The BBC Will Make You Sick

Last Monday BBC South Inside Out broadcast an investigation into ‘WiFi Refugees’. These are people who claim to be so badly affected by the radiation emitted from modern devices, such as mobile phones and WiFi, that they have to seek isolated places where they can live free of neighbours’ electronic devices. As you might image, this is a hard task, and such people live restricted lives, alone, and struggle to maintain jobs, friends and the semblance of a normal life.

Such people report a range of symptoms from WiFi including headaches, exhaustion, aches and pains. The problem is: there is no good scientific reasons at all to think that the symptoms described are caused by WiFi, despite the very strongly held beliefs that they are.

Someone I know in the BBC put me in contact with Mike Powell at BBC South who was investigating the story. And I happy agreed to let Mike know what  I knew of the subject. I was asked if I wanted to take part in the programme, but I had strong reservations when I heard that Emeritus Professor Denis Henshaw of the Human Radiation Effects Group at Bristol University would also be taking part. Now, Henshaw has certain views about the effects of electromagnetic radiation and health. They are not mainstream, and I would class them as fringe. He is, of course, perfectly entitled to hold such views and you could argue that fringe views  on occasions help science advance.  But that you might make bold advances by having fringe views does not make you right. I have known of Henshaw’s work from my own days working in a medical physics group,  and I was concerned that his position might seriously distort the balance of evidence on this subject unless it was handled with the utmost care.

As such, I wrote to the BBC with my concerns and why I was reluctant to take part,

Thanks for getting in touch. I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to put down in writing some of my reservations about the WiFi and electrosensitivity subject.

Obviously, I do not know at the moment how you intend to present the evidence for harm by WiFi and the subject of electrosensitivity, but I have grave concerns that if the only health physicist you have spoken to is Prof Henshaw then there is a risk that your report will not present the scientific consensus on these issues and hence the report will not maintain the standards expected of the BBC for scientific accuracy and objectivity. Specifically, the report risks presenting a controversy where there is none and failing to present the scientific consensus on such matters. As such, your viewers might be misled about the science and possibly alarmed when there is no good reason for them to be so.

As the BBC Independent report into science reporting, conducted last year by Professor Steve Jones, made clear, the drive to impartiality in relation to science coverage risks giving “undue attention to marginal opinion”. As such, I feel if difficult for me to take part as I feel it would be unfair for me to represent the overwhelming scientific consensus in this area. It is my opinion that Prof Henshaw represents a very marginal scientific position and balance to such an opinion would mean showing hundreds of mainstream scientists who hold less extreme positions.

Perhaps, I ought to make it very clear why the scientific consensus is as it is.

There are groups of people who self-diagnose as ‘electrosensitive’. They claim that their (varied) experienced symptoms are caused by exposure to domestic sources of electromagnetic radiation (WiFi, mobile phones, power lines etc.)

  1. This explanation for their symptoms lacks plausibility because there is no known mechanism by which such weak signals from low photon energy radiation sources could induce any significant effects in biological systems. And indeed, good reasons to think they cannot.
  2. We know an awful lot about how radiation interacts with cells and bodies.  However, non-ionising radiation does not do the catastrophic cell damage that ionising radiation can, and, sources such as Wifi will at best result in insignificant local heating of the body. We are constantly exposed to both natural and man-made forms of radiation of all frequencies and as such the quality of exposures from WiFi is not new.There are some scientists who do claim they have found plausible mechanisms. Most of these are fairly ludicrous and constitute what many would call ‘cargo cult science’. it looks like science, smells like science, but is definitely not science. (See Feynman
  3. When people who claim to be electrosensitive undergo blinded challenge tests where they are exposed to either real WiFi/mobile signals or a ‘fake’ signal (the device is actually off) their reported experiences cannot be distinguished. Differential symptoms only appear when they ‘know’ if the signal is on. There have been dozens of such tests and they show a high degree of consistency in this result. I believe the latest review of all the evidence is by Rubin et al (2009) where the authors conclude, “Despite the conviction of IEI-EMF sufferers that their symptoms are triggered by exposure to electromagnetic fields, repeated experiments have been unable to replicate this phenomenon under controlled conditions. A narrow focus by clinicians or policy makers on bioelectromagnetic mechanisms is therefore, unlikely to help IEI-EMF patients in the long-term.There are some scientists who claim trials show effects, but this is cherry picking evidence – looking for selective pieces of evidence that support a position whilst ignoring the overwhelming bulk of negative evidence – much like homeopaths do.

As such, whilst the reported symptoms of suffers are almost certainly real, their explanations for their illness are almost certainly wrong. This presents doctors and other health care professionals with real dilemmas and difficulties in treating patients as these convictions can be incredibly strong and counter positions can risk harming the doctor-patient relationship.

As a side note, an ex producer of the BBC, who now has a life devastated by what she claims is electrosensitivity, came to see me talk on an unrelated issues. She was incredibly hostile to me for having previously written about the subject. After calming down and joining me for a cup of tea, she explained how she was utterly convinced and how she had had to move house, lose friends and family and become a near recluse. Her trip into the city was her first in months. She had made special tin foil hats and lined coats to protect herself. She had spent a fortune on devices, curtains, wallpapers that claimed to protect her (these quack cures do not shield radiation.) It appeared to me that the belief in the causes of her illness were having a far greater effect than the original headaches, tiredness etc.

That is why I feel strongly that an uncritical media do these people a great harm. They are being exploited by people who see a massive source of money. Their lives are devastated because their beliefs are always reinforced. Ben Goldacre, as always has written extensively on this subject and the quackery and bad science that surrounds the issue.

On Henshaw, he writes for Powerwatch who claim to campaign on behalf of electrosensitives. I have previously written about Powerwatch and their links to the selling of dubious devices and treatments. See note. He is an interesting chap. He was behind the ‘powerlines cause cancer’ controversy over the past few decades – a hypothesis that has has failed to come to a definitive positive conclusion, and if there is an effect, it is definitely small (less than 1 cancer per year) and any positive results may well still be caused by confounding factors in studies such as poverty near locations of power-lines.

I am more than happy to respond to any questions you may have, but as I say, I am reluctant to take part, especially as you report is so far advanced in production. As I said, there are real and interesting stories here: such as the difficulties in treating such people where part of the condition appears to be a hostility to mainstream knowledge; and importantly, how quacks and chancers exploit these people mercilessly.

Best wishes,

The report was worse than I feared.

So, after meeting a couple of electrosensitives we had the mainstream view from Professor David Coggon of Southampton University who described the evidence that WiFi was not directly responsible for the health effects. Then Professor Henshaw appeared who told the camera that  ‘we know about acute symptoms’ from geomagnetic storms which gave the same sort of signals as WiFi. This is a disputable view.

We then had serious sounding Somerset doctor, Dr Andrew Tresidder, telling the viewers that ‘for a long time we thought asbestos was safe’ and that ‘in five years time we will look back and say, oh my god, there is a major problem that we have not been observing”. Dr Tresidder advertises on his web site that he is able to offer people that suffer from “Electromagnetic Stress” therapies including  “Implosion research devices” and “vibrational tuning forks such as Flower Essences – Australian Bush Flower Essences”. These flower essences are a derivative of the pseudoscience of homeopathy using brandy and extreme dilutions of flowering plants.

We then saw ‘physicist’ Guy Hudson consulting to one the sufferers to tell him that his chosen location for his caravan in the woods was a good place to reduce his EMF exposure. The web site for Guy Hudson describes himself as a “a leading professional water diviner – a master dowser.” This was not explained to the BBC viewers.

As such, this BBC report failed to present anything like balance on the subject. One sceptical and mainstream voice was pretty much overwhelmed by marginal views, dowsers, acupressurists and the people who believed they were suffering from WiFi. Mike Powell did say to me in a letter that mobile phone companies had declined to appear and so had the HPA. Was I right to refuse to take part?

My feeling is that, as I stated in the letter, that my last minute appearance would not have shifted the editorial balance in the article. To do that, an entirely new stance would have been required.

A timely paper has just been published on the possible adverse effects of such broadcasts. Witthöft and Rubin’s paper is entitled, Are media warnings about the adverse health effects of modern life self-fulfilling? An experimental study on idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields.

The purpose of the paper was to look at the following question,

Medically unsubstantiated ‘intolerances’ to foods, chemicals and environmental toxins are common and are frequently discussed in the media. Idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF) is one such condition and is characterized by symptoms that are attributed to exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). In this experiment, we tested whether media reports promote the development of this condition.

The experiment divided 147 people at random into two groups: the first asked people to look at a television programme on the alleged adverse effects of WiFi and the second looked at an unrelated programme. The researchers then told the participants that they were then going to expose them to a WiFi signal, but in fact, they were not. The results showed that the group that had seen the WiFi film had increased levels of anxiety, reported more symptoms, attributed those symptoms to the WiFi and an increased chance that they though they were electrosensitive.

Their conclusion was,

Media reports about the adverse effects of supposedly hazardous substances can increase the likelihood of experiencing symptoms following sham exposure and developing an apparent sensitivity to it. Greater engagement between journalists and scientists is required to counter these negative effects.

Greater engagement is indeed needed between journalists and scientists. I fear though that this is insufficient in that the journalists at the BBC did indeed understand what the mainstream view was. What appeared to fail was an acceptance of this position, a failure to understand how balance must work in scientific matters, and a failure to grasp how their own reporting could indeed make the situation worse for people.

There is a general awareness in the media and BBC now about how the reporting of suicides needs to be carried out with care to reduce risk to vulnerable viewers. People at risk of suicide, self-harm and eating disorders are not the only people who can be adversely affected by media reports. But the more general point is that this would not been an issue if the BBC had followed its own recommendations on balance in science reporting. I fear the BBC still has a long way to go in absorbing the conclusions of the Jones Report.

116 Comments on The BBC Will Make You Sick

  1. I’m guessing that, once again, journalists with a background in humanities are trying to report on matters of science. We shouldn’t be too critical of the journalists. They know not what they do. We should, however, start to kick in a few doors of senior management. The BBC is starting to be a friend of science – a few people with a scientific background in management positions would be a timely thing.

  2. Brave of you to attempt reason and balance on this.
    It appears that some of the contributors to this do not understand that ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’ and Feynman’s comment on not fooling yourself. It also appears to fall into the trap of presenting ‘both sides’ as having equal (scientific) validity.
    How do you control for ‘lack of RF/WiFi signals makes me feel better and just happens to be in a lovely rural area’ for instance?
    I’m surprised that no-one has yet thought of designing and marketing a custom mobile Faraday cage that looks like a Dalek, I’m sure the BBC would be happy to sell it.

  3. I hope ‘Sense about Science’ is on the case.

    Here we see the BBC quite deliberately setting out to mislead vulnerable viewers and actually cause distress and emotional harm to folks who need help.

    This is propaganda, not reporting.

    Disgraceful! And I don’t live anywhere near Tonbridge Wells, but I do live near Totnes which is twinned with Narnia.

    Mr Quack’s points are well made, and I was amused to hear Henshaw say he objects to those of us who say ‘It’s all in the mind rather than a physiological response’ – hiding behind a straw man and conveniently avoiding the fact that ‘the mind IS a physiological response’. What else is it dear?

    That having been said, the programme was not too rabid, but I am concerned at taking advantage of disturbed individuals in this way. They need care and compassion, not exposure on what is really just an entertainment programme.

  4. The problem is not just humanities graduates in the media reporting on scientific matters. There’s also the issue of humanities dictating how science should be taught.
    When PGCE mean ‘Post-graduate Certificate in Education’, you had scientists who knew their subject looking intensively at how best to teach it. Now it means ‘Professional Graduate Certificate in Education’, you can get one after pottering about part-time at your local neo-university discussing humanities about teaching. I’ve been on the receiving end of scorn from such people along the lines of ‘How can anyone learn to teach in a couple of terms?’ Erm, quite well actually… if you know your subject.
    Let’s face it ‘scientific method’ is not one world-view, it is the ability to reason.

  5. Andy, I’m not sure if this is helpful, but it does remind me of what I used to explain to patients who asked advice on alternative medicine remedies for their conditions. I used to keep a list in my desk drawer of the myriad of alternative treatments available in my area. I used to get it out and say to people that I had recently seen various patients who had felt sure that [list of half a dozen or more remedies] had helped their condition. However I explained, it seemed impossible to predict in individual cases which of these various remedies was going to be helpful because there was no known basis to explain how they worked or on what or on whom they worked. Since they all cost X dollars per session it was going to be quite expensive to work through them to find the one that suits you, and anyway, which one do we choose first [provide list of websites to consult]. Then I used to say, but there is one way we know of helping to decide what is most likely to work, and that’s called science… educational explanation etc.

    I remind you (below) of what Popper said to Adler when he visited his adolescent psychology clinic in Vienna all those years ago*.

    Perhaps it is possible to apply such ideas to the dilemma that you found yourself in. One could suggest various other equally plausible or implausible alternative explanations of appropriate degrees of obscurity, opaqueness or silliness, as appropriate. Rather like the spaghetti monster idea in fact. That would leave your Professor Henshaw on the back foot having to explain why his idea is better than yours/the alternatives.

    Just a thought.

    *From Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963)
    “As for Adler, I was much impressed by a personal experience. Once, in 1919, I reported to him a case which to me did not seem particularly Adlerian, but which he found no difficulty in analyzing in terms of his theory of inferiority feelings, although he had not even seen the child. Slightly shocked, I asked him how he could be so sure. “Because of my thousandfold experience,” he replied; whereupon I could not help saying: “And with this new case, I suppose, your experience has become thousand-and-one-fold.””

  6. The only conclusion I can reach after watching this is that the journalists in question deliberately set out to present a scare story which went against the consensus view.

    The choice of participants, their air time and somewhat deceptive presentation of some leads viewers to only one conclusion – Wifi is bad, m’kay.

    Perhaps the BBC should have gone the whole hog and over egged it by refering to Guy Hudson as ‘Dr Guy Hudson’? He has got a PhD 😉

    I presume a complaint will be made to the BBC?

  7. Towards the end of the clip the “expert” is seen with what looks like a digital multimeter and appears to be testing something to an earth spike. Some digits appear, soon after the subject burst into tears. This looks like unadulterated bollocks to me.
    At any point in this documentary does anyone point out at that we are all subject radio waves of different lengths and always have been?

  8. “in five years time we will look back and say, oh my god, there is a major problem that we have not been observing”

    Is an example of my all time favourite crank argument: Extrapolation from current uncertainty (in this case manufactured) to future certainty. It’s exactly the same as the homoeopaths extrapolating from a meagre pile of anecdotes to a future medical revolution. It was also evident in Tony Blair’s “History will judge us” mantra following the Iraq war.

    The argument finds some rational blind spot. You even hear journalists demanding of experts “what do you think we’ll be saying in 5 years time?”. If people could just learn to spot this one single cognitive fuck-up it would protect them against a great deal of the quackery and political manipulation that currently plagues us.

  9. I share very nearly all the disgust reflected here about the BBC’s alarmist programme making. It’s a very good example of the “hydraulic equivalence” metaphor discussed in previous postings.

    However, I do recall a programme ages ago where Henshaw described a hypothesis that the fields around power lines, particularly the super-grid 400kV, could cause particles of nasty pollutants to clump together. If this was so, then any increased occurrences of the various afflictions blamed on the power lines would occur more on the down-wind side of the lines. That being the side of the lines that the clumped gunk would go to.

    I have zero knowledge of these matters but I do recall thinking at the time that this explanation might be plausible given that some parts of the population could be being exposed to “bigger lumps of gunk” than others. There was talk of research on this in the West Country (UK) in order compare either side of the lines.

    Did it happen? Was any research done?
    It’s just that it seemed a tangible explanation rather than a “woo, wow – it’s energy” scare story.

    • Tim,
      400kV has been around for a long time now, over 40 years I think. If there were any significant health risks from working in proximity to high voltage transmission line, or for that matter HV plant then you would think it would have manifested itself by now in people working in the industry. Also high voltages have been around since the 1920s again any health issues surely would have become evident by now.
      I am a retired electrical engineer and I have come across people who think that they are being subjected to torture by electricity or radio waves and the more I tried to explain the more they thought I was part of the problem. They are rich pickings for unscrupulous sales types. One such sales pitch I once saw started with a demonstration that involved a fluorescent tube being held in the electrical field of an HV power line being lit by RF frequencies. It was impressive, but the demonstrators were charlatans.

      • paysan,
        I am sure you’re right,
        (my knowledge comes from 1st year Uni Physics en route to further Metallurgy, not at all practical), but I think the concept that Henshaw had as his hypothesis was that over time the fields around the cables could cause carcinogenic particles to clump and hence become more dangerous.

        He went on to argue that if this was true then there might be some difference in naturally occurring diseases on the down-wind side of the lines when compared with the up-wind side.

        My point is that this hypothesis doesn’t say that it’s the field that does the damage directly but via possibly the measurable effects on rather dull carcinogenic gunk.

        I was asking if anyone knew if this hypothesis had ever been tested. So did anyone look into this. It’s plausible and it didn’t seem like woooo.

    • “the super-grid 400kV, could cause particles of nasty pollutants to clump together” AND ” the various afflictions blamed on the power lines would occur more on the down-wind side of the lines”

      Aggregation of particles occurs naturally. I’ve seen nothing to indicate that an electromagnetic field will increase clumping. Anyhow the impact of a larger pollutant particle is likely to be lower since as the size increases the penetration into the lungs decreases. People on the upwind side of the power line are more likely to suffer than the downsiders.

    • In the mid 90s Denis Henshaw was given a chair at Bristol University. His business card read “Professor in physics”. Not “of”. I always found his choice of preposition telling. yes he worked in the physics building but even then he couldn’t bring himself to call himself a professor of the subject. I think history has borne out the hazards of unobjective science…

  10. Le Canard

    The embedded URL in your posting does not work (The Feynman cult science reference).

    In fact if you Google it you get a Googlewhack, with the only online reference being this posting.

    I hereby accuse you of the new web fallacy of Online Circular Self-Referential Solipsism.

    If anyone is interested the paper can de downloaded as a .pdf here:

    And a sort of collected works of Feynman can be downloaded as a .pdf/epub here:

    Bill Gates has put the collected papers of Feynman online, which is very good of him (More than Steve Jobs ever did!).  

    • …and Jeff hasn’t figured out how to solve the problem with your second link either – at least not March 6 at about a quarter to three CET.

  11. Surrey Police and the River Police dredged a guy out of the Thames at Hampton Court a few years ago. He was in the river in obvious distress. When they pulled him out he was found to be wearing a heavy overcoat with hundreds of “lead” pencils sewn into the lining. The weight of the coat was dragging him down. 

    He had sewn the “lead” pencils into the coat to protect himself from radiation, and probably also government mind control rays for all I know (probably from HAARP and bounced of “chemtrails”).

    His main concern on being fished out of the river was that he had lost his tinfoil hat and was therefore exposed and susceptible (not a big thank you to the watery Old Bill for fishing him out and saving his life!). 

    Apparently the police were too busy to dredge the river for his hat.

    His house was completely papered in tinfoil as an additional protection.

    Now it is possible that he was somewhat nuts (Pr tending to 1) and was a somewhat extreme manifestation of this irrational belief but I cannot help think that his lack of rational thought was in some way media influenced.

    And tinfoil is hardly a protection as a simple experiment can show.

    I covered an iPhone with a single layer of tinfoil and dialled it from my landline. It rang. I wrapped it tightly in a single layer of tinfoil – it rang. Wrapped tightly in three layers of tinfoil it still rang when stood upright. Only when triple wrapped in tinfoil and fully enclosed in a substantial metal tea caddy did it fail to ring.  You can try this at home (but do not leave it wrapped in tinfoil – it will fry the innards). Faraday may have been on to something.

    Triple wrapping yourself in tinfoil and living in a tea caddy might not represent a viable lifestyle choice, no matter how ill you perceive yourself to be .

  12. An interesting thing I observe about Quackbusters is that they indulge in groupthink, each member conforming with the thoughts of the next. It makes it entirely predictable, probably 100%, for myself and others to know exactly what a Quackbuster will or will not believe in, what they will accept as fact and what ideas they will spend time demolishing. There is no observable variation it is uncanny. And it results in very dull discussions on Quackbusters forums. I sometimes wonder if there are any dissenters among the membership would they be brave enough to stick their heads above the parapet? Probably not… a Skeptic believing in the possibility that there may be problems with combined vaccinations or that official 911 explanations are not what they seem? No, unthinkable! It’s a shame because When one blindly accepts official explanations when there is extant material refuting it, that is not true Critical Thinking.

    Science and enquiry is meant to be open to ideas which may or may not lead down different paths, but Quackbusters prefer to shut down routes of enquiry completely, thus closing down any alternate paths that might lead to answers. For example, electrosensitivity seems to be a very real phenomenon and many thousands, or even millions, are suffering. No-one yet knows what causes it and there are many scientists investigating possible causes. It may or may not be Wi-Fi, mobile phones etc or it may be a combination of influences or none of the above. Placebo, or Nocebo is highly unlikely to account for all these cases. I am conscious of the fact that we live in an age of smog, or electrosmog… the fact is we are surrounded by electronic equipment, wi-fi, mobile phones, computers. How can you be so certain we are not being affected in some way. Some people are more sensitive than others to these things. I am extremely sensitive to chemicals in household sprays but some people can breathe it in all day with no ill result. I wasn’t always sensitive to it… something triggered it off. And if anyone tells me it is Nocebo I will tell them to Foxtrot Oscar!! No, you don’t know but you have strong opinions. I say let the scientists get on with their job. The answer might be something completely unexpected, but if all investigation is shut down because a few whine about it no answers will ever be found, for anything!! Your strong opinions should not result in the shutting down of scientific inquiry.

    By following the demands of Quackbuster’s and gagging any investigation, or stating that all these people are imagining their ailments, other paths of inquiry will be missed, and therefore no conclusive evidence will ever be found. Why is the Quackometer so upset about the scientific inquiry anyway? Do you have something to lose if a connection is found? Where do you interests lie I wonder? Are you really so concerned for the safety of the public? Kudos! if that’s the case.

    • Colin, always best to read my articles before commenting. You will find many answers to your questions in my text. For example, I am not upset about scientific investigations into electrosensitvoty – far from it – I am upset about how the media distort them.

      But perhaps you could answer one question for me. You assert ” Placebo, or Nocebo is highly unlikely to account for all these cases.”

      What reason and evidence do you have to believe this to be true?

      • Hi Andy

        I just think that the sheer number of people suffering these ailments suggest that they cannot all be simplistically explained away this way. Some highly suggestible people maybe, but almost certainly not the majority of cases. I think more time is required to research before any definitive conclusions can be made. I have no evidence of course. I await that with interest.

        As for the media, they distort everything. I don’t trust the BBC especially. They are hardly a beacon of truth for anything. In fact, you seem to expect higher standards from the Beeb then I do. I don’t expect high standards from them. I tend to just ignore what they say and don’t get upset about it. OK, maybe sometimes. Ignore the BBC and leave the scientists to continue their research. It can’t do much harm. The vast majority of people don’t wear tin foil hats and won’t be influenced by shows such as these. The people on the show are hardly representative of electro-sensitive’s.

      • “I just think that the sheer number of people suffering these ailments suggest that they cannot all be simplistically explained away this way.”

        Colin, if you’re going to use these massive, sheer, alarming numbers of sufferers as evidence that it definitely can’t be a placebo/nocebo effect at least have the decency to give us the bloody number.

        How many sufferers of electrosensitivity are there in the UK?

      • Sure thing! Based on some cursory research I have done, both online and from books I have discovered that Sweden is the only country, to date, to officially recognise Electrohypersensitivity (EHS) to be a functional impairment. In Sweden 230,000 people, representing 2.5% of the population are registered as having EHS in some form. If one then uses an average of 2.5% of population this would equate to approximately 1.5 million people in the UK and 6.5 million in the USA.

        It is sad that people suffering these, recognised real, symptoms receive little sympathy from Governments and the scientific community. Is it really hard to guess why this might be the case? The ramifications from an economic perspective are huge. With this in mind, it is not surprising. Sweden currently leads the way. Let’s see what happens in the rest of the world. It is my opinion that research into the causes of EHS is a worthy and worthwhile undertaking.

        I was thinking about the BBC programme. Might it be possible that they are using their tried and tested method to discredit by only focusing on the more “crackpot” examples? By the way, I am not insinuating the people on the show are necessarily crazy. They use this technique often in relation to 911 Truther’s for example. In which case, you ought to be applauding them. Hey, just a thought.

      • Colin

        I doubt very much whether the BBC are engaged in black propaganda. More likely they are looking for something which is seemingly alarming and newsworthy. Even more likely is that they are meeja studies graduates and happily swallow any old mumbo-jumbo, quackery or plain garbage.

        9/11 truthers ARE actually crackpots – although this is somewhat off-topic.

        Follow the Rabin article that LCN references and it will take you to the abstract on Pubmed. Then follow all of the suggested references to the right of the abstract. All of these show no clinical/medical evidence of wi-fi-electrofobia.

        The whole things smacks of something like TT to me. This nurse empowering rubbish was roundly disproved by a young girl as part of her junior school science project. Emily – oh where art thou in our hour of need.

      • Colin. It would be good when you quote numbers to reference them. Where does your figure of 230,000 registered sufferers in Sweden come from? I hope it is not from the suspect extrapolated survey that guessed this number? That wouldn’t be too impressive, would it?

      • Andy, do you dispute the original value it was extrapolated from? I think the proper term is “estimated” not “guessed.

      • Yes, by your counterparts, the Swedish Sceptics Society, rather like your canards to people or groups who hold differing opinions to yourselves. I would say it is entirely predictable who their “Public Educator” and “Misleader of the Year” awards would go to. Things that make you go hmmmmmm….

      • @Colin Bell

        Sweden is the only country, to date, to officially recognise Electrohypersensitivity (EHS) to be a functional impairment.

        And even there, they have only recognised it as a syndrome for which social security benefits are payable. That isn’t the same as recognising that the symptoms are caused by electrosensitivity. Nobody denies that people who say they have electosensitivity suffer real symptoms.

      • I don’t know.

        However, the results of blinded provocation studies strongly suggest that is isn’t electromagnetic fields.

      • Yes, they only suggest, but it’s not yet clearly determined. Maybe more time and study variations are required to find a definitive answer. Something is causing these problems environmentally. It is often the case that scientific discoveries are made by chance or accident, so even if it turns out that the causes are not electromagnetic fields or some weird combination of factors, continuing studies may eventually find the real culprit. Can you be certain the political will is there to find an answer to this problem Mojo?

      • @colin

        Here is a review which looks at 46 provocation studies

        Rubin, James; Rosa Nieto-Hernandez, Simon Wessely (January 2010). “Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance Attributed to Electromagnetic Fields”. Bioelectromagnetics 31 (1): 1–11. doi:10.1002/bem.20536. PMID 19681059.

        “No robust evidence could be found to support this theory. However, the studies included in the review did support the role of the nocebo effect in triggering acute symptoms in IEI-EMF sufferers.”

      • @Colin Bell

        Go find some evidence that the negative results from provocation studies are false negatives, and there may be something to discuss. Otherwise all you have is a conspiracy theory.

      • OK, I can look into it further. But, since you already conceded that these symptoms are real can you come up with something else that you think could be causing them? Assuming it is not all psychological which, as an excuse, is an easy way to brush it all under the carpet with, what else in the environment might be the cause of it? If I am a detective, EMF would be an obvious suspect. Thank goodness for the maverick scientists out there willing to put their reputations on the line to look deeper into something already written off by the mainstream.

      • If I am a detective, EMF would be an obvious suspect.

        Only if you are the sort of detective who decides to fit somebody up and then ignores or suppresses evidence that clears them.

      • Mojo

        I think their symptoms could well be due to fluoride in the water supply.

        Or vaccines. Or pollution. Or chemtrails. Or pesticides. Or insecticides. Or herbicides. Or parasites. Or fungus. Or organic food. Or E-numbers. Or pharmaceuticals. Or toxins. Or lizards. Or clouds from Fukushima. Or Sellafield. Or GM foods. Or aspartame. Or sugar. Or high fructose corn syrup. Or HAARP. Or predictive programming. Or…or…or… How to decide????

  13. Do any of those people use cell phones? Microwave ovens? Radios or TVs? Any other devices that require electricity? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, they are suffering from some type of delusions. Perhaps they ought to try getting completely off the grid. It might resolve all of their “problems”, and nobody would have to listen to their blather. They’d be forced to write by hand and use snail mail for distribution. What a tragedy…not!

    • Never mind devices that require electricity. What about all the electromagnetic radiation produced by candles, oil lamps, and the sun?

      • Scarier still is the sun does not work by Nuclear Fission, like atomic reactors for electricity, it works by FUSION like hydrogen bombs.

  14. These are links to summary sections from the newly published 2012 BioInitiative Report (published in January 2013). It is a report from an independent agency in California that assessed 1800 studies on microwave radiation done since 2007. You can look on their website for more information on them.

    I will explain the new limits suggested in the report quickly here. Safety code six which Industry Canada uses and is similar to other limits around the world uses, has as a limit for this type of radiation that is only concerned with thermal effects; whether or not your body heats up when exposed. There is no limit for non-thermal effects, which other frequency ranges include.

    Please take the time to read the below report. (Main website to read the whole report)

    Limit explanation from the report:

    The report suggests new radiation limits for the public. These are found on page 25 of the “Summary for the Public”.

    I have converted the numbers to something a general RF (radio frequency) meter would measure; that being in this case uw/m2 (microwatts/meter squared). It is often mentioned in uw/cm2 as well, so to convert, divide by 10000.

    There is a scientific benchmark for the lowest observed effect from RFR (radio frequency radiation) from these new 1800 studies looked at of 30 uw/m2.

    They give a ten-fold reduction for safety to compensate for the lack of long-term exposure (studies are only short term) that the regular population would get from 24/7 chronic exposure to radiation from a cell antenna. This sets a new limit at 3-6 uw/m2.

    As well they apply another ten-fold reduction for safety to protect children (who are smaller and more vulnerable to this type of radiation), persons already experiencing other health problems and for those already sensitive to this type of radiation. This set the final limit at 0.3 – 0.6 uw/m2.

    Levels in cities and places near cell antennas regularly exceed 11,000 uw/m2.

    There is a huge discrepancy in the levels of radiation that is making people ill and what is being used by the telecom industry. Please look into this further so you can be knowledgeable about the topic and hopefully assess what needs to be done.

    The levels in my home which lead to my becoming ES were about 1700 uw/m2. As an airline pilot I was exposed to RF previously, however it wasn’t until I had constant exposure from cell towers 1 km behind my home that my body couldn’t cope with it. The levels of radiation in my home were 800 times that of what was in my cockpit at work. Needless to say, I am unable to fly anymore because of my illness. This is a great personal loss to me because I was a pilot for over 22 years and really loved my job.

    This is a serious problem and people need to start doing the right thing and protect people instead of exposing them to a known harmful technology. They have a safety code, albeit a lousy one, for a reason. By the way, radar is in the same frequency range. You wouldn’t stand in front of that 24/7, would you? Think about that the next time you make a call…


      • Good grief Andy, how can you write this off so cavalierly? The report was only published a month or so ago. These are the authors of the Bionitiative Report:


        Cindy Sage, MA, Owner
        Sage Associates
        Santa Barbara, CA USA
        Full Member. Bioelectromagnetics Society

        David O. Carpenter, MD
        Director, Institute for Health and the Environment
        University at Albany
        Rensselaer, New York USA

        [edited to remove large cut and paste]

      • Andy, in what way are you qualified to refute the findings of these specialists and world class scientists on the Bioiniative report? Have you had any participation whatsoever in any study pertaining to this subject??? WTF Andy! There is a reply from an actual sufferer of EHS and all you can say is Oh good grief!!!! You are a piece of A–!!!

      • OK, Andy, that being the case, why do you show so little respect for other Physicist’s work? Is the work of the scientists above of so little value that you can be so dismissive of them. What makes your knowledge of particle physics greater than theirs? As a scientist, should you not be engaging a little deeper with contributors to your site? Your cavalier dismissals reveal an apparent desire to prove yourself right at all costs. Of course, that is the raison d’etre of any self-respecting quackbuster site. For a scientist, your mind appears to be already made up about so many subjects.

      • Oh yeah that is enough for me!Is that why you try to appear intelligent in your profile picture??? Ah, what a clever looking pose! But have you any participation in this matter directly? For a physicist, you have a CLOSED mind dude!Science is an ever evolving subject. Whatever findings there are now may change in 20 years time. So how come a physicist like you can dismiss the subject already? I will never ever understand you Andy…maybe not in this lifetime….but am I bothered??? Oh, by the way, a little compassion won’t hurt especially if someone loses a job they dearly loved over something you don’t believe in. That’s it for me Andy dear. End of!! Capiche?

      • The original bioinitiative report was not a credible report. Highly partisan, unbalanced and selective in what it reported. As such, it was very misleading.

        Having just seen the new version, I have not had time to read it, but why should I take seriously the two editors who failed sufferers of EMS so dismally last time?

      • @Dusty

        WTF Andy! There is a reply from an actual sufferer of EHS and all you can say is Oh good grief!!!!

        Actually, what Andy said was “Oh good grief, not a refresh of the Bioinitiative report” (my emphasis on the words you omitted).

        You have selectively quoted him to make it look as if he was dismissing Melissa, when in fact he was dismissing the evidence Melissa presented.

      • “why should I take seriously the two editors who failed sufferers of EMS so dismally last time?”

        It seems at first glance that the editors are championing the cause of EHS sufferers worldwide. Can you clarify please in what way they have failed them?

      • “Can you clarify please in what way they have failed them?”

        The original report was “highly partisan, unbalanced and selective in what it reported. As such, it was very misleading”.

        What’s not clear?

      • As skepticat point, I have made that very clear. By ignoring the bulk of evidence that points to the fact that electrosensitivity is almost certainly a psychosocial explanation for illness, the report does exactly what my blog post is about – the reinforcement of delusional beliefs about health that really harm people.

      • OK, so it was all the participants that failed EHS sufferers then, not just the editors? You truly believe the official, mainstream view that all these people are suffering from psychosocial reactions, that they are all delusional! The jury is still out on this subject. Do you not understand that there are massive political and commercial reasons to maintain the status quo, that you cannot always trust the mainstream. Surely this fact should factor into your thinking process. It does in mine. I want to to try to understand motives, see the whole picture and try to be as objective as possible in my thinking. If I detect a consensus in the mainstream about a contentious issue it rings alarm bells in my head. You seem to accept the consensus on face value, unquestioningly. Surely, you are not that naive.

        These people are suffering REAL, not imagined, symptoms and something real is causing it. Your world is a very black and white one Andy in which corporations and governments never lie, have the best interests of the public at heart and people who suffer unproven illnesses are all deluded. Wow, if only life and explanations for it really were that simple, it would be wonderful.

        Instead of writing your guests off why not enter into dialogue with them and try to understand them better!! you have had many opportunities on this site but brush-offs are always your preferred M.O. than dialogue. Bit sad really!!

      • Colin,

        I find believers in electrosensitivity suffer from consistent blind-spots. let me make a few thing clear to you so that you have no need to repeat them.

        1) I never say that the suffering experienced by these people is not real. Read what I have written. We only differ on explanations for these reasons.

        2) Psychosocial explanations are valid explanations for people’s suffering. They do not invalidate their suffering, just explain that suffering differently and suggest alternative means of tackling that suffering.

        3) Vested interests are of course a concern. But we should look for such interests when evidence has been distorted or presented in a biased fashion. For example, the Rubin metaanalysis looks at all relevant trials and comes to certain conlcusions. The Bioinitiative report is highly selective in which evidence it presents. One reason I would suggest for that is that the editors have a vested interest in people being alarmed by the effects of EMF. Vested interests can work both ways. Do you accept that the editors of the report have a vested interest in the outcome of their report?

        I have not tried to shut anyone down on this comment thread and welcome all comments. It is noticable that the person who threw a hissy fit was only because I was very celarly able to counter an emotional and ad hom accusation that I had no right to comment on such matters. Who is trying to shut down debate here?

      • From Rubin’s meta-analysis nocebo appears to be a possibility. This study does not appear conclusive by any stretch. It just did not find a definitively direct connection with EMF and posits that it might therefore be psychological. G James Rubin fields are psychiatry and psychology which suggests that he is hard-wired to find psychological reasons for conditions if he can. It is his specialty after all. The studies used by the meta-analysis were not ideal studies anyway. More robust studies are required. How about the research of professor Olle Johansson, PhD? Does his research have no merit compared to the indirect study by Rubin et al? He has been many decades working in this field after all.

        It is possible that there are vested interests in Bioinitiative Report but it seems highly unlikely to me. Do you conjecture that they would go to this kind of trouble just to sell some tinfoil hats? It is a David and Goliath battle with potentially big risks to reputations and livelihood.

        I was referring to the airline pilot who claimed they are are suffering and was surprised you did not take the opportunity to discuss with them further. Might have been an eye-opener Andy.

      • “From Rubin’s meta-analysis nocebo appears to be a possibility. This study does not appear conclusive by any stretch.”

        Erm…which is fine because the systematic review doesn’t claim to be conclusive on that issue.

        “It just did not find a definitively direct connection with EMF and posits that it might therefore be psychological.”

        I agree ‘it just’ found that under controlled conditions those who attribute their symptom to direct exposure to EMF couldn’t tell when blinded. Thats quite an important ‘it just’ for a condition of this nature isn’t it?

        “G James Rubin fields are psychiatry and psychology which suggests that he is hard-wired to find psychological reasons for conditions if he can.”

        I wasn’t aware that anyone with an interest in psychiatry and psychology wasn’t allowed to research subjects which might be relevant to that area. Perhaps an expert in agriculture, or history of art should have carried out the research?

        Aside of this, they drew no firm conclusion but said it was consistent with a nocebo effect. Perhaps you can demosntrate this by point out how their conclusions are not consistent with data?

        Roosli (2008 – PMID 18359015) came to similar conclusions – biased as well?

        “How about the research of professor Olle Johansson, PhD?”

        Adding PhD to the end of that sentence will not in any way alter the facts presented earlier about the good professor.

        “It is possible that there are vested interests in Bioinitiative Report but it seems highly unlikely to me.”

        How do you reach this conclusion this is ‘highly’ unlikely?

      • “Adding PhD to the end of that sentence will not in any way alter the facts presented earlier about the good professor.”

        Slipp, I am very interested to hear your personal critique of Professor Johannson PhD. Are you familiar with him personally?

        ““It is possible that there are vested interests in Bioinitiative Report but it seems highly unlikely to me.”

        How do you reach this conclusion this is ‘highly’ unlikely?”

        It is not a conclusion, just speculation. On balance, it seems to me that their personal reputations and the potential of ruin and loss of livelihood would preclude small groups of people taking on behemoths, unless they felt they had important and justified reasons to.

        “I wasn’t aware that anyone with an interest in psychiatry and psychology wasn’t allowed to research subjects which might be relevant to that area. Perhaps an expert in agriculture, or history of art should have carried out the research?”

        Someone with a specialty in the subject at hand might have been a better choice.

      • “In conclusion, our review does not indicate an association between any health outcome and radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure from MPBSs at levels typically encountered in people’s everyday environment. The evidence that no relationship exists between MPBS exposure and acute symptom development can be considered strong according to the GRADE approach because it is based on randomized trials applying controlled exposure conditions in a laboratory. Regarding long-term effects, data are scarce and the evidence for the absence of long-term effects is limited. Moreover, very little information on effects in children and adolescents is available and the question of potential risk for these age groups remains unresolved.

        Where data are scarce, the absence of evidence of harm should not necessarily be interpreted as evidence that no harm exists. Further research should focus on long-term effects and should include children and adolescents. Additional cross-sectional studies would be of limited value, so future studies should apply a longitudinal design. Because there is no evidence that potential health effects would be restricted to MPBS frequency bands,9 such studies should include an assessment of exposure to other sources of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields in daily life, such as mobile and cordless phones and wireless local area networks.”

        As you can see, the conclusions of the study by Dr Martin Roosli calls for research into the long term effects, The whole question is still unresolved. Also, previous studies have been very limited in their scope and therefore future studies should concern themselves with long term effects, the effects of interactions between different electromagnetic fields etc.
        Many of the previous studies have assumed that EHS sufferers would be able to detect EMF just like that as if someone were pointing a raygun at their heads. Seems unlikely. No, I think the real issue here are the longtime effects of exposure and the interactions of the different electromagnetic fields in our environment. Of course, I am not a scientist, and don’t pretend to be one.

      • Colin, I have absolutely no idea why you are cutting and pasting sections about long term exposure since the Rubin et al, and Roosli systematic reviews didn’t examine (or claim to examine) that specific issue.

        They were focused on whether short term exposure to EMF could trigger the symptoms described by those who self diagnose with electro-sensitivity. They found that they couldn’t. That part of the question isn’t unresolved.

        Those with electrosensitivity are claiming that WiFi gives them a headache when they walk into a room, not that 20 years of WiFi exposure has given them brain cancer. Thats an entirely different question, and signficantly more difficult to research.

        I’m not familiar with the research on long term effects, but I dont believe ‘Professor Johannson PhD’ has authored any of the major work in this area. Perhaps you can enlighten me?

        Then again, as he is primarily a Neuroscientist and not a Physicist I assume you wouldn’t give much weight to him as ‘someone with a specialty in the subject at hand’.

      • A final point Colin

        “Many of the previous studies have assumed that EHS sufferers would be able to detect EMF just like that as if someone were pointing a raygun at their heads. Seems unlikely.”

        The studies were designed this way by researchers because that is exactly what a lot of EHS sufferers claimed.

        I’m glad you agree this is unlikely.

  15. You have a unique opportunity to learn from an actual sufferer of EHS and you write them off with a dismissive wave of the hand. Come on Andy, if you truly are interested in getting to the truth of the matter should you not be discussing the matter with Melissa? Don’t let chances like this pass you by…….

  16. @Colin Bell
    “You have a unique opportunity to learn from an actual sufferer of EHS…”
    I think we need to separate the illness from the cause. I don’t doubt the person is suffering something. Identifying the cause as EMF exposure has a low probability in my and others opinion. Most of the arguments here have been about assigning the cause of the maladies to EMF. It is like using homeopathy for ailments; it sounds great, but you have put off treating the problems with anything meaningful. Worse is the extreme psychological disturbance created by further perceived exposures.

    It would be far better if the sufferer could look for other possible root causes of their ailment. Maybe it is a real physiological problem. Maybe it has some physiological basis combined with heightened sensitivity due to neuroses.

    I’m surprised the homeopathic industry has not managed to find substances that mimic perceived EMF induced ailments, diluted them and marketed them to the public.

    In summary, look for more than one possible cause for the effects suffered.

    • Well, any ideas then Jim? No-one here seems to be able to come up with any culprit other than psychological, which is a bit of a cop out don’t you think! Name some possible alternatives then pick them apart one by one.

      • Colin, there need not be just one explanation. The large variation in described problems suggests that we may be looking at different things only unified by people’s false explanations that EMF is to blame. There may be some underlying condition but undiagnosed. There are some who would describe the symptoms of tiredness and headaches as just normal symptoms that many people suffer (hectic lives) but seen as unusual by sufferers. There may well also be some aspect of suggestibility for some of the symptoms. We all know we can make people itch by saying “was that a flea on the sofa?”. Some of the tingling experience may be similar in origin.

      • I understand that Andy, suggestibility can account for a lot. The mind is indeed a very powerful, and little understood, thing. But many people can definitively point out that they suffer symptoms when in the vicinity of a mast, phone or wi-fi etc. Too many people are reporting symptoms that it is just not normal. There seems to be a new phenomenon which needs explaining. If it was one or two people here and there I would say, yes this is just suggestion. Andy, I used to work in an environment with a toxic overload and since that time I have a very strong reaction to chemicals, in hairsprays (I don’t use it), air fresheners etc. Something tipped me over, an overload of toxic metals and now I seem to have adverse reactions to certain products. I get headaches and nausea. Maybe it is the same with people suffering from EHS, they suffer an overload and the body reacts in some way, resulting in small doses of EMF causing them to be sick. I don’t personally suffer this but it seems far within the realms of possibility that radio waves can cause problems.

      • Just what it is that makes you think psychosocial explanations cannot explain people’s beliefs about their symptoms?

        You clearly believe people can be suggestible. So that cannot be it.

        What abnormal symptoms lead you to think an exotic explanation is required that flies in the face of the basic science and trial results?

      • But many people can definitively point out that they suffer symptoms when in the vicinity of a mast, phone or wi-fi etc.

        The thing is, though, that when tests have been carried out to see if it is the transmissions of the mast, phone, or wifi that are to blame, it is found that it doesn’t matter whether the transmitter is turned on or not. What matters is whether they think it is turned on.

      • “But many people can definitively point out that they suffer symptoms when in the vicinity of a mast, phone or wi-fi etc.”


        Not under controlled conditions as previously discussed. Do keep up.

      • “Sigh.

        Not under controlled conditions as previously discussed. Do keep up.”

        Ah, but does it ever occur to you that the studies may be flawed in some way? Maybe the studies have not used any subjects who are hypersensitive, just low or moderately so. Melissa has already presented a case which suggests otherwise. Her testimony is compelling enough….

      • The answer to Colin’s question is that such a claim requires evidence and somebody has to take the time and effort (that usually means money as well) to arrange for a proper controlled test addressing the question in hand.

        If you are so convinced of the likelihood of this being true and it being important, then the onus is on persons holding such a view and claiming such symptoms/effects to produce the evidence.

        Any scientist with the knowledge and skill to do such work will be busy and have a list of important experiments that they wish to do. How do you expect them to prioritise intruding claims of 1001 different notions, such as this one under discussion? The answer of course is by using the processes of science to estimate the prior probability of some particular experiment being a worthwhile expenditure of time effort and resources. The there are always many other experiments one might like to do but in the real world time and resources limit what is possible.

        In this particular case the trial that needs doing is really rather like the trials that sceptics have done testing whether people have the ability to perform dowsing. The experimental design for one possible version of the test this lady needs done would be extremely similar. It would actually be possible for you to learn how to do this, and perform a trial to a standard that would enable you to publish it in a scientific publication and upset accepted scientific view. Best of luck.

  17. Hello there,

    I’ve just been catching up on the conversation. I am on the computer from time to time, so if you have any questions about ES, please feel free to ask me.

    I am not a scientist, so I can only comment on what has happened to me personally, although I am technically inclined. I really just want to help further the knowledge on this topic and possibly help find a solution for those affected, as well as protect others from ending up in my situation.

    As to the BioInitiative report, I was not happy with the previous levels they suggested in 2007 for the public as my own tolerance was way below their suggestions. The new limits of 0.3-0.6 uw/m2 is much more in-line with what I can deal with, however, it is actually still not enough for me not to be affected. But I support it because it actually does figure into the limits I experience now in my own life. Whatever people’s thoughts as to the BI author’s motives or the pool of studies, it’s a large group of studies showing negative effects. Our Health agency here in Canada only looks at 16 studies in total which is absolutely ridiculous. So I have much more respect for the BI report as it is certainly more comprehensive. Please do take the time to read the preface, conclusions and key studies when you have time. It’s worthwhile taking a look.

    Anyway, I will answer any questions when I can…

    I know this is a tough subject for everyone, and I’ve already had to deal with people not believing for a couple of years now, although that too is changing. So ask whatever you like, I have thick skin. I only ask that people are respectful of me as a person.


    • Melissa said:

      The new limits of 0.3-0.6 uw/m2 is much more in-line with what I can deal with, however, it is actually still not enough for me not to be affected.

      Please explain how your tolerance was measured and how you know what power density you can tolerate. Please also tell us what equipment was used and whether there is any frequency dependence.

      • Hi Alan,

        Much of everything I’ve determined is of course subjective. Nobody has sat me down in a lab to test my responses yet.

        I bought an HFE-35C meter with an amplifier to be able to measure down to 0.1 uw/m2. I’ve also had a building biologist come to my home with an HFE59B. I also own the HFW35C and ME3830B (Gauss Meter).

        To determine what I can tolerate has been a long process with a lot of trial and error. I gauge my tolerance as what I can feel on my skin and if there are further symptoms after time.

        Regular levels of exposure that you would get from a router or cordless phone base station, or being close to a cell tower are obviously not ok for me at all. I can feel it immediately on my skin, get pressure on my head and my skin will start to turn red. I last 40 minutes at best in these situations, often less; that is before I’m a complete mess. If I don’t remove myself from the situation I can spend days or even weeks recovering.

        So eventually in these situations of prolonged exposure, other symptoms arise. I will get extremely nauseous, have trouble thinking, get tinnitus (this symptom can be frequency dependent), etc. Eventually I will start reacting to chemicals (benzene and formaldehyde), my hair products, make-up, etc. When I used to do layovers, even in a hotel room with 5 or 10 uw/m2, I would by the fourth day be reacting chemically to everything and be very swollen. I would also have constant tinnitus that would last for a day or two when I got home.

        For lower levels of RF (less than 5 uw/m2) I can feel that on my skin too. I also get tinnitus from this as well and my sleep is affected. I can only gauge what I feel to the levels of the RF meter I own. I can feel when anything registers on the meter. My tolerance at the lower levels is more, but I can still feel it and it still causes negative changes in my health.

        If I am in an environment with really low levels of RF, I can feel the difference when something is switched on or off very easily. When there is an already elevated level in the area, then sometimes it is more difficult to tell when things turn on and off. Someone closer to you making a phone call with a cell phone is more sharp as the phone signal spikes; so that is much easier for me to ascertain. If I were walking down a street, I might not pick up immediately on the wi-fi in the store as I pass unless I try and focus on it. I’m already reacting from being in the more exposed area, so it takes more to jar me.

        As to frequency…

        At the beginning of my illness I would say that certain frequencies were certainly worse than others. I actually owned an analog cordless phone for years that was 900 Mhz. When my sister got a cordless phone that was 2.5 GHz, I couldn’t use it without my head feeling awful in minutes. After she put these phones in, when I would visit her, I couldn’t sleep at all.

        I had two cell phones but couldn’t say for certain what frequency they used without looking for into it, but they both were a problem for me. The first was in 1998 that I used for only a month. It was a gift and I lost it. It did make my head feel funny, but I hardly used it anyway as I didn’t want to run up the bill. I had another cell phone gift in around 2006 that I used for two months at the most. Using it started making my face go numb on one side and heated up my ear and caused bit of pain too, so I used it less and less. Then one day after using it for less than a minute, my face went numb again, but this time it lasted for two weeks. I ended up getting grounded medically at work for a month and had an MRI which was clear (although I had vertigo for half a day afterwards the next morning).

        Anyway, when I started becoming full blown ES in 2010 (which happened over a couple of weeks) other frequencies that were ok before were now impossible for me. Being around electrical equipment became intolerable. For about 3 months while still in the apartment with the cell towers behind it, I was totally unable to even use a regular phone. This acute sensitivity improved when I moved to a sheltered area.

        I did try an analog cordless phone later and now I cannot use them either. Some cell towers are definitely worse than others. I get tinnitus driving by certain ones more easily.


        PS. I can’t go back and edit much as I can only stand the computer for so long. If you’d like shorter answers that would be fine. I’m not sure what people want to hear or how detailed to be.

    • I would be quite interested to know how you have come to the conclusion that EMF is the cause of your symptoms.

      This must be quite a challenge to rule out lots of confirmation bias?

      • Hi Andy,

        I think so many people are affected by the EMF’s, but it’s not until you can really feel it on your skin that you know for sure what is causing it. I guess I was sort of lucky in that respect as I didn’t have the doubts that others with less obvious symptoms might have. It was pretty black and white for me. I knew what I was reacting to; the hard part was doing something about it.

        You can rule it out sooner by observation and testing yourself, but I didn’t think of that until it was too late. I had lots of symptoms that I would have said are unrelated, but when I moved to a cleaner environment, they all cleared up.

        As for bias I’m pretty objective. My entire career I had to be objective to figure out problems on the aircraft and not let fear or anything else affect me so that I can deal with the situation properly. I have no bias either towards technology. My husband is a computer programmer and I took math and computers at University before I became a pilot.

        My husband was pretty understanding to begin with, but he really knew for sure I was actually experiencing all of this when I started accurately telling him what was on and off all the time. Then when we got the meter, we went back to all the places that were awful for me and 100% were all high readings. I actually experience tinnitus slightly sooner than my meter picks it up. So when we were driving around looking for places to live I would tell my husband I could hear the tower and then the meter would go off. It makes for a great party trick; however, nobody wants to hear that their beloved technology is a problem; so I generally keep my observations to myself.

        As I said in my previous post, I reacted to cell phones and cordless phones, and actually a baby monitor too; all years before I became acutely ES. My ear would literally heat up and my face would go numb, and sometimes I would feel nauseous too. It’s like anything else, if something hurts when you use it; it’s a pretty good indication that that’s the cause. I guess people can argue that, but for me it’s extremely obvious.

        Previous to being ES I did have a serious mould exposure in 2006. In 2010 I started having chemical reactions to everything. Six months after that I developed the acute ES.

        The chemical reactions seem to be worse when my RF exposure it greater. Also, my sensitivity to electric and magnetic fields also increases with my RF exposure.

        I have tried to think of everything that might have contributed to this. I went through all the medications I’d ever had, the illness I’d had, etc. I did fly airplanes and benzene is in jet fuel. There are also organophosphates and organochlorines that sometimes get into the bleed air system, which everyone then breathes. We do have flight crew that have gotten sick from this as well. I thought perhaps something like this might have contributed to my illness, but then I look back and realize I was reacting to the RF technology years ago. Also, there are lots of people with ES that don’t have these chemical exposures. However many people with ES are MCS.

        The first specialist that diagnosed me what an Occupational Health Doctor and he mentioned something about the polarity of cells and some other ideas I’ve since forgotten.

        My body reacts like I’ve lost the natural shielding that protects me from these things. Salt and magnesium seem to have an effect. I’ve tried energy medicine that puts frequency through your acupuncture points. It’s seems to help somehow, but doesn’t last. I have thought more than you can imagine about this, but it all comes back to RF exposure, if I avoid it I feel better. I do believe that some people can tolerate it more than others, but I think we’re going to find out the hard way that it is a flawed technology for this use; especially with it being broadcast continually instead of on demand.


      • Melissa – I hope you understand that I fully accept that all sufferers like you strongly believe that EMFs are the cause of their symptoms but that when tested, such people fail to distinguish whether devices are on or off. Beliefs appear to be more important than the actual presence of radio frequencies.

        Do you accept that you too might be mistaken in your beliefs?

      • Hi Andy,

        I do understand your scepticism. However I did try and explain that I have felt the sensation that the energy from these devices on my skin and have many many times had that confirmed that I was correct.

        I don’t know how you would explain how the skin all over my body turns red when in a stronger exposure. Other people can see it. There are in places where I couldn’t possibly know if there was a router until I asked someone after I already started reacting.

        The only thing I can really compare it to is the sun. When you have your arm in the rays of the sun you feel warmth. When I am exposed to RF I can feel it on my body the same way. When it is turned off it is a relief, and sometimes actually almost a cooling sensation. I feel it on the side of my body that is exposed, which is how I know where it is coming from.

        There have been moments where I didn’t pick up something right away, but when I feel strong sensations, I am never wrong. I cannot tell you about other people and why they couldn’t feel something in some particular scenario. I know for myself that once I start reacting, it’s harder to discern further exposures. I would actually have to be there or at least read the report as to what happened. I know from meeting others with ES that sometimes there is a delayed response in symptoms as well. I know others have looked into this, so following this post; I will post a recent expert testimony in a case here in Canada, along with her resume.

        As to your questions about being mistaken in my own beliefs, that is impossible. I tested myself thoroughly to make sure that I was truly reacting to things. It is possible that some people might have anxiety being around devices, but if that is the case, it is because of previous exposures that have hurt them. I don’t react that way myself; but for some, especially in the beginning I could see that happening. I have helped a number of people with this and some people can handle it better than others. It’s really really awful and once you realize the magnitude of the problem it’s overwhelming to deal with. People and even family initially not believing you, not being able to get proper medical care or even go to a hospital (the latter because of the wi-fi there), not be able to go to places you want to go like the grocery store or for a simple thing like a haircut, not be able to communicate on a computer or phone, go to other people’s homes or even live in your own home possibly. It’s just too much. I have the finances so far to help myself by moving or shielding. Most people just lose their job, can’t work anywhere else and then what? They lose everything. One person in the family has to get sick and then it’s a nightmare for everyone else too. My husband and I used to travel somewhere together every few months, now we can’t go anywhere together for a vacation. His life has changed almost as much as mine, apart from the illness itself.

        What do you need to see or hear to make you believe in this? Let me know and I’ll do my best to provide you with it.


        PS. I had a fabulous career and lifestyle that came to an end. I would not spend a moment on this topic, waste a moment of life and be so vocal about it if it were not a real problem. If I thought I was alone in this I would also abandon my efforts and just find some place somewhere to live that I could tolerate. But I am not alone. There are too many people reacting now to write this off as some psychological phenomena. I wish I could meet you in person so I could show everything I’ve seen here.

      • Melissa, I would suggest few things in this life are impossible, especially when it comes to subjective interpretations of our experiences.

        It strikes me, that if what you say is true, then you are indeed the strongest proof of the existence of a genuine effect from mobile phones and WiFi etc. That would be quite extraordinary and a major breakthrough.

        I would be right behind you if the effects you claim could be demonstrated in controlled conditions. And I would be happy to help in whatever way to help set up a demonstration of these effects that would be unequivocal. I really mean it. It would be a breakthrough that could help hundreds of people.

        Would you be prepared to set your own test that could be used to generate objective data? Such a test would involve exposing you to something you know does you harm but when you do not know if the device is on or off. With independent third parties to run the test and make sure it is done fairly?

      • I feel sorry for your plight Melissa.

        I was going to dredge up the usual cynicism and suggest that you jumped the shark with the energy medicine/acupuncture points stuff as there is no “energy medicine” (other than carbohydrate based drinks I suppose)..

        However, you obviously know your symptoms, if unable to define the cause. Have you thought of having your sensitivity tested provocatively?

        My uneducated guess would be that the bleed air system used nowadays as a cost cutting measure is a far more likely culprit than electrical sensitivity. Several UK pilots have died from chemicals inhaled in aircraft cockpits and a number have reported illness. The airlines vigorously deny this and the airline doctors are hardly likely to drop their employers in it.

      • Hi John,

        Thanks for being compassionate. I appreciate it.

        My thoughts on the bleed air system were that maybe it contributed to my being ES somehow through a chemical exposure, since I started reacting to chemicals strongly before the onset of my acute ES. The only thing about that is that my allergic reactions to the chemicals don’t seem to aggravate my ES symptoms; it’s the other way around. The RF makes the chemical reactions worse.

        As to the airlines denying the toxic air issue… At my company our union put out a protocol to deal with the bleed air issue. If we smell the associated smell in the cockpit, then we are supposed to land immediately. This problem is happening all over the world in many different types of aircraft. We have a couple of pilots who are much debilitated from it. One of the guys was exceptionally healthy before too, and young.

        I have another thought on that too. It used to take repeated exposures for people to get sick from the toxic air. There are now flight attendants at my company that are becoming ill after one exposure.

        Although I am not a scientist I do realize that the RF is causing my chemical symptoms to get worse. I’ve read that it is possibly because of the blood-brain barrier being opened up by the RF. So my thoughts were; is this why people are becoming ill from the toxic air so rapidly now, because of the increased RF from wi-fi and wireless devices being brought on the aircraft? I know from my own experience and measuring, that the signals from cell phones and such increase in power as the devices try and get through the partial faraday cage the fuselage of aircraft creates. Having 160 people in the back of the airplane with multiple wireless devices trying to connect, and reflecting off the metal body of the aircraft, it creates a lot of radiation in a condensed area. If it were opening up the blood/brain barrier, then this could explain why flight crew (and probably passengers) are becoming ill from one-time exposures to the toxic bleed air.

        Just a thought,


        PS. I have thought of offering to have testing done, if I knew where that would be done of course. Nobody has offered it yet. I would still get it done, however I hesitate sometimes in thinking about actually doing it as I can be really sick for weeks at time. So it would have to be worth it to do, not just for curiosity.

      • Melissa

        It would be very easy to test yourself if you think you’re sensitive to wifi.

        Just get someone you trust to toss a coin and turn your wifi on or off without telling you. You say whether you think you’re affected by it. Write down whether you think it’s on of off. Do the test 10 separate times. Then compare your list with your friend’s list. Very easy.

      • Hi Melissa while it has been medically proven that mobiles and other electrical s easily affect the normal electric levels of the human body! and I have the scientific documents to prove it, if you do not have this evidence I will be obliged to send it to you?

        I AM sorry for you that you had to deal with this lot on quack o meter?

        Now there may also be other things causing your condition to be so severe like gold tooth filings which are made of many metals like poison copper and silver mercury poison filings which also change the electrical currents of the body.

        Plus you may have had poison vaccinations with ALUMINUM poison and thymersol which is another name for mercury poison.

        So you must check all that has been injected into you and prescribed for you?

        good luck my dear?

      • Miracles never cease.

        An almost sensible post by Mr ACF – excepting the fact that it is entirely nonsensical.

        ACF – Is the quack o’meter the Irish version of this blog?

        At the risk of labouring the point how on earth can “gold” be made of “many metals”. Is it not possible that copper, silver, mercury and aluminium are actually different to gold or are all those chemistry/physics types wrong?

        If you are interested I have a lot of “pure gold” I can sell to you cheap.

        Melissa would be better served ignoring your ignorant mumbo-jumbo and listenening to BSM instead.

      • Clearly John you know very very little about a lot, dental gold is made of many metals now you know either you are still in denial or you are making money like the rest of the liars making money at the cost of hurt and pain to some one else which is it?

        Melissa do not let these animals deter you from finding a cure you should consider using a de atomiser at home and when you are out and about you can use certain crystals that capture magnetic and electrical waves.

        John do us a favour and grow up?

      • John,
        pure gold is quite soft – I don’t think you could use pure gold for tooth fillings. I don’t know the composition of dental gold but copper and silver are used for gold alloys (at least in jewellery).

      • Vicky very good there is still hope for you I hope you do not use fluoride poison tooth paste which causes cancer infertility, adhd and arthritis.

        GOOD LUCK!

  18. Hi Andy,

    I do agree with you about subjective interpretations. I know that people could alter their perceptions and such. I say it is impossible that I am doing that as there have been too many occasions where I’ve been dead on to ignore.

    I would consider doing it. Any chance you are in Canada?

    There are others that did show they were feeling the radiation. I’m sure you read the journal report about the ES doctor. I’ll add the link here:

    I also forgot to post the expert testimony. I will do that now.


    PS. Other Health agencies and even I think that paper Rubin wrote mention that people can feel the radiation, they just don’t believe it makes them sick. Have you seen that reference?

    • Hi Melissa,

      Your posts are interesting and it obvious that your ES has had a devastating impact on you and your partners life. This is unarguably real in its effects.

      You are totally convinced that you have objectively tested your own condition, but its worth pointing out that we all have a flawed perception about things and are succeptible to bias. Performing trials under controlled conditions is the only way to test things objectively.

      To give you an example, you say that “I have felt the sensation that the energy from these devices on my skin and have many many times had that confirmed that I was correct”. An objective test would also establish how many times you were incorrect.

      Which leads me to a question – if you were to take the kind of test Andy mentions where you were blinded and exposed to something you know harms you with it randomly on or off, how many times do you think you would be able to correct identify if it was on or off? (say out of 100).

      If you performed no better than blind chance, what conclusions would you draw about the cause?

      What results would be needed from such a test to truly convince you that the item wasn’t causing your symptoms?

      • “What results would be needed from such a test to truly convince you that the item wasn’t causing your symptoms?”

        Slipp, you are displaying a bias before the test is even carried out!!

      • No actually I’m asking a polite question, something Melissa invited.

        Bearing in mind the outcome of previous studies, the severe nature of Melissas experiences and her conviction in what she believes is the cause its not an unreasonable question. I’m interested in the answer.

        Can you answer it Colin? What evidence would convince you? Or is your mind closed the possibility something other than EMF can cause these symptoms?

        Its clear the Rubin study didn’t do the trick because you immediately started repeating the same stories about masts and WiFi despite seeming agreeing such short term effects were ‘unlikely’.

      • That is not bias, Colin.
        It is the question all those truly interested in ascertaining the facts ask ourselves every day. It is an integral part of the scientific method – disproving hypotheses.

      • Dingo, yes I thought of that as I pressed the send button, and I anticipated your response……. but when I first read the question it sounded like a plea to accept an established fact. Anyway, point taken 😉

  19. How good to find this relatively calm and intelligent discussion and the sane and patient voice of Andy Lewis. However, the experience of Melissa is much more common than you might know – many many electrosensitives shun the limelight for fear of ridicule (they have enough on their plates) and of computer equipment or the like making them feel ill. To many people the experience of electromagnetic fields stimulating very strong allergic-type reactions is just part of their ordinary every day lives, yet with awful results.
    It is quite sad that questionable experiment design and dubious manipulation of statistical data have had such a profound effect on public perceptions of this all too real illness which, in the experience of thousands and thousands of sane and intelligent people is caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields. Unfortunately the mobile industry funding of scientific enquiries totally undermines the credibility of the work of Rubin and others. And I must say that it is really rather ridiculous to fulminate against people selling makeshift attempts to protect people from electomagnetic pollution – hardly, after all, a multi-million pound industry! By the way, Andy Lewis mentions Ben Goldacre. But why does Mr Goldacre seem to have said not one single thing on this subject for about 5 years – could it possibly be that he has had second thoughts and belatedly realised that Big Pharma and Big Tele[communications] have an awful lot in common?

  20. Bonjour Anglais

    From today anyone in France can have their home or workplace tested for the presence of electromagnetic waves.

    Here at SEDSA we are proud to offer a complete range of services for testing across the whole EM spectrum. Our unique QM Analytical Engine can detect everything – UV, IR, X-rays. You name it and we can find it.

    Our good name is our guarantee and our guarantee to you is that we can detect EM waves ANYWHERE.

    So if you have a pleasant cottage in the Dordogne, a converted mill in Provence, a bijou atelier in Paree or even just a gite for occasional weekend breaks we guarantee to find EM.

    Jean Cerceau-Fabricant

    We don’t make waves – we find them

    • The date today is the first of January, not first of April.

      But a nice try!

      Happy new Year, and may the Wu be ever with you.

  21. Dr Rawlins

    I know you to be un grand fromage chirurgien orthopédiste but I do not understand your comments.

    It is indeed the first of January and as of today anyone in France is entitled to have their premises checked for EM waves. This is a fact and is reported in English newspapers. It is possible now and is not necessary to wait until April.

    I was merely trying to offer the services of SEDSA to those British in France who may not be so, how shall we say, adept at the French language. Alas this is many of your countrymen who choose to live here.

    Perhaps you doubt the ability of our QM based technology to detect EM. I can assure you that there is nowhere on this planet that is not awash with EM of some sort. If you use your little grey cells you will realise this (and yes I know he was a Belgique but he spoke French).

    And un bonne année to you my friend as well.
    Jean Cerceau-Fabricant
    Directeur Général

  22. Ah! Monsieur Chirurgien Orthopédiste

    I think you must be un grand magicien!

    You have discovered the beauty and the simplicity of the SEDSA plan d’affaires.

    We only guarantee to find EM waves (or possibly particles – we are big fans of la dualité).

    If they are there we will find them – from gamma rays all the way through to ELF.

    You can indeed use your eyes but only for visible light – we can detect the rest for a mere €2500.

    Naturally we make no claims that any part of the spectrum affects les gâteaux aux fruits – well, excluding everything above UV, obviously.

    Meilleurs voeux mon ami

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