Is there any truth to electrosensitivity syndrome?

LA Times is reporting on EMF or electrosensitivity syndrome.

According to this article, “Millions of people – most of them in Europe – say they suffer headaches, depression, nausea, rashes and other problems when they’re too close to cellphones or other sources of EMFs. They’ve formed their own support groups, started their own newsletters and taken drastic steps to avoid EMFs, with some even wearing metallic clothing. A band of EMF “refugees” has moved to a valley in southern France to avoid radiation.”

This sounds like gobbledy-gook to me. The only sensitivity I’ve heard of ( and experienced ) is reading too much from my smartphone. I will get headaches, but this seems to be from keeping my head in a stiff position for too long.

Is there any truth to this, peeps and Unca Cece? Any dopers experiencing this?

There’s a more widely accepted diagnosis for people who suffer from these symptoms: Crazy.

Well, maybe not so much crazy as self-deluding and victims of confirmation bias. They have some annoying undiagnosed condition, notice that electromagnetic radiation is around them everywhere, draw a conclusion, get on the interwebs, and all of a sudden they have an Explanation for something. That’s a very powerful motivator, even if the Explanation makes no sense.

Changed thread title from “Is” to “Is there any truth to electrosensitivity syndrome?” as requested. Yes, it does make more sense that way! :wink:

Magnetic fields are regularly used to control brains during research, so on the surface it’s not crazy (in the sense that magnetic fields can not control brain function). The question is what are the conditions, how strong is the field, at some strength it will have a noticeable effect.

Well electromagnetic certainly can cause problems, the real quesiton is how much of it do you need to get to have a problem with it.

Obviously radiowaves have been floating around in abundance since the 1920s. Add to that TV from the late 40s and now cell phones etc.

That’s a lot of waves floating around us. But do the occur in big enough doses to do you harm?

I would think that if it did you would see a lot more problems. And since the problems reported are somewhat common it’s hard to say with proof.

The only way to do this would be to test each person in a double blind study.

Of course if the person failed he/she would simply claim, there wasn’t enough exposure in the test to cause him/her issues.

I can tell you I often get a headache when I’m around cellphones. I can also tell you it ain’t the cell phone but the obnoxious person screaming into it that’s causing my headache :smiley:

If you’re exposed to huge amounts of radio/TV waves that IS a problem. TV/radio staton transmitters have clearly marked warnings. But once they broadcast radio/TV waves quickly spread out and there’s a huge difference between standing directly next to a TV station transmitter and receiving TV signals in you home

A similar example is cyanide. Cyanide is obviously very dangerous, but cyanide is found in apple seeds and apricot pits (OK not exactly but it’s close enough)

I had a brother who would eat entire apples, seeds, skin and all. Same for peaches and apricots. But he was just fine. The levels of the cyanide was never enough, at one time, to cause him damage, even after years and years.

So that’s the real question. Is electromagnetic radition, which is bad in huge doses bad over small doses dealt out over long periods of time? The two don’t always go hand in hand, as seen with the apple/apricot analogy

I have gotten something similar to this. However, it’s not due to cell phones, the wireless internet, TV or radio waves. I’ve noticed it a few times when around the larger medical machines. I’ve only noticed it a handful of times, since I’m not really around those machines but every few years at most.

The last time was when we were doing some sort of barium test on my 2-3 month old for reflux. I don’t remember the machine exactly but a minute or so after they turned it on I got very dizzy, a nasty headache and had to sit down. It went away when I left the room a few minutes later. I don’t normally get dizzy like that, and I’ve only ever noticed it when around things like that.

I am however willing to admit that it could just be me.

I don’t know about this one. Remember when everyone had “chronic fatigue syndrome” and “fibromyalgia”? It seems each decade has its own syndrome for the world to rally around.

I don’t know about this one. Remember when everyone had “chronic fatigue syndrome” and “fibromyalgia”? It seems each decade has its own syndrome for the world to rally around.

Well, dizziness is a possibility when walking near to an MRI machine, because you’re moving through a very powerful magnetic field and <explanation missing>, which can make you dizzy.

Actually, for the purpose of this thread, MRI machines are interesting as their magnetic fields are orders of magnitude stronger than that created by a mobile phone and they also use powerful radio wave pulses.
I guess someone with electrosensitivity syndrome would explode ala scanners when placed in such a machine.

Nah, but they might get a nasty headache. Actually, given the shape of the field, they might even be less affected than by walking around on the outside.

People’s sensitivity to radiation, electricity and magnetism vary. Getting dizzy or a headache from being a very short distance from an NMR machine is much more believable than getting a rash from having someone speaking on a cellphone at the other end of the bus, though. And it sometimes seems as if doctors have a technical name for anything a human being can do or have happen to him (I mean, seriously, there is a technical name for “eating your nails”): for some people, being able to say “I am photosensitive” with a martyred look feels more important than matter-of-fact stating “bright lights bother me.”

Well I’ve had a few MRIs and a couple of other big machine tests done to me in the last year and not felt a thing. I can only remember it happening a handful of times, and I wonder if it’s something else that my head just doesn’t like. I’ve never felt it from a cell phone or anything like that. I also asked the doctor at the time and she pretty much came out and said it was all in my head.

Not necessarily. I’ve told this anecdote before, so it may sound familiar:

I’m a Chemical Engineer. My school was founded in 1914; it started accepting female students in the 1970s. When the first batch of female students got to fifth grade, they started complaining that the unearthed metal bands around the Organic Lab’s benches “sparked” them. The Orgo TAs said it was all in their head, but the Electronics TA (later my Electronics teacher) said “well, rather than dismiss out of hand the testimony of four students who after all have managed to pass the first four years, let’s test this. We’re experimental scientists after all, aren’t we?”

So he pulled out the multimeter and checked those metal bands. And he found out that there was indeed a small current. Some further testing determined that the female students could feel currents 1/10 as intense as those detected by the male students. The tables got earthed properly and there have been no more complaints. When we pointed out he should have published it, he said that the testing protocols wouldn’t have passed muster with ethics commitees: asking people to touch a machine without knowing whether it does have an actual charge or not, but knowing that it may be charged enough to be noticeable, is generally frowned upon.

It could be confirmation bias, it could be that you’re sensitive and the machines you’ve been exposed to recently were better shielded or it could be that, like I’d posited in my previous post, you’re sensitive and being in the core of the field (where all the field vectors are aligned with each other and with you) doesn’t give you a headache, whereas walking through the field’s vectors does. Think of it as swimming with the current (when you’re inside the machine) vs against the current (when you’re outside).

Moving through a strong magnetic field would induce Hall effect voltages in you, and it’s conceivable those voltages might be enough to be felt, though they’d be extremely tiny.

Oh, I was kidding about the last part.

My point when raising MRI was that the field in such a machine is extremely strong – hundreds of times stronger than you may experience from using a mobile phone.

So, if magnetic fields (or radiowaves for that matter) in general can bring about headaches then one might expect severe headaches to be a risk factor for MRI usage. I have a lot of contact with radiographers at a nearby neurological hospital and they have not mentioned such an observation.

Of course, MRIs may have the “right” kind of field, and mobile phones the “wrong” kind of field. But psychological causes seem more probable.