is the charity I helped to found and managed for around five years.
What is EHS?
Sometimes in the past called Electrical Oversensitivity or Electrical Hypersensitivity and abbreviated to ES or EHS, it is a fairly new phenomenon, the first cases and discussions came to public knowledge in the early seventies. It became recognised as a source of concern in Sweden where FEB, their Association for the Electrosensitive, started in 1987.
At its simplest, electrical sensitivity or electrical hypersensitivity is a chronic illness triggered by exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). They in turn are fields/waves of energy emitted by all electrical sources, power lines, electric home and office appliances, motors, wall wiring, electrical substations, transformers and radio/radar/microwave transmitters such as mobile phones and masts. A minority of the population are believed to be affected, between 3% and 7% in one survey, 13.5% in another and yet other estimates range up to 35% of the population showing some indications of electro-stress.
Those who have developed ES have a physiological disorder, characterised by neurological and idiopathic or allergic-type symptoms that noticeably reacts or intensifies near sources of EMFs. Being ES means experiencing recurring feelings of stress or illness when near an EMF source which diminish when away from it. Any noticeable, recurring ill-health that is triggered by an electromagnetic field but diminishes or disappears away from the EMF source constitutes a case of electrical sensitivity. The first signs are often experienced as a minor irritation when working with VDUs (computer monitors, surveillance monitors, television sets) as that of warmth or a burning sensation in the face, perhaps a rash, tingling sensations in the skin and eye problems.
There are degrees of EHS, just as there are degrees of all allergic reactions and the reversible form seems to be representative of a mild one, but a one-time experience should be considered a warning sign of possible chronic susceptibility. Over time, if not dealt with, EHS may become more and more life-debilitating. Some individuals are forced into desperate measures involving moving completely away from high EMF environments to very rural locations because their reactions are unbearable to sources completely undetected by the non-sensitive, just as some of us are quite unconcerned by pollen and stroll blithely through hay-fields.
From a neurological standpoint similarities have been pointed out between symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome (MCS) and EHS. They result from a breakdown in the body’s systems for dealing with stress; research suggests that EMFs can affect biological functions by their influence on the production of neurohormones and which act as a biological stressor. A British biophysicist said “Once the individual is sensitised to an agent the initial aggressor is immaterial. The biological reaction will be the same to all agents.”
- An unnatural warmth or burning sensation in the face.
- A tingling, stinging or prickling sensation in the face or other areas of the body.
- Dryness of the upper respiratory tract or eye irritation.
- Problems with concentration, dizziness and loss of memory.
- Swollen mucus membranes.
Feeling flu like symptoms of headache, muscle and joint pains.
Common Symptoms of EHS.
In general, environmental illnesses can produce nearly any symptom, depending upon the type of irritating exposure and the uniqueness of the individual exposed. One exposure, whether chemical or electrical can create symptoms of fatigue in one person and hyperactivity in another person. However symptoms are mainly skin related initially or neurological. Some individuals are ‘sensible’ to electrical sources affecting them, this means they are immediately aware of the effect of for instance someone nearby using a mobile phone. For some this is painfully so in the form of a sharp head pain similar to a migraine. Others are less sensible to a source directly but suffer from a more diffuse variety of symptoms that may also result from other predisposing triggers and the particular source can be difficult to identify.
Considered by some to be the commonest symptom of all is a powerful form of tinnitus. Not the common ringing in the ears but a sensation of buzzing/sizzling/MW hearing through the aural tract, the higher the levels of EMR are the stronger the tinnitus becomes.
Reactions may involve eye trouble, smarting irritating sensations like grit in the eye and increased sensitivity to light especially fluorescent lights, computer screens and even sunshine.
Skin problems are frequently experienced symptoms of hypersensitivity. The skin feels dry with a tendency to redness and rashes; there may be tingling sensations facially or elsewhere on the body.
Other symptoms reported affecting the face or head include swelling and stinging even with accompanying blisters, a warm or burning sensation like strong sunburn, itching of the nose and pain in the teeth and jaws. Mucous membranes are reported affected by dryness and swelling resulting in nonviral/bacterial swelling of nose, throat, ears and sinuses. Also a metallic taste in the mouth, headaches accompanied by a buzzing sound and feelings of depression.
Among the joint, muscle and limb sensations EHS sufferers endure are aches pains and numbness, weakness or prickling sensations in joints, bones and muscles in shoulders, arms and legs, feet, wrists, ankles, elbows and pelvis and cramp in arms and legs.
Feelings of abnormal tiredness, weakness, tremor, faintness and dizziness are experienced. There are ingestion and digestion disturbances including dry mouth, loss of appetite, nausea, excessive thirst, loss of taste, gagging, sickly feeling in stomach, stomach upset and bowel disturbances.
Breathing can become a problem with shallow laboured breath, breathlessness or a feeling of pressure on the chest and cardiac palpitations.
Cognitive effects are being unable to think, finding it difficult to concentrate and suffering from memory loss, the latter two are noted particularly with high mobile phone use.
Psychological symptoms include bouts of extreme rage, violence, destructiveness and irritability. Also depression, withdrawal, anxiety, hysteria and feeling insane, out of control as if the mind is being interfered with. Possible suicidal tendencies.
Other symptoms are a generalised feeling of impending influenza which never quite breaks out, back and spinal or neck problems, buzzing and ringing in the ears and exceptional sensitivity to sunlight which means staying in the dark during the day. Intermittent electric shocks from mild to strong are felt in various parts of the body.
Most EHS people suffer from resonance migraines believed to result from pulsed fields on the brain stem. Pulsed microwaves are said to have a direct effect on vulnerable persons causing brain seizures and epilepsy
Environmental effects include the interaction of the ES person with e-equipment resulting in malfunctions eg. computers to freeze, especially when in a very sensitive state.
In my time working with the charity ElectroSensitivity-UK I counselled personally between 2-300 individuals from rock guitarists like Ricky Gardiner, composer of The Passenger, performed by Iggy Pop see http://freespace.virgin.net/ricky.gardiner/ to anonymous political figures loathing the kind of ‘nutty’ label and even abuse it might attract.
For that is I am afraid, despite our best efforts, the way many commentators and of course parts of the massive industry keep it at arms length. At times it is a form of denial. The way ‘science’, or at least its public edge, is now bought and sold is breathtaking and takes you to the edge of conspiracy theorizing.
As the truth about phone hacking and political double-dealing becomes clearer with the Lord Leveson Inquiry, and Tom Watson’s ‘mafia’ accusations look a lot less wild, then maybe contemplation of ‘crony’ mutual backscratching seems logical, and maybe actual conspiring.
Look what happened with lead in the environment, thank god for a hero
or put ‘Clair Patterson-Scourge of the Lead Industry’ into google and listen to an Itunes version. I am not him but I became confrontational and very vociferous, I was pushed out of the charity most involuntarily when a millionaire trustee joined.