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Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: A Systematic Review of Provocation Studies


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The objectives of this study were to assess whether people who report hypersensitivity to weak electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are better at detecting EMF under blind or double-blind conditions than nonhypersensitive individuals, and to test whether they respond to the presence of EMF with increased symptom reporting. An extensive systematic search was used to identify relevant blind or double-blind provocation studies. This involved searching numerous literature databases and conference proceedings, and examining the citations of reviews and included studies. The results of relevant studies were tabulated and metaanalyses were used to compare the proportions of "hypersensitive" and control participants able to discriminate active from sham EMF exposures. Thirty-one experiments testing 725 "electromagnetically hypersensitive" participants were identified. Twenty-four of these found no evidence to support the existence of a biophysical hypersensitivity, whereas 7 reported some supporting evidence. For 2 of these 7, the same research groups subsequently tried and failed to replicate their findings. In 3 more, the positive results appear to be statistical artefacts. The final 2 studies gave mutually incompatible results. Our metaanalyses found no evidence of an improved ability to detect EMF in "hypersensitive" participants. The symptoms described by "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" sufferers can be severe and are sometimes disabling. However, it has proved difficult to show under blind conditions that exposure to EMF can trigger these symptoms. This suggests that "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" is unrelated to the presence of EMF, although more research into this phenomenon is required.
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Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: A Systematic Review of Provocation Studies
Objectives: The objectives of this study were to assess whether people who report hypersensitivity to weak electromagnetic fields
(EMFs) are better at detecting EMF under blind or double-blind conditions than nonhypersensitive individuals, and to test whether
they respond to the presence of EMF with increased symptom reporting. Methods: An extensive systematic search was used to
identify relevant blind or double-blind provocation studies. This involved searching numerous literature databases and conference
proceedings, and examining the citations of reviews and included studies. The results of relevant studies were tabulated and
metaanalyses were used to compare the proportions of “hypersensitive” and control participants able to discriminate active from
sham EMF exposures. Results: Thirty-one experiments testing 725 “electromagnetically hypersensitive” participants were
identified. Twenty-four of these found no evidence to support the existence of a biophysical hypersensitivity, whereas 7 reported
some supporting evidence. For 2 of these 7, the same research groups subsequently tried and failed to replicate their findings. In
3 more, the positive results appear to be statistical artefacts. The final 2 studies gave mutually incompatible results. Our
metaanalyses found no evidence of an improved ability to detect EMF in “hypersensitive” participants. Conclusions: The
symptoms described by “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” sufferers can be severe and are sometimes disabling. However, it has
proved difficult to show under blind conditions that exposure to EMF can trigger these symptoms. This suggests that “electro-
magnetic hypersensitivity” is unrelated to the presence of EMF, although more research into this phenomenon is required. Key
words: electromagnetic hypersensitivity, provocation studies, systematic review.
EHS electromagnetic hypersensitivity; EMF electromagnetic
field; SMD standardized mean difference; UMTS universal
mobile telecommunications system (a “third-generation” mobile
phone signal); VDU visual display unit.
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity” (EHS) is a relatively
new phenomenon in which sufferers report a range of
symptoms that are apparently triggered by the presence of
weak electromagnetic fields (EMFs) (1). These symptoms
show no cohesive pattern (2,3) but are typified by nonspecific
sensations such as sleep disturbance, headaches, fatigue, and
subjective cognitive problems (2,3). In its more severe form,
EHS can be disabling, preventing sufferers from pursuing
normal work or social lives.
The electromagnetic triggers for the symptoms reported by
EHS sufferers are diverse. Although a list of the more com-
mon would include visual display units (VDUs), mobile
phones, mobile phone base stations, fluorescent lighting, over-
head power lines, and household items such as televisions and
microwave ovens (3), not all sufferers report being sensitive to
all potential triggers and many report only 1 or 2 specific
electrical items as being problematic. The EMFs emitted by
these devices vary considerably and encompass frequencies in
the radio, microwave, kilohertz, and extremely low-frequency
ranges (3). In almost all cases, however, the intensity of the
EMFs that seem to trigger EHS symptoms is far below that
known to cause physiological changes in animal models (4,5).
The underlying causes of EHS are the subject of considerable
debate. On the one hand, it has been proposed that biophysical
factors may make a minority of people particularly sensitive to
EMF, with mechanisms involving the release of histamine by
mast cells (6) having been suggested. On the other hand, it has
also been proposed that the condition may be more psychologic
than physicochemical (7), with symptom amplification and clas-
sic conditioning being important. Clearly, the appropriate treat-
ment and management of EHS will depend on which of these
models is correct. The best way to determine this is to examine
the results of blind and double-blind experimental provocation
studies. These experiments typically expose volunteers with self-
reported EHS to 2 conditions, an active condition in which weak
EMFs are presented and an inactive condition in which they are
not. Two outcomes can then be examined: the participant’s
ability to correctly discriminate active from inactive (their “elec-
tromagnetic sensibility”) and the participant’s tendency to expe-
rience more symptoms in the active condition (their “electromag-
netic hypersensitivity”) (8). Although electromagnetic sensibility
may be a necessary precondition for EHS, it is certainly not
sufficient as there is evidence that healthy individuals can display
heightened sensibility without necessarily experiencing symp-
toms as a result (8).
Two previous reviews have looked at provocation studies
for EHS in some detail. In 1997, a report for the European
Commission (1) described the results of 13 such experiments
and concluded that, although “‘electromagnetic hypersensi-
tive’ people do react in these provocation studies, [. . . ]these
reactions have not been shown to be related to the fields.”
More recently, a systematic review considered the results of 8
experimental studies published in peer-reviewed journals be-
fore coming to a similar conclusion (9).
The systematic review reported here attempted to identify
all blind or double-blind provocation studies for EHS that
could help to answer the following questions: are people who
are apparently hypersensitive to weak EMFs better at detect-
ing these fields under blind or double-blind conditions than
nonhypersensitive individuals, and do they respond to the
presence of weak EMFs with increased symptom reporting?
Search Strategy for the Identification of Studies
The following electronic databases were searched for potentially relevant
studies: AMED, ASSIA, Cinahl, the Cochrane Collaboration Library, Em-
From the Mobile Phones Research Unit, Division of Psychological Medi-
cine, Institute of Psychiatry and Guy’s, King’s and St. Thomas’ School of
Medicine, King’s College London, UK.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Gideon James Rubin, BSc,
MSc, PhD, Mobile Phones Research Unit, New Medical School Building,
Bessemer Road, London SE5 9PJ, UK. E-mail:
Received for publication May 10, 2004; revision received September 23,
DOI: 10.1097/01.psy.0000155664.13300.64
224 Psychosomatic Medicine 67:224–232 (2005)
Copyright © 2005 by the American Psychosomatic Society
base, Index to Theses, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
EMF research database, ISI Proceedings, ISI Web of Science, Medline,
Psychinfo, and the World Health Organisation EMF research database. These
were searched from inception to January 2004 for a wide range of MeSH or
free-text key words relating to EHS, including, for example, “electrical
sensitivity,” “electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” “electro-smog,” “techno-
stress,” “screen dermatitis,” and “environmental illness.” The databases were
also searched for papers using combinations of relevant stimulus MeSH or
free-text key words (eg, “mobile phone,” “computer,” “power line”) and
hypersensitivity MeSH or free-text key words (eg, “allergy,” “hypersensitiv-
ity,” “intolerance”).
In addition, the Bioelectromagnetics Society conference proceedings for
1996 to 2003 were handsearched, as were the documents available on the
COST 281 web site. The reference sections of any pertinent studies and
reviews were also examined for additional references.
Inclusion Criteria
Only blind or double-blind experimental provocation studies were eligible
for inclusion in the review, with a provocation study defined as any experi-
ment in which the participants were systematically exposed to higher EMFs
in 1 experimental condition than in another. Because we were interested
primarily in the effects of ambient EMF, studies in which an electrical current
was directly applied to participants were excluded (e.g. 10).
Eligible studies were required to test a discrete sample of participants who
reported symptoms associated with low-intensity manmade electromagnetic
stimuli. This attribution had to have been explicitly made by either the
participants themselves or the experimenters. So, for example, studies inves-
tigating symptomatic VDU users in which no attribution of the symptoms to
the VDU had been explicitly made (e.g. 11) were excluded, as were studies in
which participants reported symptoms that were suspected to be the result of
visual or ergonomic features of the VDU. Studies that examined the putative
effects of EMFs on healthy volunteers alone were also excluded.
Finally, only studies reporting data relating to certain outcomes were
included in the review. In particular, we were only interested in experiments
that examined outcomes that are central to the self-diagnosis of EHS, ie,
subjective symptoms, physical signs such as observer-rated skin rash and
subjective perception of whether EMF is present. Proxy measures of ill health
such as blood tests or skin biopsies are less relevant to this process of
self-diagnosis and are not covered in this article.
Data Extraction and Analysis
Details regarding the following aspects of each included study were
extracted and tabulated: sample (n, details regarding any control sample),
stimuli (type of provocation), design (number and length of provocations per
participant), sensibility results (total number of provocations correctly iden-
tified as active or inactive by participants, number of participants classified as
able to discriminate active from inactive), and hypersensitivity results (type of
self-reported symptoms or other relevant health outcomes measured, signifi-
cance level of any difference).
Metaanalyses were conducted to determine whether the proportion of
EHS participants apparently able to discriminate active from inactive condi-
tions was greater than the corresponding proportion of control participants.
Review Process
The literature searches, assessments of inclusion, and data extraction were
conducted by Gideon James Rubin with uncertainties resolved through con-
sultation with the 2 coauthors. Where uncertainty existed as to whether 2
papers reported data from the same experiment, clarification was sought from
the authors of the original papers.
Search Results
In total, approximately 8600 titles or abstracts were exam-
ined from which 497 papers were selected as potentially
relevant to the review and examined in full. Of these, 372
were excluded because they were review papers, editorials,
duplicate publications, or did not include a sample of people
whose symptoms were explicitly attributed to EMF. A further
83 did not describe provocation studies, and 13 reported
unblinded provocations.
Details relating to 31 individual provocation experiments
involving 725 EHS participants were included. Thirteen ex-
periments (213 EHS participants) used VDU-related provoca-
tions as their active exposure condition, 7 (161 EHS partici-
pants) examined mobile phone-related provocations, 10 (315
EHS participants) examined other EMF provocations for par-
ticipants with generalized EHS, and 1 (36 EHS participants)
tested an apparently healthy group of volunteers categorized
as electromagnetically hypersensitive based on a median split
for the results of a single questionnaire item.
Visual Display Unit-Related Experiments
Details regarding the 13 VDU-related experiments are
given in Table 1. Of these, 1 reported significantly worse
symptoms in the active condition than in the sham condition
for 1 of the 10 tests conducted (standardized mean difference
[SMD] 1.0, p.01) (12), although the authors suggested
that this result probably reflected a type 1 error caused by
multiple significance tests. A second study found that more
EHS participants reported a reduction in skin “tingling, prick-
ling or itching” after 2 weeks of work with an activated
electric-conductive filter fitted to their computer screen com-
pared with 2 weeks of work with a deactivated “placebo” filter
fitted (13). However, this effect was small (mean difference
0.1 on a 10-point scale), no other symptoms were affected, and
the authors were subsequently unable to replicate this finding
in a larger study with a longer exposure period (14). Of the
remaining 10 studies, none found any evidence that EHS
participants had greater sensibility than healthy controls or
experienced more symptoms in active compared with inactive
conditions (7,15–22).
Two of the 99 EHS participants (2.0%) for whom infor-
mation was available in these studies appeared to be reliably
able to discriminate EMF from sham conditions, compared
with 1 of 32 healthy controls (3.1%). This difference was not
statistically significant (chi-square 0.13, df 1, p.72).
Mobile Phone-Related Experiments
Details of the 7 studies relating to mobile phone hypersen-
sitivity are given in Table 2. One of these reported that a single
participant of the 7 tested could detect whether a mobile phone
hidden inside a bag was “on” or “off” 9 times out of 9 (23).
Unfortunately, this study did not include a nonsensitive con-
trol group. Moreover, in an as-yet unpublished study, the same
group previously used similar methods to test “about 70” EHS
participants 3 to 12 times each without finding any who could
reliably make this discrimination (Johansson, personal com-
munication), suggesting that the significant finding may be a
statistical artefact caused by repeated testing.
In another study, Zwamborn et al. (24) reported that expo-
sure to a universal mobile telecommunications system
225Psychosomatic Medicine 67:224–232 (2005)
TABLE 1. Provocation Studies for Visual Display Unit-Related Sensitivities
Reference Sample Active Stimulus Number and Length of
Results (all p.05 unless otherwise indicated)
Total Number of Correct
Discriminations Between
Active and Sham (number
of participants apparently
Comparison Between
Electromagnetic Field Conditions for
Self-Reported Symptoms
Comparison Between
Electromagnetic Field
Conditions for Other
Health Outcomes
Nilsen, 1982 (17) 5 EHS Exposure to a VDU Two 6-hr provocations, 1 active
and 1 inactive
Not measured None Observer-rated skin rash
Swanbeck, 1989 (18) 30 EHS Exposure to moderate
EMF VDU and low
One 3-hr provocation to each
Not measured Heat or reddening, itching, stinging,
oedema, “others”
Hamnerius, 1993 (19) 30 EHS Exposure to VDU-like
magnetic fields
Up to 8 1-hr provocations, in
pairs of active and inactive
EHS: 38/80 (0/30) Unspecified symptoms Erythema, observer-
rated skin redness
Hellbom, 1993 (22) 6 EHS Exposure to a VDU Four 30-min provocations; 2
active, 2 inactive
EHS: 8/24 (0/6) Symptoms—unspecified in
Sandstom, 1993 (20) 22 EHS Various VDU
Varying durations of exposure Not measured Skin tightness, heat, itching,
pricking, aching, other
Oftedal, 1995 (13) 19 EHS Normal office work with
an active or inactive
VDU filter
Participants worked for 2 weeks
with each filter
Not measured Heat, itching (p.03), skin
tightness, tenderness, redness,
blisters/acne, desquamation
dermatologic status
Sjoberg, 1995 (12) 7 EHS, 5 healthy controls for a
subset of provocations
Exposure to 3 different
VDU strengths
Four active and 4 inactive 1-hr
provocations for each
EHS: 99/176 (0/7);
control: not reported
“Comparison with symptoms from
(liquid crystal display) work” (p
.01); 9 other unspecified
Andersson, 1996 (21) 16 EHS Exposure to a computer
and VDU
At least 2 pairs of 30-min
provocations (1 active and 1
inactive) before and after a
period of cognitive
behavioral therapy
EHS: 41/80 (1/16) Unspecified symptoms previously
reported by the participants as
elicited by EMF
Keisu, 1996 (15) 1 EHS, 1 healthy control Exposure to a personal
Ten provocations, each
randomized to active or
EHS: 6/10 (0/1); control:
5/10 (0/1)
Not measured None
Oftedal, 1999 (14) 38 EHS Normal office work with
an active or inactive
VDU filter
Participants worked for 3
months with each filter
Not measured Heat, itching, skin tightness, skin
redness, eye stinging, eye pain,
eye redness, eye tiredness,
sensitivity to light, headaches,
dizziness, tingling, fatigue
Flodin, 2000 (16) 15 EHS, 26 healthy controls Different provocations,
most using a VDU
Two active and 2 sham
exposures of up to 1 hr each
EHS: 29/60 (1/15);
control: 30/60 (1/26)
Ten unspecified symptoms relating
to skin, mouth, airways,
abdominal sensations, mental
Lonne-Rahm, 2000a (7) 12 EHS, 12 healthy controls Exposure to a computer
and VDU, with or
without the presence
of a stressor
One 30-min provocation to
each of 4 conditions (VDU
on or off, stressors present or
EHS: 22/48 (0/12);
control: not reported
Facial skin sensations, stress level,
tiredness; no interactions were
found between stressor and EMF
Lonne-Rahm, 2000b (7) 12 EHS, 12 healthy controls Exposure to a computer
and VDU, with or
without the presence
of a stressor
One 30-min provocation to
each of 4 conditions (VDU
on or off, stressors present or
EHS: 29/52 (0/12);
control: not reported
Facial skin sensations, stress level,
tiredness; no interactions were
found between stressor and EMF
EHS electromagnetic hypersensitivity; EMF electromagnetic field; VDU visual display unit.
G. J. RUBIN et al.
226 Psychosomatic Medicine 67:224–232 (2005)
TABLE 2. Provocation Studies for Mobile Phone-Related Sensitivities
Reference Sample Active Stimulus Number and Length of
Results (all p.05 unless otherwise indicated)
Total Number of Correct
Discriminations Between
Active and Sham (number
of participants apparently
Type of Self-Reported
Symptoms Measured and
Comparison Between Active
and Inactive Conditions
Other Health Outcomes
Measured and Comparison
Between Active and Inactive
Johansson, 1995
7 EHS Mobile phone hidden
inside a bag
Participants exposed up to 9
times each; each exposure
randomized as active or
inactive; exposures lasted
for twice the time necessary
to provoke symptoms
during a nonblind
EHS: 25/37 (1/7 [p
None None
Radon, 1998
11 EHS GSM 900 signal A series of 12 trials, each
consisting of 3 2-min
exposures, 1 active and 2
EHS: 54/132 (0/11) None None
Raczek, 2000
16 EHS GSM 900 signal A series of 21 trials, each
consisting of 3 3-min
exposures, 1 active and 2
EHS: 94/336 (0/16) None None
Barth, 2000 (26) 1 EHS Mobile phone Patient exposed to 15 active
provocations and 16
inactive provocations
EHS: 13/31 (0/1) None None
Hietanen, 2002
20 EHS Analog, GSM 900 and
GSM 1800 signals
One 30-min exposure to each
EHS: not reported (0/20) Number of symptoms reported
by participants during
experiment was greater in
inactive condition (no
statistical analysis)
Johansson, 2003
70 EHS Mobile phones Between 3 and 12
provocations per
participant; exposures
lasted for twice the time
necessary to provoke
symptoms during a
nonblind provocation
EHS: not reported (0/70) Unspecified symptoms None
Zwamborn, 2003
36 EHS, 36
GSM 900, GSM 1800,
and UMTS mobile
phone base station
Each volunteer exposed to 3
45-min provocations, 1
inactive and 2 active
Not measured Anxiety (p.05) B, somatic
symptoms (p.05) B,
inadequacy (p.05) B, E,
depression, hostility (p.05)
B, C
Reaction time (p.05) A,
E, memory comparison
(p.05) D,E, selective
attention (p.05) B, E,
dual-tasking reaction time
(p.05) D, filtering
irrelevant information (p
.05) A
A, Comparison of inactive and 900 MHz for EHS group; B, comparison of inactive and 2100 MHz for EHS group; C, comparison of inactive and 900 MHz for control group; D, comparison of inactive
and 1800 MHz for control group; E, comparison of inactive and 2100 MHz for control group.
EHS electromagnetic hypersensitivity; UMTS universal mobile telecommunications system.
227Psychosomatic Medicine 67:224–232 (2005)
(UMTS) mobile phone base station signal resulted in greater
levels of anxiety, somatic symptoms, inadequacy, and hostility
for EHS participants than exposure to a sham signal (p.05).
A healthy control group was also significantly more affected
by the UMTS signal than the sham signal, experiencing an
increase in inadequacy only (p.05). These effects were
smaller in the control group (overall SMD for well-being
0.22) than in the EHS group (SMD 0.36), although the
authors of the study caution against direct comparison be-
tween the groups because of the demographic differences
observed between them. Some changes in objective cognitive
measures were also apparent for both samples as a result of
exposure to UMTS, 900-MHz and 1800-MHz signals, al-
though no consistent pattern was found in terms of which
cognitive variables were affected by which type of signal (see
Table 2). Furthermore, although some cognitive parameters
(ability to filter information, reaction time) showed significant
decrements as a result of exposure, others (memory, visual
attention, dual-tasking reaction time) showed significant im-
Of the 4 remaining blind or double-blind mobile phone-
related studies (25–28), none found any effect indicative of
biophysical hypersensitivity.
Only 1 EHS participant (0.8%) of the 125 for whom
information was available in these studies was consistently
able to discriminate active from inactive exposures. No com-
parable data were available for any control participants. Nev-
ertheless, the probability of 1 or more of 125 participants
identifying “on” from “off” 9 times out of 9, as this participant
did, but purely by chance, is p.22.
General Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity-Related
Ten studies tested individuals reporting EHS using provo-
cations with other sources of weak EMF (Table 3). One of the
earliest, by Rea et al. (29), tested 100 patients with EHS and
comorbid “biological inhalant, food and chemical sensitivi-
ties.” Of these, 16 individuals were identified who repeatedly
responded to certain EMF frequencies with symptoms but
who did not respond to inactive challenges. A control group of
healthy volunteers showed no response to either type of chal-
lenge. Although the substantive parts of this study were de-
scribed as double-blind, the authors reported that the exposure
equipment and its operator were present in the testing room
during the experiment. A subsequent attempt by this group to
replicate their findings, but this time using a screen to prevent
participants from seeing the manipulation of the exposure
equipment, did not find any evidence of biophysical hyper-
sensitivity (30).
Aside from this study, only 1 other in this category found
any significant effect of EMF (31). This crossover experiment
exposed EHS participants to 4 hours of nighttime EMF or an
inactive sham condition over the course of 4 weeks. Measure-
ments of mood during the morning revealed significantly
higher levels of pleasure (p.01) and arousal (p.05)
during the EMF condition, a finding that runs contrary to the
self-reports of EHS sufferers. The explanation for these find-
ings is still unclear, but given their unexpected direction, they
do not seem to support the hypothesis that EHS sufferers are
adversely affected by EMF. Of the remaining 7 studies, none
identified any significant effect of EMF on EHS sufferers
Six of 95 EHS participants (6.3%) and 1 of 47 control
participants (2.1%) were reliably able to discriminate active
from inactive conditions in these experiments, a nonsignifi-
cant difference in proportions (chi-square 1.18, df 1, p
Other Studies
One other study (39) was identified. This used a between-
participants design to test a group of 66 volunteers drawn from
student and military populations. Two of the 3 provocations
used are particularly relevant here: exposure to EMF and
noise, and exposure to noise only. Adjusting for performance
in a third condition in which noise and EMF were not present,
participants classified as hypersensitive were significantly
more affected by the presence of EMF than control partici-
pants in terms of their performance on visual processing and
visual attention tasks (p.05). No such effects were seen for
3 other cognitive variables or for subjective discomfort (see
Table 4). However, interpretation of these results is compli-
cated by several methodologic factors, including the catego-
rization of participants into sensitive or control groups on the
basis of responses given after testing had been completed and
the inappropriate use of 1-tailed significance tests.
Current Evidence
To date, 7 blind or double-blind provocation studies have
found some effect of EMF provocation on people who report
EHS (12,13,23,24,29,31,39). However, even the original au-
thors have been unable to replicate the results of 2 of these
(14,30), the results of 3 more seem to be statistical artefacts
reflecting the large number of significance tests conducted
(12), the large number of participants tested (23); unpublished
Johansson study), or the inappropriate use of 1-tailed signifi-
cance tests (39), and the results of the remaining 2 are mutu-
ally inconsistent, with one showing improved mood as a result
of provocation (31), while the other shows worse mood (24).
Meanwhile the cognitive effects of this last study were appar-
ent in both the control group and the hypersensitive group and
appeared to reflect both improvements and impairments in
cognition (24). Twenty-four other blind or double-blind prov-
ocation studies have found no evidence that people with
apparent EHS are especially sensible or hypersensitive to
EMF. Our metaanalyses also confirmed these findings. In
summary, we have therefore been unable to find any robust
evidence to support the existence of EHS as a biologic entity.
On the other hand, several of the experiments reviewed
also examined the effects of a nonblind exposure to the
relevant stimulus (7,22,23). All found that when the partici-
pants were aware that the EMF source was switched on, they
G. J. RUBIN et al.
228 Psychosomatic Medicine 67:224–232 (2005)
TABLE 3. Provocation Studies for Generalized Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity.
Reference Sample Active Stimulus Number and Length of
Results (all p.05 unless otherwise indicated)
Total Number of Correct
Discriminations Between
Active and Sham (number of
participants apparently
electromagnetic sensibility)
Type of Self-Reported
Symptoms Measured and
Comparison Between
Active and Inactive
Other Health
Measured and
Between Active
and Inactive
Rea, 1991
100 EHS, 25 healthy
Exposure to EMFs of varying
Three testing phases involving
repeated testing with 3-min
exposures to different
frequency EMFs and inactive
EHS: not measured; control:
not measured
Patients asked to describe
any symptoms; 16/100
EHS participants
consistently reported
symptoms in active, but
not inactive conditions,
compared with 0/25
control participants
1994 (32)
25 EHS, 13 healthy
ELF/VLF fields Multiple exposures of less than
10 min
EHS: unreported (0/25);
control: unreported (0/13)
Patient asked to report
onset of any symptoms
1995 (33)
7 EHS “Electric and/or magnetic
Unknown number of 60-min
Study abandoned; authors
reported that “several
milieu factors” may have
interfered with the study
Not reported Not reported
Wang, 1995
19 EHS, 34 healthy
Exposure to EMFs of varying
Nine 3-min provocations; 6
active, 3 inactive
Not measured Unspecified symptoms None
Bertoft, 1996
4 EHS Exposure to EMFs generated
by a dental chair and unit
Two 1-hr provocations; 1
active and 1 inactive
Not measured Neurologic,
gastrointestinal, ocular,
and dermal symptoms
1996 (35)
1 EHS Whole-body Helmholtz coil
with 2 field intensities
Twenty-four 1 or 10-s
provocations to inactive or
active conditions
EHS: unreported (0/1) Patient asked to describe
any symptoms
2000 (31)
53 EHS Exposure to intermittent or
constant EMF
Exposure to active or inactive
provocations (1 4-hr period
per night for 25 nights)
conducted while participant
was sleeping
Not measured Sleep quality, pleasure (p
.01), arousal (p.05)
2000 (36)
37 EHS, 37 healthy
50-Hz sinusoidal field Twenty 2-min exposures, half
active, half inactive
EHS: unreported (unreported);
control: unreported
(unreported); authors
report “no significant
differences in guess
probabilities of groups”
Patients asked to describe
any symptoms, but no
analyses reported
Lyskov, 2001
20 EHS, 20 healthy
Weak magnetic fields, with
or without concurrent
mathematical task
Two testing days: day 1
entirely inactive, day 2 had
4 10-min exposures to
active and inactive fields,
with or without maths task
EHS: unreported (0/20);
control: unreported (0/20)
Tactile feelings and general
fatigue more prevalent
in inactive condition (no
statistical analysis)
2003 (38)
49 EHS, 14 healthy
Low-intensity EMF Twenty 2-min provocations: 10
active and 10 inactive
EHS: unreported (6/49);
control: unreported (1/14)
None None
EHS electromagnetic hypersensitivity; EMF electromagnetic field.
229Psychosomatic Medicine 67:224–232 (2005)
reported being able to detect the EMF or experienced more
symptoms. Another study found that participants’ beliefs
about the status of a double-blind exposure significantly pre-
dicted symptom reporting regardless of whether these beliefs
were correct (21). Given that the actual presence of EMF did
not correlate with increased symptom severity in these studies,
these findings suggest that psychologic mechanisms may play
at least some role in causing or exacerbating EHS symptoms.
Review Methodology
Our results illustrate the need to conduct reviews system-
atically and without heed to the publication status, language,
or conclusions of the primary research. By doing this, we have
been able to identify a large number of studies that have gone
unreported in previous reviews. It is always possible, how-
ever, that additional provocation studies exist that we were not
able to find. Yet, given that publication bias makes studies
with significant results easier to locate, it is very unlikely that
any missing studies would alter our conclusions.
A subtler problem for this review concerns the homogene-
ity of the participants included in the original research. Al-
though some studies focused on participants with a single
complaint such as skin rashes caused by VDUs (17) or symp-
toms caused by mobile phones (28), others tested volunteers
with more generalized and typically more severe sensitivities
under the assumption that this would make any effect easier to
detect (16). In this review, we have made no distinction
between these categories. Given that there is no a priori reason
to assume that any biophysical mechanisms governing the
adverse effects of EMF will differ between these groups, we
believe we are justified in doing this. Nevertheless, arguments
might be made for assessing these groups independently.
Although poor reporting by the original studies makes subdi-
vision into these categories difficult (1), we do not believe that
doing this would alter our conclusions; the studies reviewed
provide no robust evidence for the existence of generalized
EHS, and there is currently no good evidence for the existence
of more specific sensitivities to mobile phone signals or VDU
emissions. However, as new technologies with different EMF
characteristics are developed, it is likely that new sensitivities
to them will be reported. As such, there will always be room
to argue that the latest form of EHS has yet to be fully
Research Methodology
Why have so many provocation studies failed to produce
significant findings? A number of suggestions have been put
forward. For example, it has been suggested (24,29) that only
studies conducted in specially designed chambers, which
shield against all extraneous background EMF, would be able
to produce a significant result. However, although this would
presumably reduce any “noise” in symptom reporting and
make increased symptoms easier to identify, people with EHS
do usually report being able to detect the presence of electro-
magnetic triggers in everyday life. It should therefore also be
possible for scientists to detect this sensitivity against the
TABLE 4. Other Provocation Studies
Reference Sample Active Stimulus Number and Length
of Exposures
Results (all p.05 unless otherwise indicated)
Total Number of Correct
Discriminations Between Active and
Sham (number of participants
apparently demonstrating
electromagnetic sensibility)
Type of Self-Reported
Symptoms Measured
and Comparison
Between Active and
Inactive Conditions
Other Health Outcomes
Measured and Comparison
Between Active and Inactive
36 EHS, 30 healthy
EMFs generated by a
transformer coil
Exposure to either 1
hr of EMF noise
or to 1 hr of just
Not measured Discomfort Unsuccessful visual processing,
precise visual processing (p
.05), visual attention (p
.05), visual perception,
verbal memory
EMF electromagnetic field.
G. J. RUBIN et al.
230 Psychosomatic Medicine 67:224–232 (2005)
backdrop of normal EMF levels. Moreover, many of the
studies reviewed did use techniques to reduce or control for
background EMF but were still unable to identify an effect
Other arguments sometimes heard are that the participants
in an experiment were not sensitive enough, that the wrong
symptoms were measured, that the exposure used was the
wrong kind, or that the follow up was too short. Again, none
of these seem very plausible as an explanation for all the
negative results. In particular, we note that when provocation
studies have included nonblind arms or training sessions, then
it usually has been possible to measure an increase in symp-
toms (7,22,23). Other studies have found participants to be
confident in their assertions that a particular session was
active or inactive (15,21) or have identified increases in symp-
toms that are similar to those found after exposure to real-life
triggers (18,34,37). The conclusions of the 1997 European
Commission report thus still seem to be valid: participants do
experience “realistic” symptoms in these experiments, but this
is apparently not associated with the presence of EMF (1).
More of an issue are “hangover effects.” EHS sufferers
sometimes report symptoms that can last for several days (3).
It is therefore important that studies use an appropriate inter-
val between provocations to prevent symptoms experienced in
one from masking any effects of the next. It is difficult to
know how many studies were affected by this, but at least 2
reported that hangover effects did seem to have an impact on
their results (18,29).
Low statistical power might also explain some of the neg-
ative findings. This is not simply an issue of sample size;
testing a single participant numerous times can be a powerful
design, although it does reduce the generalizability of any
negative findings. Nevertheless, the majority of studies in-
cluded relatively small sample sizes and failed to justify this
by providing a power calculation. Such a calculation could be
based on participant reports of usual symptom severity after
real-life exposure to the stimulus and should now be given in
any future research.
Implications for Researchers and Clinicians
We are aware of at least 6 more double-blind provocation
studies into EHS that are currently ongoing, each of which is
examining hypersensitivity symptoms associated with mobile
phone-type signals. The results of these studies will determine
whether any more research in this area is needed. If further
studies are necessary, the following guidelines should be
considered: 1) Studies should include a healthy control group.
This will not only provide a standard against which to judge
heightened sensibility (38), but it will also provide a useful
indication of the adequacy of the blinding (16). 2) The nature
and severity of participants’ self-reported sensitivities should
be assessed and reported. This might then be used to produce
a power calculation, which should also be reported. 3) The
inclusion of open-blind provocation sessions should be con-
sidered as a useful way of ensuring the face validity of the
experiment. 4) Hangover effects should be controlled by the
use of lengthy intervals between exposures or else checked for
by the use of preexposure measures of symptom severity.
Our review suggests that treatment for EHS should not
simply focus on reducing EMF exposure because this is un-
likely to address the root causes of the problem (14). Identi-
fying what these causes are may require careful investigation.
For some, complaints of EHS may mask organic or psychiatric
pathology, whereas others may benefit from a course of cog-
nitive behavioral therapy (21).
This systematic review could find no robust evidence to
support the existence of a biophysical hypersensitivity to
The authors thank Paul Philo, Carina von Schantz, Sophie Sedgwick,
Bella Stensans, and Julia Weingarten for their help with translation
and Gary Hahn for his help locating and organizing the literature.
This work was undertaken by James Rubin, Jayati Das Munshi, and
Simon Wessely, who received funding from the Mobile Telecommu-
nications and Health Research Programme. The views expressed in
the publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of
the funders.
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... Up until now, numerous double-blind experimental studies have not validated any direct association between the manifestation of these symptoms and EMF exposure [Rubin et al., 2005[Rubin et al., , 2009Eltiti et al., 2007;R€ o€ osli, 2008;Kwon et al., 2012]. Individuals claiming EHS did not seem able to detect EMF more accurately than subjects who did not report such hypersensitivity [Eltiti et al., 2007;R€ o€ osli, 2008;Rubin et al., 2009] and a generally accepted mechanism of EHS is lacking despite ...
... To this day, numerous double-blind experimental studies have not validated any direct association between the apparition of these symptoms and exposure to EMF [Rubin et al., 2005;Eltiti et al., 2007;Röösli, 2008;Rubin et al., 2009;Kwon et al., 2012] . Individuals claiming electromagnetic hypersensitivity did not seem to be able to detect EMFs more accurately than subjects who did not report such hypersensitivity [Eltiti et al., 2007;Röösli, 2008;Rubin et al., 2009] and a generally accepted mechanism of electromagnetic hypersensitivity is lacking despite numerous propositions. ...
... Cependant, en raison du déclenchement des symptômes avant toute exposition durant les deux sessions, ces manifestations n'ont pas été analysées. Cette situation reflète une anticipation importante des symptômes dans l'EHS comme reporté par de nombreux auteurs [Rubin et al., 2005] manière globale, toute la réflexion réside autour du schéma optimal des études expérimentales chez les personnes rapportant une EHS (durée de l'étude, le temps de suivi, le temps d'acclimatation, l'intégration de périodes de « wash out » ou d'acclimatation…) ; le type d'exposition (une source, multiple sources…). Nous avons démontré lors de cette thèse que l'étude des caractéristiques des personnes auto-déclarant une EHS est tout aussi importante que les études de provocation. ...
Les personnes auto-déclarant une "électrohypersensibilité" (EHS) signalent des problèmes de santé dont des maux de tête, stress, douleurs cutanées, qu'ils lient à l'exposition aux champs électromagnétiques. L'origine, ainsi que le mécanisme de développement des symptômes associés à l'EHS sont à ce jour inexpliqués. L'objectif de la thèse était d'accroître le niveau de connaissance de ce syndrome et ainsi d'identifier d'éventuels troubles biologiques. Ce travail a exploré le fonctionnement des systèmes endocrinien, nerveux autonome, immunitaire et le sommeil chez les EHS à l'aide de marqueurs physiologiques (variabilité du rythme cardiaque, activité électrodermale et rythme respiratoire) et biologiques (marqueurs salivaires et urinaires). Deux études ont été réalisées : une enquête par auto-questionnaire combinée à une étude de caractérisation sans exposition aux champs électromagnétiques et une étude de provocation avec exposition à quatre signaux électromagnétiques successifs. A l'aide du questionnaire, nous avons fourni un aperçu général sur l'EHS en France. Nos résultats sur le sommeil indiquent des perturbations chez les EHS. De plus des marqueurs (alpha amylase et nombre de réponses électrodermales) diffèrent entre les groupes EHS et non EHS. La majorité des marqueurs physiologiques et biologiques n'indiquent pas d'effet en réponse à une exposition électromagnétique chez les EHS.
... So, a lot of researches have been conducted on this topic [5]. Electromagnetic field (EMF) is a form of energy emitted by charged particles. ...
... The first study dealt with electric fields. Various reports were presented on the reduction of pineal melatonin and N-acetyl transferee (NAT) and synthesis of melatonin enzyme, when exposed to electric fields for about for one month 22 hours a day [1][2][3][4][5][6][7]. Other studies did not find any biological effects because of exposure to electromagnetic field [8]. ...
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Although it is difficult to imagine life without electricity, there are compiling confirmations show that exposure to magnetic fields correlated electricity and radio frequencies pose magnificent hazards to human health. The most economist method to transfer electricity from power generation stations to users is by measures of high power transmission lines, buoyed by big transmission towers. The cables laced between the towers radiate magnetic and electric fields. In this research study, the magnetic field at ground level under 400 kV network lines extended in residential places have been conducted in two ways, mathematical calculation and practical measurement then the obtained results analyzed and compared with the international standards reference values. the reason of chose this type of transmission line is frequently using. The results indicate that they fall within the safe limiter commended by the World Health Organization. the strength of radiation increasing with high of sea level and moisture ratio because of air ionization
... The pain intensity was assessed using a numerical pain rating scale (NPRS) (0 = no pain, 10 = severe pain) [8]. Depression was assessed using Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) [9] and categorized as normal (0-10), mild (11)(12)(13)(14)(15)(16)(17)(18)(19)(20)(21)(22)(23)(24)(25)(26)(27)(28)(29)(30), moderate (31-45) and severe (46-60). The functional status was assessed using the revised Fibromyalgia impact questionnaire (FIQR) and all questions were graded on a 0-10 numeric scale [10]. ...
... Notably, not all sufferers reported being sensitive to all potential triggers and many reported only 1 or 2 items as being problematic. The EMFs emitted by these devices vary considerably regarding frequencies in the radio, microwave, kilohertz, and extremely low-frequency ranges [14]. ...
... 12 A review, looking at 29 single or double-blind studies that exposed people to real and sham EMR, reports that most of the studies did not show any significant association between EMR and consistent symptoms in the self-reported EHS participant. 9 According to the WHO guidelines treatment of affected individuals should focus on the health symptoms and the clinical 1,4-7 ...
... This prompted the WHO to form "The International EMF Project" to assess the health and environmental effects of exposure to static and time-varying electric and magnetic fields in the frequency range 0-300 GHz. 8 Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) refers to a cluster of non-specific somatic and psychological symptoms purportedly caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). 9 He was also advised relaxation techniques of breathing exercises and walking in the morning and evening. He was psycho-educated regarding available evidence in the area of his health concern and EMF radiation. ...
... In general, such use relates to different effects contributing to reducing threats to the establishment of sustainability [94]. The applications related to the different effects of exposure to EMF are numerous; see, e.g., [13,14,17,19,34,[95][96][97][98][99][100][101][102][103][104][105][106][107][108][109][110][111][112][113]. ...
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Nowadays, environmental electromagnetic fields exist everywhere and the whole population is exposed. The most widespread technologies engendering exposure to electromagnetic fields for the public and workers are radiofrequency wireless communication systems. Such exposure can have direct effects on living tissue involving biological problems or personal symptoms, as well as indirect effects restricting healthcare appliances. This assessment aims to analyze, examine and categorize the consequences of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields emitted by radiofrequency devices. This concerns biological effects in living tissues and atypical personal symptoms for short and long-term exposures. The evaluation methodology in this field of investigation is also discussed. In the article, these consequences as well as their evaluation techniques, in the case of wireless digital communication tools, are analyzed and reviewed. The categorization of exposure sources, the corresponding effects and their assessment methodologies are analyzed. The concept of systematic reviews and meta-analyses and their applications in various assessments of these effects and symptoms are reviewed and discussed.
... Aetiology of IEI-EMF was approached in different ways. Empirical results have revealed no conclusive association between exposure to EMF and symptom reports of people with IEI-EMF (Baliatsas et al., 2012a,b;K€ oteles et al., 2013;Levallois, 2002;R€ o€ osli, 2008;R€ o€ osli et al., 2010;Rubin et al., 2005Rubin et al., , 2010Rubin et al., , 2011Schmiedchen et al., 2019;Seitz et al., 2005;Szemerszky et al., 2015a,b;van Moorselaar et al., 2017;Verrender et al., 2018). Moreover, a large body of empirical evidence indicates the involvement of psychophysiological factors in the development and maintenance of the condition (Dieudonn e, 2016(Dieudonn e, , 2019D€ om€ ot€ or et al., 2016;Oftedal et al., 2007;Regel et al., 2006;Szemerszky et al., 2010;Van den Bergh et al., 2017a,b;Witth€ oft and Rubin, 2013). ...
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IEI-EMF refers to an environmental illness whose primary feature is the occurence of symptoms that are attributed to exposure to weak electromagnetic fields (EMFs). There is a growing evidence that this condition is characterized by marked individual differences thus a within-subject approach might add important information beyond the widely used nomothetic method. A mixed qualitative/quantitative idiographic protocol with a threefold diagnostic approach was tested with the participation of three individuals with severe IEI-EMF. In this qualitative paper, the environmental, psychosocial, and clinical aspects are presented and discussed (results of ecological momentary assessment are discussed in Part II of this study). For two participants, psychopathological factors appeared to be strongly related to the condition. Psychological assessment indicated a severe pre-psychotic state with paranoid tendencies, supplemented with a strong attentional focus on bodily sensations and health status. The psychological profile of the third individual showed no obvious pathology. Overall, the findings suggest that the condition might have uniformly been triggered by serious psychosocial stress for all participants. Substantial aetiological differences among participants with severe IEI-EMF were revealed. The substantial heterogeneity in the psychological and psychopathological profiles associated with IEI-EMF warrants the use of idiographic multimodal assessments in order to better understand the different ways of aetiology and to facilitate person-taylored treatments.
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Kétrészes narratív összefoglalónkban áttekintést nyújtunk az elektromágneses tereknek tulajdonított idiopátiás környezeti intoleranciával (IEI-EMF, más néven elektromágneses túlérzékenységgel) kapcsolatos tudományos eredményekről, a kutatások jelenlegi állásáról. Az elektromágneses túlérzékenység olyan állapotot jelent, amely során az érintett személy tüneteket tapasztal az elektromos eszközök közelében vagy azok használatakor, és tüneteit az elektromágneses expozíciónak tulajdonítja. Az Egészségügyi Világszervezet jelenlegi álláspontja szerint az IEI-EMF nem diagnosztikus kategória, megállapításához jelenleg sem orvosi teszt, sem valid protokoll nem áll rendelkezésre. Jellemző az állapotra a nagyfokú distressz, gyakran vezet szociális izolációhoz, valamint a munkaképesség elvesztéséhez. Gyakoriak a különböző komorbid mentális zavarok, mint a szorongás, depresszió, szomatizáció. Az elektromágneses túlérzékenység etiológiájával kapcsolatos elméletek két fő irányvonalat képviselnek: míg a biofizikai megközelítés szerint a tüneteket elektromágneses mezők által aktivált fiziológiai folyamatok idézik elő, addig a pszichogén elméletet propagáló szerzők a tünetképzés jelenségét pszichológiai folyamatokkal magyarázzák (például torzult figyelmi és attribúciós folyamatok, nocebohatás, asszociatív tanulás). Számos kutató hangsúlyozza azonban, hogy a jelenség teljes megértéséhez a két megközelítés integrálására és interdiszciplináris kutatócsoportok felállítására van szükség. Jelen írásunkban a jelenséggel kapcsolatos jellemzőket kutatói és orvosi szemszögből járjuk körül: az etiológiával kapcsolatos elméletek bemutatásán túl kitérünk a vizsgálati, módszertani nehézségekre, a definíciós és diagnosztikus problémákra és a terápiás lehetőségekre.
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With the advancement of wireless technologies and electronic/electrical devices, humans are exposed to more complicated electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic fields (EMF), which has raised public concerns on potential health effects. Researchers have recently conducted a series of studies on diverse exposure scenarios. In addition, international standard organizations have revised safety guidelines and standards (1). These recent results and practices can enhance our knowledge in assessing health risks from the exposure to EMF (2). This Research Topic consists of 14 articles (one review article, two brief research report articles, and 11 original research articles) published in the Radiation and Health section of Frontiers in Public Health.
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IEI-EMF refers to a self-reported sensitivity characterized by attribution of non-specific physical symptoms to exposure to weak EMFs. The majority of empirical results do not support the existence of a causal relationship between EMF and IEI-EMF. However, this conclusion was drawn from environmental and experimental studies that are not without methodological limitations. In the current study, as part of a complex biopsychosocial approach, an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) protocol was applied for the investigation of the temporal relationship between actual radio frequency (RF) EMF exposure and IEI-EMF, at the individual level. Continuous measurement of autonomic variables by holter electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors and the ambient RF EMF by personal dosimeters, as well as repeated (8/day) paper-and-pencil assessments of momentary internal states (symptoms, mood, perceived EMF intensity) and situational factors was conducted for 21 days with the participation of three individuals with severe IEI-EMF. Temporal relationships were examined by time series analyses. For two participants, the results did not support the association between the suspected EMF frequency range(s) and symptom reports. Nevertheless, the results revealed a reverse association with respect to another frequency range (GSM900 downlink), which contradicts the IEI-EMF condition. Autonomic activation related findings were inconsistent. For the third participant, the claimed association was partly supported, both for symptom reports and autonomic reactions (UMTS downlink, total RF; RMS values). The findings of this study suggest that IEI-EMF does not have a unitary aetiology. For certain individuals, a biophysical background cannot be excluded, whereas no such underlying factor appears to be at work for others. EMA is a useful method for the investigation of the aetiology of IEI-EMF.
An increasing number of people are claiming that they are hypersensitive to electricity. A double blind provocative study was carried out using a 3- AFC method to verify the possible perception of pulsed electromagnetic fields (carrier frequency 900 MHz pulse modulated with 217 Hz) as emitted from modern digital wireless telecommunication devices (GSM standard). The reactions of 11 persons were observed who claimed to be hypersensitive to electricity. Each subject was tested twelve times over one day. A hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields could not be confirmed for these persons because neither the mean of the group nor one of the individuals reached the classical perceptive threshold. When the first six tests were compared to the last six, no differences could be observed. Thus, too short breaks between retesting or a habituation to the electromagnetic fields could not be verified. However, because of the small number of cases, further investigations are necessary. The results of the study helped to optimize the design and performing conditions for subsequent tests with more subjects and more tests per subject.
Twenty-four patients with self-reported sensitivity to electricity were divided into two groups and tested in a double-blind provocation study. These patients, who reported increased skin symptoms when exposed to electromagnetic fields, were compared with 12 age- and sex-matched controls. Both groups were exposed to 30-minute periods of high or low stress situations, with and without simultaneous exposure to electromagnetic fields from a visual display unit. The matched controls were tested twice and given the same exposure as the patients but had the fields turned on every time. Stress was induced by requiring the participants to act in accordance with a random sequence of flashing lights while simultaneously solving complicated mathematical problems. Blood samples were analyzed for levels of the stress-related hormones melatonin, prolactin, adrenocorticotrophic hormone, neuropeptide Y, and growth hormone, and the expression of different peptides, cellular markers, and cytokines (somatostatin, CD1, factor XIIIa, and tumor necrosis factor-α). Skin biopsies were also analyzed for the occurrence of mast cells. Stress provocation resulted in feelings of more intense mental stress and elevated heart rate. The patients reported increased skin symptoms when they knew or believed that the electromagnetic field was turned on. With the blind conditions there were no differences between on or off. Inflammatory mediators and mast cells in the skin were not affected by the stress exposure or by exposure to electromagnetic fields. The main conclusion was that the patients did not react to the fields.
A multiphase study was performed to find an effective method to evaluate electromagnetic field (EMF) sensitivity of patients. The first phase developed criteria for controlled testing using an environment low in chemical, particulate, and EMF pollution. Monitoring devices were used in an effort to ensure that extraneous EMF would not interfere with the tests. A second phase involved a single-blind challenge of 100 patients who complained of EMF sensitivity to a series of fields ranging from 0 to 5 MHz in frequency, plus 5 blank challenges. Twenty-five patients were found who were sensitive to the fields, but did not react to the blanks. These were compared in the third phase to 25 healthy naive volunteer controls. None of the volunteers reacted to any challenge, active or blank, but 16 of the EMF-sensitive patients (64%) had positive signs and symptoms scores, plus autonomic nervous system changes. In the fourth phase, the 16 EMF-sensitive patients were rechallenged twice to the frequencies to which they were most sensitive during the previous challenge. The active frequency was found to be positive in 100% of the challenges, while all of the placebo tests were negative. we concluded that this study gives strong evidence that electromagnetic field sensitivity exists, and can be elicited under environmentally controlled conditions.
Thirty patients having skin problems experienced being caused by work with visual display units (VDU) were tested double-blind with two VDUs. One VDU had strong electrostatic and electromagnetic fields and the other VDU had an identical appearance but the electrostatic field and electromagnetic fields were practically eliminated. Approximately 80% of the patients reacted with stinging or itching in the face during the 3 hours working period with 25% relative humidity in the room. No difference between the VDUs was found with regard to provoking these symptoms. At 60% relative humidity 13 patients of 19 experienced stinging or itching in the face. Those 13 that reacted were asked to come another time and were informed that the VDU was not turned on and that all electric fields that were present came from the cable to the VDU. A green cloth was put over the VDUs. This time 11 of the 13 patients reacted with stinging and itching in spite of the fact that the VDU was turned off. The present study does not indicate that electric and electromagnetic fields are of major importance in provoking subjective skin symptoms in patients experiencing skin problems when working with VDUs.
A transient facial rash in six healthy female operators of visual display units is described. The cause has not been established, but circumstantial evidence strongly favours a link between the rash and the working conditions. A study performed to establish the aetiology is described.
The objective of this work was to determine whether facial skin symptoms are reduced by decreasing static and low-frequency electric fields produced by visual display units. The electric fields were reduced by electric-conducting screen filters. Twenty subjects took part in the study while working at their ordinary jobs, first two weeks without any filter, then two weeks with an inactive filter and two weeks with an active filter (or in reversed order). The inasctive filters were identical to the active ones except that the ground cable was cut. Measurements showed that the inactive filters reduced the static electric fields nonsignificantly less than the active filters. For extremely low-frequency fields the difference was greater, and the active filters reduced the very low-frequency fields significantly more than the inactive ones. Most symptoms were less pronounced with active filters than with inactive filters. The differences were small, and for one symptom only, tingling, pricking or itching, the result was statistically significant. The recorded physical and psychosocial factors did not explain the reduction with the use of active filters. Days with a long period spent near a visual display unit resulted in significantly more pronounced symptoms than days with short time. The findings registered by a dermatologist did not reveal any consistent difference between the two periods with filters. The results weakly support the hypothesis that skin symptoms can be reduced by a reduction of electric fields.
This study tested psychological treatment of patients with "electric hypersensitivity." Seventeen patients were randomly assigned to a treatment group or a waiting-list control group in a pretest-posttest control group design. The patients were also taking part in double-blind provocation tests before and after the treatment. Subjective ratings of symptoms were registered and blood samples were taken and analyzed for "stress-related" variables, such as prolactin, cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone, and cholesterol levels. The patients in the experimental group reduced their evaluations of the disability more than the control group did. This indicates that psychological treatment may be of value in this disease. However, none of the psychophysiological measures or the subjective reactions to the provocation test showed any significant between-group difference. The conclusion from the provocation test is that this group of alleged hypersensitive patients did not react to the electromagnetic fields.