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           Home >  Health N Environment  > Electromagnetic Radiation  :

Do adverse health trends correlate with the research into Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR)?

Chapter 10 Electrosensitivity

Sarah Benson - 21/12/09


Thirty three years ago in 1976 US military documents described typical ES symptoms from low (non-thermal) levels of microwave radiation as follows: "Personnel exposed to microwave radiation below thermal levels experience more neurological, cardiovascular and haemodynamic disturbances than do their unexposed counterparts…The most common subjective complaints were headache, fatigue, perspiring, dizziness, menstrual disorders, irritability, agitation, tension, drowsiness, sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, forgetfulness, and a lack of concentration". (US Defence Intelligence Agency, March 1976)[i]

Whilst this type of effect was not predicted by scientists it is nevertheless a commonly reported problem, with much anecdotal evidence of harm. There is a fine line between what could be termed Electrosensitivity and what is known as Microwave Sickness.

Initial reports of electromagnetic hypersensitivity in the medical literature focused on individuals who reported symptoms following work with visual display units and computers. Many other electrical devices have been reported as causing symptoms, and recent surveys of electromagnetic hypersensitivity sufferers have found that base stations, overhead power lines, and mobile phones are now the most commonly cited sources of ill health related to electromagnetism.

Symptoms listed by Electrosensitivity UK[ii]are:

Physical

Sleep problems - inability to get a "good" nights sleep, waking up, restlessness.
Tiredness - abnormal tiredness, weakness, tremor, faintness and dizziness.
Headaches - sometimes extremely severe.
Tinnitus and Earaches.
Skin - feels dry, prone to rashes. Irritation, skin tingling, crawling sensations.
Chest pains, heart arrhythmias
Warmth or burning on face, not unlike strong sunburn.
Pain in teeth and jaws.
Eyes - difficulty in seeing, smarting, irritating sensation, pain or a "gritty" feeling.
Aches, pain, numbness, prickling sensations in joints, bones and muscles in shoulders, arms, legs, feet, wrists, ankles, elbows and pelvis and cramp in arms and legs.

Cognitive

Memory - short term and long term memory impairment
Lack of concentration
Difficulty in learning new things

Emotional

Behavioural - Depression, mood changes, including anger and crying
Irritability
Stress and anxiety attacks, feeling out of control.

These are mostly as a result of exposure to mobile phones, DECT phones and mobile phone masts – but similar symptoms are also experienced as a result of exposure to high voltage powerlines, as are many of the illnesses described in this paper.

Recently a group of people in Europe and the USA reported general and severe symptoms such as sleeplessness, headache, fatigue, tinnitus, dizziness, memory deficits, irregular heart beat, and whole-body skin symptoms.

And in Glastonbury in the UK in November 2008 The Independent newspaper reported that many residents started experiencing a range of health problems such as panic attacks, skin rashes, headaches and dizziness…nausea, sudden sweating and extreme fatigue since WiFi antennas were installed in their area. Many had to move from the area to regain their health.

Dr Andrew Goldsworthy has written a report Electromagnetic Fields and Health (2009) that offers a mechanism for this condition. He says that cell membrane leakage that can cause neurological illnesses and cancers can also result in electrosentivity symptoms. Extremely weak alternating electric fields similar to those produced by WiFi, cell phones, cordless phones and base stations can act on these calcium ions and dislodge them. This weakens the membrane and makes it more inclined to leak. Very little energy is required since the calcium has to be moved only far enough from the membrane for an alternative ion (usually potassium) to sneak into its place. Since potassium (with only one positive charge) is less good than calcium (which has two charges) at holding the membrane together, it still leaks."[iii]

Those reporting electromagnetic hypersensitivity describe different levels of susceptibility to electric fields, magnetic fields and various frequencies of electromagnetic waves (including fluorescent and low-energy lights, and microwaves from mobile and cordless/portable phones), with no consistency in the severity of symptoms between sufferers. Other surveys of electromagnetic hypersensitivity sufferers have not been able to find any consistent pattern to these symptoms. Instead symptoms reflecting almost every part of the body have been attributed to electromagnetic field exposure.

Some people who report electromagnetic hypersensitivity are severely affected. For instance, one survey has estimated that approximately 10% of electromagnetic hypersensitivity sufferers in Sweden were on sick leave or have taken early retirement or a disability pension, compared to 5% of the general population. For those who report being severely affected, their symptoms can have a significant impact on their quality of life; with sufferers reporting physical, mental and social impairment and psychological distress.

In Sweden ES is now recognised by the medical authorities, and recently in Connecticut the State held an ES Awareness month.

There is a large body of anecdotal evidence of suffering from ES that is documented in organisational newsletters and on the Web.

[i] Electrosensitivity UK – Newsletter March 2009; http://www.es-uk.info/.

[ii] http://www.es-uk.info/inf

[iii] Electrosensitivity UK


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