What is electromagnetic hypersensitivity?

Is this condition backed up by the science?
03 October 2017



What is electromagnetic hypersensitivity and how does it affect the body?


Gareth Corbett unpicks the controversy of this condition...

Gareth - Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is the production of symptoms of all sorts that people complain of as a result of an exposure to an electromagnetic field of some kind. That could be something produced by an electricity pylon, or a wifi network at home, or your mobile phone next to your ear. People are describing things like headaches, nausea, aches and pains, all sorts of different things. Visual disturbances, taste disturbances, as a result of exposure to electromagnetic fields.

It’s a bit controversial because the symptoms are pretty nonspecific and they’re not reproducible from person to person and there’s no, unfortunately, scientific basis that’s been discovered to support the hypothesis that electromagnetic fields cause symptoms in people.

Chris - So have people done trials where you do a blind trial, where you put someone in an environment and expose them or not expose them and they don’t know who’s being exposed, you don’t know who’s being exposed and you look at the symptoms and see if there is a correspondingly good history?

Gareth - That’s right. They’ve done it in a number of different ways. One is the most basic and you put somebody in a room and they try and tell you when they think the electromagnetic field is on or not. But probably more interesting than that is the concept of a “no-cebo” study which - it’s not the nicest thing to do - but you trick the person into thinking they’re being exposed but they’re not. So you tell somebody the box sitting next to them is emitting an electromagnetic field, but it’s actually a sham and then they tell you they’ve developed symptoms. So there really is nothing scientific to support the concept of electromagnetic fields causing symptoms in people.

That said, it isn’t something to completely poo-poo about in the medical world because we do put devices into people such as pacemakers, and people do have to think about electromagnetic fields that they might be exposing themselves to if they have one of those devices in.


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