What is electrical sensitivity? Perhaps you are already familiar with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) whereby the patient develops symptoms from exposure to ordinary levels of synthetic chemicals in common use such as perfumes, pesticides, and household cleaning products. Electrical sensitivity (ES), another environmentally triggered illness, produces symptoms in the patient exposed to common levels of electromagnetic fields (EMF) from electrical sources in the environment: power lines, motors, computers, etc. ES patients often are also MCS patients.
Other at-risk groups for developing ES seem to be chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients and those experiencing mercury toxicity from dental amalgams.1 Because the nervous system is a primary site impacted by both chemicals and electromagnetic fields, those with nervous system damage from toxic exposures seem more susceptible to becoming ES too.2,3 Also, overexposure to EMF can singularly bring on ES, independent of other illness. Historically, ES was known as radiowave illness or microwave sickness.4
A Medline computer search under electromagnetic fields and microwaves will locate several hundred references regarding health effects from these exposures. Electrical sensitivity, now also called electromagnetic hypersensitivity, are both listed on Medline as well.
In a recent ES survey, the five most common symptoms experienced when EMF exposed were skin itch/rash/flushing/burning and/or tingling, confusion/poor concentration and/or memory loss, fatigue/weakness, headache, and chest pain/heart problems.1 Skin problems and memory difficulties tied for first place among the overall symptoms. Less commonly reported symptoms included nausea, panic attacks, insomnia, seizures, ear pain/ringing in the ears, feeling a vibration, paralysis, and dizziness. Some ES patients experience only one symptom when EMF exposed, but often more than one symptom is apparent.
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