Bad Science Watch on EMF Sensitivity

Bad Science Watch (BSW) is a group of volunteers who believe that the lives of Canadians can best be protected and improved by countering bad and fake science. (in the interests of full disclosure, I am one of those volunteers). Although relatively new, BSW is involved in several projects:

In relation to the WiFi projects, they have published a position paper on Electrosensivity Sensivity (Ideopathic Environmental Intolerance Attributed to Electromagnetic Fields).

An electromagnetic field (EMF) is a physical field that affects the

Computer simulation of the Earth’s magnetic field. Photo from Wikipedia

behaviour of charged particles in its vicinity. It is produced by the movement of electrically charged objects, and propagates in a wave-like fashion. Electromagnetic fields are produced naturally (the Earth and the Sun have natural EM fields) and artificially, both intentionally (microwaves to cook food, WiFi and radio for telecommunications) and as a by-product of technology….

The portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that extends from low-frequency through to the visible spectrum consists of non-ionizing radiation. Radiation at non-ionizing frequencies may be sufficiently power to cause thermal effects (vibrating molecules and causing substances to heat up), but is not powerful enough to strip electrons from molecules (creating ions) and break molecular bonds, thereby causing damage to biological systems. The radio, microwave, infra-red, and visible spectra are made up of non-ionizing radiation, while the ultraviolet rays, x-rays, and gamma-rays are forms of ionizing radiation….

At the 2004 World Health Organization workshop on “electro-magnetic hypersensitivity,” the working group proposed that the EHS designation be retired in favour of “idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields” (IEI-EMF), because the EHS designation “implies that a causal relationship has been established between the reported symptoms and EMF” and no such causal relationship has been established….

Idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF) and electromagnetic hyper-sensitivity (EHS) are descriptive terms for nonspecific symptoms that are often attributed to weak radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMF). The symptoms associated with this syndrome vary from patient to patient, but often include fatigue, inability to sleep, headache, stress, muscle aches, and rashes….

The primary cause of the symptoms described in IEI-EMF is the nocebo effect.

The nocebo effect describes the subjective (nonspecific) negative effects that a subject may experience that are not attributable to a medication intervention or invasive treatment. This effect is similar to the placebo effect, and can manifest after a subject receives an inert drug or intervention.

The report discusses a literature review on the topic and some potential conflicts of interest for some of the major contributors to the IEI-EMF hysteria.

In Conclusion:

We have been unable to identify any high quality reproducible evidence that any symptom of idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF) is caused by exposure to non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. Systematic reviews of both provocation studies and purported treatments for IEI-EMF support the conclusion that EMF is not the cause of the syndrome. Despite the claims made by the authors of one review paper and the aforementioned anti-WiFi groups, Bad Science Watch was unable to locate any compelling evidence of legitimate scientific debate about WiFi induced illness, or the safety of low-level EMF exposure in general. While fringe groups continue to present flawed arguments and promote poorly designed experiments, the preponderance of research on the matter robustly dispels the connection between WiFi and IEI-EMF. For those tasked with making decisions about the inclusion of WiFi technology in their organization, school, or home, we can find no reason to ignore the advice of health organizations worldwide. The benefits of WiFi are numerous and varied, and there is no compelling evidence that any health effects arise as a result of this technology.

The entire report can be found on the Bad Science Watch site.

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