Several studies have been conducted in our laboratory in order to improve our understanding of the psychological and biological mechanisms underlying electro-hypersensitivity. Subjects who defined themselves as electro-hypersensitive (EHS) were compared with control subjects. Various psychological and electrophysiological measures (event-related potentials: CNV, P300) were recorded. Moreover, we have investigated whether there is a causal link between exposure to the electromagnetic fields EHS subjects are complaining about and negative effects on health.
In our experiments, subjects who defined themselves as EHS were mostly women with a high educational level who generally had a job. EHS subjects essentially experienced the following symptoms: headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances, difficulties in concentrating, irritability, pain in muscles and joints, skin itching, eye problems and blurry vision. EHS subjects usually attributed these symptoms to radiofrequency (RF) fields like those generated by mobile phone technology. In contrast, extremely low frequency (ELF) fields were rarely considered to be the cause of their complaints.
The results of our studies show that EHS subjects are significantly more anxious than control subjects and exhibit more signs of depression and distress. However, we did not find significant differences between EHS and control subjects in our electrophysiological experiments (CNV, P300). In our provocation studies, the subjects were exposed to an electromagnetic field (magnetic helmet generating an electromagnetic field of 20 µT and 50 Hz) or not (sham condition with the magnetic helmet turned off), depending on the experimental conditions. Our results indicate that EHS subjects report more symptoms when they are exposed to the electromagnetic field while knowing that they are really exposed. Nevertheless, the double blind provocation study shows that the EHS group was not capable of detecting the electromagnetic field above chance level.
The experiments conducted in our laboratory do not indicate a clear relationship between exposure to electromagnetic fields and the occurrence of negative effects on health. Our results show that anxiety and distress levels are significantly higher in EHS subjects than in control subjects. However, our experiments cannot definitely rule out the hypothesis that exposure to electromagnetic fields EHS subjects are complaining about can affect health. Other experimental parameters (longer exposure to the electromagnetic field, higher frequency, symptom latency, etc…) could cause symptoms and/or harm. In addition, small statistical effects could have been left undetected. Our laboratory attempts to address these issues using new experimental protocols.