Discussing EMF sensitivity with Röösli and de Vocht

Yet again, I found myself twitter-discussing individual sensitivity to EMF, includes EHS, with Martin Röösli and Frank de Vocht. You can go to mine and theirs’ tweet accounts and see for yourself… It is enlightenin and, necessary to admit, we have some/many scientific disagreements…

Briefly, this discussion led me to express the following opinion (here made a bit longer because of no twitter-constraints):

To date executed psychological provocation studies generate subjective data that are scientifically unreliable/questionable. In such studies, no matter how well the EMF exposures and exposure conditions are controlled, the self-diagnosed EMF sensitive persons are exposed to, harmful in their opinion, EMF and are expected to answer whether they feel, more or less immediately, no delayed responses are possible, any of the sensitivity symptoms.

The psychological provocation studies have unreliable set-up for experiments because the answers provided by sensitive persons are given:

  • when scared of EMF,
  • when worried of health damage in experiment,
  • when excited whether reacting as expected,
  • when is known that psychology (person’s pre-existing opinion) affects physical/physiological feelings as proven by nocebo* and placebo** effects

*A nocebo effect is said to occur when negative expectations of the patient regarding a treatment cause the treatment to have a more negative effect than it otherwise would have

**A placebo effect is the tendency of any medication or treatment, even an inert or ineffective one, to exhibit results simply because the recipient believes that it will work.

Persons, the self-diagnosed sensitives, are answering questions under some kind of duress.

These are not optimal conditions to run test on EHS & ask how you feel, and to get reliable, unbiased and objective data. Data obtained in psychological provocation studies is by definition, biased and subjective. It is scientifically unreliable.

How to better test sensitivity to EMF? In my opinion it could be done using the very efficient screening technologies, effectively used by pharmaceutical companies to sift through large numbers of possible drug candidates. Testing molecular “markers” could find markers behaving differently in response to EMF exposures. Not easy and not cheap but who said the scientific discoveries need to be easy and cheap.

16 thoughts on “Discussing EMF sensitivity with Röösli and de Vocht

  1. In reply to Gunni Nordström – Being EHS myself for soon 20 years, believe me, I have considered the possibility you propose many times.

    Have I been able to verify it to be true (that it is chemical emissions and not EMF)? The answer is no. For me, when under the influence of the fields that affect me most (low-frequency magnetic fields), when I turn off the offending appliance, the feeling of relief is instant. Therefore my conclusion has been that it is unlikely it is some sort of chemical emission (but it may still be contributing, see below).

    However people here should be aware that multiple chemical sensitivity, mold exposure, and EHS seem to go very much hand in hand. This is also the case for me; put me in a moldy environment, and my EHS gets considerably worse. I am wondering if researchers are underestimating the complexity of this issue.

    EHS has also been compared to allergies, but it is not quite the same. I would say it would be better understood as some form of poisoning and not allergies, however even that I think is not quite correct.

    Here is one of the many theories for EHS that I have thought about. I think this is a simple theory, and should be easy to both test and verify.

    Which makes me wonder why this has not been done yet (or has it?).

    The zeta potential theory.

    I think EM waves may be collapsing the zeta potential of our red blood cells. Blood is a form of liquid colloid, where a negatively charged electron cloud surrounding each blood cell keeps the cells from sticking to each other. The strength of this electron cloud is called the zeta potential, and is responsible for the dispersion effect that keeps our blood cells distributed and separated from each other.

    Now just as old CRT monitors were demagnetized by a disruptive impulse at power on, I think it is possible our red blood cells are being robbed of their zeta potential by disruptive EM fields. This would explain the rouleaux formation often seen in live blood microscopy of EHS sensitive people, and could explain many of the downstream effects associated with EHS.

    See for example this paper:

    “Consequently, we found that treatment at a specific frequency drastically changes the zeta potential of the particles in addition to causing an inversion of polarity.”

    https://aip.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1063/1.2896982?journalCode=apc

    Why is nobody looking into this simple effect properly? There is no need for unreliable provocation studies, if only this simple effect is verified to be true.

  2. Thanks for this discussion. I agree with Richard that monitoring needs to be over an extended time period but it would require focus on the specific frequencies of exposure not just energy levels. I would like to see examination of the frequencies 50 and 100 Hz not just RF, as these (and others) can be associated with the operation of RF devices; my instinct is that they may be significant to outcomes for EHS people.

  3. DariuszTo call EhS a Disease is an insult to people who have been made to suffer this way,  The telco’s put up transmitters next to peoples homes, bombard them 365,  24/7 with high levels of radiation and then tell them they must have something wrong with them because their bodies don’t like the external electrical stimuli.
    The report that Henrik put on your Blog was mine, the one thing not on that report is my personal result which was  86% for all tests, done correctly provocation studies do work, trusting the researchers is the problem, as demonstrated by my report.

  4. Pingback: Martin Röösli of ICNIRP: Brief comments on EHS | BRHP – Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  5. Since this is a very controversial topic with enormous industrial and economic gain at stake, should EHS be confirmed, we should at least /consider/ the possibility that certain researchers are simply manipulating data. I’m curious to learn what you think of this, published by a participant in the famous “Essex study” to whom the main researcher accidentally sent unpublished data:

    Click to access essex-study-phillip-watts.pdf

  6. Just to make my point of view also visible. I support novel approaches for EHS research and the search for biomarker. I agree that acute provocation study are not the solution for effects from long term exposure. Nevertheless, there are a few facts, that need to be acknowledged.
    1. A substantial proportion of EHS individuals reports to react within minutes to EMF exposure in their daily life (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1438463904702746?via%3Dihub)
    2. For this phenomenom double blind blind crossover trials (provocation studies) applying well controlled exposure conditions is the method of choice.
    3. If one is concerned about the validity of the response (from stress and worries), a positive control can be applied, e.g. an open provocation, in which study participants are informed about the presence of EMF. Several studies documented that in open provocation participants reacted and thus the response are valid. However, in the same test they did not react if exposure was blinded.
    4. Alternatively individualized testing is a very clever way to deal with these validity problems (see https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016041201630931X)
    5. From all these trials it is quite clear, that acute reaction to EMF below regulatory limit within minutes has not been documented so far (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12940-019-0519-x). And for this question provocation studies are the gold standard.
    6. It is also clear that diagnosis and identification of real EHS (i.e. reaction of EMF with unknwon latency and induction time) is complex because the reported symptom pattern is heterogeneous. There is no method established so far for this.
    7. To search for biomarkers and apply efficient screening technology, as proposed by Dariusz, still needs the identification of EHS individuals, in order to compare the biomarker of EHS with control persons. Thus, how would you select the cases, to be sure that they react to EMF? If you cannot prove that, any subsequent molecular analyses will not be informative in terms of reaction to EMF exposure. Rather you may see molecular differences between different type of personalities, etc. And then you are back into psychological research again.
    8. If a specific and sensitive biomarker can be identified, the EHS research would be much more efficient. All attempts in this direction have failed so far.

  7. Darius,

    I am somehow curious about this discussion. EHS has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt already in 1991, about 3 decades ago by the honorable Prof. William Rea.

    Excerpt:

    “Phase IV. In the 16 patients again rechallenged in a double-blind manner, using only the single frequency to which they were most sensitive, all reported reactions to the active frequencies when challenged. None reacted to the placebos (Table 5). Signs and symptoms in all 16 patients were positive as was the autonomic nervous system dysfunction, as measured by the iriscorder (Table 6, Figure 1). Examples of changes were a 20% decrease in pulmonary function and a 40% increase in heart rate. In the 16 patients with positive reactions to EMF challenges, two had delayed reactions; gradually became depressed and finally became unconscious. Eventually, they awoke without treatment. Symptoms lasted from 5 hours to 3 days.”

    You can download the study from my webpage ( https://microondes.files.wordpress.com/ ):

    Click to access journal_of_bioelectricity_ehs_evaluation_dr_wj_rea_1991.pdf

    Greetings

    Michael

  8. You are correct that it is not easy without pre-designed targets or exposure settings. But shotgun approach of broad screening of proteins or transcripts or hormones or many other bio-active molecules will generate data for formulation of better hypotheses to examine in detail using classical biochemistry.

  9. Thanks Dariusz, I did not understand molecular screening as a taboo. It’s just another type of study.

    Having said that, it seems problematic if you have no molecular targets nor any outcomes…nor for that matter a specific exposure frequency/modulation/pattern/level.

  10. Hi Frank, for me the discussion was both, about what was done in the past and what needs to be done in the future. The design of the past studies is being continuously used and continuously produces useless data. The double-blind study should not be considered golden standard when, in the first place the experimental group and the control group of volunteers are contaminated to the unknown degree with either misdiagnosed EHS or undiagnosed EHS. Also, as I said in my tweets, the “noncontroversial” trial you suggest is depending on finding suitable person(s) what might be not so easy considering potential health impact the volunteer may be concerned with. Finally, finding one or few of such persons will not help the issue. These few will be called outliers or something like this name and considered anomaly, unsuitable to prove problem for population at large. The politics will step in when science will show something undesirable. I wonder why screening for molecular markers is such taboo.

  11. Hi Dariusz, as one of the initial 3 people in the discussion, I feel it is important to point out that the discussion was not whether previous provocation studies were good or proved something either way.
    It was about whether, in principle, and if all design considerations highlighted by others who responded to this blog (and on twitter) could be taken into account, a controlled (crossover) provocation trial could be used to determine if the subgroup of EHS who claim they can detect or feel effects immediately when exposure occurs (and this subgroup only) truly react to the EMF exposure, or not. This should not be that controversial…

  12. Hi Dariusz, as you correctly state – Provocation studies are “scientifically unreliable”
    There are a whole host of issues with provocation studies particularly if they do not include any objective physiological tests. Unfortunately, there are a number of countries that are investing millions of dollars in psychological based research and not bio-medical research. Australia is one of them, with the ACEBR performing sub-optimal studies using a transmitter that is not a true representation of typical exposures. Dr David McDonald was a statistician at the CSIRO and reviewed the protocols used by Australian researchers and identified a number of statistical shortcomings – his personal opinion was that they appeared to be designed to support the null hypothesis.
    Why subjective provocation studies are not the gold standard is as follows:
    1. Test environments in many studies are not well controlled (no shielding) leading to potential confounding from RF leakage from the environment. EHS person may also be suffering symptoms as a result of being exposed to wireless radiation on the way to the testing facility.
    2. Not all studies take into consideration stress and anxiety experienced by test subjects which can stimulate/exaggerate EHS symptoms. In some studies, they found that sham scenarios created increased symptoms over exposure scenarios (Wallace et al.) which would suggest that RF has a calming effect. Of course, when one looks at the funding source (Industry) one does question the reliability and trustworthiness of the study?
    3. We have scenarios where sham tests are not signal free (Rubin et al., Nieto-Hernandez et al.)
    4. Some Meta-analysis studies refactor and pool the data, which basically washes out any individual subjects who were sensitive and showing they are impacted.
    5. Just as some researchers are suggesting EHS being the result of a potential “nocebo effect” this has not been formally tested in any EHS studies to date and so remains speculative and an unproven hypothesis. The mechanism is also unknown.
    6. Often there is insufficient time for recovery before next test is conducted (not accounting for what I like to call a washout period). EHS sufferers do not react like a light switch. Turn on an RF device and instantaneously it is felt. Nor when the device is switched off is there suddenly a full recovery. Symptoms can take seconds to hours before they develop. They also can take days to abate. One could imagine that some people who may have participated in a prior exposure scenario still suffering symptoms during the sham phase. Guess what? They will say they are feeling effects.
    7. No accounting for other possible incitants (chemicals, odour, stress, noise, other electromagnetic frequencies or combinations of frequencies). Many people who are EHS are also sensitive to chemicals (MCS).
    8. Use of simulated signals rather than real devices. Continuous waves rather than pulsed signals carrying data
    9. Often do not include objective tests looking for somatic responses
    10. Use of an analogue visual scale as if we have the ability to provide a analogue assessment of our wellbeing.
    11. No consideration for memory recall issues – particularly with respect to rating pain.
    12. One that I know you like to say often – There is often a lack of formal screening process to identify true EHS people – i.e. many researchers advertise in a newspaper for test subjects.

    There is a clear need to invest in some serious, good science. If we don’t, then the continued misuse of science by vested interest will inflict avoidable damage on millions of EHS sufferer’s around the world, “by promoting ineffectual and possibly harmful treatments and by feeding the idea that the illness is largely psychological.”

  13. This has always been one of the trickiest aspects to even supposedly double blinded EHS experiments.

    Firstly, there is no guarantee that those in the “sensitive” group are indeed sensitive, and no guarantee that the control group are not sensitive. I’m only aware of one of the provocation studies that addressed this issue, and it didn’t make any adjustments due to their findings on the basis that they wouldn’t have had enough people left for significance. it takes only a very small proportional percentage of people assigned into the incorrect groups to make statistical significance very hard to achieve even under the most dramatic experimental outcomes.

    Secondly, people claim to exhibit sensitivity to very different electromagnetic stimuli. It is not easy to assess whether this is plausible when we don’t understand any mechanisms by which their symptoms are supposed to be triggered, but it does add yet another confounder when “sensitive” individuals are being exposed to signals that they have not necessarily claimed to have a sensitivity to.

    Thirdly, there’s the issue of how long after exposure the sensitivity is supposed to have taken affect, which also seems to be anecdotally very variable.

    Fourthly, as you mentioned above, collecting all the data as entirely subjective data makes it unreliable at best and close to useless at worst.

    It is a shame that so many of the provocation studies are seen as some gold standard just because they’re double blinded in a standard case-control exposure design, when they are nothing of the sort. I have not yet seen a single EHS provocation study that I would have confidence in producing a result that really moves the subject forward – either not having the resolving power, insufficient effort to control for the various possible confounding factors, or just simply inadequately collected data to allow for robust analyses and conclusions to be drawn.

    Having said all that, designing a truly excellent provocation study is an exceptionally difficult task. It may not be possible to do a well designed and conclusive case control study. I still fail to see why it wouldn’t be a “better” place to start to have a single self-diagnosed sensitive individual and a single matched control, tested in the exact situation to which the sensitive participant claims to react, with a “true” sham setup, over hundreds of live and sham tests to gain some level of statistical resolving power. Biological markers and immune system response (C-reactive protein maybe?) would be an even more convincing step as they produce objective data.

    As Sir William Stewart said many years ago, the first stage is to produce compelling evidence in a single individual that the sensitivity exists. Working out how many people might be affected, what range of different exposures people can be sensitive to, what symptoms can be expected for those who are sensitive, etc etc, are all “next steps” in the science in my opinion.

  14. Det är helt uppenbart för den som följt debatten om elöverkänslighet att detta är en fråga i första hand om kemiska emissioner ur elektroniska apparater. Om coronadiskussionen idag över huvud taget aktualiserar något i den debatten så är det att arbetsmiljömyndigheter försummat att utnyttja aerosolforskningen. Dettta även i fråga om sjuka hus. Såväl kemikalier som bakterier och virus präglade inomhusluften i och med tillförseln av apparaterna med sina egenskaper. Emissioner ur bland annat bildskärmar aktualiserades redan i början av 90-talet, men varken mynidgheter, EMF-forskare eller drabbade ville höra talas om något annat än elektromagnetiska fält.
    Gunni Nordström, journalist gunni.nordstrom@pp.inet.fi

  15. Thank you Dariusz. I note that for heart-health assessments they’ll use 24-hour holter tests to try to get around ‘white coat syndrome’ and assess the patient in their normal surrounds. Surely EHS testing could be done with an RF dosimeter plus other monitoring (HRV for instance).

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