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With the onset of the ‘digital age’, a growing number of people across the globe are claiming to experience unpleasant and sometimes severe effects as a result of exposure to electrical and magnetic fields. This condition is referred to as 'electrical sensitivity' (ES), also known as 'electromagnetic hypersensitivity' (EHS) or 'electrosensitivity'.
Most household appliances emit low-frequency electromagnetic fields, such as TVs, hairdryers and mains-powered alarm clocks. These emit a lower frequency, less powerful radiation than the higher frequencies that are emitted by mobile phones and Wi-Fi, but some people who are electrically sensitive still may be affected by them.
Read more on 'Is Radio-Frequency Radiation Safe?'
Symptoms that have been reported include:
The condition is, unfortunately, thought to get worse over time.
ES-UK is a charity for people sensitised by electromagnetic fields and radiation. With a team of medical and scientific advisors, the charity works to raise awareness of electrical sensitivity amongst the general population and the medical profession.
According to the charity, up to 30% of people are slightly sensitive to EMFs. 1% of people are thought to be severely affected and 3-8% of people moderately sensitive.
In the UK, the condition is not yet widely recognised by the medical community. However, some other countries do recognise electrical sensitivity as a medical condition. For example, Sweden treats it as a disability, offering grants to electrically sensitive people so that they can shield their homes. Employers accommodate the needs of electrically sensitive staff, and public transport systems offer mobile phone-free carriages. In Canada and Russia you can find medical centres specialising in the treatment of electrical sensitivity.
The EESC, an advisory body of the EU, advocates ‘white zones’ (public areas and housing free from man-made electromagnetic radiation). The UK has yet to adopt these.
Could you be electrically sensitive?
If you feel that you experience symptoms as a result of exposure to electrical and magnetic fields, you don’t need to suffer in silence.
Despite the fact that this condition is not well understood in this country, there is support available and there are relatively straightforward measures that can be taken to reduce your exposure, and therefore your symptoms.
ES-UK.info provides a great deal of information, news, resources, social events and peer-reviewed research on the topic. Powerwatch.org is also a valuable resource for those looking to learn more about EMFs and for advice on reducing exposure.
Some electrically sensitive people are also sensitive to ELF (extremely low frequency) radiation, which is produced by power lines and many domestic appliances. If you believe that these fields are affecting you, a professional EMF meter will provide an accurate measurement of both electric (0-1999 volts/metre) and magnetic (0-19.99 microtesla) fields generated from ELF sources.
If you think you may have electrical sensitivity, you may like to consider taking extra measures in addition to those listed above, including:
- Investing in a metal-free mattress.
- Using shielding material in key areas in your home (i.e. as a bed canopy or as a curtain lining).
- Using a Demand Switch to disconnect voltage in the fuse box – ideal for when you don’t want to be interrupted by electrical fields (i.e. at night). One is required for each ring main - please note you will need a qualified electrician to install this.
- Get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy, balanced diet to help you cope with the stresses that EMFs may be exerting on your body.
- ES-UK – a charity raising awareness of electrical sensitivity and the potential dangers of EMF radiation amongst the general public and medical profession: http://www.es-uk.info/web-links.html
- Powerwatch – an independent group researching the link between EMFs and potential health hazards: http://powerwatch.org.uk/
- Stop Smart Meters! UK – a campaign group calling for the UK’s Smart Meter programme to be halted: http://stopsmartmeters.org.uk/
- Wired Child – a charity run by a group of concerned parents, aiming to raise awareness of the potential dangers to children of exposure to wireless technologies: http://www.wiredchild.org/
- EMF Analysis – a site run by ‘safe technology advocate’ Jeromy Johnson, with tips on how to use technology safely and reduce EMF ‘pollution’ in your life: http://www.emfanalysis.com/research/
- Take Back Your Power – an award-winning documentary investigating the potential consequences of smart utility meters: http://takebackyourpower.net/
- Electromagnetic Sensitivity and Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: A Summary – written by Michael Bevington, chair of trustees at ES-UK, this book contains a vast amount of research references on the topic, details of exposure guidelines around the world, diagnostic protocols and shielding advice. It can be purchased here: http://www.es-uk.info/15-home/32-electromagnetic-sensitivity-and-electromagnetic-hypersensitivity-a-summary-by-michael-bevington-new-edition-march-2013.html
- Health & Safety Executive – advice and FAQs from HSE on non-ionising radiation: http://www.hse.gov.uk/radiation/nonionising/faqs.htm
Please note: Information on this website is not to be used as a substitute for a consultation with a medical practicioner.