Rapid Response Group (RRG)'s review on "An assessment of illness in U.S. government employees and their families at overseas embassies"


23 December, 2020.

Government personnel and their families at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba, in late 2016, and later at the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, China, began suffering from a range of unusual — and in some cases suddenly occurring — symptoms such as a perceived loud noise, ear pain, intense head pressure or vibration, dizziness, visual problems, and cognitive difficulties, and many still continue to experience these or other health problems. As part of its effort to ascertain potential causes of the illnesses, the U.S. Department of State asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide advice.

In examining plausible causes of these illnesses, the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report considered the possibilities of directed, pulsed radio frequency energy, chemical exposures, infectious diseases such as Zika, and psychological issues. The committee concluded that among the mechanisms the committee considered, directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases, especially in individuals with the distinct early symptoms. The committee cited hypothesis of "Frey effect", or microwave hearing effect as its basis.

Japan EMF Information Center considered it necessary to validate the hypothesis and asked Rapid Response Group (RRG)* to conduct review and submit a report.

Summary of the RRG's review is as follows:

[Paper] An assessment of illness in U.S. government employees and their families at overseas embassies. 

[Authors] Relman DA and Pavin JA (editors) 

[Citation] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. An assessment of illness in U.S. government employees and their families at overseas embassies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25889 

Factors that decrease the likelihood that the sounds perceived by embassy staff were due microwave hearing include:
Huge peak and average microwave power densities would be needed to elicit the sensation of "a loud sound". This would require large microwave generating equipment, such as military radars used close to the target.
Embassy staff did not report any thermal sensation or feeling of warmth that results from exposure to high power microwaves.
There were no reports of electromagnetic interference that would certainly result from exposure to high power microwaves.
The reported directional nature of the sound does not fit the description of the microwave hearing effect.
Finally it would be technically challenging to produce RF equipment that could produce loud sounds. The committee produced no convincing evidence that pulsed RF at high or low power can produce the symptoms reported by US embassy personnel in Havana and China. Mass psychogenic illness and related psychological mechanisms remain a plausible explanation for the symptoms.


Full text of the RRG’s Public and Scientific Review is available from:
URL(Public Review)  :https://www.jeic-emf.jp/assets/files/pdf/whats_new/20201220RRG_Public(ENG).pdf
URL(Scientific Review):https://www.jeic-emf.jp/assets/files/pdf/whats_new/20201220RRG_Scientific(ENG).pdf

Related information:
U.S. National Academy of Sciences published a new report which assesses illnesses among U.S. government personnel and their families at overseas embassies. (Posted on 8 December, 2020)


*Note from JEIC:
Rapid Response Group (RRG): The RRG provides a rapid response on the analysis of newly published scientific studies that JEIC considers important and in need of expert scientific review to provide information for all stakeholders. The RRG is composed of a coordinator and experts in all areas of science appropriate for reviewing and assessing scientific studies. Prof. Michael H. Repacholi (former Team Leader of the Radiation and Environmental Health Unit, World Health Organization (WHO); Department of Information Engineering, Electronics and Telecommunications, "La Sapienza" University of Rome, Italy) has served as the coordinator from the time of launch of RRG in 2010.