Idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (formerly 'electromagnetic hypersensitivity'): An updated systematic review of provocation studies.
Bioelectromagnetics. 2010 Jan;31(1):1-11. doi: 10.1002/bem.20536.
Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF; formerly 'electromagetic hypersensitivity') is a medically unexplained illness in which subjective symptoms are reported following exposure to electrical devices. In an earlier systematic review, we reported data from 31 blind provocation studies which had exposed IEI-EMF volunteers to active or sham electromagnetic fields and assessed whether volunteers could detect these fields or whether they reported worse symptoms when exposed to them. In this article, we report an update to that review. An extensive literature search identified 15 new experiments. Including studies reported in our earlier review, 46 blind or double-blind provocation studies in all, involving 1175 IEI-EMF volunteers, have tested whether exposure to electromagnetic fields is responsible for triggering symptoms in IEI-EMF. No robust evidence could be found to support this theory. However, the studies included in the review did support the role of the nocebo effect in triggering acute symptoms in IEI-EMF sufferers. Despite the conviction of IEI-EMF sufferers that their symptoms are triggered by exposure to electromagnetic fields, repeated experiments have been unable to replicate this phenomenon under controlled conditions. A narrow focus by clinicians or policy makers on bioelectromagnetic mechanisms is therefore, unlikely to help IEI-EMF patients in the long-term.
Given the lack of evidence linking EMF exposure and EHS, other triggers for this illness have been proposed. These include other environmental factors like noise and lighting as well as psychological factors such as stress and mental illness. Studies in this regard are, unfortunately, limited.
https://gizmodo.com/is-electromagnetic- ... 1797058292
As to the question whether this is a real disease: despite the unlikely link between EMF and symptoms of EHS, I would say that individuals suffering from this subset of symptoms warrant medical care and relief of discomfort, just as individuals suffering from any other condition. What makes this difficult is our current lack of understanding of this condition: whether it represents one condition or a collection, what the real triggers are, and whether it is physiological, environmental or psychological in nature. Therefore, further research is needed in this field, which will be essential in guiding quality medical care for these individuals.
Studies on EHS individuals
A number of studies have been conducted where EHS individuals were exposed to EMF similar to those that they attributed to the cause of their symptoms. The aim was to elicit symptoms under controlled laboratory conditions.
The majority of studies indicate that EHS individuals cannot detect EMF exposure any more accurately than non-EHS individuals. Well controlled and conducted double-blind studies have shown that symptoms were not correlated with EMF exposure.
It has been suggested that symptoms experienced by some EHS individuals might arise from environmental factors unrelated to EMF. Examples may include “flicker” from fluorescent lights, glare and other visual problems with VDUs, and poor ergonomic design of computer workstations. Other factors that may play a role include poor indoor air quality or stress in the workplace or living environment.
There are also some indications that these symptoms may be due to pre-existing psychiatric conditions as well as stress reactions as a result of worrying about EMF health effects, rather than the EMF exposure itself.
EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms that differ from individual to individual. The symptoms are certainly real and can vary widely in their severity. Whatever its cause, EHS can be a disabling problem for the affected individual. EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure. Further, EHS is not a medical diagnosis, nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem.