Dr Magda Havas [Rev Environ Health 2013]
Exposure to electrosmog generated by electric,electronic, and wireless technology is accelerating to the point that a portion of the population is experiencing adverse reactions when they are exposed. The symptoms of electrohypersensitivity (EHS), best described as rapid aging syndrome, experienced by adults and children resemble symptoms experienced by radar operators in the 1940s to the 1960s and are well described in the literature. An increasingly common response includes clumping (rouleau formation) of the red blood cells, heart palpitations, pain or pressure in the chest accompanied by anxiety, and an upregulation of the sympathetic nervous system coincident with a downregulation of the parasympathetic nervous system typical of the “fight-or-flight” response. Provocation studies presented in this article demonstrate that the response to electrosmog is physiologic and not psychosomatic. Those who experience prolonged and severe EHS may develop psychologic problems as a consequence of their inability to work, their limited ability to travel in our highly technologic environment, and the social stigma that their symptoms are imagined rather than real.
Our exposure to devices using electricity and emitting extremely low-frequency and radio-frequency electro-magnetic fields has been increasing ever since Edison invented the incandescent light bulb and Tesla and Marconi discovered that radio-frequency (RF) radiation can be transmitted without wires. Radio, television, computers, cell phones, and their accompanying cell phone antennas, cordless phones, wireless routers (WiFi), wireless baby monitors, wireless games, and smart meters are increasing our exposure to RF radiation and especially to microwave radiation (300 MHz–300 GHz). As an example of the proliferation of this technology, access to WiFi was limited in 2002 but by 2012 access was virtually ubiquitous in the USA (Figure 1). We have city-wide WiFi in some communities, WiFi at work, at home, in school, universities, and hospitals, in restaurants and coffee shops, on public transit, at airports, and on an increasing number of airplanes. As a society, we seem to be insatiable for wireless technology and the connectivity it affords. Although the downside to this technology, namely, the potentially harmful effects of nonionizing radiation, has received relatively little attention in North America and remains controversial, it is an area that deserves proper research funding based on the sheer number of users and people exposed worldwide to RF electromagnetic fields. In this article, the relationship between electrosmog exposure and electrohypersensitivity (EHS), with a focus on the cardiovascular system, is presented, based on provocation studies and on reports of ill health among those living near cell phone base stations or exposed to WiFi in schools.
Just as some people have multiple chemical sensitivity orreact to pollen, mold, and certain types of food, a growing population is becoming “sensitive” to electromagnetic radiation. Khurana et al. (1) reviewed ten epidemiologic studies, three dealing with cancer and seven with neurobehavioral effects, that examined the putative effects of mobile phone base stations. All of the neurobehavioral studies reported more symptoms with proximity to base stations, and only one attributed these health effects to stress rather than RF exposure. The results from one of these studies are presented in Figure 2 (2). People who lived closest to the antennas experienced the following symptoms more often than those who lived further away: fatigue, sleep disturbance, headaches, feeling of discomfort, difficulty concentrating, depression, memory loss, visual disruptions, irritability, hearing disruptions, skin problems, cardiovascular problems, dizziness, loss of appetite, movement difficulties, and nausea. Many of these symptoms are more common as we age, thus I prefer to call this rapid aging syndrome (RAS). The difference between real aging and RAS experienced by those who are electrically hypersensitive is that when these people go into an electromagnetically clean environment, many of their symptoms diminish.