emf-info

Health – Electrohypersensitivity and behaviour

Nature has not provided human being with any sensory organs to directly perceive weak electrical, magnetic or electromagnetic fields (Electromagnetic Fields - EMF). Nevertheless, time and time again, persons report that they are particularly susceptible to such fields.

Electrosensitivity and Electrosensibility 

It is often distinguished between electrosensitivity and electrosensibility. Electrosensible persons perceive weak electromagnetic fields without necessarily developing health symptoms. The perception involves solely low frequency fields (mains current) and is based on a fine alignment of the downy hair in the electrical field. Electrosensitive persons directly link their health problems to electromagnetic fields. As a result they are therefore also known as electromagnetic hypersensitive (EHS).*

The following symptoms are most commonly mentioned by EHS patients: 

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Concentration difficulties 
  • Dizziness
  • Skin irritations

The impairments described are very unspecific and cannot be associated to any standard symptoms. Electrohypersensitive persons Attribute them to low frequency fields, e.g. high tension power lines, and high frequency fields, e.g. mobile telephones or base stations. As there is no objective diagnosis, electrosensitivity is a subjective causal attribution of the affected person.

 

*There is still no single terminology for this in science. The World Health Organisation uses the general term “idiopathic environmental intolerance”. The term idiopathic is made up from the Greek words idios = one’s own and Pathos = suffering and means an illness without tangible causes.

Behaviour

In recent years, it was also investigated whether behavioural problems in children were associated with maternal mobile phone use during pregnancy. The current study findings are inconclusive. Some research revealed an association, other did not. The authors of the studies point out that limitations in their protocols may have shifted the results in either direction. Nevertheless, there is some weak evidence for a potential association between behavorial disorders in children an prenatal cell-phone use. A final conclusion, however, is not yet warranted.

Causes

The influence of EMF on electrohypersensitive persons has been investigated under controlled laboratory conditions as well as in the working place and at home in many studies. Most studies show that the persons concerned are not able to recognise EMFs, indeed they do not react more sensibly to EMFs than the rest of the population. On the whole no direct connection between EMFs and health complaints could be proved. 

Today it is assumed that the complaints from which EHS persons suffer are caused by or influenced by various factors including:

  • Stress and workload
  • Fears of a possible impact on health
  • Difficult private circumstances
  • Negative environmental influences such as noise, indoor air or flickering light
  • Illnesses from which the persons concerned are suffering.

Another open question concerns the causal mechanisms for the observed behavioural disorders in children. It remains unclear whether these problems, if the association with mobile phone use is real, are caused by the RF exposure or by behavioural differences between mothers with and without frequent phone use.

Conclusions

Electrohypersensitivity is characterised by a multitude of unspecific symptoms which differ from person to person. Although the health complaints are real and patients suffer from them, there is no scientific evidence, despite the patients’ assumptions, that electromagnetic fields cause the suffering. The ailments experienced require a fundamental medical investigation of the symptoms as well as a broad clarification of the possible causes in the working place and in the home.

Selected literature (overviews)

Baliatsas, C., Van Kamp, I., Lebret, E., Rubin, G.J. (2012). Idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF): a systematic review of identifying criteria. BMC Public Health, 12, 643-666.

Dürrenberger, G., Leuchtmann, P., Röösli, M., Siegrist, M., Sütterlin, B. (2015). Fachliteratur-Monitoring "EMF von Strom-Technologien". BFE, Bern. Publication 291030, section 3.3.5.

Dürrenberger, G., Hillert, L., Kandel, S., Oftedal, G., Rubin, G.J., van Rongen, E., Vogel, E. (2011) Intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF) or 'electromagnetic hypersensitivity', COST BM0704 Factsheet (118 KB). 

Health Council of the Netherlands: Electromagnetic Fields Committee (2009). Electromagnetic Fields. The Hague, Health Council of the Netherlands.

Independent Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation (AGNIR) (2012). Health effects from radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.  U.K. Health Protection Agency, Oxfordshire. Chapter 6, 232-256.

Röösli, M., Hug, K. (2011). Wireless communication fields and non-specific symptoms of ill health: a literature revew. Wien Med Wochenschr 161/9-10, 240-250.

Röösli, M., Mohler, E., Frei, P. (2010). Sense and sensibility in the context of radiofrequency elecromagnetic field exposure. C. R. Physique, 11, 576-584.

Rubin, G.J., Hillert L., Nieto-Hernandez R., van Rongen E., Oftedal G. (2011). Do people with Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields display physiological effects when exposed to electromagnetic fields? A systematic review of provocation studies. Bioelectromagnetics,  Article first published online: 18 JUL 2011, DOI: 10.1002/bem.20690

SCENIHR (Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks) (2015). Opinion on Potential Health Effects of Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMF). European Commission, Brussels. Sections 3.6.3 and 3.8.3.1.

WHO - World Health Organization. (2005). Electromagnetic fields and public health - Electromagnetic hypersensitivity. WHO fact sheet 296. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs296/en/index.html

Research Projects by FSM about Electrohypersensitivity and behaviour

Analyse des Einflusses von HF und NF-EMF auf Signalpfade zwischen Genen und Krankheiten

Prof. Dr. Meike Mevissen, Prof. Dr. Christopher Portier
Universität Bern, Abteilung Veterinär- Pharmakologie & Toxikologie

Basic research (Closed)

Das Projekt identifiziert mittels statistischer Analysen bestehender Studien diejenigen Gene, die durch elektromagnetische Felder (Hoch- und Nieder¬frequenz) modifiziert werden und berechnet Korrelationen zu den dazugehörigen Signalwegen mit Krankheiten.

Publication/s:
Parham, F.,  Portier, C.J., Chang, X., Mevissen, M. (2016). The Use of signal-Transduction and Metabolic Pathways to Predict human Disease Targets from electric and Magnetic Fields Using in vitro Data in human cell lines. Frontiers in Public Health, 4, article 193. Download  Peer reviewed

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Umweltmedizinische Beratungsstruktur im Praxisalltag: Machbarkeit, Bedarf und Nutzen

Prof. Dr. Martin Röösli, Dr. Anke Huss
Universität Basel, Swiss TPH

Basic research (Closed)

Das Projekt klärt den Bedarf für eine umweltmedizinische Beratungsstruktur in der Schweiz ab. Der Fokus liegt auf Abklärungen des Beratungsbedarf , der Anliegen und des Erfolg von Beratungsangeboten im Zusammenhang mit elektromagnetischen Feldern.

Publication/s:
Röösli, M., Frei, P., Bolliger-Salzmann, H., Barth J., Hlavica, M., Huss, A. (2011a). Umweltmedizinisches Beratungsnetzwerk von Hausärzten: ein Schweizer Pilotprojekt. In: Umweltmedizin in Forschung und Praxis, 16, 3, 123-132. Download

Röösli, M., Frei, P., Bolliger-Salzmann, H., Barth, J., Hlavica, M., Huss, A. (2011b). Erkenntnisse aus der Pilotphase des umweltmedizinischen Beratungsnetzwerkes. Oekoskop 2/11, 16-18.

Röösli, M., Frei, P., Bolliger-Salzmann, H., Barth, J., Hlavica, M., Huss, A. (2011c). Umweltmedizinische Beratungsstruktur im Praxisalltag: Machbarkeit, Bedarf und Nutzen. Begleitstudie. Swiss TPH, Basel. Download

Röösli, M., Frei, P., Bolliger-Salzmann, H., Barth J., Hlavica, M., Huss, A. (2011a). Umweltmedizinisches Beratungsnetzwerk von Hausärzten: ein Schweizer Pilotprojekt. In: Umweltmedizin in Forschung und Praxis, 16, 3, 123-132. Download  Peer reviewed

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Einfluss von UMTS Radiofrequenz Feldern auf das Wohlbefinden und kognitive Funktionen bei elektrosensiblen und nicht-elektrosensiblen Personen

PD Dr. Peter Achermann, Prof. Dr. Niels Kuster, Prof. Dr. Martin Röösli
Universität Zürich, Institut für Pharmakologie und Toxikologie

Basic research (Closed)

TNO Anschlussstudie Ziel des Projektes ist die Replikation der TNO-Studie, in welcher der Einfluss von Mobilfunkstrahlung auf das Wohlbefinden und kognitive Funktionen bei Menschen mit und ohne subjektive Elektrosensibilität untersucht wurde.

Publication/s:
Regel, S.J., Negovetic, S., Röösli, M., Berdiñas, V., Schuderer, J., Huss, A., Lott, U., Kuster, N., Achermann, P. (2006) UMTS base station-like exposure, well being and cognitive performance, in: EHP 2006, 114, 1270-1275.  Peer reviewed

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Machbarkeits-Studie zu epidemiologischen Studien über mögliche Gesundheitseffekte durch Basisstationen

Dr. Georg Neubauer, Prof. Dr. Leeka Kheifets, Prof. Dr. Yngve Hamnerius
Austrian Research Centers GmbH - ARC

Basic research (Closed)

In diesem Projekt untersuchen führende internationale Wissenschafter der Fachgebiete Epidemiologie und Hochfrequenzdosimetrie gemeinsam die Durchführbarkeit epidemiologischer Studien über gesundheitliche Effekte infolge der Exposition gegenüber Mobilfunkbasisstationen.

Publication/s:
Röösli, M., Feychting, M., Hamnerius, Y., Kheifets, L., Kuster, N., Ruiz, I., Schüz, J., Wiart, J., Neubauer, G. (2006a) Feasibility of future epidemiological studies on possible health effects of mobile phone base stations. Joint Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) and the International Society for Exposure Assessment (ISEA), September 2-6, 2006, Paris, in: Epidemiology, 17, 6, 74.

Neubauer, G., Röösli, M., Feychting, M., Hamnerius, Y., Kheifets, L., Kuster, N., Ruiz, I., Schüz, J. and Wiart, J. (2005a) Study on the feasibility of future epidemiological studies on health effects of mobile telephone base stations: dosimetric criteria for an epidemiological base station study. Abstract submitted to WHO meeting on Base Stations Geneve 2005.

Neubauer, G., Röösli, M., Feychting, M., Hamnerius, Y., Kheifets, L., Kuster, N., Ruiz, I., Schüz, J., Überbacher, R., Wiart, J. (2005b). Study on the feasibility of epidemiological studies on health effects of mobile telephone base stations. Final Report. March 2005, Austrian Research Center Seiberdorf, ARC-IT-0124.

Neubauer, G., Röösli, M., Feychting, M., Hamnerius, Y., Kheeifets, L., Kuster, N., Schüz J. and Wiart, J. (2004) Feasibility of future epidemiological studies on possible health effects of mobile phone base stations in: BEMS 2004 Washington DC (Abstract CD).

Neubauer, G., Feychting, M., Hamnerius, Y., Kheifets, L., Kuster, N., Ruiz, I., Schüz, J., Überbacher, R., Wiart, J., Röösli, M. (2007a). Feasibility of future epidemiological studies on possible health effects of mobile phone base stations. Bioelectromagnetics, 28, 224-230.

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