The Finnish Electrosensitivity Foundation in short
Environmental sensitivity means sensitivity to a variety of factors in the
environment that cause symptoms to some individuals but cause no symptoms or
harm to the majority of population. The most common types of environmental
sensitivities are sensitivity to smells, multiple chemical sensitivity,
electrosensitivity and symptoms caused by indoor air and mould. One type of
environmental sensitivity increases a person’s predisposition to react to other
types of environmental exposure. Environmental sensitivities were included in the Finnish edition of the ICD-10 disease classification code in 2014 under R68.81: Continuous or recurring exceptional sensitivity to common environmental factors.
A person who has become sensitive to electromagnetic radiation and
experiences symptoms because of it is known as an electrosensitive person.
Electrosensitive people experience physical symptoms when exposed to
electromagnetic fields (EMFs), even if their exposure remains within the official
safe limits. For many, the symptoms are related specifically to devices that generate radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF), such as mobile phones, computers and mobile phone base stations. Electrosensitive individuals report discomfort even when using normal home appliances and electronics.
Typical symptoms caused by electromagnetic radiation are redness, tingling or a
burning sensation on the skin. The symptoms could also be generic, such as
fatigue, difficulty concentrating, dizziness and heart palpitations. Symptoms vary between individuals. Electrosensitivity appears to develop for individuals who already have other environmental sensitivities.
What is electromagnetic radiation?
Electromagnetic radiation refers to electromagnetic waves, which are
synchronised oscillations of magnetic fields that propagate at the speed of light. It includes visible light, gamma, infrared, ultraviolet and X-rays, alternating current, radio waves and microwaves. Electromagnetic radiation exists everywhere in our environment. Some of it, such as ultraviolet rays, is a known cause of health problems for human beings. Electrosensitivity means sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation that causes no harm to most people.
Devices and environments linked to electrosensitivity
Electrosensitivity can typically be divided into three stages: the time before the symptoms appear, the acute stage, and the time when the symptoms ease off
and wellbeing is restored.
At the acute stage, the symptoms may be linked, in particular, to using computers
and mobile phones, fluorescent lights, watching television, using the microwave
oven, driving in relatively new cars and nearby mobile phone base stations. Once
the acute stage passes, reactions to household appliances seem to decrease
and reactions to wireless networks and mobile phones seem to increase.
According to a survey conducted in 2011–2012 by the Radio and EMC Laboratory of the Turku University of Applied Sciences, people suffering from electrosensitivity find environments such as shopping centres, supermarkets,
government offices, libraries, hospitals, concert halls and theatres the most
Why do electrosensitive people need support?
The major challenge that electrosensitivity sufferers face is the difficulty for others to understand and accept a problem that they themselves cannot observe.
Negative attitudes have an impact on many aspects of life, such as our jobs,
housing and health care. Electrosensitive individuals often encounter belittling or stigmatisation, because no widely accepted, proven scientific theory currently exists to explain how and why the syndrome develops. Health care practices are quick to marginalise and hide environmentally sensitive patients under various mental health classifications.
Most electrosensitive people experience mild symptoms and cope with daily life
by avoiding exposure to the best of their ability, but are often forced to change
their entire lives: leave their jobs, find somewhere else to live and avoid certain environments. For example, hospitals, libraries and theatres are often out of bounds because of the wireless devices used in them.
With the right measures, electrosensitive individuals can find relief for their symptoms and enjoy highly improved functional capacity.