The electrosensitivity lobby are famously selective about the evidence they quote. They simply ignore the large body of data finding that electrosensitivity symptoms are not worsened by e-m waves, and they selectively quote only data which supports their hypothesis, in a pattern which can be seen throughout the internet.
I fear this may mislead their readers, and so here is a modest proposal.
On Wednesday, the results of yet another provocation study will be published. Even before its publication, this is already a famous study. It has been discussed on the internet among the electrosensitivity community as a valid study. There has been much written about the methodology, and prominent memebrs of the campaign have discussed their experience in it. Most famously, the results of one subject have already been described as positive in the recent and spectacularly flawed Panorama program on Wi-Fi.
So my question is to all the campaigning groups, Pow£rwatch, Ala$dair Philips (who sells these but hates this), Electrosensitivity, Rod Read, George Carlo, Panorama, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Independent, and more.
Will you commit, here and now, before the study is published, to cover these results, regardless of whether they support your hypothesis or not?
And most crucially, will you make your criticisms of the methodology – will you decide if you think the methods represented a fair test or not – here and now, today, before the results are known?
It is a modest proposal, and would make for an interesting experiment. I look forward to reading posts discussing the methodology on each of your respective websites, some time between now and Wednesday morning.
My personal prediction is that tomorrow, although there have been well over 30 negative provocation studies already – and god knows how many electrosensitivity scare stories – tomorrow will bring a new era in proper news coverage of provocations studies. The results of this research will be discussed in the media, and the electrosensitivity lobby such as Ala£dair Philips will not be able to deny its existence. At best there will be a sensible discussion of the methodology, instead of the results simply being swept under the carpet.
This will be an absolute first for the coverage of this subject, and I think the joyous outpouring of mockery that surrounded the ludicrous Panorama documentary on the subject is in no small part responsible. To me this is a classic example of overstretch: when the claims of aggressive lobbyists become too prominent, and are covered too widely, they cease to fall beneath the radar: eventually they are assessed not just by favoured, friendly, credulous correspondents, but also by the wider community of journalists, which contains a fair few clear thinkers.
I do not expect Panorama to cover this story in their “following up previous stories” slot.
Nothing from Rod Read of Electrosensitivity sadly.
A cracking press release from “Mast Sanity“, who I often forget to mention, because they’re so rabid, but that of course is quite wrong:
Alasdair Philips of Pow£rwatch (bespoke detectors and beekeeper hats available at very reasonable prices, and cheap for the BBC) says:
Although we have been involved before the project began and helped design the exposure system for the experiments, we cannot possibly comment on the methodology or anything else until we read the full paper tomorrow. The analysis of the results will be key, and we have no early insights into what, if anything, that will show.
He would say no more, although I sent him details of the exposure as described by the team publicly already, but he has personally assured me in an email that they will be covering this research on their website, whether it supports their hypoth£sis or not. This is a first, as they have routinely ignored provocation studies that went against their hypothesis in the past.
Meanwhile George “Andrew Goldacre” Carlo has also very kindly replied:
Here are my thoughts:
1. Based on what we have learned from our clinical experiences and the symptoms reported by patients in our registry, a key to the integrity of the Essex study is in how a ‘sensitive’ person is defined at the outset. We believe that the pathology of these sensitivities is cell membrane based, but that the same pathology is present in conditions including multiple chemical sensitivities, alcoholism, drug addiction, and neuro-behavioral syndromes like ADHD and Autism. In addition, there appears to be a familial predisposition component that involves inability to clear metals from the system through methylation and an inability to adapt to oxidative stress. Thus, the definition of patients selected in the Essex study is a key point. And, in the analyses, it would be important to categorize the patients on the severity scale in terms of these other conditions that have similar underlying pathology. The point is that there is a continuum we are seeing in terms of severity of effects, and the level of hypersensitivity to the various types of EMR also scales along that continuum. Thus, without either controlling for these other conditions statistically or through subject category restriction, it is likely that associations that are present would not be identified…..false negative findings because of imprecision in the measurement of the dependent variables. That is one of the main difficulty with the majority of provocation studies that have been done. Measurement imprecision.
2. The other key is that depending on the severity of the hypersensitivity…and that in large part is related to the points raised above….different EMR effect windows will have varying effects on the persons being provoked with EMR. Thus, the EMR that is used in the exposure scenario needs to be precisely defined as well. We know, for example, that ELF operates through a field intensity dependent mechanism that exerts direct magnetic effect on tissue (including disruption of gap-junction intercellular communication) and thus the ensuing pathology. But there is a threshold for ELF effects. RF has two different pathology mechanism components: raw microwaves or RFR act through thermal mechanisms dependent on field intensity — there is a thermal effects threshold; microwaves that carry information from wireless devices act through a biological mechanism that is triggered as a protective cellular response — for this response, there is no threshold. Thus, in the Essex study, the provocation exposures need to be defined along these effect windows, otherwise there is a likely bias also toward false negative findings because of the lack of precison in the measurement of the independent variables. For example, from what they define, the question of base station ‘on or off’ is key. For the effect windows of ELF and raw microwaves, ‘on or off’ would have an effect if there was adequate field intensity to provoke the mechanistic pathways — in other words to go above the threshold. However, for the information carrying radio waves, there would have to be talking on the signal or there would be no biological protective pathway triggered. It is the modulation associated with the carried information that we now know triggers the non-thermal effect pathways. So, without talking on the signal, the biological pathway would not be triggered. The result in the study would be a false-negative finding.
3. Overall, the electrohypersensitivity response is dependent then on the severity of the patients cellular pathology — and that from all sources including the conditions detailed in Number 1 above. The observed response is also dependent on the mechanism that the EMR exposure provocation likely will act through. At this point, we don’t know how they defined the patients recruited other than ‘sensitive or not’. We don’t know what the exposure provocations actually were in terms of EMR effect windows and the likely pathological pathways triggered by the provocations.
In short, there is not enough information given in their explanation to really know whether it was fair or not.
Hope this helps.
Dr. George L. Carlo
Science and Public Policy Institute
1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — 7th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20004
This is excellent, and very good of him to take the time (although one might argue that all that “cellular” stuff is a bit of a smokescreen on the simple issue of “do the signals elicit the symptoms?”).
However, in the “Mast Sanity” press release he is more up front:
As Dr Carlo, Safe Wireless Initiative and former Chairman of the US $28 million research programme into mobile phone research, says:
” Because of the imprecisions in the Essex study ,, findings of ‘no effect’ are likely to be false negatives in that the study was not designed well enough to pick up all of the effects among the participants. ”
” Any findings of ‘effect’ are likely underestimates of the true risk for the same reasons of imprecision in the study design. “
Well fair enough.
All in all, this genuinely represents a new era in popular discourse on the issue of electrosensitivity.
Bravo to all. Looking forward to the paper tomorrow morning.