Oh dear, Doctor Jessen!

In tonight’s Evening Standard, Dr Christian Jessen examined the claims that mobile phones cause health problems and came to the conclusion that “the only health issue firmly associated with mobile phones is an increased risk of car accidents for people who use mobiles while driving.” You just know there’s going to be a “but” though, don’t you?

And there is. His final paragraph is this:

By way of an interesting tangent, we do know that some people can be allergic to modern technology, suffering from a condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Exposure to the types of radiation produced by mobile phones, microwaves and wi-fi can cause sleep problems, weakness, dizziness and fainting, severe headaches and even skin rashes. Given that such radiation is now everywhere, it must make life particularly difficult.

A google search for academic investigation of this phenomenon through up this PubMed item which states:

RESULTS:

Thirty-one experiments testing 725 “electromagnetically hypersensitive” participants were identified. Twenty-four of these found no evidence to support the existence of a biophysical hypersensitivity, whereas 7 reported some supporting evidence. For 2 of these 7, the same research groups subsequently tried and failed to replicate their findings. In 3 more, the positive results appear to be statistical artefacts. The final 2 studies gave mutually incompatible results. Our metaanalyses found no evidence of an improved ability to detect EMF in “hypersensitive” participants.

CONCLUSIONS:

The symptoms described by “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” sufferers can be severe and are sometimes disabling. However, it has proved difficult to show under blind conditions that exposure to EMF can trigger these symptoms. This suggests that “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” is unrelated to the presence of EMF, although more research into this phenomenon is required.

I thought an email to the Standard was in order:

Dear Ms Sands

I was disappointed to see that in an otherwise sensible analysis of the health problems associated with mobile phone use, Dr Jessen concluded by asserting as fact that mobile phones and wifi “can cause sleep problems, weakness, dizziness and fainting, severe headaches and even skin rashes.” In fact, research into this phenomenon has failed to establish any kind of link with the microwaves used by mobile phone and wifi systems.

For example, a systematic review of provocation studies available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15784787 concluded that the “symptoms described by “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” sufferers can be severe and are sometimes disabling. However, it has proved difficult to show under blind conditions that exposure to EMF can trigger these symptoms. This suggests that “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” is unrelated to the presence of EMF…”

Yours sincerely

John Hawcock

[address given]

[phone number given]

I’ll blog if there’s any response but I’m not holding my breath.

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8 Responses to “Oh dear, Doctor Jessen!”

  1. Andysnat Says:

    Not related to this post, but your blog has provided endless fun for me this weekend.

    Thanks

  2. Cybertiger Says:

    What a prat, Andysnat!

  3. dingo199 Says:

    I assume the Standard failed to reply?

  4. A Fifth Year of Steam « Letting Off Steam Says:

    […] on Sunday’s spurious linkage of thyroid problems and vegetarianism was debunked as was an article on electrosensitivity in the Evening Standard, antivax nonsense from Natural News, homeopaths conflating homeopathy and […]

  5. Pal Says:

    The Standard and Dr Jessen deserve our considerable thanks for bringing to public attention the known links between illness and electromagnetic exposure. The review of provocation studies which you cite, like many of the studies themselves on which it reports, was partially funded by the mobile phone industry. Would you believe studies demonstrating that cigarettes were harmless if they were funded by the tobacco industry?

    • jaycueaitch Says:

      The fact that they are funded by the phone companies does not in itself prove they are wrong. Feel free to go through them and identify the errors.

      • Pal Says:

        And perhaps cigarettes are healthy too! I am sure you are aware of the decades of epidemiological studies it required to prove that cigarettes were harmful. At the very least the jury should be out on electromagnetic fields, and the precautionary principle employed. On the issue of errors with the provocation studies, I don’t have the time go through them one by one but the problems are myriad and embarrassingly evident to anyone familiar with electrical sensitivity. For example, quality and extent of screening of other fields during testing varies massively, chemicals which can stimulate similar allergic-type reactions are often rife in testing areas, subjects are known to be highly sensitive to different fequencies; above all there is a huge problem with volunteering subjects. Seriously ill sufferers of electrical sensitivity, ie those who theoretically would demonstrate clearest results, are hardly likely to wish to expose themselves voluntarily. Indeed they would struggle to make it to testing centres without getting very ill. Consequently I suspect that most subjects for these tests are a mixture of the highly suggestible and the mildly electrosensitive. Scientists working in this area consistently (and frankly one feels deliberately) confuse hypochondriacs and self-selecting subjects who get the odd headache now and then after working for a couple of hours on a computer from those many but inevitably harder to reach who are seriously and tragically physically incapacitated by fields and most unlikely to want anything to do with the mobile phone lobby and the scientists who service it.

        The study below seems to show that there is a correlation between funding from the mobile phone industry and results of provocation studies:
        Environ Health Perspect. 2007 January; 115(1): 1–4.
        Source of Funding and Results of Studies of Health Effects of Mobile Phone Use: Systematic Review of Experimental Studies

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