EHS debate on BRHP: Steve Weller commentaries on sensitivity research

Steve Weller of ORSAA, Australia, has provided two long and insightful comments concerning to-date and the further perspectives for research on EHS.


Steve Weller on EHS

(there is some repetition in both commentaries)

Commentary #1 (May 19, 2020)

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.”

Commentary #2 (May 21, 2020)

Dariusz, I think it is important that there is more bio-medical community involvement on this issue. The research on EHS today is dominated by psychologists, many of whom are influenced/funded by industry – especially in Australia, This includes the new chair of ICNIRP.

When one has symptoms that impairs health and well being, whom does one go an see? A medical doctor or a psychologist? A medical doctor is qualified to make a health diagnosis. If a medical doctor feels that after excluding all other possibilities it is a mental issue, they can direct the patient for psychological assessment. Of course, when one reviews research papers in the ORSAA database one finds that studies performed by bio-medically qualified researchers predominately find a link between exposure and symptoms. While those performed by psychologist do not – with the Nocebo effect being hypothesized by this group as the likely cause. Notwithstanding the fact that nocebo cannot explain how many EHS people are initially unaware of the cause when symptoms first develop and have had no preconceived ideas about wireless safety.

What is missing in many provocation studies is the tracking of individual symptoms from development to full regression. ideally sham, or exposure, should not commence until subject is symptom free. Otherwise existing symptoms will confound the results.

Many provocation tests confuse EMF sensitivity i.e. reacting to a signal or signals and developing symptoms, which can be delayed, with EMF sensing i.e being able to sense when the field is active and when it is not. Because most individuals who are EHS cannot reliably determine whether a field is active or not does not mean they are not sensitive to EMF – symptom development as demonstrated by McCarty et al., 2011.

Of course it may require a battery of individually tailored tests to be conducted because of variability between reactivity to signals (as shown in lymphocyte exposure to EMF) a single test protocol for all EHS people maybe highly inappropriate.

Some tests that can be considered in conjunction with provocation to a real functioning wireless device (something that the subject claims they are sensitive too) include:
ECG – there is a youtube video ( showing how an EHS persons heart reacts (in a blinded situation) to a smartmeter signal compared to a healthy normal individual.

  • EEG – Do we see a difference in brainwave activity in EHS people compared to Health people?
  • fMRI – research suggests EHS people brains do have functional differences compared to healthy people
  • Neurotransmitter profiling
  • Urinary Pyrrole Test
  • C-nerve fibre reactivity as performed by Dr Hocking (MD)
  • Genetic screening and Blood Redox – De Luca (2014)
  • Proteomics

9 thoughts on “EHS debate on BRHP: Steve Weller commentaries on sensitivity research

  1. And maybe we might consider that to be ‘sensitive’ doesn’t mean one is ‘abnormal.’ Maybe being insensitive is abnormal. Just a thought.

  2. With a genetic component regarding detox pathways and their efficiency; these can also be damaged by industrial toxins from many points of exposure over time, or by injury.

  3. Pingback: EHS-dagen: Topforskere er enige om nye måder at udforske den omstridte lidelse – Tabt Tråd

  4. Although the list below is not complete ( a fraction of the studies on EMF effects to people – both sensitive and normal healthy people) and does not contain the latest studies (this is from a paper I wrote a number of years ago but never published). It does give a good representation of the studies being performed, the main authors and their qualifications (supporting my claim above), the findings and who the funders generally are.

    Negative (No Effect Studies)
    Kwon MS et al, (September 2012) Effects of radiation emitted by WCDMA mobile phones on electromagnetic hypersensitive subjects, Environ Health. 2012 Sep 21;11:69
    Authors: Psychologist, Medical and Medical Engineering
    Funded by Government and Power Industry.

    Augner C et al, (March 2012) Acute effects of electromagnetic fields emitted by GSM mobile phones on subjective well-being and physiological reactions: A meta-analysis, Sci Total Environ. 2012 Mar 13. [View on Pubmed]
    First Author – Psychologist
    Funding Source Unknown.

    Frei P et al, (January 2012) Cohort study on the effects of everyday life radio frequency electromagnetic field exposure on non-specific symptoms and tinnitus, Environ Int. 2012 Jan;38(1):29-36. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2011.08.002. Epub 2011 Sep 10 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors – Social Sciences
    Funding Source from National Science Foundation

    Wallace D et al, (January 2012) Cognitive and physiological responses in humans exposed to a TETRA basae station signal in relation to perceived electromagnetic hypersensitivity, Bioelectromagnetics. 2012 Jan;33(1):23-39. doi: 10.1002/bem.20681. Epub 2011 Jun 6 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors – Psychology and Engineering
    Funding Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (Industry and Government)

    Rubin GJ et al, (December 2011) Do people with idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields display physiological effects when exposed to electromagnetic fields? A systematic review of provocation studies, Bioelectromagnetics. 2011 Dec;32(8):593-609. doi: 10.1002/bem.20690. Epub 2011 Jul 18 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Psychology, Epidemiology, Psychology, Biology ( Previous ICNIRP Chairman), Physiology/Communication Engineering
    Funding European Co-operation in Science and Technology (COST)

    Roosli M, Hug K, (May 2011) Wireless communication fields and non-specific symptoms of ill health: a literature review, Wien Med Wochenschr. 2011 May;161(9-10):240-50 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Epidemiologists
    Unknown Funding

    Nieto-Hernandez R et al, (September 2010) Can exposure to a terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA)-like signal cause symptoms? A randomised double-blind provocation study, Occup Environ Med. 2010 Sep 23. [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Psychologists
    Funding Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (Industry and Government)

    Danker-Hopfe H et al, (September 2010) Do mobile phone base stations affect sleep of residents? Results from an experimental double-blind sham-controlled field study, Am J Hum Biol. 2010 Sep-Oct;22(5):613-8 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Psychiatry/Psychology
    Funded by Government Radiation Protection Office

    Eltiti S et al, (May 2009) Short-term exposure to mobile phone base station signals does not affect cognitive functioning or physiological measures in individuals who report sensitivity to electromagnetic fields and controls, Bioelectromagnetics. 2009 May 27. [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Psychologists
    Funding Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (Industry and Government)

    Berg-Beckhoff G et al, (February 2009) Mobile phone base stations and adverse health effects: phase 2 of a cross-sectional study with measured radio frequency electromagnetic fields, Occup Environ Med. 2009 Feb;66(2):124-30 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Medical Epidemiologists
    Funding by Government

    Kim DW et al, (2008) Physiological effects of RF exposure on hypersensitive people by a cell phone, Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2008;2008:2322-5 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Medical and Bio Medical Engineering
    Funding by Government

    Cinel C et al, (March 2008) Exposure to Mobile Phone Electromagnetic Fields and Subjective Symptoms: A Double-Blind Study, Psychosom Med. 2008 Mar 31 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Psychologists
    Funding Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (Industry and Government)

    Oftedal G et al, (May 2007) Mobile phone headache: a double blind, sham-controlled provocation study, Cephalalgia. 2007 May;27(5):447-55 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Bio-Physics
    Funded by Telecommunications Industry (was declared by Authors).

    Rubin GJ et al, (March 2005) Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: a systematic review of provocation studies, Psychosom Med. 2005 Mar-Apr;67(2):224-32 [View on Pubmed]
    Comment: Authors Psychology
    Funding Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (Industry and Government)

    EMF Effect Papers (mixture of testing healthy individuals and sensitive people – Somatic responses

    Lamech F Self-reporting of Symptom Development From Exposure to Radiofrequency Fields of Wireless Smart Meters in Victoria, Australia: A Case Series Altern Ther Health Med Nov-Dec 2014;20(6):28-39.
    Author: Medical Doctor

    Gómez-Perretta C et al. Subjective symptoms related to GSM radiation from mobile phone base stations: a cross-sectional study 2013;3:e003836 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003836 [] A re-analysis of the data from Navarro et al (2003) in which health symptoms related to microwave exposure from mobile phone base stations (BSs) were explored
    Authors: Medical Doctor, Physicist, Computer Sciences
    Funding Government Ministry

    Griesz-Brisson M Electrosensitivity from a neurological point of view Neuroepidemiology 2013 41:3-4 (275) []
    Author: Neurologist
    Funding Not Stated

    McCarty DE et al, (December 2011) Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: evidence for a novel neurological syndrome, Int J Neurosci. 2011 Dec;121(12):670-6. Epub 2011 Sep 5 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Neurology, Health Sciences
    Funding Not Stated

    Lowden A et al, (January 2011) Sleep after mobile phone exposure in subjects with mobile phone-related symptoms, Bioelectromagnetics. 2011 Jan;32(1):4-14 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors Neuroscience, Occupational and Environmental Health, Information Technology Science
    Funding Mixture of Industry and Institution

    El-Helaly M et al. (September 2010) Oxidative stress, melatonin level, and sleep insufficiency among electronic equipment repairers. Indian J Occup. Environ. Med v.14(3); Sep-Dec 2010 [View on Pubmed] – Not a study on EHS per se but shows EMF impacts on normal people.
    Authors: Medical Doctors
    Funding Not Stated

    Landgrebe M et al, (March 2008) Cognitive and neurobiological alterations in electromagnetic hypersensitive patients: results of a case-control study, Psychol Med. 2008 Mar 26;:1-11 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Psychiatry, Psychology
    Funding by Government

    Abdel-Rassoul G et al, (March 2007) Neurobehavioral effects among inhabitants around mobile phone base stations, Neurotoxicology. 2007 Mar;28(2):434-40 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Faculty of medicine
    Funding Not Stated

    Johansson O, (2006) Electrohypersensitivity: state-of-the-art of a functional impairment, Electromagn Biol Med. 2006;25(4):245-58 [View on Pubmed]
    Author: Neuroscientist
    Funding Karolinska Institute

    Bortkiewicz A et al, (2004) Subjective symptoms reported by people living in the vicinity of cellular phone base stations: review, Med Pr. 2004;55(4):345-51 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Medical Doctors
    Funding Not Known

    Oberfeld G et al, (October 2004) The Microwave Syndrome – Further Aspects of a Spanish Study, Conference Proceedings [View Author’s abstract conclusions]
    Authors: Medical Doctors, Physicist
    Funding Ministry of Science

    Westerman R, Hocking B, (May 2004) Diseases of modern living: neurological changes associated with mobile phones and radiofrequency radiation in humans, Neurosci Lett. 2004 May 6;361(1-3):13-6 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Medical Doctors
    Self funded

    Navarro EA et al, (December 2003) The Microwave Syndrome: A Preliminary Study in Spain, Electromagn Biol Med 22(2-3): 161-169 [View Author’s abstract conclusions]
    Authors: Physicists, Medical Doctors
    Funding Not Stated

    Santini R et al, (September 2003) Symptoms experienced by people in vicinity of base stations: II/ Incidences of age, duration of exposure, location of subjects in relation to the antennas and other electromagnetic factors, Pathol Biol (Paris). 2003 Sep;51(7):412-5 [View on Pubmed]
    Authors: Biochemist, Bio Physicist, Physiologist
    Funding Not Stated

  5. It is a huge surprise to me that the experimental study into EHS people is cconducted primarily by psychologists rather than by scientists, such as biophysicists.

  6. Monsieurs.

    I will be willing, together with some of my peers in FELO in Norway, to submit to these testings Belpomme and Irigaray suggests to map EHS. I was exposed to heavy infrasound, magnetic fields and base-station radiation over several years. I have become severely sick, and im recovering. In hind-sight I understand what happened, and i am searching for good science on the topic. Its out of question that this is a true pathological condition, and I recognize the variety of symptoms and the difficulties in measuring this disease without the right methods.

    I will proceed with a choice of blood tests with my physician this summer.
    I am happy to inform you of any results.


  7. I find these to be excellent summaries of the failings of past research into EHS, bearing out my own readings over the years into this topic. Thank you Steve.

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