The debate over electromagnetic hypersensitivity grows

The Canadian National Post has a feature on the phenomena of Wi-fi illnesses.

Wi-Fi safety: The debate over wireless technology continues National Post.

Every week now, Dr. Riina Bray sees two or three new patients with a similar array of ailments and ends up blaming the same, controversial cause.

Suffering from stabbing headaches, “brain fog,” tinnitus or extreme fatigue, their symptoms seem linked to exposure to Wi-Fi routers, cellphone towers and other sources of radio-frequency radiation, says the environmental health specialist at Toronto’s prestigious Women’s College Hospital.

Dr. Bray’s clinic may be the only mainstream medical facility in Canada that routinely treats patients for a condition known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity. She recently held a seminar to educate physicians about what she calls a major and fast-growing public-health menace, paralleling the explosion of wireless technology in Western society.

“Every year we are getting more and more people coming in,” said Dr. Bray. “I’m very concerned, because the stories are very, very compelling … These are not crazy people. There is a huge, huge problem.”

Tip: @PharmacistScott on Twitter

It is a huge problem. People aren’t looking to the science because that is not giving them the answers they want to hear. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is not a recognized medical condition, it’s one that the sufferers have named themselves. Not only are we having trouble figuring out how it could be, research has not shown it even IS.

The obvious question is if this is a hazard, why haven’t we seen a clear correlation?

Quite obviously, people in many countries around the world have been using electricity for over a century. And, in poorer regions like parts of Asia, Africa, and South America, there are populations who (even today) use no electricity at all. If normal levels of electromagnetic radiation were indeed harmful to the body, then we would see correlation on a massive scale between such physiological damage and geography. There is no such correlation, and no cases of observed physiological damage caused by electromagnetic radiation even in the most industrialized regions. Thus, there is very good reason for science to not simply accept this self-diagnosis without inquiry.

This is not a new problem to be studied. Data has been collected and reviews were made a decade ago. The science said no, there IS no correlation. No evidence we have (except the sufferers anecdotal reports) tell us that this condition is NOT what they think it is. They are experiencing a condition, but it is NOT related to a physical cause that can be measured. That’s what science does, it works to eliminate the human subjective bias in making determinations about the world.

But, if people are so convinced that they are affected and have pinpointed their own cause, it is nearly impossible to cut that connection and convince them otherwise. Meanwhile, don’t worry about electromagnetic hypersensitivity. People in the modern world live longer, better and more productive lives than ever before. Enjoy life and all the cool things we have as a result of electricity and modern technology.

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  9 comments for “The debate over electromagnetic hypersensitivity grows

  1. Jim
    August 12, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    The tinnitus bit is evil genius, given its prevalence and causes. We have an aging population raised on rock and roll and/or Walkmen. Today, a majority of people have either a phone that plays music, or an iPod with wifi. To a lot of (uncritical) people, correlation is cause.

  2. Pete Chapman
    August 12, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    The standards for science reporting at the National Post are rather abysmal. The space that they give over to climate change denial theorists is typical of their pro-corporate, neoconservative editorial policy. It’s galling to think that so many of Canada’s business and entrepeneurial elite side with this kind of sloppy thinking but it appears that in this regard they are just as out of it as the average Fox News viewer.

  3. Gary
    August 12, 2012 at 7:55 PM

    I saw the article earlier today. Pete is correct – the National Post sometimes appears to be the “Daily Mail” of Canada (committing some sort of logical fallacy here I know). This is a complicated multi-factorial phenomena that is extremely difficulty to research and is open to misinterpretation by the general public.

  4. F 89
    August 12, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    “stabbing headaches, “brain fog,” tinnitus or extreme fatigue” Aren’t those some of the symptoms of people with (I can’t think of the proper term right now) “evniromental” Illness?
    I wonde how much money will continue to be wasted on having to accomidate these people, both medically and in the various lawsuits against companies because of this.

  5. Jim V.
    August 12, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    electromagnetic hypersensitivity may become the new fibromyalgia.

  6. mac
    August 13, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    Yep, “People aren’t looking to the science because that is not giving them the answers they want to hear.”

    If these claims are true, there are decades worth of broadcast engineers and amateur radio operators who have been exposed to far higher concentrations of EM emissions who should have and should be complaining of these symptoms. Not to mention techs and engineers that work in other areas of electronics that have high EM field involved.

    Oh, and not to mention the average house whose walls are laced with electrical wiring and have beds covered with electric blankets…

    Granted, different frequencies all…but, no correlations.

  7. Joni
    August 13, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    Being an old timer in amateur radio one needs to be aware of the frequency involved in the RF radiation. Low frequency and short wave radiation (0Hz to 50Mhz) doesn’t have the same localized heating properties for the same power level that frequencies in the 1GHz and above frequencies do.

    There are a lot of ‘emitters’ of microwave energy, cell phones and Wi-Fi connections most notably among them.

    The irrationality comes in when dealing with the relative field strength of these signals.

    I can understand how folks are concerned about long term cell phone radiation right next to their head causing unpleasant things to happen as their brain cells heat up a bit. Once the source of the RF energy is moved away from their bodies just a short distance the intensity drops off dramatically. A good reason to have a hands free setup. Then again there are a lot of folks running around with BlueTooth radio transceivers stuck in their ear…..

    Wi-Fi, on either end of the connection, is low powered compared to cell phones, just a few milliwatts. People do not usually have the Wi-Fi hub anywhere nearby their bodies so the RF field strength is amazingly weak. That’s why Wi-Fi transmission don’t go very far as compared to cell phone coverage between towers. The Wi-Fi transmitter in a laptop in somewhat more problematic since the antenna is fairly close to ones hands.

    Rather than observing that I am getting older and typing on the computer too much, it’s obvious I should blame the aches and pains in my hands on that darned Wi-Fi that Dell put in this laptop. Humm, I wonder if I could sue? ;-)

    Now if I could just figure out why my Compact Fluorescent lights glow when I get neat them……….. Joni

  8. Ann G
    September 10, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    I happen to be someone who suffers from electro-magnetic hypersensitivity. It occured after I injured my back and had an MRI. The strength of the MRI was what kicked in my reactions full force. Before that I had mild problems since I was a child but they never limited me and I never new about any EMF stuff then. I am not some crazy person either. I am an Occupational therapist with a BS. My symptoms have actually been tested and verified. When around regular Tv/computer monitors, florescent lights, electric wires, cel polls, ect… I show symptoms. I display a red rash on my face, neck, arms ; I can have an asthma attack (never had one before thr MRI ); my blood pressure can go up to 185/105 when it is normally 120/80 ; I can have moderate hand tremors that make it impossible to even write or type at times; and I have even had such a bad reaction once that I had boils on my chest and back when I went through a overly light area of a fairground.
    The problem with the testing they do all the time is that they want you to identify if something is on or off. some people, like me can take up to 30-40 min to react to an object that is on. Also if something is on, and has stong waves, you may be reacting to it even if it is on the other side of the wall.
    What you also can not see is the pain we can suffer. I was in sports and suffered injuries, but the pain I have experienced has been worse than child birth. The pain is like you have fried your hands or feet on burners, it feels like you are having your teeth pulled out one by one, and you can have shocking/stabbing pain go through out your body. This is a real debilitating disease.

    • Richard Cornford
      September 10, 2012 at 4:08 AM

      You appear to be saying that you have an ability to determine whether a specified (by you) electronic device is on or off from the other side of a wall, if you are given 40 minutes to make the determination. If true, and demonstrated, that would be an ability that would qualify you to win the James Randi educational foundation’s million dollar challenge, and that million dollars would go a long way towards allowing you to achieve a lifestyle free from electronic devices.

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