Electrical sensitivity (ES), Electromagnetic sensitivity, EMF sensitivity, Electrosensitivity, Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS), Intolerance to electromagnetic fields, Electrical Hypersensitivity, microwave sickness, radiation sickness, radio wave sickness…..there are many different terms used to describe this condition. In this article I will use the term electrical sensitivity.
What is Electrical Sensitivity?
Electrical sensitivity means different things to many different people. There is no widely accepted definition. This World Health Organization (WHO) declaration on the subject attests to this:
“EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms, which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to EMF.”
All In The Mind?
The WHO phrasing “which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to EMF” highlights the controversy surrounding this subject. On the one hand the WHO accepts that these symptoms exist, on the other it does not officially attribute them to electromagnetic field (EMF) exposures. Many doctors claim that electrical sensitivity doesn’t exist, that it’s ‘all in the mind’.
A recent French study is important because it shows that in most cases of electrical sensitivity the nocebo effect is not the cause of the first symptoms experienced by ES subjects. But it does not exclude that this effect plays a role in the persistence of symptoms – this is something that many sufferers fail to take into account.
An Adverse Symptomatology
Dr. Erica Mallery-Blythe, from the UK defines an awareness and/or adverse symptomatology in response to even extremely weak (orders of magnitude below current safety levels electromagnetic fields of multiple types (in terms of frequency/intensity and waveforms) as electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Here is a recording of a video presentation she made on this subject:
To download a summary of Dr. Mallery-Blythe’s previous presentation click here.
Professor Olle Johansson of Sweden, one of the leading scientists working in this area, defines electrical sensitivity as a functional impairment:
In Sweden, electrical hypersensitivity (EHS) is an officially recognized functional impairment, EHS people have their own handicap organization, The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive.
In Spain the High Court of Madrid recently made a ruling recognizing electrical sensitivity as grounds for total “permanent disability”.
Numerous research papers point to “increasing evidence that the ‘microwave syndrome’ or ‘electro-hypersensitivity’ (EHS) is a real disease that is caused by exposure to EMFs, especially those in the microwave range.”
Research on EMFs and Electrical Sensitivity
Research into the health effects of EMF exposure began in earnest in the late 1960s and continues to this day. There is now an enormous body of evidence attesting to the adverse health effects of EMFs, but public and even academic awareness is still very poor.
As for electrical sensitivity, clinical research to verify the physiological nature of electrical sensitivity began only in the 1990s.
A review of the research on electrical sensitivity can be found in the journal, Science of the Total Environment, Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: Fact or Fiction? by Stephen J. Genuis et al.
While there is no consensus on the origins and mechanisms of electrical sensitivity, what is clear is that electromagnetic field (EMF) exposures have a role to play in electrical sensitivity. That’s to say exposure from wireless devices and electrical appliances, from sources such as; cell phones, smart meters, cell towers, Wi-Fi, cordless phones, power lines, intermediate frequencies, and electric fields from various electronic devices.
How do I know this? There is much anecdotal evidence and there is a growing body of scientific evidence which shows this, but more importantly I have experienced the effects of EMFs first hand.
How I Know EMF Exposures are linked to Electrical Sensitivity
One day in February 2002 my cell phone rang. I raced to retrieve it from my jacket pocket to answer the call in time. I pressed the talk button and held the phone next to my ear and within seconds I started to feel light-headed and dizzy.
The next time that my cell phone rang the unpleasant feeling had turned into a searing pain on the same side of my head as I was holding the cell phone. The longer I spoke the worse my reaction became, until the pain, a “hot head”, dizziness, a feeling as though my head were being held in a vice, was so intense that it was excruciating. When I moved the cell phone away from my ear the pain went away.
I knew nothing whatsoever about EMFs at that time and yet I knew that the cell phone was causing me pain.
Over time I experienced many other unpleasant symptoms as well and I became sensitive to computers, TVs, WiFi etc.
Anecdotal Evidence As To The Existence of Electrical Sensitivity
Gunilla Ladberg has written a book about electrosensitivity in Sweden . The book traces the story of 14 people and their experiences with ES. These people, having developed electrical sensitivity, have had to flee their homes for the safety of rural areas away from electricity and cell phone towers.
For the moment the most high profile case of electrical sensitivity is that of Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and former Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). In the following video she publicly admits that she has no doubt as to the adverse health effects of wireless technology:
Alwyn Lewies in South Africa has been suffering from electrical sensitivity ever since a cell phone tower was installed near to his home over 12 years ago.
In this video a group of people recount their stories of electrical sensitivity following exposures to cell towers, smart meters, police station transmitters etc
Dafna Tachover, a former senior executive in an investment company in Manhattan was forced to leave her job and her home after becoming electrically sensitive.
In the following video Henrik Eiriksson tells us about how cell phones and cell phone towers affect him:
What Are The Symptoms of Electrical Sensitivity?
Electrical sensitivity has been associated with the following symptoms:
Ringing in the ears, tinnitus, an unexpected earache, along with difficulty in keeping your balance.
Inability to concentrate, confusion and memory loss .
This could take the form of dizziness and nausea without any discernible cause, as well as insomnia.
Coughing and throat problems, sinusitis, asthma.
Fluctuations in heart rate, chest pains, shortness of breath and fluctuating blood pressure.
Gritty and smarting eyes, deteriorating vision, the development of ‘tics’.
A change in your outlook, such as depression, anxiety, anger, and mood swings. This is what alerted Ellen Marks to her husbands problems.
Weakness and spasms in the muscles, pain in the joints.
Acne, irritation, or rashes, swelling in the face or flushes.
Bladder problems and unusual sweating.
Upset stomach, allergic reactions and flatulence.
Allergies and sensitivities to light, chemicals, smells, or noise.
Published in 2002 “Black on White – Voices and Witnesses About Electro-Hypersensitivity The Swedish Experience“, by Rigmor and John Lind, provides a compendium of some 400 Swedish electro sensitive case studies, where people have stated what caused their electrical sensitivity and what their symptoms are.
Evidence of Biological Harm from EMF’s
Unfortunately, as Dr Martin Blank says, the industry funded studies have been manipulated to make people doubt the adverse biological effects. Nevertheless significant proof exists, notably in the form of the BioIntiative Report which offers the most comprehensive review to date of the evidence of this biological harm.
See here for more studies on the adverse effects of EMFs.
What Percentage of People are affected by Electrical Sensitivity?
Its difficult to say with any certainty what the prevalence is of electrical sensitivity in the population. According to Professor Magda Havas of Trent University in Canada who studies electrical sensitivity, 3-5% of the population are believed to be electrically sensitive. Other researchers have different views. What is also open to question is the number of people suffering from the symptoms of electrical sensitivity but are unaware that EMFs have any role to play in their illness.
Another problem in estimating prevalence of electrical sensitivity in the population is the latency period, the length of time between exposure and an outbreak of symptoms. Hecht and Balzer’s analysis of over 800 scientific papers from Russian medical literature, concluded that the symptoms may take 3-5 years of exposure to emerge. Devra Davis of the Environmental Health Trust believes the latency period could be in excess of 10 years.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Electrical Sensitivity
For people like me, who are electrically sensitive, the real issue is how to diagnose and treat it. Unfortunately the medical establishment as a whole is ill equipped to deal with electrical sensitivity. With many doctors taking the view that the problems their patients are facing are psychological, rather than physiological. Fortunately there are some exceptions, one of them is Dr. Belpomme a French Oncologist who has developed a technique using a computer and a Pulsed Eco-Doppler which enables formal diagnosis of electrical sensitivity.
More recently Dr Belpomme has developed, “Reliable disease biomarkers characterizing and identifying electrohypersensitivity and multiple chemical sensitivity as two etiopathogenic aspects of a unique pathological disorder”.
Treating electrical sensitivity is complicated. There is no widely accepted protocol for treatment. What is clear at the present time is that the first step to recovery is to significantly reduce your exposure to EMFs. Because EMFs are invisible and difficult to detect, reducing your exposure means firstly gaining an understanding as to how these EMFs exist in the environment. Solutions involve essentially:
– avoiding EMFs, which means being able to measure them
A 2015 European research paper outlines guidelines for “the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of EMF-related health problems and illnesses”.
If you are consulting a doctor who is not knowledgeable about electrical sensitivity but is open to learning more about this subject this resource may help.
Reducing your EMF exposures is only the tip of the iceberg. What became clear to me on my own healing path is that, long term, a rounded holistic approach to EMF protection is the only approach that works. One that embraces the fact that we are multi-level subtle energy beings. Given that we function on a multi-level basis true healing will only be achieved by engaging in practices and therapies that address issues at these different levels and dimensions.
*****UPDATED December 2015.