Review of the scientific evidence on the individual sensitivity to electromagnetic fields (EHS)

July 10, 2021

Abstract: Part of the population considers themselves as sensitive to the man-made electromagnetic radiation (EMF) emitted by powerlines, electric wiring, electric home appliance and the wireless communication devices and networks. Sensitivity is characterized by a broad variety of non-specific symptoms that the sensitive people claim to experience when exposed to EMF. While the experienced symptoms are currently considered as a real life impairment, the factor causing these symptoms remains unclear. So far, scientists were unable to find causality link between symptoms experienced by sensitive persons and the exposures to EMF. However, as presented in this review, the executed to-date scientific studies, examining sensitivity to EMF, are of poor quality to find the link between EMF exposures and sensitivity symptoms of some people. It is logical to consider that the sensitivity to EMF exists but the scientific methodology used to find it is of insufficient quality. It is time to drop out psychology driven provocation studies that ask about feelings-based non-specific symptoms experienced by volunteers under EMF exposure. Such research approach produces only subjective and therefore highly unreliable data that is insufficient to prove, or to disprove, causality link between EHS and EMF. There is a need for a new direction in studying sensitivity to EMF. The basis for it is the notion of a commonly known phenomenon of individual sensitivity, where individuals’ responses to EMF depend on the genetic and epigenetic properties of the individual. It is proposed here that new studies, combining provocation approach, where volunteers are exposed to EMF, and high-throughput technologies of transcriptomics and proteomics are used to generate objective data, detecting molecular level biochemical responses of human body to EMF.

Final conclusions
– Problems and solutions for EHS research are summarized in Figure 2.
– Over the last 30 years, a sizable number of research studies has examined causality link between EMF exposures and EHS symptoms.
– The majority of the studies did not find any link between EMF and EHS.
– The EHS studies have examined acute effects but did not have capability to examine delayed EMF responses.
– The major problem is that scientists do not know whether EHS volunteers have indeed correct self-diagnosis of EHS or whether the diagnosis is incorrect and experimental groups are contaminated, to unknown degree, by non-EHS persons. In extreme situation, the small group of volunteers used in research study might have no EHS persons at all.
– Recently, research on EHS has drifted into direction of nocebo as the cause of EHS, what is incorrect.
– Instead of studying obvious impact of nocebo, or likes of medical students’ disease, research should focus on finding suitable biochemical and biophysical markers that could be used, in combination with single individual-focused provocation studies, to determine the sources of the EHS symptoms.
– The opinion that there is no causality link between EHS and EMF is unproven. This opinion, expressed by the World Health Organization EMF Project, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety and numerous governmental organizations, should be revised because the scientific research data
is of insufficient quality to be used as a proof of the lack of causality

Dariusz Leszczynski. Review of the scientific evidence on the individual sensitivity to electromagnetic fields (EHS). Rev Environ Health. 2021 Jul 6. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2021-0038.

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