From the Floww website:
Floww® Health Technology was developed by Dutchman Jim Wagenaar. In the nineties he foresaw an irreversible increase in the amount of electromagnetic radiation. He also noted that more and more people had health problems which they attributed to radiation. Knowing that the human body itself also possesses a broad range of frequencies, he conceived the idea that radiation from outside could possibly be converted into body natural frequencies. Based on this he developed a unique method: Floww® Health Technology.
Their products range from a mobileFloww, costing 49 euro, which you are supposed to stick on your mobile phone, to a homeFloww set costing 1,350 euro. Just another company selling bogus devices against electrosmog?
Out with the Bioresonance Drops and New ‘Research’
Almost two years ago Martin Bier, professor in physics, wrote an article about Floww on Kloptdatwel.nl, the Dutch skeptic website of which I’m one of the editors. He made clear that the claims of Floww are complete nonsense from a scientifical viewpoint. At that time, the company was also selling bioresonance drops, just plain water with a touch of ethanol to which a composition of frequencies was added. The specific composition was chosen depending on a analysis of a cheeck swap you would have to send in when ordering. They don’t sell those Floww Drops anymore, perhaps because of regulations you have to go by when selling ingestibale stuff. But the other products are sold without this personal analysis, so now we are supposed to believe that one
size frequency fits all?
Since Bier’s article it seems that Floww has grown fast and is focussing on the international market more and more. Also their website presents some new ‘research’ on their technology. About time for a follow up in English, I thought.
On the page ‘how it works‘ we are given a summary of an article in the Dutch Journal of Integrative Medicine (Tijdschrift voor Integrale Geneeskunde) which has been made available in an English version (someone must have taken the effort to translate it as the journal is in Dutch as far as I know).
To summarize, the working of Floww can most easily be understood as that of an electronic transformer. External radiation in a wide wavelength range is transformed by the circuit into a specific and consistent electromagnetic field. The energy required for the generation of this field is completely supplied by the radiation present in the environment. There is a dose response relationship between the intensity of the environmental radiation and the strength of the Floww-field. Thus, the stronger the radiation, the higher the intensity of the field produced by the Floww equipment.
The crucial electronic part can be seen in the image on the right. So, now how is this Floww-field going to do anything with your body? It does not influence the electromagnetic fields against which harmful effects Floww is going to protect you, according to the inventor Wagenaar. Good point for selling the device, you can still use your phone 😉
The article tells that Wagenaar’s working hypothesis is “that the integrity of the biological system will increase in such a way that radiation cannot cause any damage.” The author raises some reasonable questions: “How can a weak electromagnetic signal, such as these devices generate, a priori have any effect on biological systems at all?” and “In what way does the electromagnetic field that Floww devices produce, increase the resistance of the body against radiation?”
“To answer these questions”, he continues “we need to involve a mechanism by which radiation exerts influence on biological systems. A mechanism to which so far, in the research undertaken into the harmful effects of radiation, virtually no attention has been paid.” Oh, boy …
What follows in the article is one pseudoscientific fantasy after the other. We learn about resonators and the Q-factor, which in biological systems really is something special it seems:
With this the quality factor of biological resonators surpasses that of the most advanced technical systems based on superconductivity by a factor of up to 1010 . And all of this at body temperature! Thus, in biological resonance systems, there has to be a form of conductivity that is still completely unknown to technology.
and something about nature’s information system:
The preceding information helps to fill in the contours of the information system of biophysical regulation. It has a continuous physiological frequency range that extends from less than 1 Hz to over 1016 Hz. It is not unlikely that it operates with coherent pulsed laser signals over this whole frequency range. Which is highly remarkable while technical lasers only have the capacity to work with one or a few frequencies. The biological information system is equipped with resonance systems with a quality factor of 1018 . So ten billion times more sensitive and specific (selective) than the most advanced technical measuring device based on superconductivity.
These kind of sciencey sounding sentences should help us to answer the two questions raised:
The first was: How can such a weak electromagnetic signal have an effect on biological systems? This can be explained by the extreme sensitivity of the vibration system the organism possesses. The Q-factor of the body’s own vibration systems, no less than a factor 1010 higher than what technical systems under superconductivity are capable of, is easily adapted to intensities such as those of the Floww field.
Then the second question: How can it be that the negative effects of external radiation exposure are wiped out, while the Floww products do not shield off harmful radiation at all? Basically, the proven positive effect of the Floww field on biological systems already tells us that the properties of Floww vibrations fall within the physiological Adey windows. If this were not so, the Floww-field would not be able to have any effect at all.
The last two sentences are something like a logical puzzle.The argument looks extremely circular. Basically we are being told here that the Floww field simply has to work via a highly speculative mechanism (Adey windows), because the author can’t make up any other explanation. Period. Yeah, but the “if this were not so” part is not a real problem, if you are ready to accept that there are probably no real effects seen from Floww to begin with. For those ‘proven positive effects’ we will have to look at some other research mentioned on the Floww website.
Research Institute Soffos
Floww asked a research institute, Soffos, to run a continuous survey amongst buyers of the Floww products. Soffos is a small bureau run by dr. Marij Schüssler-van Hees, who has had a career in farmacy before starting this bureau. She states that she uses ‘The Black Box model’, so she doesn’t look at how a treatment could possibly work, but only at the effects attributed to this treatment. Seems a perfect choice if you want to have your product tested for which there is no plausible working mechanism in science. A ‘Confidential report‘ is shared by Floww on its website [update 15/4/2016: the file has been removed from the site, anyone interested can contact me for a copy]:
This quality of life questionnaire(SF-36) measures the state of health of the client at a certain moment in time and identifies which products of Floww Health Technology are used during which period. The following health aspects are measured: general perception of health, health changes, physical functioning, emotional functioning, social functioning, mental health, vitality and freedom of pain. By asking the client to complete a questionnaire at various points in time, the effect of the use of Floww products becomes visible.
Of course this is just useless. You can’t test such a device without a controlgroup using a placebo, proper blinding and decent statistics, especially if your outcome measures are all subjective. Such research is a waste of time, but it can, of course, fulfill a role in the marketing mumbo jumbo.
Professor Anna van Wersch
A bit more serious looks the research of a real scientist, Professor Anna van Wersch. She is “a professor at the Teesside University in Middlesbrough, England, and an authority in the field of Health Psychology” tells the Floww website. She is asked by Floww to investigate the working of Floww products by looking at the effects in blood. In the video she is having her own blood tested as pilot for this research, let’s have a look:
OK, so here we see a professor in psychology believing that live blood cell analysis gets you reliable results.Weird. But maybe it’s just a lack of knowledge on pseudoscientific diagnostic tools that are being pomoted by quacks all over the world. So I wrote her an e-mail a couple of months ago expressing my concern and pointing her to some proper information on this matter. A week later I sent her a reminder, but never got a response. ‘The full results and an extensive research report are expected in May’ the blog says, but it seems to be delayed. [3/3/2015 See update below]
So what else is on the Floww website? Look, they have testimonials for professional use, too. Gotta love those! There we have a Ben Smith, professional rugbyplayer in Australia! He surely would know about electromagnetic fields, as most rugbyplayers Down Under are known for their degrees in … well, let’s have a look a bit further down the list. Hey, there’s a doctor: N. Westerman … Hmm, but he is into acupuncture and biophysical medicine and he actually wrote that not so impressive article I talked about above. Let’s skip him too, shall we? Next a real Medical Doctor: V. Schechtl – Chamorro Monsted. A gynecologist – hmm, don’t judge too soon, they might be experts in bodily vibrations. Ah, and she is the wife of Marc Schechtl, founder and CEO of Floww … very convincing.
Floww doesn’t really differ from all other bogus products which are sold against the alledgedly harmful effects of electromagnetic fields coming from mobile phone, Wi-Fi or other sources. What sets this company somewhat apart for me is the professionalism which seeps through. If it were any normal product, most of the steps taken would seem to be right, businesswise. It probably has something to do with the fact that the CEO of Floww, Marc Schechtl, doesn’t have a background in quackery (he was a tax-consultant) and together with his brother, Daniël Schechtl (whom I suspect to have studied something like commerce) seems to know quite well how to set up a business. That it happened to become a business based on pseudoscientific bullshit, might just be a coincidence.
They also got some help from a government organisation, Syntens (now integrated with The Trade Register), which was founded to help business start ups. Floww even managed to be one of the last remaining candidates in a business competition sponsored by Shell (LiveWire Award). I have had contact with one of the Syntens consultants and asked how they were looking back at helping a business which sells products which cannot work. He told me that eventually the market would decide if there would be a place for the products. In other words, they didn’t feel any responsibility to protect customers who are now being told that Floww did very well in this business competition. Or perhaps more likely, the organisation didn’t have any procedures for taking actions when something like this happens and the man I spoke to didn’t want to tell his manager he might have caused ‘a slight problem’.
I will follow up on this story if I get any news from the research by prof. Van Wersch. Or when the inventors happen to get a Nobel Prize in physics for proving all current scientific knowledge on electromagnetic fields wrong,of course 😉
Recently Floww has put some news on their website about the results of the research by prof. Van Wersch mentioned above. When you read this carefully, you’ll probably come to the same conclusion as I did. Most likely nothing came from this double blind study that could be presentend as positive evidence for the Floww products. ‘Confounding variables blurred the results’ as Van Wersch explains:
They received Floww products, whether or not working, but at the same time they started to change their dietary and drinking habits, as if participating in the study was a go-ahead for a great physical purge. They started doing sports, picked up yoga, mindfulness, rebirthing… anything in order to feel better. In both groups participants started doing so much that it was hardly visible what impact Floww actually had. This does show how desperate these people are.
Update 14 November 2016
Floww was declared bankrupt on November 8th 2016. Most likely the demise of the company was inevitable after consumer protection programme Radar in September showed that the claims of the company could be easily debunked by experts and director Marc Schectl failed to defend adequately against their arguments on national television.
Update 2 October 2018
The company made a restart in November 2017, it is still selling the same stuff on their website. According to the Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij Schechtl was able to buy back the Floww products from the curator against their value as scrap metal …