What is EHS?
As a little-understood and under-researched condition, the popularity of this new show has led many to ask “what exactly is electromagnetic hypersensitivity?”
It may seem like a strange concept to some, but actually it has been reported that up to 30% of us here in the UK are at least slightly sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by mod-cons such as smartphones and Wi-Fi routers. A small number of people (<1%) are said to be "badly affected" by these fields. Symptoms that people have reported include head pain, ear pain, sleep disturbances, lethargy, depression, skin tingling and palpitations.
According to the World Health Organisation, "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. EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure. Further, EHS is not a medical diagnosis, nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem".
In Sweden, EHS is recognised as a disability, with grants available to sufferers so that they can shield their homes from radiation. Canada and Russia have their own medical centres to treat those with EHS. However, in the UK it is not currently regarded as a medical condition.
Over here, scientific studies report conflicting evidence, with some scientists claiming that this is a very real condition and others claiming that the effects reported are psychological. Symptoms of EHS are widely reported to be the result of the 'nocebo effect'. This is a negative version of the placebo effect, and it refers to when a person experiences adverse effects unrelated to their treatment, simply because they have prior expectations that some adverse effects will occur.
This was the conclusion of the University of Essex study, led by Professor Elaine Fox in 2007.
Findings "expected by chance"
Scientists set up a shielded room and seated participants 5 metres away from a base station antenna that was hidden from view. The mast was repeatedly turned on and off at intervals.
When the signal was being emitted from the nearby antenna and subjects were told of this, those that were self-reported as electrosensitive claimed that they experienced symptoms.
However, in the double-blind tests, in which neither the subject or tester knew whether the signal was being emitted, there was no correlation between signals emitted and symptoms reported.
44 people with a self-reported history of EHS symptoms were tested against a control group of 114 who claimed they had never experienced such symptoms from masts.
Results showed that only two of the sensitive group and five of the control group judged the signals correctly, which the researchers said was “what is expected by chance”.
Was the study flawed?
This landmark study was largely believed to be the last word on electrosensitivity, leading much of the scientific community to discount the condition as being purely psychological. However, some have claimed that the study was fundamentally flawed.
In James Russell’s documentary ‘Resonance – Beings of Frequency’, EHS sufferer Brian Stein explains his experiences taking part in the Essex trial. You can read more about Brian’s lifestyle and symptoms in this article.
Referring to the trial, Brian says “Their (the researchers’) understanding of how you react to this (electromagnetic fields) is wrong. This is not a case where they turn the mast on and you are instantly affected, and they turn the mast off and you’re okay again. It doesn’t work like that”.
Brian likens the pattern of his EHS symptoms to those of hay fever. “I suffer with hay fever, and when I go into a field where there’s pollen, it takes a while before I’ll be affected. But it takes a long time before I’m not affected.
“I can be removed from the field for 24 hours, but I’ll still be feeling my hay fever. Electrical sensitivity with most people is a little bit like that.”
He explains that the effects of the trial stayed with him long after he left Essex.
A potential conflict of interest
Aside from the suggestion that the researchers had got the wrong idea about how electrosensitivity actually manifests itself in individuals, others have raised concerns about a conflict of interest in how the trial was funded.
It was financed by MTHR, which itself is funded by the UK government, and the mobile phone industry itself. Professor Dennis Henshaw of Bristol University explains in the video “there are psychological pressures to conform and please the organisation providing your funding...you feel obliged”.
Whether EHS is psychological or not, the symptoms experienced by sufferers are real. Over the last 20 years, we’ve spoken to hundreds of electrically sensitive customers here at The Healthy House, who report unpleasant and even sometimes disabling symptoms.
What are your thoughts on electrical sensitivity? Are you an EHS sufferer or do you know someone who is? Or do you believe that it is a psychological condition?
We’d like to hear from you! Leave a comment to join in the debate.