Electrohypersensitivity (EHS), also called "electrosensitivity" and "electromagnetic sensitivity," is a puzzle. The names are applied to claims that symptoms including headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, problems with short-term memory, insomnia, skin rashes, tinnitus, nausea and dizziness which are believed to be caused by spending time in places where cordless phones, cell phones, or wi-fi are present. Such common symptoms can be due to any number of diseases and conditions. So far, research hasn’t established that electromagnetic fields (EMF) cause or contribute to them.
You may have read about a connection to heart problems in news reports about a recently published Canadian study. Researchers at Trent University in Ontario documented increases in heart rate or irregular heart beat in some subjects exposed to a nearby portable phone. Among those affected - 40 percent of the 25 study participants - heart rate returned to normal after the cordless phone was unplugged. This was a blinded study, meaning that the participants didn’t know if the cordless phone was plugged in or not. It was published in the October 23, 2010, issue of the European Journal of Oncology. We’ll have to see if these very preliminary findings are confirmed by future research.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the incidence of EHS is unknown and surveys to date have shown wide variations. One, of occupational medical centers, estimated the prevalence at only a few individuals per million but another, of self-help groups, yielded much higher estimates. The WHO also notes that the incidence appears to be higher in Sweden, Germany and Denmark than it is in the United Kingdom, Austria and France. EHS has made the news in Canada but hasn’t received much attention in the United States.
Andrew Weil, M.D.