Electromagnetic hypersensitivity?


In the UK, around 4% of people report that they experience unpleasant symptoms due to exposure to electromagnetic fields given out by mobile phones, Wi-Fi routers, TVs and so on. In severe cases, it can ruin people’s lives, making them unable to work in computer-filled offices, enter shops with fluorescent lights or visit friends or family whose homes are filled with electronics. In the most extreme – and rare– cases, affected people withdraw from modern society almost entirely, living in isolated caravans or remote communities in “EMF-free zones”.

Some journalists have been quick to ally themselves to the cause of people who report EHS. (…) Politicians, too, have been supportive of the condition. Last month, a proposal by a group within the European Economic and Social Committee calling for greater recognition of the condition throughout the health, employment and social sectors came close to being passed.(…)

The classic way to test whether someone is sensitive to anything noxious is to expose them to it under controlled conditions and see what happens. Dozens of such studies have been done with people who report having EHS, and the results are consistent. Those taking part do indeed experience symptoms when exposed to electromagnetic fields, more so than when exposed to a “sham” scenario involving no active exposure. But when the experiments are performed double-blind, with neither the participant nor the researcher knowing which scenario is which, these effects disappear. The symptoms are real, but they are not caused by electromagnetic fields. Instead, they seem to be triggered by something far more mysterious: the nocebo effect.

From an article by James Rubin and Simon Wessely for The Guardian, Psychology shortcuts (15. Feb. 2015)

Scene from “Better Call Saul”


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