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BLOG: April 2009

EMF pollution battle: same old...

EMF&Health - EMF spectrum - Electricity 2 - Official view 2 - Politics 2 - Protection

EMF pollution is here to stay, and with it the struggle between the proponents of the "no evidence of EMF harm" camp, and those believing that there is plenty of evidence for at least preventive action.

Needless to say, this stand up on such a large-scale is not likely to be resolved neither easily, nor soon. The history is full of examples proving that resistance to change (for the better) is rather common to human society, simply because it requires implementing a new order, which is often against some powerful interest.

Everyone knows what happened to Giordano Bruno, because the revolutionary truth he came up with challenged the order of then absolute power, Catholic church. But there are many examples of the backlash between existing establishment and new, change-invoking knowledge in the domain of medicine as well. Here's just a few examples, in chronological order.

It took two centuries after Hooke and Leeuwenhoek acknowledged that there are invisible tiny "beasts" - the microbes - living everywhere around us, before we finally accepted that it is them, and not "bad air" that causes what we now call infectious diseases.

In the mid 19th century, young Austrian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis was fired and ostracized by his colleagues for suggesting that they should wash their hands coming from autopsies to deliver babies, despite (or because of?) this simple act resulting in 2/3 mortality reduction in his maternity ward of Vienna hospital.

Dr. Ben Feingold, the San Francisco allergists who in mid 1960s first alerted people of food additives being capable of causing hyperactivity and other neurological and pathological ailments, was vehemently opposed and attacked by the food industry and its protégés. After a string of independent studies confirmed his findings, in 1975 the Nutritional Foundation - an organization heavily funded by food industry - stepped in with a series of its own studies, that ended with inconclusive results (sounds familiar?). Needles to say, these studies were seriously flawed - including the principal study by Conners - but the purpose of neutralizing inconvenient truth in the public eye was mainly achieved.

Dr. Linus Pauling is a Nobel prize celebrity, but as soon as he started promoting vitamin C's healing power (for atherosclerosis, cold, etc.), he was all of a sudden treated as incompetent, and his articles on the subject as being not good enough to be published in major medical periodicals. Facts didn't matter. Despite nearly all studies on the effect of vitamin C supplementation on common cold that followed Pauling's assertion finding that it does decrease either cold duration, or severity, or both, the study that has been widely publicized was the one dimming its effect insignificant (Chalmers, 1975)7.

Two decades later, this study has been found to be seriously flawed (Hemila and Herman, 1995). Sounds familiar? But this fact was mainly ignored. The media war was already won, and there was no mighty interest to step in and restore the truth.

Back in 1951, his colleagues thought Dr. Theron Randolph, who discovered chemical sensitivity, is a loony when he was talking about tight (sick) building syndrome, and the environmental pollution adversely affecting people's health.

Heck, not a few medically educated minds - in fact, the mainstream, allopathic medicine in its entirety - even nowadays openly question that there is such thing as chemical sensitivity, or environmentally induced illness. That in face of undisputable fact that many chemicals, often in infinitesimally small doses,

do have the capability of interrupting
and even stopping biological processes.

That same type of mind aggressively denounces any medical treatment that isn't drug or surgery as quackery or "pseudoscience", all in the name of "proper" medicine and "protection" of the general public.

Most of his colleagues - following the official medical establishment's mantra: "Drugs&surgery - good, anything else - bad" - ignored that Dr. Randolph was, and still is, unlike the "conventional doctors",

actually succeeding in relieving or
freeing his patients from their symptoms,

spanning from fatigue, panic attacks and arrhythmia to rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, or multiple sclerosis. What kind of evidence is better than that? Let alone the mountain of evidence in research papers supporting his findings and practice, as well as his own lectures, books and published papers.

Yet his contribution is ignored and environmental medicine is still sidelined, denigrated and opposed by the medical establishment.

Just this past year (2008), Dr. William Rea, heart surgeon whose deep involvement into environmental medicine started while desperately trying to solve his own pesticide-related health problem that he wasn't able to help with his conventional medical training, had to face legal suit by (described by some as "corrupted") Texas Medical Board. The legal action resulted from an anonymous complaint (by a medical insurance company) for "substandard practices" and "endangering public health".

It didn't matter that Dr. Rea is a renowned world-class expert in environmental medicine, that all five patients in question (who did not know about their insurance company's complaint) wrote to the Board stating that they are only satisfied with Dr. Rea's treatment (two of them stated that he saved their lives), nor that 17 environmental medicine specialist testified that Dr. Rea's treatments were adequate. The Board went ahead with the hearing, which may result in revoking Dr. Rea's medical license, based on the negative review of his methods by a single anonymous "expert" hired by the Board - a conventionally trained allergist ignorant of the science and methods of environmental medicine.

Of course, if you want to get a negative review, all it takes is to hire someone who is ignorant of the subject to do review, or a study. It wasn't the first, nor is the last such instance. Back in 1988, when the conventional allergy establishment wanted to "show" that provocation/neutralization method doesn't work, they used conventionally trained allergists to do the study (Jewett et al. 1988).

The study authors wouldn't even bother to learn the actual technique in question (Rinkle method, or serial dilution endpoint titration - SDET)11, but it hasn't prevented them from trying to replicate it, failing, and proclaiming it doesn't work.

Should we expect any better from the kind of medicine incapable of admitting

that food we eat has any significant effect on our health,

and practice accordingly?  

If these truths about our very basic needs are so effectively suppressed by those whose interest is in preserving the status quo (in most of the above cases, drug-based medicine), can we realistically expect better in regard to the official recognition of the health treat by a comparatively obscure factor such as weak non-ionizing EMF exposure? Unfortunately, not.

Because, you know, that entire EMF-health thing is, for them, on the same "wrong" side of the fence - it demands and promotes causative medical approach, where health problems are solved by

addressing the cause,

instead of subjecting sufferers to life-long medicating, or more or less temporary surgical/radiation fixes. Neither nearly as efficient as addressing the cause to promote healing, but highly profitable for those who cash in on it.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity

This long introduction pictures the wider context in which the present fight for recognizing health dangers from EMF pollution is taking place. Evidence of non-ionizing radiation being bioactive and capable of causing serious adverse health effects is

just another fresh piece of truth that threatens
or inconveniences powerful establishments.

So they are trying to downplay it, discredit, even ridicule. The rift between the two opposing forces was evident at 2004 WHO EHS (Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity) Proceedings, discussing this new illness that appeared less than two decades ago (note that the Workshop took place in 2004, but the paper was published in 2006).

Because, yes, in the early 1980s, a new environmental illness, called electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), electrical hypersensitivity or, more commonly used in the U.S., electrical sensitivity (ES), comes along. The term covers variety of symptoms and diseases attributed by those affected to their EMF exposure. The actual number of affected individuals is probably higher, since for many the connection between their symptoms and EMF exposure may not be obvious.

The official stand, at present, is on the skeptical side: generally, the gate-keepers of the mainstream medicine admit that the health problems experienced by ES sufferers are real, but see no "sufficient evidence" that they are actually caused by electromagnetic fields.

Sounds familiar? Just how credible are those same voices that, till recently, have been flatly denying the existence of chemical sensitivity, or that what we eat has anything to do with how we feel and with degenerative diseases we succumb to? Those same voices that still act as if medicating disease symptoms is by far superior approach than to

look for their actual causes and help the body heal?

Are they really on our side?

Not unexpectedly, the WHO camp promoting "no sufficient evidence" and "it's all in your head" explanation prevailed in shaping up the tone and final resolution with respect to the nature and causes of the EHS. Consequently, the syndrome has been officially renamed to Idiopathic environmental intolerance (Electromagnetic field attributed symptoms), or IEI-EMF.

It could be translated as: "Yeah, there are good reasons to believe that these symptoms - anything from sensory and dermatologic skin effects, dizziness, fatigue, or headache, to sleep, cognitive and cardiovascular disturbances whenever close to an EMF source - have something to do with non-ionizing EMF exposure, but we don't want ya to think so.".

So the WHO has come up with its general EHS (for which they admit that it's real, and can be debilitating) treatment recommendations:

#1 check for existing (known) medical conditions which might be causing the symptoms

#2 assess home/workplace for possibly contributing factors: air pollution, noise, flickering lights and POSSIBLY EMF levels, but only to make sure they are within existing official "safety" standards

#3 psychological evaluation for possible psychiatric/psychological disorders

In short, despite all the sufferers - estimated 3% of the population in developed countries, with

up to 35% experiencing some degree of discomfort

(Philips and Philips, 2006) - pointing to their symptoms being taking place primarily when close to a source of non-ionizing EMF, checking for the EMF exposure as a possible cause, according to the WHO recommendations, is optional, and limited to merely finding out if it is within the existing safety standards.

Knowing how terribly loose those standards are for non-ionizing radiation, even this option is not more than a formality.

On the other hand, if you go to a doctor to help you with your EMF-intolerance health problem,

you have pretty good chances to be diagnosed as
hypochondriac, weirdo or psychopath.

Should we recommend psychiatric examination for Gro Harlem Brundtland, the previous WHO Director-General, who announced having EHS shortly before she retired?

Nevertheless, the EHS phenomenon is already too widespread to be ignored. In all likelihood, it is the latest addition to the long list of "unexplainable" (by the allopathic mainstream medicine) health problems belonging under the generic term environmental illness.

We can reasonably expect that some of people believing the electricity field makes them sick are simply wrong. But not all of them; not the majority. While the actual mechanism almost certainly includes factors other than power-frequency field and other non-ionizing EMF field we are commonly exposed to, it is also all but certain that for majority of people

it is these fields that triggers their symptoms.

Denying that is, plainly put, playing politics where there is no place for it.

Anyway, the background for this decision of the WHO International Workshop on EMF Hypersensitivity is, in their own words:

 "To date, experimental and epidemiological studies have failed to provide clear support for a causal relationship between electromagnetic fields and complaints."

(WHO International Workshop on EMF Hypersensitivity, p30, no study citation).

 This is pretty much how ICNIRP, back in 1998, phrased its denying any real significance to the evidence of non-ionizing radiation interfering with basic cellular processes far below the official safety levels. No "convincing" evidence. Except that it did cite studies they were referring to. Among other, ICNIRP wouldn't find the ample evidence of very low level power-frequency field exposure being linked to childhood leukemia "convincing".

Then, only three years - and a few more incriminating studies - later, it became impossible to stay "unconvinced". In 2001, ICNIRP published paper concluding that the risk of childhood leukemia is indeed significantly higher for exposures above 4 miligauss, which is

250 times lower than the official "safety limit".

Taking a closer look at the studies on EMF hypersensitivity, we encounter the familiar scene: inconsistency and design flaws. Inconsistency is to expect, considering how little is known about this new illness. As for the flaws, they include failure to satisfactorily control exposures, testing subjects without determining their individual sensitivity mode (it is reasonable to expect that the specific sensitivity frequency, intensity, magnetic/electric field proportion, or dependence on some other, non-EMF factor, varies rather widely from one individual to another), not controlling for possible delayed reaction, and others.

Yet, even with the researchers pretty much in dark with respect to what they are looking for, the evidence is emerging that "safe" non-ionizing radiation exposure can trigger direct biological response as well. For instance, the sensitive individuals have much higher mast cell density when exposed (Johansson, Gangi, 1997, 2000), or show overactive autonomous nervous system function that responds to this weak radiation in some ways similarly to how most people act to higher-energy radiation, such as ultraviolet (Lyskov et al. 2001a/b, Sandström et al. 2003).

A distinctive, and rather significant portion of the WHO Workshop participating contributors were those not doing any research, nor concerned with the fate of EHS sufferers. From purely academic (read: formalistic) basis, they were denying that EHS has anything to do with electromagnetic fields. Professor Jan Bures (Prague) calls EHS "mental construction", speculating that since brain's inherent electrical/electromagnetic noise - which is nearly entirely within the tiny 1-31Hz frequency window - doesn't interfere with its function, it is even less to expect from external EMF exposures. No comment.

Or Dr. Herman Staudemeyer (Denver, USA) who, applying the nine Bradford Hill's Criteria to EHS, in a lengthy expose concluded that it cannot be related to toxicological, but rather to psychogenic ("it's all in your head") origin. So he proposed replacing EHS with Idiopathic environmental intolerance, (attributed to EHS) which the Workshop accepted.

His expose was followed by a long list of large professional organizations - from American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology and American Medical Association, to American College of Physicians and American Academy of Clinical Toxicology - supporting this view.

Hmh... American Academy of Allergy, whose members went on to prove that provocation/neutralization method doesn't work, who still only recognize a single mechanism of allergic reaction (mediated by IgE, low level of which, by the way, does not mean that you don't have allergy), and whose "expert" had just proclaimed Dr. Rea's treatments "substandard" and "endangering public health"? What a coincidence.

Why don't they - and the rest of "large professional organizations" from the list, speak out openly, for once, and state their real concern: "We don't want anyone with a new, better knowledge to lessen our self-esteem, influence and status."?

And that clicks like 1-2-3 in tune with the huge interest of pharmaceutical industry, which makes tons of money on treating symptoms, not diseases.

And with the medical insurance companies, who make fortune charging for covering such expensive, inefficient practice.

And the industry, which doesn't want people to relate their health problems to electricity, EMF, smokestacks, toxic chemicals, materials, products and wastes.

And with governments who don't want to disturb their sacred cow - the economy - for what seems to be a relatively small (on the global scale), and still not clearly defined risk. And who don't want to take their fair share of responsibility for the consequences of grossly inadequate safety standards.

There we go again...

Is it surprising, then, that for the "prime-time" U.S. delegate to the WHO meeting deciding the official status of EHS is chosen no one else but Mr. Staudemeyer, whose career has been built on his "academic" opposition to anything that is cause-oriented, healing medicine? Who wrote a book (Environmental illness: myth and reality) portraying environmental illness as psychological in origin, and any physiological alternative as a myth. Who, with other collaborates, had published multiple papers in prestigious medical journals, using those same nine Bradford Hill's criteria to declare that multiple chemical sensitivity is psychogenic in origin.

Papers so biased in their selective acknowledgment of the evidence, that it prompted a research scientist to state that, apparently, "Staudemeyer et al. have invented a new type of scientific paper - an 'evidence based review' (p.204) devoid of evidence." (Pall, Explaining "unexplained illnesses", p223).

Well, what can you do - that's the way it is. All considered, any significant changes in the EMF regulations are not likely to take place any time soon. In the meantime, you are pretty much on your own in learning what type of EMF exposures are likely to be most threatening, how to identify them, what seem to be a reasonable limit to safe exposure, and how it can be achieved.

This is the subject of the final page on the subject of EMF safety.