding what is going on… Unnecessary and unwanted conspiracy theories easily breed on such “failed policy” and are easy to disseminate – the information vacuum gives the opportunity.
No matter what new policies WHO implements, the major issue is not only the potential “bias” of the scientific studies but also the potential “bias” of the scientific experts. Neither of the “biases” will be sufficiently resolved by the new policies of the WHO. In the end it is up to the decision of the WHO Internal Steering Group (ISG) who will be selected to the Systematic Review Group (SRG) and who will be preparing the final version of the EHC. But the composition of the ISG and plans for the membership of the SRG are closely guarded “secrets” (?) of the WHO…
Clear, open, truthful and comprehensive statement from the WHO EMF Project is urgently needed. Emily van Deventer should take an action, ASAP…