'Voodoo science' will not solve the causality-problem of EHS

Instead of current Photo: author

HELSINKI, Finland, August 6, 2013 — Technological development of wireless communication has brought an unprecedented increase in human, animal and plant exposure to microwave radiation.

Currently available biomedical research indicates that even at the low levels permitted by the safety standards, radiation exposures induce acute biological effects. The possible impact of the chronic exposures is not known beyond, at the most, the first 10-15 years. We do not have the faintest idea what will happen when exposures will last for a lifetime.

This lack of biomedical knowledge about the possible impact of the exposures on health of people and on the well being of animals and plants is in striking contrast with the technological progress.

Because of their usefulness and because of their profitability, wireless technologies are very rapidly expanding and exposures are reach more and more remote Earth locations. In a short time, there will be no place on Earth to “hide” from the omnipresent microwave exposures.

There is a group of people who call themselves electro-sensitive (ES) or electro-hyper-sensitive (EHS). They claim to get a variety of largely unspecific symptoms in response to exposures to man-made electromagnetic fields, emitted by the wireless communication devices. ES, or EHS, are mostly self-diagnosed by the patients, because they are not recognized as a medical illness. Physicians do not have diagnostic tools to detect or evaluate severity of ES/EHS.

Organizations that are responsible for defining what is and what is not an illness and responsible for setting safe exposure limits for electromagnetic radiation, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (ICES), all are of the opinion that the symptoms experienced by ES/EHS self-diagnosed persons are not caused by exposures to man-made electromagnetic radiation.


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The WHO, ICNIRP and ICES have no sufficient scientific evidence that would support their claim of the lack of causality between the exposures to electromagnetic radiation and the symptoms experienced by ES/EHS persons.

To date, available research on the ES/EHS focuses on the non-specific symptoms that can be caused in some persons by other ailments (e.g. allergies) and even by the ordinary stress.

In the vast majority of the studies ES/EHS persons were exposed in laboratory conditions to either real electromagnetic radiation or to sham and asked to specify what kind of symptoms they are experiencing or asked whether they can recognize when the exposure is on and when it is off.

Because, by default, the ES/EHS self-diagnosed persons are worried that the experimental exposure might/will cause them harm, their responses obtained during the laboratory tests do not provide objective information for scientists to evaluate. Just the nervousness and stress that accompanies laboratory experiment can trigger some of the ES/EHS symptoms, even in the situation of sham exposure.

Such subjective information is not a good basis for any scientific analysis. Such information can be used as an additional, very limited, source of knowledge. However, the primary source of the information should be unbiased and objective tests that will be minimally influenced by the mood of the patient.

Such experimental tests and data are currently completely missing.

One possible explanation for it might be provided by the answer to the following question: Who performs research on ES/EHS?

The most recognized guru in ES/EHS research is Dr. G. James Rubin from the Kings College, London, U.K. His specialty is psychological medicine, and this might be the reason why ES/EHS research stagnated in psychological evaluations instead of looking for the possible biological causes of ES/EHS.

Scientific reviews co-authored by G. James Rubin are eagerly referred by the WHO, ICNIRP, ICES and the industry alike, as a proof of the lack of causal link between ES/EHS and exposures to electromagnetic radiation.

This kind of review, focused solely on psychological diagnosis, are absolutely insufficient to prove or to disprove ES/EHS. Hard biological evidence is needed where patients’ mood and experimental stress will not affect the objectivity of the obtained data. Such experiments as examining differences in transcriptome (expression of all genes) or in proteome (expression and activity of all proteins) between non-ES/EHS and ES/EHS persons are completely missing.

Instead of it, some kind of “voodoo science” is being performed by Dr. G. James Rubin and co-workers, aimed at proving that ES/EHS is just a mental and/or imaginary problem. Two most recent examples of such “voodoo science” on ES/EHS are articles analyzing news-media reports on possible harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation. This “voodoo evidence” is used to support the claim that, in reality, the ES/EHS are imaginary ailments caused by news-media reporting.

Dr. Rubin and his co-workers did not need to waste time and money on such research. It is a common knowledge that reading about disease might cause that the reader begins to think he is experiencing appropriate symptoms. It is a very well known “medical students’ disease.”

Using such voodoo science as the analyses of news-media reports, to prove that biological symptoms of ES/EHS are imaginary and the disease is imaginary too, is a pseudo-science.

To be absolutely fair, also scientists considering ES/EHS as a real disease and aiming at providing supportive evidence linking ES/EHS with electromagnetic radiation exposures can shoot their own foot. Nothing else but a waste of time and resources can be said of the recent article from Finland, where persons perceiving themselves as ES/EHS answered a battery of questions. The persons self-diagnosed themselves as ES/EHS, they had symptoms and the analysis of their answers did not prove anything. This is also an example of voodoo science.

Instead of voodoo science, we should test the possibility of biological differences between sensitive and non-sensitive persons. We should select measurements that will be minimally affected by the mood of the tested person. Measuring heart beat rate or blood pressure or itchiness/burning of skin are certainly not the most optimal tests because they can be severely affected by the experimental stress.

Taking samples of blood, saliva, urine or punch-biopsies of skin might be better source of material for further biological analyses using transcriptomics and proteomics that are becoming approaches of choice in toxicology, ecotoxicology and help in human health risk assessment.

Scientists should stop playing games with human health and start gathering real, objective, data on the possible causal link between ES/EHS and exposures to electromagnetic radiation. We still do not have proof of its existence but also the available science does not disprove it.

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Read more from Dariusz Leszczynski in his science blogs “BRHP - Between a Rock and a Hard Place“ and “The Round-Table Initiative.“

Follow Dariusz on twitter: @blogBRHP

Disclaimer: the opinions presented in this column are author’s own and should not be automatically considered as opinions of his employer or this website

 

 


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Dariusz Leszczynski

Dariusz Leszczynski is an expert in the biological and health effects of cell phone radiation.

Since 2009 he publishes a science blog dealing with the issue of cell phone radiation and health: http://betweenrockandhardplace.wordpress.com  

Disclaimer: the opinions presented in this column are authors' own and SHOULD NOT be considered as opinions of any of his employers.

Contact Dariusz Leszczynski

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