Electrosensitivity Again

[BPSDB] Electrosensitivity has made a return to the pages of the METRO, under the headline “Is your mobile phone really a threat to your health?”. I have heard it said that if a tabloid headline is phrased as a question, the correct answer is almost invariably “No”. That is certainly the case here.

The opening paragraphs uncritically reference Philip Weeks, a ‘natural practitioner’, Michael Cohen of Bioenergy Healing (as woo as it sounds) and Sarah Dacre of ElectroSensitivity UK. Photos of the first two named illustrate the article and links to the above mentioned bodies are helpfully propvided (embedded in the on-line version).

When we get to Dr. Michael Clark of the Health Protection Agency pointing out that in laboratory conditions there does not appear to be a link between exposure to microwaves and ill-health, no link is provided. He could be referring to provocation studies, such as the one shown on “Panorama” a couple of years back in which a woman who claimed to be so sensitive to mobile phone radio signals that she had to sleep in an aluminium lined room, was unable to say whether a microwave beam was on or off more often than chance would suggest when tested under controlled laboratory conditions. Not that it would matter if links were given – the electosensitivity lobby would just say that there are other studies that prove their point. Or they would accuse the experimenters of being bought off by the mobile phone industry.

Indeed, the METRO article trots out this very line:-

Campaigners argue that as the research on links between health and mobile phones is commissioned by the very companies selling them, we are being kept away from the truth.

It seems to me that the mobile phone companies are in a lose-lose situation here; if they didn’t do any research, they would be accused of negligence or worse; if they do do research they are accused of using it to conceal the truth.

If it were proven that the research was deliberately misleading, then it would be reasonable to cite the financial interests as a reason for obfuscation but the fact that they have financial interests in the outcome does not in itself mean they are lying about their findings. What they should do, of course, is publish all their data so that we can examine it for ourselves. This applies to anyone with a financial interest in research results, be it selling mobile phones, a magic cream that will increase womems’ breast size or alternaive remedies to protect your health from mobile phone radiation. If the data is not given, we are entitled to draw our own conclusions.

The unwillingness to provide references gets more extreme as we read further:-

Insomnia is one of the biggest effects of ES and Weeks says this lack of sleep affects our immune systems and our ability to repair and fight infections. ‘A study by scientists in America categorically showed that having your mobile phone by your bed at night affects your ability to go into a deep sleep,’ he says.

No link. No refence to wherever this research has been published. Neither the names of the researchers nor the institution where they did their research are given so there is no way of telling how good or bad it is, or whether Weeks ‘ conclusions are borne out by the research. I could google, I suppose, but I have been here before when arguing with JABS forumites. They will claim some research backs their position. You google, find some research and show that it does not back their position. They just say they did not mean that research. I shall short-circuit this process by emailing Vicki-Marie Cossar, the author of the METRO piece, and ask her for a link. I’ll let you know how I get on.
The article concludes by saying:-

If you think you could be suffering from ES, experts suggest restricting your access to electromagnetic radiation to see if you feel any better. If you notice a difference, perhaps you should think about decreasing your exposure to electromagnetic fields.

What experts? In what field? We are not told. Given the lack of references, it is clear that this aricle is not abot the science at all but is merely a full page advertisement equivalent for the electrosensitivity lobby and a couple of alternative health practitioners. A very shoddy piece of journalism.

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11 Responses to “Electrosensitivity Again”

  1. pv Says:

    Don’t woo pedlars have vested interests in the outcome of research? Or is it only a corporate failing?

  2. Al Capone Junior Says:

    I got five bucks says you get no reply. Or is it Quid? Either way, I’m in.

    Love the point about the lose/lose situation for phone companies doing research, btw.

  3. Tweets that mention Electrosensitivity Again « Letting Off Steam -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by badscienceblogs, James, Alan Henness, Janis Bennion, Atomic Spin and others. Atomic Spin said: RT @jdc325: Electrosensitivity? *sigh* Metro: http://bit.ly/hRZVXN JQH responds: http://bit.ly/exRQoQ […]

  4. michael clark Says:

    I’m an occasional visitor to the Bad Science Forums and noticed the thread.
    I can provide the references to the peer reviewed work if you need them. In fact the Metro journalist asked me for them this morning.
    For the article, Metro just asked me to provide comments. I didn’t see the rest of it before publication.

    • jaycueaitch Says:

      That would be great. I’ve sent you an email.

      Interesting that the METRO journalist asked you for them this morning – I emailed her about them last night.

      • Alina Kudina Says:

        I would be also very interested to be able to read the actual studies. So, if you could post the references, I’d be very grateful!

      • jaycueaitch Says:

        Both Vicki-Marie Cossar and Michael Clark have sent me references to the studies to which Dr Clark refers. I will post the links once I have read them. I have heard nothing about the research to which Philip Weeks refers. If he does not respond to Ms Cossar I will email him myself.

  5. Alina Kudina Says:

    I would be also very interested to be able to read the actual studies. So, if you could post the references, I’d be very grateful!

  6. jaycueaitch Says:

    Links sent by Dr Clark:-

    http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/cgi/content/abstract/67/2/224

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bem.20536/abstract;jsessionid=921B88EA19B05153FCB05BD7C2051C9C.d03t02

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19681059

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WDS-4S3P8C8-2&_user=10&_coverDate=06%2F30%2F2008&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=ba69eb3bd9094d99d275ce2f4d7319c7&searchtype=a

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18359015

    They show that studies laboratory studies have not found a link between the symptoms of the electrosensitive and mobile phone radiation.

    For completeness I should point out that Ms Cossar also asked him for links and sent them on to me. Nothing from Mr Weeks it would appear.

  7. A Third Year of Steam « Letting Off Steam Says:

    […] News claim that ‘electrosmog’ causes diabetes. In November the METRO published a shoddy piece of journalism claiming that mobile phones are health risks. Most of it consisted of uncritical repititions of the […]

  8. MightySlug Says:

    Dr Clarke forgot to add these to the list.
    It’s only fair to have a balanced report from the Health PROTECTION Agency, and just remember who’s getting paid for peddling the illusion that everyone has the same vibrational sensitivity, the same Action Potentials and the same receptor levels in brain and skin and if you believe that well we’re all the same, you are really sucked in. Also ask yourself why deny these symptoms which are put out there to warn people to look after their health.
    It’s not about scaremongering woo ghost… it’s about REAL Health Protection

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15066545

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18366821

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16802289

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/168073uj782356jv/

    http://www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20101022-cordless-heart.asp

    http://www.emfields.org/electromagnetic-field-news.asp

    http://www.kavlifoundation.org/kavli-news/yale-study-shows-electrical-fields-influence-brain-activity

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