Science: Electrosensitivity and illnesses

            Back to: The Science about ES: Individual Studies


Electrosensitivity is an environmental intolerance which makes a person ill, resulting in functional disability

A person who is electrosensitive is healthy when away from electromagnetic fields or radio frequency radiation, but ill when exposed to them. Electrosensitivity is thus a typical environmental illness, like a sensitivity to chemicals, air particulates, foodstuffs or pollens, where the illness occurs as an intolerance in the presence of the triggering environmental substance. The treatment for Electrosensitivity, as for similar environmentally-triggered illnesses and diseases, is the removal of the cause, such as Wifi, Bluetooth, smart meters, cell phones, towers etc. At present there is no complete cure, although healthy living without EMF/RFR exposure can help reduce sensitivity.

Electrosensitivity is not a disease or illness marked by a particular virus or bacteria. It is marked by the environmental toxin which causes the neurological changes leading to the specific symptoms associated with Electrosensitivity. These include  headaches, pains in the muscles, heart palpitations, disturbed sleep, anxiety, memory loss and nosebleeds.

These symptoms often lead to a condition of functional disability. This condition can come under disability and discrimination legislation in many countries. People and organisations permitting or causing the environmental toxin or EMFs/RFR have been held responsible by courts for causing harm to people affected by the EMFs/RFR or likely to be harmed in the future.

Nevertheless, there are differing levels of sensitivity to electromagnetic fields and radio frequency radiation. This syndrome can affect all organs and systems in the body. If exposure is high, it can trigger a 'hyper' sensitivity, causing long-term changes to the neurological system. These changes act like an illness. In addition to use of a clinical history, the changes can sometimes be identified with one or more of numerous biomarkers and brain damage evident on 3rd fMRI scans.

The differing levels of sensitivity reflect differing genetic traits in some cases. Some of those genetic features making some people more sensitive have now been identified, including certain haplotypes and some cases of demyelination.

Electrical sensitivity was first recorded over two centuries ago. Various mechanisms and pathways have been  discovered in the last 50 years. These include changes to enzymes, protein expression and neurotransmitters, along with DNA single and double strand breaks, oxidative stress, inflammation, voltage channel depolarisation, radical pair mechanism and information exchange through biophotons. Research is complicated by differing reactions in different geomagnetic locations or in different electrical atmospheric conditions or with different technicians present or with the same technicians in a different electrical state from another occasion. Research is also made more demanding by cumulative and delayed electrical biological effects.

EMFs/RFR as non-ionizing radiation appears to be more widely bioactive than ionizing radiation but in different ways. This is partly because it can disrupt numerous bodily information pathways and every bodily cell simultaneously. When combined with ionizing radiation, non-ionizing radiation can have more devastating effects.  Like ionizing radiation, non-ionizing can have hormetic effects, where a small exposure can enhance a biological function, as used in many therapeutic procedures, but an exposure greater in duration or intensity can restrict the same biological function.    

The polluted environment is toxic

As with other environmental sensitivities, for the electrosensitive person and for all human and wild life the environment polluted with excessive man-made EMFs/RFR is toxic.


  • Like similar environmental intolerances or sensitivities, such as to chemicals, dust, food substances and nuts, Electrosensitivity can develop into a hyper-sensitivity where a person reacts at very low levels of exposure. This hyper-sensitivity often spreads to other senses of the body, such as light, smell and touch.
  • For Electrosensitivity this process has been studied since the 1960s. At first, people who were occupationally exposed were affected. Since the 1970s, however, with the advent of computers, cellphones, WiFi and smart meters, the general population is now also affected.
  • Studies on Electrosensitivity often show a three-stage progression, with (i) growing sensitivity, (ii) adaptation, and (iii) a trigger or crisis point, where the body can no longer adapt. Instead, the central nervous system becomes sensitive at a much lower level of exposure than previously. Some studies suggest that once this third stage is reached, it becomes difficult or impossible to reverse the situation completely.
  • The triggering event for hyper-sensitisation is often an environmental insult, such as the introduction of WiFi or wireless smart meters. This triggering event may occur when epigenetic factors are involved. 

Electrosensitivity and specific genetic variations

  • Some, but not certainly not all, cases of Electrosensitivity run in families, particularly in the female line. 
  • A person with this sensitivity may have a genetic haplotype which renders them more likely to be sensitive to environmental man-made electromagnetic exposure. A common type of genetic variation is a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), each representing a difference in a single DNA building block or nucleotide. SNPs occur on average once in every 300 nucleotides, so there are some 10 million SNPs in the human genome.
  • Some research shows that electrosensitive people may be nearly ten times more likely to have a specific genetic variation. Since one variation is also found in some people with cancer this may suggest an increased risk of cancer. This may also be true of other known illnesses, as listed below, but little research has yet been done on these aspects of the condition.
  • People with an inherited or acquired demyelination, where the electrical effective of the neurological system is compromised, are sometimes electrically sensitive. Demyelination can occur after exposure to some viruses and also in conditions like Multiple Sclerosis.
  • De Luca C et al: "Metabolic and genetic screening of electromagnetic hypersensitivity subjects as a feasible tool for diagnostics and intervention" (Mediators Inflamm., 2014) 

Electrical and other sensitivities

People who are electrosensitive often become much more sensitive to a wide range of other environmental stressors. These include:

  • light
  • sensations (e.g. vibrations)
  • smell, including chemicals
  • sound
  • taste
  • touch

Illnesses, diseases and adverse effects

Electrosensitivity: links with illnesses and cancers

Although Electrosensitivity can be considered as a neurological illness because it has a specific set of symptoms and objective biological markers, it differs from some illnesses in that it does not seem to relate to a virus or bacterium and cannot be caught or transmitted. The term 'co-morbidity' may not be fully relevant.

Electrosensitivity is found in recognised illnesses and can make some illnesses worse. Since it seems that all humans can react to electromagnetic exposure through oxidative stress and calcium flux at the cellular level, and some 40% of US adults have chronic imflammatory illnesses which are affected by low levels of electromagnetic exposure, many humans are likely electrosensitive to some degree, whether they have the specific conscious symptoms associated with Electrosensitivity or not. This is supported by studies showing subconscious objective changes in, e.g. cerebral blood glucose, EEGs, HRV and gene expression, where subjective conscious symptoms are often not present.

Links with other allergies:

Links with chronic illnesses:

Illnesses and cancers:

  • Alzheimer's disease, dementia and early-onset dementia: a study of over half the Swiss population confirmed an association between power-line exposure and Alzheimer's. Specific symptoms of Electrosensitivity are cognitive impairment and memory loss.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): people susceptible to ALS seem likely to be electrosensitive to some degree, since 90% of studies have shown a link between electromagnetic exposure and ALS.
  • Autism, ADHD: there are associations between sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation and the occurrence of autism and ADHD, perhaps through the inhibition of metabolic and cellular processes such as chelation of heavy metals.
  • Cancers: many cancers have been associated with electromagnetic exposure, and thus, to a reduced extent, with Electrosensitivity. An association with childhood leukemia from power-lines was discovered in 1979. Adult leukemia, lymphoma and ALS are also associated with EM exposure. Since about 2008 heavy use of cellphones has been linked with some types of brain tumors. Several other cancers, such as breast (male and female), melanoma, prostate and testicular cancers have been linked with electromagnetic exposure and thus electrosensitivity. 
  • Cardiovascular conditions: it has long been established that increased cardiovascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks, can be linked with geomagnetic disturbances, such as solar flares, suggesting that a significant number of the population may be electrosensitive.
  • Cataracts: it was found in the 1950s that some people who are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation have an increased risk of cataracts and other ophthalmic conditions.
  • Chemical sensitivity (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, MCS): about 80% of people with MCS are also said to be electrosensitive.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME): some people with CFS/ME are also electrosensitive. One pathway may be the cellular trapping of heavy metals, since people with CFS/ME, as well as electrosensitive sufferers, are sometimes helped by the removal of mercury dental fillings (see Metallic poisoning).
  • Depression, anxiety and suicide: since 1979 it has been known that electromagnetic exposure can be linked with depression, anxiety and suicide incidences in a dose-response manner.  
  • Diabetes: studies suggest that some diabetics who are also electrosensitive find that their need for medical intervention is reduced if they change an environment polluted by man-made electromagnetic exposures, especially dirty electricity, to a more clean and hygienic environment.
  • Electrosensitivity symptoms: the specific symptoms associated with sensitivity to electromagnetic exposure, such as headaches, muscular and skin pains, cardiovascular effects, cognitive impairment and sleep disturbance, have been established since the 1930s. They have been proved in dose-response studies for some specific areas of environmental exposure, such as in the proximity of cellphone towers, close to MRI scanners where the strong magnetic fields create electric fields in workers walking past, and in geomagnetic disturbances linked with solar storms, thunder storms and the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
  • Epilepsy: it has long been shown that some epileptic events are similar to electrosensitive symptoms and can be triggered by electromagnetic exposure.
  • Hypothyroidism: the thyroid gland is especially electrosensitive, thus linking electrosensitivity to hypothyroidism and possibly obesity.
  • Infertility: some men have reduced fertility because they are sensitive to environmental electromagnetic exposures. 
  • Metallic poisoning: Electrosensitivity may involve a tendency for cells not to chelate effectively, making them liable to a build-up of heavy metals. This has been shown in cases of mercury  poisoning arising from release of mercury from metallic amalgam dental restorations.
  • Migraines, headaches: these are specific Electrosensitivity symptoms, although many physicians do not realise their link with electromagnetic exposure.
  • Miscarriages: various environmental electromagnetic exposures have been associated with increased miscarriages, suggesting that some mothers and babies are especially electrosensitive.
  • Motor Neurone Disease: see Neurological conditions. 
  • Multiple sclerosis: some MS sufferers are also electrosensitive, perhaps because of the demyelinating nature of their illness.
  • Neurological conditions: many neurological conditions seem to be exacerbated by the present of electromagnetic exposure, suggesting that they are electrosensitive. This is well known for cases of Tourette's Syndrome, and may apply to a number of demyelinating conditions, including Multiple Sclerosis. Some people with Parkinson's Disease and Motor Neurone Disease are also electrosensitive to a certain extent, and sometimes respond to pulsed electric or magnetic therapy at non-thermal levels.
  • Parkinson's Disease: see Neurological conditions. 
  • Radio therapy side effects: although not a disease, the non-thermal adverse side effects of radio therapy are themselves specific electrosensitivity symptoms.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome: this is a common Electrosensitivity symptom, although sometimes treated by a physician without reference to potential domestic or occupational electromagnetic exposure.
  • Sex ratio in offspring reduced: both fathers and mothers exposed and sensitive to electromagnetic radiation have significantly reduced boy children, in the case of fathers perhaps through reduced testosterone.
  • Skin conditions and tumors: a common specific symptom of electrosensitivity is skin rash. For some electrosensitive  persons this seems to be linked with tumor promotion. Tumor promotion is now confirmed as caused by electromagnetic exposure.
  • Sleep disturbance: this is a specific Electrosensitivity symptom, although many physicians do not realise its link with electromagnetic exposure, especially from the proximity of cellphone towers, WiFi routers and cordless phones.
  • Tinnitus sufferers: Microwave hearing was discovered in 1962. Recent studies show a significant overlap between people with electrosensitivity and tinnitus, just as there are growing numbers of people with high usage of cellphones and tinnitus.
  • Tourette's Syndrome: this can be related to electromagnetic exposure and thus is a form of  electrosensitivity. This is also true of blepharospasm.

Ecological Studies

Provocation Studies

Further information

(mainly from before 2015 when a series of studies by Prof Belpomme and others showed some of the key biomarkers including use of cerebral blood perfusions scans, and from before 2017 when 3d fMRI scans by Dr Heuser confirmed brain damage in people with EHS)