EHS research is scientifically worthless for two reasons…

On October 14th, 2017, Finnish newspaper ‘Helsingin sanomat’, in its science pages, has published a story on the electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), with a lengthy title: “Nocebo effect explains why some people get symptoms from electromagnetic fields or wind power: in experimenting, mere worry of side effects, caused the volunteers to get symptoms” (in Finnish: Nosebovaikutus selittää, miksi jotkut saavat oireita sähköstä tai tuulivoimasta: kokeessa pelkkä sivuvaikutuksilla pelottelu sai koehenkilöt oireilemaan).

In the article, the journalist with the assistance of some scientists, came to the conclusion that EHS does not exist, it is not caused by the exposures to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and it is only an “imagination” of some people. This “imagination”, as it was concluded, was the sole cause of the negative health symptoms experienced by self-diagnosed EHS persons.

In short, the article in the ‘Helsingin sanomat’ made readers to understand that EHS is just a “delusion”.

The ‘Helsingin sanomat’ story on EHS was prompted by the publication of research report in the renowned ‘Science’ journal: “Interactions between brain and spinal cord mediate value effects in nocebo hyperalgesia”. The ‘Science’ article was dealing solely with the nocebo, it did not deal at all with possible implications of nocebo effect for the EHS. In the abstract of the study the authors stated:

Value information about a drug, such as the price tag, can strongly affect its therapeutic effect. We discovered that value information influences adverse treatment outcomes in humans even in the absence of an active substance. Labeling an inert treatment as expensive medication led to stronger nocebo hyperalgesia than labeling it as cheap medication. This effect was mediated by neural interactions between cortex, brainstem, and spinal cord. In particular, activity in the prefrontal cortex mediated the effect of value on nocebo hyperalgesia. Value furthermore modulated coupling between prefrontal areas, brainstem, and spinal cord, which might represent a flexible mechanism through which higher-cognitive representations, such as value, can modulate early pain processing.”

In short, as also stated in the commentary accompanying publication of this research, the study suggests that nocebo affects nervous system:

“…spinal cord regions associated with pain response also showed more activation in the “expensive” cream group, suggesting it wasn’t all in the volunteers’ heads…”.

Meaning the symptoms experienced in response to nocebo are not pure imagination but have physiological basis. Our perceptions can and do affect physiology of our bodies.

This is a very interesting observation but using it as a scientific proof to claim that EHS does not exist is incorrect.

The EHS is only a self-diagnosed ailment. There are no tests to objectively determine whether person has or has not an EHS. However, the self-diagnosed EHS persons experience variety of symptoms that impact in negative way on their quality of life and there is an agreement that the symptoms are real. What is not agreed upon is what the cause of these symptoms is.

Some scientists claim that sufficient research has been done, that scientists looked everywhere and that the causal link between EHS and EMF exposures does not exist. Of this opinion are WHO EMF Project, ICNIRP, SCENIHR, ICES and, closely in their footsteps, the telecom industry and governments. As I pointed out in my earlier writings, At STUK in Finland, it was strictly forbidden, by then Research Director, to even think of doing research on EHS and, when I attempted to persuade STUK that the EHS research has a merit, I was reprimanded and my loyalty to STUK was questioned.

In my opinion the claim of the “sufficient” research on EHS that looked “everywhere” is utterly false and shows poor scientific judgement.

There are two major problems with the to-date executed studies examining existence of causal link between EHS and EMF that invalidate the conclusions of the to-date executed EHS studies:

  1. The first major problem of EHS studies is the assumption by the scientists that the volunteers participating in the studies, claiming to have EHS, indeed have symptoms caused by EMF exposures. There is no such certainty. The volunteers are self-diagnosed EHS and they assume/believe to have EHS. In reality, some of those self-diagnosed EHS persons, participating in scientific studies, might suffer from symptoms caused by sensitivity to something else, not the EMF. Therefore, the experimental group of self-diagnosed EHS persons is likely contaminated by the non-EHS persons who misdiagnosed own symptoms as EMF-caused. The results of experiments using such contaminated group are skewed towards the no effect. This contamination problem exists in all to-date executed studies because scientists have no diagnostic method to determine whether the self-diagnosed EHS is correct or incorrect. The scientists believe that volunteers participating in scientific studies have correctly self-diagnosed own EHS. The currently impossible to determine in size, contamination of the experimental group, in practice, invalidates all to-date obtained experimental results in all EHS studies. Scientists simply do not know whom they are studying as EHS volunteers!
  2. The second major problem, invalidating the to-date performed EHS studies, is the existence of placebo and nocebo effects. It shows how subjectively biased is all data collected in EHS studies. Existence of both effects clearly demonstrates how strongly our perceptions and beliefs can affect our health and what we feel, including physiological symptoms. All persons have certainly some opinion about the possible effects of EMF on health, no matter what this opinion is. In all to-date executed EHS studies the self-diagnosed EHS volunteers were asked how they feel, while exposed or sham exposed to EMF. The responses were certainly tainted by the opinions about EHS and by the experiment-caused mental stress. This means that all data collected to-date in the EHS studies is not objective information but it is a set of subjective expressions of feelings. Claiming that such subjective data, obtained from volunteers under duress, provide scientific proof is utterly unscientific.

These two above mentioned major reasons clearly indicate that the to-date executed EHS studies are simply worthless in deciding whether there exists, or not, any causal link between EHS and EMF.

Claim that scientists looked “everywhere” and found no EHS is completely false. Thus far, scientists have done just a set of subjective “feelings” studies that are absolutely insufficient as proof of non-existence of EHS. What has not been done are studies of human physiology when exposed to EMF that would provide objective data. We should look for molecular markers of human response to EMF. We should not focus on self-diagnosed EHS persons. We should use large groups of volunteers with and without self-diagnosed EHS, and look if there are any common molecular markers of response to EMF exposure and if there are any differences in the strength of the response. Without objective data from molecular studies we will never reliably answer the question of EHS and EMF.

Finally, to wrap-up, the ‘Helsingin sanomat’ should look at the issue of EHS with open mind and not slavishly follow the preconceived personal opinions of its journalists. Issue of EMF and health is very complex and there is a lot of lobbying from non-science entities. Without the scientific objectivity and the audiatur et altera pars approach and real scientific debate, ‘Helsingin sanomat’ science pages (tiede sivut) are becoming pseudo-scientific.


13 thoughts on “EHS research is scientifically worthless for two reasons…

  1. Both of your objections are flawed in my opinion. 1. Even if groups are contaminated with non-sensitive people, scientists do not look at the data only in aggregate. In all of the numerous studies to date, there is no evidence that any of the individuals could be affected by EM waves. Not one person.
    2. Why do scientists investigate in the first place? Because some people complain they are subjectively affected. Subjective experience is thus the best place to start. The fact that we are not able to scientifically detect anyone who is more reliable than a coin flip at subjectively feeling the presence of WiFi when the noncebo effect adequately explains the data is a good reason to stop. If we had found 1 person who really is subjectively sensitive, now would be the time to explain with more objective measures. Doing objective physiological measurements right now is actually riskier, because there is a good chance we don’t measure the right thing.

  2. Pingback: Why the Australian government will not advise the public on wireless technologies’ risks to health – at least for now | Stop Smart Meters Australia

  3. Pingback: Why the Australian government will not advise the public on wireless technologies’ risks to health – At least for now. | Smart Meter News

  4. Thank you Darius, you succinctly put on paper what I have (in my layman research attempts) have also noticed in regard to “science’s” approach to EHS. If science is the pursuit of truth then surely studies should be constructed to find the truth rather than to prove that something does not exist. Which raises the question – in our modern era is there true objectivity in science? Do scientist exist who share a passion for the truth or are our “findings” driven by material objectives, career protecting conservatism and simply bad thinking. I for one am tired of being led around by those with an agenda.

  5. I just wonder if the public alarmists could be then accused of battering these people on purpose?

  6. Answer to dariuszleszczynski. Yes unfortunately. I belong to that generation, in Sweden, who did not get such a good knowledge in English. Sorry

  7. Unfortunately your text was missed because it was long story in Swedish… Long time ago, while studying in Krakow, As my professors at the Jagiellonian University said, if you publish science in non-English you “kill” your science… Sad but reality…

  8. I’m sensetive to electromagnetic radiation and microwave pulsed frequencies..from cell towers…have proof ..felt and heard the frequencies.. before I even knew there was a cell tower less than a kilometre from my home ..had asked my doctor is it possible to pick up signals through the brain he said he had two other patients complaining of similar problem…also found difficulties in getting to sleep …that was in July 2015…, wasn’t until the sugar cane was cut in September 2015 ….I realised where this sound was coming from…has been over two years now …and this last few months have become extremely sick in the stomach…hissing sound is extremely loud …my hearing is exceptionally good …had complained to NBN ..and was told out right..very soon there won’t be a rock for you to hide under these frequencies will be didn’t that say something……..!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m also getting pains in my back joints muscles…flu like symptoms that are there every day on and off also reflux … pressure in the top and sides of my brain ….. inability to get to sleep…so hence exhaustion….. vibration through my body …very sore throat and voice sounds different..never smoked ..never used a Mobil phone …!!! Have one’s always turned off..and carried with me just in case of an emergency……spoke with a lovely lady on Facebook …after putting up what I’m going through ..she commented that she was getting headaches ..I asked her headaches or a pressure…she said a pressure nothing like any headach she had ever experienced..asked her is there a cell tower close …she said I don’t know have Bushland behind me…so I sent her a link to find out where the closest towers and spikes were near her..advised she just put in the post code …she came back in shock…and told me yes there are two towers and the spikes ..are less than a kilometre away…she also has problems getting to sleep and has been feeling nautious…How any of you say this is prove to us this is just imagine… before asking us to prove the TURTURE..we are going through …This is TURTURE and it’s also CRIMINAL….These signals are penatrateing right through the walls of our homes and our bodies…..You prove to me it isn’t…!!!!!!! Before these cell towers ..we all had fiber optic which we were all promised but instead up went the towers without letting any of us know …. before these towers to pick up television or radio ..we relied on an Arial to invite these into our homes ….These frequencies and radiation..are coming through our homes uninvited…..just like second hand smoke and aspestus…you proven guilty …of ruining and killing many way before there time …… Mark my words you will………..!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. I apologize about the misspelling of your surname, which I have correctly spelt many times before. Please correct it for me in my comment if you can (and then erase your own? but whatever). To tell you the truth, I am working from a dial up internet connection from the wilds of Canada, as I refuse to use the only other option on offer, wireless. So sometimes it is not so easy to carefully do what others take for granted with their connections. No excuse, but this time it did figure in my mistake. Feel free to scrub this comment as well once you accept the apology. My first name is often misspelt, it is Daryl Vernon, as you may already know/remember.

  10. Hi dyr2, it would be time to learn correct spelling of my surname.It is historical name from Poland and remembering sequence of letters “szcz” should be not too difficult 😉

  11. ‘EHS’ is indeed a highly problematic term/concept in the first place and should have been jettisoned altogether, for several reasons. There is suspicion even that it was fostered agreeably for the sake of confusion, by perpetrators of what has befallen us in widespread disastrous e-pollution, at least in the English-speaking world centrally important to our ruinous hegemons (ruinous through three pillars of their hegemony, abuse of petroleum and associated energy sources, abuse of finance, abuse of the EM spectrum).

    An acronym for “environmental (hyper)sensitivity”, ES/EHS, suits well in vaguely encompassing the electro- aspect also deemed ES/EHS. This is somewhat exemplified in what has just transpired my Ontario, Canada, where the provincial government was persuaded to set up a Task Force on Environmental Health, chaired by a public health expert (but with a critical skeptic duly inserted on the committee) who has to be well aware for a long time of the e-induced illness issue and its validity. In its recent belated first report, in a footnote, they were reduced to saying:

    “In terms of terminology/nosology, the task force recognizes that there are a number of synonyms that exist with respect to each of these three conditions, such as, “chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS)” for ME/CFS, “Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (MPS)” for FM, and “Idiopathic Environmental Intolerances (IEI)” for ES/MCS. The Taskforce also recognizes that all three conditions have sometimes been included under the umbrella category of “Medically Unexplained Symptoms” (along with other entities such as Gulf War Syndrome, Sick Building Syndrome, Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, and others). Nevertheless, for the purpose of meeting its mandate, the task force has chosen to rely on the terms ME/CFS, FM and ES/MCS and to limit its scope to these conditions. ES/MCS is intended to also include sensitivities that have been reported to electromagnetic fields, although the task force will not otherwise address potential sensitivities to electromagnetic fields as a distinct topic.”

    This exemption of specific inclusion of e-induced illness, known well enough since before world war 2 even, perhaps can serve to sneak in, as it were, e-illness under the other rubric ES/MCS.
    Thus, for example a future recommendation for care of such patients might include, if not on the basis of specific Electro-HS, attending to reduction of e-smog anyway as that is clinically found to be bad for ES/MCS. But what nonsensical pathways to remedial measures, further especially in light of these illnesses – also with problematic names – acknowledged as overlapping among sufferers! (And, that possibly savvy original committee chair has now been replaced by one with a very poor reputation indeed when it comes to considering electro-smog issues.)

    But also nonsensical is the claim that molecular studies are what is required for objectivity, on which public health measures supposedly must rest, as if that is the sole level of understanding at which decisive information can be acquired.
    We are all prisoners both in the capture within the hegemony, and by the high culture of it all, kind of as if to get from A to B one needs a certain fanciest model of car and won’t go by alternate, even obvious, means (lesser models, bike, foot and so on).

    By the time Dr Leszczynski [spelling corrected by BRHP] would see $ for molecular research in this context…

  12. A very good example of the first point that invalidates EHS research that you mention in this article is the study from Karolinska Institute 2008 by Hillert, Löwden et al. This study was funded by Mobile Manufacturers Forum and in many reviews it is wrongly mentioned as an argument against EHS. In this study the so called sensitive group, i e electrosensitivity group showed to be HEAVY USERS of mobile phones, i e definitely not EHS. Half of the sensitive group used the mobile phone for 40 minutes a day, a category defined by the Interphone study group to be heavy users. In fact the sensitive group used the mobile phone a lot more than the symtpom free control group which could thereby explain why the symptom group had headache in their everyday life! The researchers adertised for selfdiagnosed participants. No wonder that if you cannot even design a study correctly from the start and separate real EHS from no EHS there is no value of the research. Most studys on EHS suffer from this problem – they have advertised for participants and they cannot, or do not even try to, separate the black sheep from the white in the flock…..

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