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Electrosensitivity: Why Are Some People More Sensitive to EMFs than Others?

Last Updated on October 2, 2023

Electrosensitivity to EMF Radiation

Food allergies and genetic predispositions reveal an important truth about our physiology.

As humans, our physical bodies all generally function in the same way. We have the same organs, we carry out the same cellular processes, we require the same basic needs to continue living. Yet despite this surface-level uniformity, no two human bodies are the same.

It’s the same case with Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Radiation: though we all can potentially experience its ill effects, some of us are more sensitive to EMFs than others.

Noted symptoms of EMF sensitivity include tingling skin, body aches, headaches, dizziness/nausea, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and stress, whenever you are in close proximity to EMF radiation-emitting devices. Some more intense symptoms, like seizures, problems with different body systems, and cancer can make EMF hypersensitivity very hard to deal with.

When symptoms of EMF exposure are frequent and intense, and in some cases, lasting long after you’ve distanced yourself from the source, you may suffer from electrosensitivity otherwise known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS).

At higher stages of this not yet widely recognized physiological condition, symptoms can lead people to seek medical treatment, or render them incapable of working or living around wireless technology.

Unfortunately, because of the fact that electromagnetic radiation has only recently been more widely accepted as a health hazard, those who’ve gone to their doctors presenting symptoms of EHS were commonly labeled psychiatric cases.

Not only are these patients getting treatment that entirely overlooks the true cause; there is a certain stigmatization that occurs when you suffer from a condition that most of society does not yet understand or even believe in.

Brain Abnormalities in Electrosensitivity Sufferers

There is new evidence of the reality of EHS. In this April 2017 study, ten patients with the condition underwent functional MRI brain scans to check for any abnormalities present. All ten subjects displayed consistent abnormalities in the same region of the brain.

Brain MRI in of Electrosensitivity Sufferers
Source: Gunnar Heuser and Sylvia A. Heuser

This study also brought attention to the realization that symptoms experienced by patients with electrosensitivity mirrored those of patients who’d had long-term exposure to neurotoxic chemicals. In fact, eight of the ten subjects had such exposure in their pasts, and years later began suffering neurological symptoms (cognitive impairment, headaches, tremors, and others) that began upon exposure to EMF radiation and usually lessened after getting away from the source.

This suggests that neurotoxic chemicals and electromagnetic radiation can aggravate each other’s effects.

One more thing worth noting is that seven out of the ten study subjects either lived or worked in very close proximity to large outputs of EMFs. One was an air traffic controller, another worked with high-voltage power lines, and another was living roughly 500 yards from an AT&T cell tower.

In 2006, Australia commissioned a rollout of smart meters in the state of Victoria. This lead to an unprecedented public health challenge as an entire population’s ability to avoid exposure to human-made, high frequency non-ionizing radiation became unavoidable.

As an unintended result, over 142 people reported adverse health effects from the wireless smart meters as documented through information submission on the Australian public health and legal register websites. The most frequently reported symptoms from wireless radiation exposure to smart meters included insomnia, headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), fatigue, cognitive disturbances, dysesthesias (abnormal sensations), and dizziness. As described in a paper published in the Nov-Dec 2014 issue of Alternative Therapy Health Medicine, the effects of these symptoms on people’s lives were significant. The participants’ symptoms were the same as those reported by people exposed to wireless radiation emitted by other devices other than smart meters (ex. mobile phones).

Majority of Electrosensitivity Sufferers are Women

Woman Are More Electrosensitive to EMF Radiation

There may be another risk factor in the development of electrosensitivity: your gender.

Somewhat surprisingly (given that many professions involving close proximity to EMF radiation sources are dominated by men), it’s women who are more likely to have problems with EHS.

According to questionnaires distributed in the Netherlands, Finland, and Japan, the vast majority of those who suffered from symptoms of EHS were women: 68 percent, 81 percent, and 95 percent, respectively.

Why is it that women appear to have a greater chance of becoming sensitive to EMFs? Few studies have been done on this condition, and there is still much about it that we don’t understand. More research needs to be done before we can determine exactly why this trend exists.

However, we do know that certain medical conditions tend to affect one gender more than another. For example, men are twice as likely to die from liver disease and nearly three times as likely to die from AIDS compared to women. By contrast, 90 percent of lupus patients are female.

So, it may be that the biological differences between men and women, perhaps related to chromosomal differences or water proportion, leaves the latter group with a higher disposition to EMF sensitivity.

Another possible reason for this pattern is that in some ways, women are often more tuned in to the changes and subtleties of their bodies. It could be that they are quicker to notice symptoms like fatigue, cognitive issues, and general malaise in relation to using (or being close to) EMF-emitting devices.

Men might perhaps be more prone to not think much of, or even outright ignore, such symptoms–particularly if they can’t be connected to an obvious cause. This is backed up by evidence that men with more traditional views of masculinity are less likely to visit a doctor, and may minimize their symptoms when they do.

Undoubtedly, more research and studies need to be done on this subject, not only for greater understanding, but for the more widespread acknowledgement of EHS as a real condition that can have very crippling effects.

Closing Thoughts on Electrosensitivity

Here is some food for thought, taken from the three questionnaires cited above:

  • Once EHS had developed, household wireless devices like laptops, cell phones and TVs (surprisingly not cell towers or other high-output sources) were what caused the most issues for those surveyed in the Netherlands.
  • Over one-half of the respondents in the Netherlands reported that “they were at one time diagnosed as suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, burnout, or other disabling psychosomatic ailments. Several other respondents were reported to be sensitized by environmental factors like odours (sic), sunlight, pollen, chemicals, medicines, nutrients, food additives, etc.”
  • 76 percent of respondents in the Finnish survey said the reduction or avoidance of EMFs helped in their full or partial recovery. The official treatment recommendations of psychotherapy and medication were not significantly helpful – only 2.6 and 4.2 percent of patients found some relief through these methods.
  • Of those in the Japanese survey, about 85 percent had to take measures to protect themselves from EMFs, such as moving to an area with few sources of radiation or buying low EMF-emitting appliances. About half the respondents had previously been employed, but most either lost their jobs or experienced a drop in income. 12 percent could no longer use public transport.

We are at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being fully informed on electrosensitivity. If the research cited above is any indication, EHS is a serious health condition that must be talked about and closely examined as we continue full-speed into the wireless age.

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Daniel T. DeBaun

Daniel T. DeBaun is an internationally recognized and influential expert in Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF) and shielding electronic emissions, with a particular focus on the effect of exposure from mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and cell phones. Daniel’s concern regarding the health impact of electronic radiation emissions grew from over 30 years of engineering experience in the telecommunications industry, where he held a variety of leadership and executive positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, SAIC and Telcordia. Daniel is co-author of recent bestseller, Radiation Nation: The Fallout of Modern Technology, a complete guide to EMF radiation safety and protection. Daniel is also a highly regarded industry consultant, speaker as well as frequent guest national radio and television programs discussing EMF health issues.