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Electrical Hypersensitivity (EHS): The Truth!


Electrical Hypersensitivity (EHS): The Truth!

by Monty Henry on Sunday, July 28, 2013 at 11:22am

"Electromagnetic (EMF) pollution may be the most significant form of pollution human activity has produced in this century, all the more dangerous because it is invisible and insensible."

Andrew Weil, M.D.,

The reported symptoms of EHS include headache, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin symptoms like prickling, burning sensations and rashes, pain and ache in muscles and many other health problems. Whatever their cause, EHS symptoms are a real and sometimes a disabling problem for the affected persons.

Recently numerous reports of people in Europe as a whole and in the USA have reported general and severe symptoms such as tinnitus, dizziness, memory deficits, irregular heart beat, and whole-body skin symptoms.

Those reporting electromagnetic hypersensitivity will usually describe different levels of susceptibility to electric fields, magnetic fields and various frequencies of electromagnetic waves (including fluorescent and low-energy lights, and microwaves from mobile, cordless/portable phones), and Wifi.

A minority of people who report electromagnetic hypersensitivity claim to be severely affected by it. For instance, one survey has estimated that approximately 10% of electromagnetic hypersensitivity sufferers in Sweden were on sick leave or have taken early retirement or a disability pension, compared to 5% of the general population, while a second survey has reported that of 3046 people who experienced 'annoyance' from electrical equipment, 340 (11%) reported 'much' annoyance. For those who report being severely affected, their symptoms can have a significant impact on their quality of life; with sufferers reporting physical, mental and social impairment and psychological distress.

Electrical Hypersensitivity (EHS): The Truth!

The prevalence of claimed electromagnetic hypersensitivity has been estimated as being between a few cases per million to 5% of the population depending on the location and definition of the condition.

Following a study conducted in 2005 and another conducted May 13, 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that:

Cell Phone Radiation Is "Possibly Carcinogenic", category 2B, similar to chemicals like the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust. Also, "EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms that differ from individual to individual. The symptoms are certainly real and can vary widely in their severity. Whatever its cause, EHS can be a disabling problem for the affected individual."


Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is not currently an accepted diagnosis. At present there are no accepted research criteria other than 'self-reported symptoms', and for clinicians there is no case definition or clinical practice guideline. There is no specific test that can identify sufferers, as symptoms other than skin disorders tend to be subjective or non-specific.

Possible Treatment And Symptom Alleviation

Electrical Hypersensitivity: The Truth!

For individuals reporting electromagnetic hypersensitivity with long lasting symptoms and severe handicaps, treatment therapy should be directed principally at reducing symptoms and functional handicaps. This should be done in close co-operation with a qualified medical specialist to address the symptoms.

Those who feel they are sensitive to electromagnetic fields generally try to reduce their exposure to electromagnetic sources as much as is practical. Complete avoidance of electromagnetic fields presents major practical difficulties in modern society. Methods often employed by sufferers include: avoiding sources of exposure; disconnecting or removing electrical devices; shielding or screening of self or residence; medication; and complementary and alternative therapy.

Electrical Hypersensitivity: The Truth!

The UK Health Protection Agency reviewed treatments for electromagnetic hypersensitivity, and success was reported with "neutralizing chemical dilution, antioxidant treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acupuncture and Shiatsu".

Some Americans with the condition have moved to the United States National Radio Quiet Zone where wireless is restricted.


In 2004 the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a workshop on electromagnetic hypersensitivity. The aim of the conference was to review the current state of knowledge and opinions of the conference participants and propose ways forward on this issue. The meeting was conducted by the WHO International EMF Project as part of the scientific review process to determine biological and health effects from exposure to EMF. The purpose of these workshops is to bring together expert scientists so that established health effects and gaps in knowledge requiring further research can be identified. EHS has been a particularly contentious issue for a number of years.

Electromagnetic And Radiofrequency Fields Effect on Human Health

For over 50 years, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine ( AAEM ) has been studying and treating the effects of the environment on human health. In the last 20 years, our physicians began seeing patients who reported that electric power lines, televisions and other electrical devices caused a wide variety of symptoms. By the mid 1990's, it became clear that patients were adversely affected by electromagnetic fields and becoming more electrically sensitive.

In the last five years with the advent of wireless devices, there has been a massive increase in radiofrequency (RF) exposure from wireless devices as well as reports of hypersensitivity and diseases related to electromagnetic field and RF exposure. Multiple studies correlate RF exposure with diseases such as cancer, neurological disease, reproductive disorders, immune dysfunction, and electromagnetic hypersensitivity. 


The electromagnetic wave spectrum is divided into ionizing radiation such as ultraviolet and X-rays and non-ionizing radiation such as radiofrequency (RF), which includes WiFi, cell phones, and Smart Meter wireless communication. It has long been recognized that ionizing radiation can have a negative impact on health. However, the effects of non-ionizing radiation on human health recently have been seen. Discussions and research of non-ionizing radiation effects centers around thermal and non-thermal effects. According to the FCC and other regulatory agencies, only thermal effects are relevant regarding health implications and consequently, exposure limits are based on thermal effects only. 

While it was practical to regulate thermal bioeffects, it was also stated that non-thermal effects are not well understood and no conclusive scientific evidence points to non-thermal based negative health effects.1 Further arguments are made with respect to RF exposure from WiFi, cell towers and smart meters that due to distance, exposure to these wavelengths are negligible. However, many in vitro, in vivo and epidemiological studies demonstrate that significant harmful biological effects occur from non-thermal RF exposure and satisfy Hill's criteria of causality. Genetic damage, reproductive defects, cancer, neurological degeneration and nervous system dysfunction, immune system dysfunction, cognitive effects, protein and peptide damage, kidney damage, and developmental effects have all been reported in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. 

Genotoxic effects from RF exposure, including studies of non-thermal levels of exposure, consistently and specifically show chromosomal instability, altered gene expression, gene mutations, DNA fragmentation and DNA structural breaks. A statistically significant dose response effect was demonstrated by Maschevich et al., who reported a linear increase in aneuploidy as a function of the Specific Absorption Rate(SAR) of RF exposure. Genotoxic effects are documented to occur in neurons, blood lymphocytes, sperm, red blood cells, epithelial cells, hematopoietic tissue, lung cells and bone marrow. Adverse developmental effects due to non-thermal RF exposure have been shown with decreased litter size in mice from RF exposure well below safety standards. The World Health Organization has classified RF emissions as a group 2 B carcinogen. Cellular telephone use in rural areas was also shown to be associated with an increased risk for malignant brain tumors. 

The fact that RF exposure causes neurological damage has been documented repeatedly. Increased blood-brain barrier permeability and oxidative damage, which are associated with brain cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, have been found. Nittby et al. demonstrated a statistically significant dose-response effect between non-thermal RF exposure and occurrence of albumin leak across the blood-brain barrier. Changes associated with degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) have been reported. Other neurological and cognitive disorders such as headaches, dizziness, tremors, decreased memory and attention, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, decreased reaction times, sleep disturbances and visual disruption have been reported to be statistically significant in multiple epidemiological studies with RF exposure occurring non-locally. 

Nephrotoxic effects from RF exposure also have been reported. A dose response effect was observed by Ingole and Ghosh in which RF exposure resulted in mild to extensive degenerative changes in chick embryo kidneys based on duration of RF exposure. RF emissions have also been shown to cause isomeric changes in amino acids that can result in nephrotoxicity as well as hepatotoxicity. 

Electromagnetic field (EMF) hypersensitivity has been documented in controlled and double blind studies with exposure to various EMF frequencies. Rea et al. demonstrated that under double blind placebo controlled conditions, 100% of subjects showed reproducible reactions to that frequency to which they were most sensitive. Pulsed electromagnetic frequencies were shown to consistently provoke neurological symptoms in a blinded subject while exposure to continuous frequencies did not. 

Although these studies clearly show causality and disprove the claim that health effects from RF exposure are uncertain, there is another mechanism that proves electromagnetic frequencies, including radiofrequencies, can negatively impact human health. Government agencies and industry set safety standards based on the narrow scope of Newtonian or "classical" physics reasoning that the effects of atoms and molecules are confined in space and time. This model supports the theory that a mechanical force acts on a physical object and thus, long-range exposure to EMF and RF cannot have an impact on health if no significant heating occurs.

However, this is an incomplete model. A quantum physics model is necessary to fully understand and appreciate how and why EMF and RF fields are harmful to humans

In quantum physics and quantum field theory, matter can behave as a particle or as a wave with wave-like properties. Matter and electromagnetic fields encompass quantum fields that fluctuate in space and time. These interactions can have long-range effects which cannot be shielded, are non-linear and by their quantum nature have uncertainty. Living systems, including the human body, interact with the magnetic vector potential component of an electromagnetic field such as the field near a toroidal coil. The magnetic vector potential is the coupling pathway between biological systems and electromagnetic fields. Once a patient's specific threshold of intensity has been exceeded, it is the frequency which triggers the patient's reactions

Long range EMF or RF forces can act over large distances setting a biological system oscillating in phase with the frequency of the electromagnetic field so it adapts with consequences to other body systems. This also may produce an electromagnetic frequency imprint into the living system that can be long lasting. Research using objective instrumentation has shown that even passive resonant circuits can imprint a frequency into water and biological systems. These quantum electrodynamic effects do exist and may explain the adverse health effects seen with EMF and RF exposure. These EMF and RF quantum field effects have not been adequately studied and are not fully understood regarding human health. 

Because of the well documented studies showing adverse effects on health and the not fully understood quantum field effect, AAEM calls for exercising precaution with regard to EMF, RF and general frequency exposure. In an era when all society relies on the benefits of electronics, we must find ideas and technologies that do not disturb bodily function. It is clear that the human body uses electricity from the chemical bond to the nerve impulse and obviously this orderly sequence can be disturbed by an individual-specific electromagnetic frequency environment. Neighbors and whole communities are already exercising precaution, demanding abstention from wireless in their homes and businesses. 

Furthermore, The AAEM Asks For:
  • An Immediate Caution On Smart Meter Installation Due To Potentially Harmful RF Exposure.
  • Accommodation For Health Considerations Regarding EMF And RF Exposure, Including Exposure To Wireless Smart Meter Technology.
  • Independent Studies To Further Understand The Health Effects From EMF And RF Exposure.
  • Recognition That Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Is A Growing Problem Worldwide.
  • Understanding And Control of This Electrical Environmental Bombardment For The Protection of Society.
  • Consideration And Independent Research Regarding The Quantum Effects of EMF And RF on Human Health.
  • Use of Safer Technology, Including For Smart Meters, Such As Hard-Wiring, Fiber Optics or Other Non-Harmful Methods of Data Transmission.

What is electrical sensitivity? Perhaps you are already familiar with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) whereby the patient develops symptoms from exposure to ordinary levels of synthetic chemicals in common use such as perfumes, pesticides, and household cleaning products. Electrical sensitivity (ES), another environmentally triggered illness, produces symptoms in the patient exposed to common levels of electromagnetic fields (EMF) from electrical sources in the environment: power lines, motors, computers, etc. ES patients often are also MCS patients.

Other at-risk groups for developing ES seem to be chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients and those experiencing mercury toxicity from dental amalgams.  Because the nervous system is a primary site impacted by both chemicals and electromagnetic fields, those with nervous system damage from toxic exposures seem more susceptible to becoming ES too. Also, overexposure to EMF can singularly bring on ES, independent of other illness. Historically, ES was known as radiowave illness or microwave sickness.

A Medline computer search under electromagnetic fields and microwaves will locate several hundred references regarding health effects from these exposures. Electrical sensitivity, now also called electromagnetic hypersensitivity, are both listed on Medline as well.

In a recent ES survey, the five most common symptoms experienced when EMF exposed were skin itch/rash/flushing/burning and/or tingling, confusion/poor concentration and/or memory loss, fatigue/weakness, headache, and chest pain/heart problems.  Skin problems and memory difficulties tied for first place among the overall symptoms. Less commonly reported symptoms included nausea, panic attacks, insomnia, seizures, ear pain/ringing in the ears, feeling a vibration, paralysis, and dizziness. Some ES patients experience only one symptom when EMF exposed, but often more than one symptom is apparent.

The importance of being aware of electrical sensitivity in the health care setting becomes clear when you realize that a patient may be suffering symptoms from electromagnetic exposures similar to the way a cardiac pacemaker may malfunction when exposed to certain EMF exposures. The typical doctor's office is a minefield of EMF exposures such as computers, fluorescent lights (particularly energy-efficient lighting), and medical tests that require exposure to electromagnetic or ultrasound sources. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been especially troublesome for some ES.

Because computer monitors can cause EMF reactions in the patient waiting area, the ES patient may check in for their appointment, then let the office know they will wait outside for the nurse to call them in. Also, fluorescent lighting may need to be turned off in the examining room, substituting an incandescent lamp or natural daylight instead. The most electrically sensitive patients have great difficulty even getting to the doctor's office, as a ride in a car can overexpose them to the motor's electromagnetic fields. They may ask in advance to meet the doctor outside at the appointment time.

Once a patient realizes that proximity to electrical sources is the triggering event that leads to their symptoms, they find EMF avoidance most helpful for reducing reactions. Unfortunately, with the advent of increasing wireless technology, such as cellular phone service and paging systems, EMF avoidance is becoming very difficult for the ES, creating more suffering and leading to life-threatening consequences for the severely ill. The chemical sensitivity equivalent of this wireless technology might be aerial pesticide sprayings, a life-threatening event for many MCS patients.

In the past, if daily computer use at work caused, for example, a skin rash and headache, a cause and effect relationship could be determined by noticing that these symptoms abated evenings and weekends and intensified at work. It would become clear that the workplace, at least, was responsible for the development of the symptoms. Whether the computer was the source could be checked by using that computer or other computers in other locations to see if symptoms would then reappear. If not, it may be a "sick building" problem in the workplace instead, due to chemical exposures.

For the newly ES, it will now be more difficult to pinpoint the cause of their symptoms if they are also reacting to the ambient EMF exposure from various wireless services. The new digital cellular is particularly troublesome for some ES; the prior analog cellular - a lower frequency - was much less of a problem.

Electrical sensitivity is more well-known in Europe than the United States, due in part to Sweden's active support group, FEB (FEB - The Swedish Association for the Electro HyperSensitive), which has about 2,000 members. Sweden has been particularly hard hit with ES, primarily related to computer use rather than MCS there. Computer-related skin problems are frequently reported by their group.

In February 1997, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine co-sponsored an international symposium called Bioelectricity which included electrical sensitivity (ES) among the topics presented.  This gathering was the fourth international conference specifically highlighting ES. Others were sponsored by the European Union (EU) in Graz, Austria (1994), and the support group Danish Association for the Electromagnetically Hypersensitive in Copenhagen, Denmark (1994 and 1995).

About FEB:

FEB was founded in Sweden in 1987 with 10 members. It has currently about 2 400 active members. The association's main task is to:

Support the injured and to create understanding for their problem. Disseminate information on the subject. Influence society to invest in research and development in order to help those already afflicted. Prevent others from becoming afflicted. Organize people who will support the associations work and goals. Publish a quarterly Swedish magazine called "Ljusglimten" (Glimpse of light).

Address To The Swedish Head Organization

Box 9098 

Fax: +46 8 712 89 48 

International Network For Electrically HyperSensitives (EHS)


Lucinda Grant
Electrical Sensitivity Network
P.O. Box 4146
Prescott, Arizona 86302 USA

Lucinda Grant is director of the national support group Electrical Sensitivity Network and author of the books The Electrical Sensitivity Handbook and Workstation Radiation.


Cellular Phone Taskforce 
PO Box 6216 
Santa Fe, NM 87502
Tel 1-505-471-0129



1. Grant, Lucinda. Treatment Survey Results. Electrical Sensitivity News, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1997, pp. 1-5.

2. National Research Council. Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: Addendum to Biological Markers in Immunotoxicology. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1992, pp. 89-108, 117-150.

3. Rea, William J., MD, FACS, et al. Electromagnetic Field Sensitivity. Journal of Bioelectricity, Vol. 10 (1 and 2), 1991, pp. 241-256.

4. Hitchcock, R. Timothy and Robert M. Patterson. Radio-Frequency and ELF Electromagnetic Energies: A Handbook for Health Professionals. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1995.

5. Bioelectricity (brochure) Dallas TX: American Environmental Health Foundation, 1997. Contact: AEHF, 8345 Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 225, Dallas TX 75231-4262.

6. Simunic, Dina, ed. Proceedings of the COST 244 meeting on Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. Graz, Austria: European Union, 1994.

7. Katajainen, Jyrki, and Bengt Knave, eds. Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. Copenhagen, Denmark: Danish Association for the Electromagnetically Hypersensitive, 1995.

Submitted by: Amy L. Dean, DO, William J. Rea, MD, Cyril W. Smith, PhD, Alvis L. Barrier, MD

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Ingole IV, Ghosh SK. Cell phone radiation and developing tissues in chick embryo - a light microscopic study of kidneys. J. Anat. Soc. India. 2006; 55(2): 19-23.

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Recommended Reading: 

* How Do I Know If I've Been Bugged?

* Prevention and Detection of Electronic Harassment and Surveillance (PDEHS)
* Targeted Individuals

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