Why the Debate Around Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS)?


In a world saturated with unseen toxins, stressors, sleep debt and poor diets, it’s no wonder people are looking for answers to why they feel the way they do: exhaustion, headaches, memory issues and heart palpitations are more common than ever. Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) has been included in the growing list of inexplicable reactions to our modern life.

EHS is has been lumped under the pseudoscience banner by many in the medical field, claiming that there is just not enough evidence to say for certain that this is a real illness. Yet, French courts ruled in 2015 in favour of a woman who claimed to be allergic to the electromagnetic radiation from everyday gadgets such as mobile phones.

Is EHS a real illness, or merely a phobia as some claim?

What Exactly is EHS?

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity is the term used to describe a variety of physical symptoms experienced by individuals when they are exposed to electromagnetic fields. These can come from any number of sources from mobile phones, microwaves, Wi-Fi signals, cell phone towers, cordless phones, fluorescent lighting, ham radio signals and more. Some react to radio frequency fields, and some to power-frequency fields – some both.

The symptoms experienced by sufferers are incredibly wide-ranging and include:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Tinnitus
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Rashes
  • Heart palpitations
  • Joint Pain
  • Memory Loss
  • Panic attacks
  • Confusion

It is exactly this disparate list of non-specific symptoms that make a firm diagnosis problematic and has cast so much doubt on this disorder.

As we mentioned at the outset, we are bombarded daily with contaminants that affect us in ways that we can’t imagine. Pollutants from our food, water, air and environment impact both our physical and psychological health, so it’s no wonder doctors find it difficult to unravel the ball of string and get to the root of an ailment.

Is it really so incredulous, though, to believe that electromagnetic fields can’t affect us in any way? The symptoms felt by EHS sufferers (electro-sensitive) are real and have a substantial impact on their lives. Challengers of EHS quote the “nocebo effect” in which people feel sick because they think they have been exposed to something that sickens them. In other words, “It’s all in your head!”

The Impact of Electromagnetic Fields on the Body

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. And just because there is no “evidence of any harm” to support a case, does not mean to say that there is none.

Consider this:

We pop food into the microwave and watch it change as it is heated instantly from the inside out. Logically, the same happens to our bodies when exposed to microwave radiation. A BBC news item in 2004 voices concern that microwave radiation from mobile phones and masts may be harmful to health.

Ultraviolet light (a form of electromagnetic radiation) cannot be seen, but when it hits our skin, our bodies respond by producing melanin, making our skins darker.

X-rays damage cells and have been linked to cancer. Infrared radiation causes skin burns.

An article from cancer.org has this to say: “Radiofrequency (RF) radiation, which includes radio waves and microwaves, is at the low-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is a type of non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation has enough energy to move atoms in a molecule around or cause them to vibrate, but not enough to ionize (remove charged particles such as electrons). RF radiation has lower energy than some other types of non-ionizing radiation, like visible light and infrared, but it has higher energy than extremely low-frequency (ELF) radiation.

If RF radiation is absorbed in large enough amounts by materials containing water, such as food, fluids, and body tissues, it can produce heat. This can lead to burns and tissue damage. Although RF radiation does not cause cancer by damaging DNA in cells the way ionizing radiation does, there has been concern that some forms of non-ionizing radiation might have biological effects that could result in cancer in some circumstances.”

Another article from Science Daily states, “Electromagnetic fields, similar to those found in overhead power lines, can have a biological effect on human cells, an effect that could contribute to the complex cellular process that leads to cancer, research at Michigan State University shows.”

What, then, is the conclusion?

By and large, EHS has been pushed aside as a legitimate disorder. The upshot of this is that commercial entities are protected from taking any responsibility for harm, or from even accepting that any of their products may be damaging the human body. And EHS sufferers continue to be treated with a raised eyebrow and an aspirin by disbelieving doctors.

Dr. Steven Gunn
Author: Dr. Steven Gunn

Dr Steven Gunn (MB.ChB.BSc.CVIT.) Integrative Medicine Physician and General Practitioner at LifeXMed Clinic in Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa. He has studied in South Africa, the UK, Germany and Latvia EU and practiced Emergency Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery in London and the UK . He holds a BSc Science Degree in Clinical Psychology and Microbiology and a MBChB Medical qualifications. Dr Gunn has a special interest in anti-ageing medicine, cancer treatment, enhancement of mental and physical performance, nutrition and innovative technology including Cancer Viro-Immunotherapy and Integrative Medicine.