Helsinki, January 3, 2012–In our every day life we are continuously, 24/7, exposed to a variety of electromagnetic fields. This is a very ubiquitous pollutant in our environment. We can not see it, it has no smell or taste, and therefore, we often are not aware that it is around us and entering our bodies. We are fine.
However, there are people who think that the man-made electromagnetic radiation, omnipresent in our environment, affects their health. Those people call themselves “electromagnetic sensitive” or “electromagnetic hypersensitive” (EHS).
In recent years, because of the prevailing opinion of scientists that no causal link exists between EHS and electromagnetic field, new name has been coined. This name is Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance Attributed to Electromagnetic Fields (IEI-EMF).
People considering themselves as EHS (or IEI-EMF) are predominantly “self-diagnosed”. Those who were physician-diagnosed obtained the diagnoses based on their symptoms, but not for the cause of the symptoms.
Is the self-diagnosis of EHS reliable? If you ask scientists (including myself) or physicians, who lack diagnostic tests for EHS, the answer is no. There is no scientific data available that indicate the self-diagnosed EHS-associated symptoms are caused by electromagnetic fields.
Is this the end of the story?
It seems that this is what the World Health Organization (WHO) thinks. The WHO concluded that EHS does not exist. It says IEI-EMF exists, but the symptoms are not “caused” by electromagnetic fields but only (mistakenly?) “attributed” to electromagnetic fields.
Both scientists and the WHO admit the symptoms that the self-diagnosed EHS patients experience are real and sometimes severe. However, the symptoms are unspecific, qualitatively and quantitatively varying between people. They often are similar to symptoms caused by other factors, such as stress or allergens.
There are no tests to diagnose EHS because we do not know what causes it.
The media periodically covers stories about cases of EHS-affected people. Some of them are compelling, some not, depending on the journalistic skills of the writer. However, some of us, including myself, know EHS people. Many of the EHS-affected are very highly educated people who do not easily jump to conclusions and blame electromagnetic fields for everything what goes wrong with their health.
They are believable and feel reliable.
Anecdotal information from patients does not constitute scientific proof. However, it can and it should be considered as a possible indicator of the existence of causal link between symptoms and electromagnetic radiation. At a minimum, scientists should research that indicator.
To move ahead and solve the problem, we need better and different studies than those executed to date.
Studies undertaken so far cannot provide unbiased reliable scientific evidence concerning the possibility of causal link between EHS symptoms and electromagnetic radiation. The design of these studies includes a strong possibility of interference of the experimental method with the outcome of the experiments.
The human volunteer studies, where people are in controlled laboratory conditions exposed to electromagnetic radiation, have focused on such effects as cognition, blood pressure, heart beat, headaches, skin allergy-like symptoms (itching, reddening, swelling), sleep disorders or direct recognition by the exposed volunteer when the radiation is emitted by the radiation source.
In these studies, the volunteers do not know when they are being exposed to electromagnetic radiation and when they are not. The majority of such studies have shown that there is no causal link between symptoms and the electromagnetic radiation.
The experimental conditions in the laboratory setting filled with the exposure and measurement equipment, can themselves cause or obscure EHS-like symptoms by inducing stress and anxious in volunteers, invalidating the study.
Even though the authors of such studies state that they “objectively measure physiological parameters” this is not exactly the case. Their experimental setting itself affects these “objective parameters”.
Because the conditions of the laboratory, the information obtained from the volunteers will become subjective and unreliable. The EHS volunteers are worried that the exposures affect their health. Their behavior and responses in such circumstances will be different from the behavior and responses of persons not concerned with the exposures.
Such, as I call them, “feelings-based” tests — when we ask study subjects what they feel — are not objective and are unlikely to detect with necessary consistency the EHS if it exists.
When the outcome of the “feelings-based” tests is negative, it does not automatically mean that there is no causal link. Seeing such a link might be obscured by the experimental stress of study subjects. Importantly, in the majority of studies the experimental group was just few volunteers, which does not give statistical reliability.
The major problem that affects progress in finding out what might cause the EHS symptoms is the complete lack of objective scientific data showing whether the human body reacts on molecular level to the man-made electromagnetic fields. Such molecular level responses, if they exist, are prerequisite for any physiological and health-related responses.
Even though we are continuously debating whether man-made electromagnetic fields can affect our health, amazingly we do not have studies that would show if our bodies respond to this radiation.
Because of the lack of this data, it is problematic to consider that the presently available scientific evidence and current safety standards based on that evidence protects all users of mobile phones.
We need better research.
It is very likely that among us are persons who are, more than others, sensitive to electromagnetic radiation. We respond differently to pollutants, medicines, radiation etc. Why the electromagnetic fields would be different?
Some might say that the current safety limits for different electromagnetic fields are set on levels that protect us all. However, this statement is not supported by the available science. As long as we do not know whether human body reacts to low level electromagnetic radiation, we do not know if the safety limits protect everyone.
Objective information on this matter cannot be provided by epidemiology, animal experiments or in vitro laboratory studies. Such knowledge can be provided only by molecular level studies in healthy and in EHS-affected human volunteers.
The jury is still out.
Read more from Dariusz Leszczynski in his science blog “BRHP - Between a Rock and a Hard Place” at http://betweenrockandhardplace.wordpress.com Dariusz is a Research Professor at the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland.
Follow Dariusz on twitter: @blogBRHP
Disclaimer: the opinions presented in this column are author’s own and should NOT be considered as the official opinions of the STUK - Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.