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Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome: Everything You Need to Know

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Did you know that some people are actually allergic to radiation? Yep, you read that right. This condition is called electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome, and it affects a large chunk of the global population, with the intensity varying from person to person.

But what exactly is electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome? Let’s find out.

What is Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome?

Why would someone line their room with layers of tin foil and spend close to £1,000 (about $1,300) doing it?

For Tim Hallam, it was a necessity. Tim was diagnosed with electromagnetic hypersensitivity or EHS. It’s a condition where exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) from devices like WiFi routers and cell phonescan cause debilitating symptoms.

To combat this, Tim transformed his bedroom into a Faraday cage, lining it with foil to block out EMF radiation.

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He went to great lengths, using aluminum tape to seal the edges and grounding the entire room to handle low-frequency radiation, while high frequencies bounced off.

Tim’s symptoms, which included headaches, muscle pain, dry eyes, memory lapses, and irritability, drove him to take these drastic measures.

He even spent a summer sleeping in his garden to escape a flatmate’s powerful WiFi router.

The toll this condition took on his life was significant. He experienced fragmented sleep without his protective setup, leading to further health issues.

For Tim, his tinfoil-covered bed, where he could zip himself up and be completely sealed from EMF, became his sanctuary, allowing him to sleep peacefully.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome (EHS), also known as electromagnetic illness (EMI), is a controversial topic in the medical field. But for those who actually suffer from this condition, it’s very real.

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity is Similar to an Allergy

Think about food allergies for a moment. Maybe you or someone you know has a sensitivity to peanuts or gluten.

Even a trace amount of the trigger food can lead to severe health effects, and in some cases, these reactions can be life-threatening.

Now, imagine if instead of being allergic to food, you were allergic to WiFi.

That’s what electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is like: your body reacts very negatively to the invisible force of electromagnetic radiation.

Symptoms of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity

People with EHS report a wide range of symptoms. These include headache, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin prickling, burning sensations and rashes, muscle aches, and many other health problems. 

The World Health Organization also lists the symptoms of EHS as including “fatigue, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, and digestive disturbances.”

So, as you can see, there is a very wide variety of reported symptoms.

Personally, I do not find this surprising, as humans are electromagnetic beings, and all of our bodily systems run on or are controlled by, electromagnetic currents and signals. This means it’s also susceptible to electromagnetic interference.

In some cases, the symptoms are so extreme that those who suffer from EHS find themselves unable to function, work, or participate in society.“It’s so hard to get away from, and it’s taken a toll on my life,” explains Tim Hallam, the UK citizen with EHS who lined his bedroom with £1,000 worth of EMF shielding.

EHS Is Not a New Problem

While Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome may be a relatively new term, it is not a new condition.

In the 1960s, Dr. Allan Frey discovered the microwave auditory effect, also known as the Frey Effect. The Frey Effect occurs when people start to hear noises—such as clicks or even speech—when exposed to microwave radiation.

This phenomenon was first noted in U.S. soldiers exposed to RADAR during World War II and was later demonstrated by Dr. Frey’s research.

Similarly, the Soviet Union issued a report documenting the incidence of what they termed “microwave syndrome” during the Second World War, coinciding with the introduction of RADAR technology.

Military personnel who operated RADAR systems began experiencing various health problems, which are strikingly similar to the symptoms reported by EHS patients today.

In fact, the Soviets recognized the severity of this condition to such an extent that they weaponized it by irradiating the U.S. Embassy in Moscow with microwaves from 1953 to 1975, leading to numerous reports of microwave syndrome.

(There are suspicions that Russia may be continuing to use such microwave weaponry, as suggested by the recent wave of illnesses among U.S. embassy staff in Cuba – the so-called “Havana Syndrome.”)

Therefore, while the terms “electromagnetic illness” and “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” may be new, the condition itself has been recognized in scientific literature for over half a century.

And so, while electromagnetic illness and electromagnetic hypersensitivity may be new terms, the condition itself has been recognized in scientific literature for over half a century.

EHS Is A Growing Concern

As we can see, every year the number of technologies that emit EMF continues to grow exponentially.

It’s no longer just cell phones and WiFi – though the number of phones, antennas, and WiFi networks is also growing rapidly – it’s also devices like smart meters, smart cars, smart door locks, smart thermostats… the list goes on. We are increasingly surrounded by a massive number of sources of EMF radiation.

As such, electromagnetic hypersensitivity is becoming a more serious concern than it was five decades ago.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for those who suffer from the condition to find any respite. And it’s become next to impossible in modern society to find locations that do not have detectable levels of EMF radiation from a wide variety of devices and communications systems. This, of course, does not apply to EMF-free zones.

Controversy About Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome

As with many aspects of EMF science, there has been a debate about the validity of EHS. And electrosensitivity is a controversial topic in the medical community. 

One of the reasons it’s so controversial is that the symptoms are so generalized, varied, and nonspecific.

Some doctors claim these symptoms can result from almost any other condition – including psychiatric conditions – and that there is no way to link these to EMF exposure.

EHS is a controversial topic not only in the medical community but in the government and environmental community, too.

Apart from cell phones being the most common offenders for symptoms of electromagnetic illness, next in line are cellphone towers, power lines, and even your next-door neighbor’s home.

People who suffer from EHS say the placement of these structures is out of their control and in violation of their personal health and safety.

There have even been instances of lawsuits and public petitions to reduce EMF-producing structures in the public community.

There is Growing Evidence Supporting Electrosensitivity Diagnosis

Though there isn’t a significant amount of science on the topic of electromagnetic hypersensitivity, the body of scientific research demonstrating that EHS is a real medical condition does exist and is growing.

In a 2017 study, researchers performed MRIs on the brains of 10 patients who claimed to suffer from EHS. All 10 had abnormal brain scans.What’s more: the abnormalities were “consistent and similar” across all 10 patients. The researchers believe that MRIs can be an effective means to diagnose the condition.

electromagnetic hypersensitivity brain scans
MRI scans from the study performed by Drs. Gunnar Heuser and Sylvia A. Heuser

Recognizing EHS

While the body of scientific data supporting EHS continues to grow (albeit quite slowly), very few doctors, organizations, and governments actually recognize it as a real condition.

Currently, Austria is the only country in the world with formal, written guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of EHS.

And in Sweden, EHS is formally recognized as a functional impairment (not a disease).

Outside of Austria and Sweden, EHS/EMI is not formally recognized at a national level anywhere in the world.

Science Says EHS Is Real

And a 2012 review of scientific literature wrote, “Evidence suggests pathophysiological change” in some people who suffer from EHS.

In other words, evidence suggests this condition is real, and backed up by measurable changes to people’s bodies.

Another example came in 2006, when the government of the Australian state of Victoria mandated the roll-out of smart meters, thus resulting in the mounting of a powerful source of EMF radiation in every home.

“By August 2013, 142 people had reported adverse health effects from wireless smart meters by submitting information on an Australian public website using its health and legal registers.”

Researchers then studied 93 residents, and found that “the participants’ symptoms were the same as those reported by people exposed to radiofrequency fields emitted by devices other than smart meters.

In other words, the people who reported suffering EHS as a result of the smart meter installation reported similar symptoms as people who have reported suffering EHS from other EMF sources, like cell phones and WiFi.

And in her 2009 paper, Dr. Magda Havas tracked the improvement in EHS symptoms in students in schools where the population experienced ‘sick building syndrome’ – meaning a large number of the students and staff reported experiencing symptoms similar to those of EHS – following the installation of Graham/Stetzer filters to remove the dirty electricity in the environment.

“The number of students needing inhalers for asthma was reduced in one school and student behavior associated with ADD/ADHD improved in another school. Blood sugar levels for some diabetics respond to the amount of dirty electricity in their environment.

Type 1 diabetics require less insulin and Type 2 diabetics have lower blood sugar levels in an electromagnetically clean environment. Individuals diagnosed with multiple sclerosis have better balance and fewer tremors.”

In other words, Dr. Havas found that after dirty electricity was removed from the environment, a number of people reported significant improvements in their health.

Recognizing EHS

While the body of scientific data supporting electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome continues to grow (albeit quite slowly), very few doctors, organizations, and governments actually recognize it as a real condition.

Currently, Austria is the only country in the world with formal, written guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of EHS.

And in Sweden, EHS is formally recognized as a functional impairment (not a disease).

Outside of Austria and Sweden, EHS/EMI is not formally recognized at a national level anywhere in the world.

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity is Increasingly Recognized

While perhaps not formally, EHS is increasingly being recognized as a real medical condition.For example, in 2015, a French court awarded one citizen €800 (about $890) a month as a disability grant due to her electrosensitivity.

California Appellate Court Said WiFi Sickness is a Disability

In another example, in February 2021, the California appellate court became the latest legal body to recognize EHS. This happened in the Brown vs. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) case.

Here’s how the case went.

LAUSD-employed teacher Laurie Brown filed a civil complaint against the school district in 2018, claiming the new WiFi system caused her to suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) and that the district failed to accommodate her condition.

After experiencing symptoms when the WiFi was upgraded in 2015, Brown requested the WiFi in her classroom be turned off and computers hardwired, which was done.

However, her symptoms persisted, leading her to request EMF shielding or a classroom move. LAUSD, following URS Corporation’s evaluation deeming the WiFi safe, denied her requests.

As her symptoms worsened, Brown filed a complaint with the California appellate court.

After three long years, the California Court of Appeal recognized electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) as a disability under FEHA, validating Laurie Brown’s claims that her WiFi-induced symptoms required accommodation.

The court found that LAUSD failed to accommodate her by not addressing her requests to relocate her classroom or turn off the WiFi, violating FEHA’s reasonable accommodation requirement.

This ruling set a legal precedent for similar future cases, emphasizing the need to take such symptoms seriously despite scientific debate.

Push for Further Recognition of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome

Around the world, advocates for recognizing electromagnetic hypersensitivity and modifying safety standards continue to push for further understanding and recognition of EHS.

In Canada, for example, Canada Health recently reviewed its Safety Code 6, which governs EMF exposure limits. Paul Demers, the director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Toronto, chaired the review of Safety Code 6.

Demers said members heard testimony from a number of people who considered themselves to be hypersensitive to emissions, with symptoms that fall under a broadly defined category called idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields, or IEI-EMF.

“We were very concerned with the health of these folks who did present to the panel,” he said. “So we recommended that Health Canada further investigate their problem … understanding their health conditions and finding ways to find effective treatments for these individuals.”

Not Waiting For Governments

Despite how controversial EHS is, some physicians are willing to diagnose patients with electromagnetic illness if the signs and symptoms fit the bill, especially when there aren’t any additional underlying causes that would produce those symptoms in the patient.

The Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, for example, now provides electrohypersensitivity diagnoses to patients with this condition

It is one of the few hospitals across the world that has an entirely separate department to treat patients suffering from environmental conditions like EHS. 

It even has a clinic dedicated to educating patients and the medical community on the effects of wireless radiation on the human body.

The Women’s College Hospital has officially released a public statement associating those signs and symptoms with EHS even with all the controversy surrounding it.

Because of the debate surrounding electromagnetic hypersensitivity, the condition is underdiagnosed and the patients afflicted with the condition are scrutinized unfairly by the medical community.

For this reason, the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto believes growing awareness is one of the best ways to bring the issue to the public.

The Women’s College Hospital is not the only place where you can seek diagnosis and treatment for EHS. Others include:

Working With Your Doctor

As you can see, the list of doctors and facilities that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of electromagnetic hypersensitivity is not a long one.

And for many, traveling to these locations is impractical, if not impossible.

And even if you are able to visit one of these locations, doctors who specialize in EHS recommend patients first talk to their family doctor about their signs and symptoms and request a referral to a specialist from there. 

So, in most cases, if you believe you are suffering from EHS, your first step is to visit your family doctor. But, realize that your doctor may never have heard of EHS, or may not believe it is real.

So when you go, go armed with facts.

One great resource is this consensus paper of the Austrian Medical Association’s EMF Working Group, which you can download here. This paper includes guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of EHS – and serves as proof that this condition is formally recognized by professional scientists and healthcare providers. 

Medicare and Medicaid Billing Codes

Tracking the incidence of EHS is difficult because so few doctors understand and provide the diagnosis to patients. 

While this is still the case in the United States, there is an important change of which you should be aware. EHS can now be categorized with an ICD-10 billing code.

ICD-10 billing codes are “used by doctors, health insurance companies, and public health agencies across the world to represent diagnoses.”

Each disease, disorder, infection, injury, and symptom has its own ICD-10 billing code, and they are used to track health insurance claims as well as the incidence of disease and epidemics.

And EHS now has its own ICD-10 billing code. There are actually a few codes to choose from, all under the header code ‘W90’. These include:

  • W90.0 – Exposure to radiofrequency
    • W90.0XXA – Exposure to radiofrequency, initial encounter
    • W90.0XXD – Exposure to radiofrequency, subsequent encounter
    • W90.0XXS – Exposure to radiofrequency, sequela
  • W90.8 – Exposure to other nonionizing radiation
    • W90.8XXA – … initial encounter
    • W90.8XXD – … subsequent encounter
    • W90.8XXS – … sequela

(Sequela means that the condition is the result of a prior condition.)

What’s more, as of late 2018, these codes are recognized by Medicare and Medicaid. 

So, if you live in the US, have EHS, and are able to secure a diagnosis from a doctor, please make sure to point your doctor to this ICD-10 billing code, and ensure that your condition is reported as one of these codes most appropriate to your circumstance.

This will greatly advance our ability to track and quantify how many people suffer from EHS.

How to Treat EHS?

Since Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome is the result of exposure to EMF radiation, often the best treatment is to reduce and limit your EMF exposure.

There are ways of significantly reducing your exposure to electromagnetic radiation without disconnecting from society. Because, even as the sources of electrosmog in the environment continue to grow, it’s often how you use the devices closest to you that matters the most. 

For instance, to make a huge reduction in your exposure to EMF radiation, you can:

For more information, you can visit my post, “10 Best EMF Protection Tips for a Safer, Healthier Life.

Invest in EMF Protection Products

Since it’s not always possible to create distance from your electronic devices, you can also try investing in products, like the ones we sell here at SYB, that reduce your exposure to harmful EMF radiation.

These are EMF protection products like our SYB Phone Pouch and SYB 5G Phone Shield, which make it safer to carry your phone, or our SYB Laptop Pad, which makes it safer to use your laptop.

For those with mild-to-moderate symptoms, taking steps such as these to reduce your exposure may be sufficient to realize a notable boost in health and reduction in symptoms.

There are those, however, for whom such exposure reductions will prove to be insufficient. For those, alternative measures must be considered to enhance one’s resistance to EMF radiation. 

Many of these alternative measures are things any doctor would recommend for your overall health.

Activities such as getting exercise, improving nutrition, eliminating the consumption of addictive substances, and improving your sleep, as well as stress reduction measures like meditation or keeping a more reasonable work schedule.

Doing these things makes you healthier, which translates to your immune system’s increased ability to deal with stressors, such as EMF radiation.Those with the worst symptoms of electromagnetic illness – who find life in modern society debilitating– may wish to consider moving to, or temporarily vacationing in, EMF-free zones.

Final Thoughts

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS) is no longer an enigma.

It’s manageable with simple changes in your daily routine.

Use the information in this post as much as you can, and share it widely.

Only by coming together as a community and understanding these issues can we make meaningful changes, ensuring that no one has to compromise on their quality of life.

If you need personalized advice on what products to use or what lifestyle changes to make, our in-house EMF consultants are always here to help.

Check out our EMF consulting services and start taking proactive steps to prioritize your well-being today.

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About the Author

R Blank is the CEO of Shield Your Body, which he founded in 2012. With hundreds of thousands of customers in over 30 countries, and having been interviewed on platforms including Dr. Phil, ABC news television and ElectricSense, R is an internationally followed expert on issues of EMF, health and safety. He also hosts “The Healthier Tech Podcast”, available Apple, Spotify and all major podcasting platforms. In the past, he served on the faculty at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz. Previously, R ran a software engineering firm in Los Angeles, producing enterprise-level solutions for blue chip clients including Medtronic, Apple, NBC, Toyota, Disney, Microsoft, the NFL, Ford, IKEA and Mattel. He has spoken at conferences around the world, including in the US, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and he is the co-author, along with his father Dr. Martin Blank, of ‘Overpowered‘ from Seven Stories Press about the science of health effects of EMF radiation. He has an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and received his bachelor’s degree, with honors, from Columbia University. He has also studied at Cambridge University in the UK; the University of Salamanca in Spain; and the Institute of Foreign Languages in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Read more about R and SYB or connect with R on LinkedIn.

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I take pride in designing great, effective products, based on real, measurable science – AND taking the time to ensure that each and every one of you has the information you need to understand EMF and make informed decisions.

So if you have a question, just email me and ask.

R Blank

R Blank