Provocation Test Failures and Problems
See also: Science: Proof and Provocation Studies
Return to Viewpoints
Many positive studies
There are many studies which show the existence of EHS symptoms following EM exposure. To claim otherwise is invalid. Some pro-wireless activists in the ICNIRP and WHO, however, rely on the outdated and invalidated methodology of some conscious subjective studies, which assume, invalidly, linear effects, and make insufficient allowance for the individual nature of EHS. This minority clique uses this group of recent negative provocation studies to present their invalidated ‘Nocebo’ effect or Electrophobia hypothesis, but these studies are regarded by EHS experts as irrelevant to real Electrosenstivity.
New standards in provocation studies
A recent study, McCarty DE et al, 2011, is now regarded as sufficient to counter all the negative subjective conscious studies still used by the pro-wireless activists in ICNIRP and WHO. This study has set a new standard in provocation tests. It is based on factors which include: (i) studying each EHS subject individually and not averaging different subjects’ responses, (ii) accepting the established nonlinear nature of the EHS condition, (iii) screening the EHS subject beforehand to determine that they are EHS, and (iv) using frequencies, strengths, pulse formations and time factors to which the individual EHS subject is sensitive.
Electrosensitivity is not a 'Nocebo' effect
It is well established that real sensitivity to electromagnetic fields exists in humans as well as animals and plants. This has been shown in many studies, including evidence from 80% of studies of people living near cellphone towers, which show clear evidence of electro-sensitivity symptoms, often in a dose-dependent way. In addition many studies show electro-sensitivity symptoms such as microwave hearing or tinnitus, discovered in 1962, in workers moving through magnetic fields near a MRI scanner which induces electric currents in the body, and in people sensitive to geomagnetic events, in addition to use of non-thermal electronic warfare from 1953 which depends on adverse electro-sensitivity symptoms.
In particular it has frequently been pointed out by the World Health Organization and many psychologists that electro-sensitivity symptoms are not a known psychological condition. The fact that electro-sensitivity is not a 'Nocebo' effect is obvious from the fact that many children, unaware adults and animals experience this condition. In addition studies of how people become sensitised, such as Dieudonne 2015, show that most people suffering electro-sensitivity have not previously been conditioned to fear of electromagnetic exposure, even if they subsequently become conditioned, and therefore the 'Nocebo' effect is irrelevant to the original sensitization.
'Electrophobia' or fear of electromagnetic exposure is now recognized as a separate condition from electro-sensitivity. It has a different etiology from electro-sensitivity, and lacks the objective biological markers and genetic types associated with electro-sensitivity. See Rev. on Env. Health, Dec.2015 for a summary of objective biological markers of real electromagnetic sensitivity.
Critique of old negative provocation studies
Some of the numerous invalidating faults of most modern so-called EHS conscious subjective provocation studies are listed in a critique of the Essex University study on Health Effects from TETRA radiation published in 2010. As with previous Essex studies there were significant flaws which make their conclusion “Our findings suggest that the adverse symptoms experienced by electrosensitive individuals are due to the belief of harm from TETRA base stations rather than to the low-level EMF exposure itself” invalid (ES-UK Newsletter, September 2010:; Alasdair & Jean Philips: “Electrical Hypersensitivity” section 8, p.8-10, 15.10.14:)
- 1. There was no definition of what would count as 'sensitive'.
- 2. There was no fully objective screening of the self-proclaimed sensitives: theoretically they may all have not been sensitive or sensitive only to forms of electromagnetic radiation or fields other than TETRA. Over 20% admitted that they were only “a little bit” sensitive and under 25% said that they were “a great deal” sensitive, so it was unlikely to produce a strongly positive result anyway, especially since 5% of the 'sensitives', presumably the most genuinely sensitive, had to withdraw because of ill health they attributed to initial TETRA exposure at Essex.
- 3. There was no fully objective screening of the control group: theoretically up to 30-50% may have some element of subconscious sensitivity and a very small number some degree of hyper-sensitivity. One study declared that “EHS is not a prerequisite for the ability to consciously perceive weak EMF and vice-versa.”
- 4. There was no allowance for the fact that a person sensitised to electro-magnetic radiation may not perceive a conscious symptom at every exposure but perhaps on only 10% of occasions or less.
- 5. There were no precise records of each electro-magnetic exposure for each of the supposed sensitive group over the preceding 48 hours, or however long each sensitised person remains affected by the cumulative nature of such irradiation.
- 6. Double-blind tests with sham following real are invalid for testing environmental pollution.
- 7. Humidity levels in different parts of the laboratory should be recorded and for sensitised people the levels should be adjusted to those appropriate to their level of sensitivity.
- 8. Geomagnetic levels and orientations should be recorded. These, like other ambient radiations from lights, daylight, metal structures in the building, reflective or absorbent surfaces and the person's own exposure to other humans who have been in a electro-magnetically polluted environment, can all influence a sensitised person.
- 9. ELF measurements should be recorded; many people are sensitised to specific synergies of electro-magnetic fields.
- 10. Since one mechanism by which electro-magnetic radiation affects human, animal and plant tissue is by induced currents, it is essential to test people moving at different speeds in relation to the field, especially for lower frequencies like the TETRA 'pulse'.
- 11. The deduction that no people are sensitive to TETRA is invalid: none of the 48 or the 132 'controls' may have been sensitive, based on these tests alone. There may, of course, be other people with TETRA sensitivity in the general population, or the people studied may be sensitive to TETRA under different synergies of radiation.
- 12. For idiopathic conditions it is essential to have and publish complete data for each individual and to test them in their own or idiopathic environment. Percentages are irrelevant since the condition is not a typical monomorphic disease but a multiform impairment unique in its extent and depth to the one individual alone.
- 13. From the sketch of the laboratory set-up, it was difficult to see how it replicated being in the middle of a TETRA line between masts with voice and data traffic in progress, or being in the direct line of radiation between a mix of handsets and towers. As listed in point 10, this should also allow movement towards, away from and across these stronger lines of radiation.
- 14. Even the title given to the study is not wholly appropriate: “Do TETRA (Airwave) base station signals have a short-term impact on health and well-being?” It is obvious that a person who says he/she is “a little bit” sensitive but cannot always state accurately when a TETRA mast is on or off cannot decide definitely whether any short-term adverse health impacts exist from a TETRA base station's radiation. It would have been interesting, for instance, to replicate the radio and mobile phone mast studies which show cognitive and neurological effects in a dose-response relationship to the mast, some using blinded provocation by simply turning off the transmitters.
It is therefore evident that these Essex psychological tests are still flawed in many very basic areas. It would be better and more cost effective to test people using protocols developed by medical experts on electrosensitivity in other countries. These include pathological reactions such as HRV, ECG, EEG, muscle stimulation, autonomic tests, skin histology, etc. In fact the 2010 Essex study did identify HV as a significant factor, but then, perhaps typically, appeared to assume, without any evidence, it was the result of a psychological state, such as anxiety, rather than the result of being sensitive to EMR, or becoming sensitised by EME, as many other studies have shown.
Problems with specific and general provocation studies:
Requirements for large-scale provocation tests
There are many reasons why it is difficult to conduct EHS provocation tests. Most are apparent in the above critique of the failed Essex study. Key factors include the following.
- 1. Individual testing: Since EHS is an individual condition unique to each subject, it is expensive and time-consuming to undertake a valid provocation study on each person. Very few studies have yet done this, although both Rea WJ et al 1991 and McCarty DE et al 2011 attempted to do so.
- 2. Individual results: Few if any of the Electrophobia studies present their results for each subject separately Only this allows the study to confirm whether they were correctly screened as EHS before the testing began. Averaging is irrelevant to EHS testing.
- 3. Screening: Few if any of the Electrophobia studies screened subjects for whether they were EHS or not, before the study.
- 4. Specific exposures: Few if any of the Electrophobia studies screened subjects before the tests to identify to which frequencies and patterns of exposure they were sensitive.
- 5. Non-linearity: Few if any of the Electrophobia studies were constructed on the knowledge that EHS is non-linear it its effects and that there are thresholds and windows of effects, as established from the 1970s.
- 6. Cumulative effects: Few of the Electrophobia studies allowed for the established cumulative effects of radiation exposure, and allowed for the fact that people who have been longest affected by EHS are often those with the longest latency in conscious and subconscious symptoms.
- 7. Irregularities of response: Few if any of the Electrophobia studies have so far allowed for the fact that many EHS people do not always react consciously to every similar EM exposure. If, therefore, the acceptable response success rate is set at an arbitrary 80%, as some studies use, it does not include EHS people who react on, say, only 10% of occasions, although when they do react it is a valid cause and effect response.
- 8. Order of testing: Few if any of the Electrophobia studies seem aware that for any testing of sensitivity to environmental toxins, sham after real tests are invalid.
- 9. Practical considerations: Few of the Electrophobia studies have tried to eliminate all confounding factors, such as geopathic stress, geomagnetic disturbances, ambient TV and radio transmissions etc.
- 10. Wrong level of testing: Few if any of the Electrophobia studies have begun to take on board the levels of EHS sensitivity in the general population. Recent studies suggesting that 40% of the adult population is electrosensitive above the immune suppression threshold of -55 to -90 dBm (perhaps 0.002 V/m or < 1 uW/m), means that most provocation tests need to be long-term, say >12 months, and at typical ambient exposure levels within this range.
- 11. Wrong length of testing: Few if any of the Electrophobia studies appreciate the kindling process for environmental toxins. Most tests are acute, involving a high exposure for 30-60 minutes, often too high for the most EHS people. As suggested in point 10 above, a proper provocation test might require >12 months with groups above or below the immune suppression threshold to determine if 40% of adults are sensitive.
- 12. Wrong type of signal: many provocation tests use artificial or laboratory-produced signals, instead of real radiation from real cellphones or transmitters in actual use. It is the real and unpredictable variation and modulation of signal intensity, frequency and amplitude which seems to be especially bio-active.
- 13. Better types of provocation testing: An effective type of provocation test appears to be based on studies of people exposed to an existing source of radiation. Up to 80% of medical studies show high levels of positive correlation for some of the following conditions: (a) typical EHS symptoms around cellphone towers and TV and radio transmitters; (b) typical EHS symptoms around MRI scanners; (c) typical EHS symptoms around geomagnetic disturbances. Within each exposure parameter it should now be possible to identify a subset of the population which is particularly sensitive.
- 14. Numbers required for EHS testing: If the test aims to elucidate the people who are already medically screened and medically diagnosed as EHS, small numbers may be sufficient, as in any similar process, with 100 subjects as a minimum.
- 15. Numbers required for EHS testing: If the test aims to identify or determine the typical EHS symptoms in the general population dependent on ambient environmental exposure, much higher numbers are required, such as >10,000. This is because some studies suggest that the people most severely EHS are probably well under 0.1 % or even under 0.01 % of the population. If, therefore, smaller numbers are involved, the single study may not have the power to identify even a single person with severe EHS. Even this assumes that such people will not have been forced to remove themselves from this exposure to the environmental toxin.