Electro-hypersensitivity (EHS, microwave syndrome) has been known to phone operators since the beginning of the 20th century. It has manifested as a weakening of the nervous system connected to headaches, lack of energy, tiredness and anxiety. In 1970, a report from the former Soviet Union described the “microwave syndrome” of military personnel who worked with radio and radar devices with similar symptoms.
Due to the rapidly developing mobile communications and technology industry, it is not only specific occupational groups but more and more people in the general population who suffer from EHS. But what exactly is electrosensitivity? What symptoms do those who are affected experience? Is EHS recognised in medicine and science? And what can you do to relieve symptoms and to protect yourself?
Before the digital age, all life on Earth was only exposed to the natural electromagnetic environment, including the Earth’s magnetic field, solar and cosmic radiation. Life adapted to these natural EMFs. Today, on the other hand, we live in a very unnatural EMF environment. In 2008/2009, it was stated that our exposure to electrosmog was already 10 to 15 times higher than the levels emitted by the natural Earth’s magnetic field. According to Statista, the number of mobile phone connections worldwide was 3.4 million in 1993 and rose to 8,152 million by 2020. The trend is on the rise.
The history of mobile communications
The electromagnetic fields to which people are potentially exposed also emanate from countless sources and devices.
Sources for artificial high frequencies are, for instance:
- Base stations (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G technology);
- Special telecommunication systems;
- Devices such as cordless phones, laptops, tablets, Wifi, video, radio, TV, smart meters.
Sources in the low frequency range are, for instance.:
- Power lines;
- Electrical installations;
- Fluorescent lamps.
Legal limit values are intended to protect us from electrosmog
In Germany and many other countries around the world, there are binding regulations (SAR) for electromagnetic radiation. The European Union joined ICNIRP guidelines in 1999 within the framework of the EU Council recommendation. Most EU countries have followed suit. The current SAR value, which represents the maximum permissible exposure value, is two watts per kg in Europe and 1.6 watts per kg in the USA.
Are these current SAR standards safe?
Applicable SAR values can be a tool to assess whether the device used is “safe” based on the standards of the regulatory authorities. The problem is, they don’t assess the extent to which our health is affected. You can read more about this here. In addition to the warming of the tissue by unnatural EMF sources, as previously confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), numerous studies have shown athermal biological effects below the SAR values. This is why many international scientists and doctors repeatedly highlight the need to reduce unnatural EMF exposure (the 5G Appeal). Unfortunately, these warnings have so far been largely ignored.
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS)
Electrosensitivity vs. Electrosensibility
Both terms describe the particular sensitivity of some people to electromagnetic fields (EMF). Basically, you have to differentiate between electrosensibility and electrosensitivity:
- Electrosensibility addresses the immediate perception of electromagnetic fields.
- Electrosensitivity is the reaction to the effects of EMF, which can happen even without direct awareness.
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity, on the other hand, goes one step further. It doesn’t describe the perception of EMFs, but rather those affected suffering physically from the effects of EMFs.
Interview with EHS sufferers
We spoke to David Roloff, a member of the Dresden Peace Initiative (FiD), about his personal experience with EHS. In this video “Forced irradiation?”, FiD contributes fundamentally to the education on the subject of electromagnetic fields.
What are Electrosensitivity Symptoms?
A number of unspecific symptoms occur in EHS that can’t be assigned to any specific cause. The first signs are usually:
- Difficulty concentrating
If sufferers ignore early symptoms or fail to recognise the cause, sensitivity usually increases, and with it the frequency and intensity. A combination of the following symptoms often occurs:
- Sleep disorders;
- Chronic fatigue;
- Chronic pain;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Poor short term memory;
- Depression & Anxiety;
- Dizziness and nausea;
- Skin problems;
- Heart rhythm disorders;
- Visual disturbances;
- Frequent loss of consciousness.
How can you tell if you are electrosensitive?
It is usually very difficult for those affected to locate the source of their problems. Since symptoms often improve when the trigger is removed, it can be helpful to turn off devices and electrical circuits, or even remove them completely. The issue here is that neighbors’ wireless routers can also cause symptoms, even though your own sources of EMFs are turned off.
Diagnosis & Therapy for EHS
There are international efforts to develop guidelines for diagnosis and therapy. The French authority for environmental protection and occupational safety (ANSES) stated in a detailed report on electrosensitivity (March 2018) that many questions are still open, and that environmental medical advisory structures should be created. At this moment, there is still no internationally recognised verified scientific evidence linking EHS symptoms to exposure to electromagnetic fields. This makes it methodologically difficult to prove.
A detailed medical history is important in diagnosing EHS. The EUROPAEM 2016 guideline recommends recording all symptoms as well as the time and place of their occurrence in the context of EMF exposure. EMF exposure is usually determined by taking measurements at home and at work. The patient’s individual sensitivity to EMFs must also be taken into consideration when making the diagnosis.
Depending on the attending physician and their knowledge of EHS, the therapeutic approaches can also differ:
- If EHS is not seen as a disease caused by EMFs, the therapy aims to treat the symptoms and the clinical picture. This, however, does not seem to fix the problem; it only suppresses the symptoms.
- In contrast, according to the 2016 EUROPAEM guidelines on prevention, diagnosis and therapy, all sources of high EMF exposure, whether at home or at work, should be reduced or removed. This gives the body the chance to recover, as the EHS symptoms can consequently recede or even go away completely.
Studies on electromagnetic hypersensitivity
Electromagnetic fields and health hazards – interdisciplinary case studies as part of an environmental medical consulting project
In a one-year pilot project of an environmental medical advice center at Basel University in 2001, an interdisciplinary team of experts, consisting of general practitioners, psychologists and environmental experts, confirmed that at least one symptom in one third of the electro-sensitive individuals examined in the study was plausibly related to electrosmog.
This 2015 review looked at studies on various aspects of EHS and their possible health effects. It also compared case reports in schools using WiFi where symptoms of EHS developed.
According to the review, the prevalence of EHS in population-based surveys ranged from 1.5% in Sweden to 13.3% in Taiwan. The compared EMF studies produced varying results. They ranged from those with EHS who could not distinguish between an active radio frequency signal and placebo, to objectively observed changes after exposure. Students and teachers from the case reports showed symptoms in the school environment similar to those in the examined study reports.
The review concluded that it seems necessary to give EHS an international classification of diseases in order to accept them as EMF-related health problems.
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is an environmental disability that requires immediate attention
The 2019 report shows that numerous studies on exposure to non-ionising radiation (NIS) show that the effects intensifie well below the maximum limits set in international guidelines:
- mental illness and psychological stress increased
- impaired cognitive function
- causes neurodegenerative diseases.
“EHS is real; it is made worse by exposure to NIS, it is increasing in the population, and when it is severe, it becomes a disability. Measures to minimise exposure to NIS and create a safe environment for all to enjoy are long overdue.”
In this review published in 2020, EHS is referred to as a clinical syndrome characterised by the presence of a wide range of unspecific symptoms of several organs. The mechanisms underlying the symptoms of EHS are, according to the report, biologically plausible. Many of the mechanisms described for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) apply, with modification, to EHS. Repeated exposure leads to sensitisation and intensified reactions. Many hypersensitive patients appear to have dysfunctional detoxification systems overwhelmed by excessive oxidative stress.
- What is electrosmog and why it is so harmful to health;
- How to mitigate EMF exposure;
- Easy and effective protective measures to promote wellbeing of every member of your family.
Is electrosensitivity recognised as a disease?
The World Health Organization (WHO) on electromagnetic hypersensitivity
As early as 2011, the World Health Organization classified mobile phone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic” (class 2B of carcinogens). So it falls into the same categorisation as lead, DDT, pesticides and chloroform.
In addition, the WHO creates the international classification system for medical diagnoses (ICD-10 code). Electrosensitivity has received a code Z58 and can therefore be diagnosed by a health insurance company.
At the same time, the WHO does not describe electrohypersensitivity as a clinical picture, but as a phenomenon that can lead to symptoms not because of mobile phone radiation, but due to the unfounded fear of it.
The European Academy for Environmental Medicine (EUROPAEM) on electrosensitivity
The European Academy for Environmental Medicine (EUROPAEM), on the other hand, classifies EHS as a chronic multisystem disease in connection with environmental influences, comparable to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).
EUROPAEM describes the symptoms of EHS as real and sees them as a great restriction for those affected, which often leads to incapacity for work. According to the 2016 EUROPAEM EMF guidelines, there is clear evidence of interactions between complaints and exposure to electromagnetic fields.
The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) on electrosensitivity
The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) stated the following in its report “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity” published in 2012:
“In summary, it can be said that there is strong evidence that short-term EMF exposure has no effects on physiological parameters or the well-being of EHS people. With regard to long-term effects, only little data is available, so that no statement is given at the moment. ”According to the FOEN, EHS is “self-declared by people who, based on their own everyday experience, come to the conclusion that they react to electromagnetic fields. ”
Nevertheless, the FOEN does not rule out the possibility that long-term EMF exposure can lead to complaints in individual cases and that it is difficult to provide causal evidence for this. In principle, further long-term studies are needed.
Sweden officially recognizes EHS
Sweden is the only country in the world that has officially recognised EHS as a “physical impairment” since 2002, and offers help to those affected. EHS is therefore considered to be a functional disability here. People with this impairment have maximum legal protection. Protective measures are paid for by the state. Electrosensitive people not only have a right to support, but also a right to a workplace that is free of electrosmog. In addition, municipalities make apartments available in unpolluted areas. Those affected also have priority right to tenancy in areas with low radiation levels. Hospitals also offer radiation-free treatment rooms.
How does the US feel about EHS?
The United States has had a law protecting against discrimination based on disabilities since 1990 – the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It reads: “The Committee recognises that multiple chemical and electromagnetic sensitivities may be considered disabilities under the ADA if they impair a person’s neurological, respiratory or other functions to the point of severely affecting one or more of the person’s key activities in life. ”
The ADA also stipulates that:
- Employees must make reasonable accommodation with insured employers with disabilities;
- There are accessibility requirements for public accommodation.
Numerous initiatives and proclamations by local and regional authorities in the USA and Canada are pushing for official EHS recognition.
Further international efforts to get EHS recognised
- For those affected by EHS, there is a building in Zurich in which the use of WiFi / mobile phones is prohibited.
- WiFi was abolished in 4 Parisian libraries in 2008 after more than 40 employees suffered from health problems.
- In 2012 Austria published guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of electrosensitivity.
- Many countries such as France, Belgium, Austria or Malta take protective measures for children against radiation exposure.
Electrosensitivity recognition in court
- A French court recognised electromagnetic hypersensitivity as a severe disability and awarded the affected Marine Richard financial aid.
- The Madrid Supreme Court recognised a telecommunications engineer’s permanent incapacity for work due to electrosensitivity.
- An Italian court has recognised hearing damage caused by a brain tumor as an occupational disease. The tumor was triggered by frequent professional calls on the cell phone. The injured party was granted a lifelong pension.
- A French court recognised a research technician’s electromagnetic wave intolerance as a work-related illness.
- A French court also ordered the removal of smart meters for medical reasons after homeowners raised health complaints.
Protective measures electrosensitive people
It is clear that more and more people are reacting sensitively to electromagnetic fields and that their quality of life is often reduced,or even severely impaired. The following protective measures are needed:
- Further research on risks from electrosmog;
- More Development of diagnostic tests for EHS;
- Lower the legally stipulated limit values;
- Reduce radiation sources in general;
- Use more wired connections instead of wireless networks;
- Set up public protective shelters.
Tips for using your mobile phone that are easy to do
- If possible, don’t use the phone if the reception is poor.
- Be brief.
- Send a text message instead of making a phone call.
- If you can choose between a mobile phone and landline, use the landline.
- Make phone calls in the car as little as possible.
- Use headsets or hands-free kits.
- Opt in for low SAR values when buying a mobile phone.
- Avoid wearing the mobile phone close to your body if possible.
- Turn off your cell phone and WiFi when you are not using it.
Association for electrosensitive and mobile phone victims
- to seek advice on further protective measures;
- to come into contact with those affected and to exchange ideas;
- or to actively participate in the association.
In 2008, the Swiss association founded the “Environmental Medical Advisory Network” project, with the intention to help people who suspect electrosmog to be the cause of their physical complaints.
Their goal is to enable primary care providers to:
- be able to identify and clarify related symptoms;
- if necessary, call in the help of specialists;
- offer possible measures can be embedded in the holistic treatment concept of the family doctor.
A back office should also provide the treating doctors with the following:
- Provide basic information;
- Provide environmental technical support;
- Mediate home examinations;
- Carry out in-depth examinations upon assignment.
More protection against electrosmog with Waveguard products
Getting protected against electrosmog is not always possible. We are exposed to numerous sources of mobile phone radiation and WiFi hotspots while on the move. This is especially relevant to people with EHS, as it can make a normal life almost impossible. Also, there are a lot of products out there that just don’t work. This means that your best choice is a product backed by high quality research.
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Did you like this article? Follow the latest news on the subject of electrosmog in our Waveguard blog.
- Doctors for environmental protection: Electrosensitivity from the point of view of doctors for environmental protection. Basel 2020. http://www.aefu.ch/themen/elektrosmog/
- Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN): Electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Basel 2012. https://www.bafu.admin.ch/bafu/de/home/themen/elektrosmog/publikationen-studien/publikationen/elektromagnetische-hypersensibilitaet.html
- EMF: data: electrical hypersensitivity (EHS) is an environmental disability that requires immediate attention.Canada 2019. https://www.emfdata.org/de/studien/detail?id=524
- EMF: data: electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS, microwave syndrome) – review of the mechanisms. Israel 2020. https://www.emfdata.org/de/studien/detail&id=563
- Bright spot of communication: A device changes the world. Ostfildern 2020. https://www.informationszentrum-mobilfunk.de/artikel/ein-geraet-veraendert-die-welt
- at GmbH: Elektrohypersensibilität. Wien 2016. https://www.netdoktor.at/krankheit/elektrohypersensitivitaet-6893494
- ProSieben, Galileo: Electrosensitive: What’s behind this disease? Unterföhring 2018. https://www.prosieben.de/tv/galileo/videos/2018135-elektro-sensible-was-steckt-hinter-dieser-krankheit-clip
- Statista GmbH: Number of mobile phone connections worldwide from 1993 to 2020. Hamburg 2020. https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/2995/umfrage/entwicklung-der-weltweiten-mobilfunkteilnehmer-seit-1993/
- Association for Electrosensitive and Mobile Phone Disabled People: Who are we? München 2021. https://www.elektrosensibel-muenchen.de/wer-sind-wir.html
- World Health Organization (WHO): Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. Geneva 2005. https://www.who.int/teams/environment-climate-change-and-health/radiation-and-health/electromagnetic-fields-and-public-health–electromagnetic-hypersensitivity
- What is electrosmog and why it is so harmful to health;
- How to mitigate EMF exposure;
- Easy and effective protective measures to promote wellbeing of every member of your family.