It seems impossible to many physicians that non-ionizing radiation would cause biophysical symptoms. Patient reported health concerns are often dismissed as coincidence (e.g. cell phone use and brain cancer), or psychological (e.g. someone reporting electrosensitivity symptoms near devices), or stress related (e.g. a couple that is infertile). There also seems to be endless controversy surrounding adverse health effects from wireless devices. Physicians want to help patients and not give them incorrect advice or fan their fears. After all, one cannot see, hear or feel electromagnetic radiation. People must be “a bit off” to think effects could be caused by electronic gadgets we have used for years, right? Well, as it turns out, there is an abundance of research from credible, unbiased sources which indicates clear harm from microwave radio frequency radiation we are exposed to.
This is not necessarily a simple topic. After more than a glance at the electromagnetic spectrum many of us become dazed. Our field is biology and medicine, not electronics, engineering or physics. Measuring this radiation requires sophisticated equipment, not a simple stethoscope. We don’t feel educated enough about it to provide advice to our patients about EMF health effects. It is understandable that most physicians are not only skeptical but also don’t have the bandwidth to thoroughly investigate the topic.
However, as one begins to read the published scientific literature, controversy and confusion shifts to concern. There are numerous peer reviewed studies showing non-ionizing radiation (both ELF from electrical outlets and RF from wireless devices) is associated with cancer, nervous system effects, and sperm damage. In fact, the literature on adverse effects began to emerge decades ago and includes robust research on occupational EMR exposures. Military studies reported “microwave illness”, aka “electrosensitivity” or “electrohypersensitivity” (EHS) to microwave electromagnetic radiation back in the 1970’s. Since then more clinical evidence and peer reviewed research has confirmed EHS as genuine medical condition.
What can physicians do?
For those who are interested in this topic, examining the literature and gaining an understanding of the basic science is a start. Physicians for Safe Technology is designed to support that effort, by providing both overviews of pertinent topics and references for research articles for those physicians wanting to explore the broad range of health and psychological effects. Once you are more informed, you may then bring this knowledge into your practice with observation and history taking about patterns of electronic use and vague symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, dizziness, impaired concentration, fatigue and heart palpitations. If all other causes are ruled out, you may think to advise precaution in digital electronic use to your patients even though the science is not complete.
Physicians are in a unique situation to identify if these health effects in patients are real or not. We may even find that the physical and mental health impacts are much more widespread than we imagined. (4) Doctors had an idea that tobacco was harmful well before precautions were in place. Even then, many physicians smoked and refused to admit smoking could cause cancer. The growing body of literature suggests that we are in the same place with wireless technology and health that we once were with smoking, lead and asbestos back in the first half of the 20th century. (1)
Electrosensitivity Case Histories
Our scientific understanding of electrosensitivity has advanced. The biological effects of microwave radio frequency radiation emitted from wireless devices are now known to be nonlinear, with different outcomes and symptoms in different individuals, and thus more difficult to recognize. (5,6,7) It has become evident that a variety of symptoms alone, or in combination, are reported to be associated with an immediate reaction to radiofrequency radiation exposure. The following case histories illustrate the spectrum of non-specific symptoms you may see in clinical practice which may be caused by the ever increasing exposure to wireless RF and electronic devices. These are real stories that represent challenges faced by both physicians and their patients. See PST Electrosensitivity in both the Scientific Literature and Review Topics sections for more information and written summaries.
Case History 1
R.W., an 8 year-old boy, comes into your office accompanied by his mother with a chief complaint of dizziness and depression. She states that since her son started the new school year he had episodes of dizziness at school, nausea and at times vomited. He said he only gets dizzy when they turn on the white board to project images and videos to the class. She took him to his regular pediatrician who could find nothing out of the ordinary. She noticed over time he was developing symptoms of depression. She wondered why he was dizzy only at school and why this had never happened in all the years before at the same school. There were no changes in his diet, exercise or health. He had many friends and was quite social. He did not use a cell phone.
If this were your patient how would you approach this? What other questions would you ask? Would you think that the wireless radiation from the white board could be responsible for the symptoms? Here is what happened.
His mother found out that the white boards were new at school and were wireless. Her son’s symptoms persisted when at school but not at home. After reading about the issue and thinking he may be electrosensitive his mother went to the school and talked to the principal and the teacher. She asked that a consultant do measurements to determine the levels of radiation he was exposed to. She was told that there was no scientific evidence of harm and that they would not turn off the white boards in class nor do any measurements. The best that could be done was to allow her son to be farthest away from the white board in class.
Her son was able to cope with this situation for a while. One day her son wanted to go to on a school field trip to an art gallery. The mother was concerned as she was convinced he was sensitive to wireless radiation and it would likely be stronger in the gallery. She asked him not to go but he wanted to be part of the group. She took him there and came back an hour later to see how he was. He was quite agitated and couldn’t sit still. His short term memory was impaired. After that he also became hypersensitized to wireless devices such that he could tell if someone had a cell phone on across the street.
His mother then removed all wireless devices from the house. He was home schooled after that and once his symptoms calmed he was placed in a public school where he received a 504 ADA accommodation such that wireless devices were turned off in his classroom and surrounding areas until he was symptom free. (2) He still has to avoid wireless devices but otherwise is doing well.
Case History 2
K. H., a 38 year-old healthy female with two healthy children, was seen by her physician in 2009 after noting the abrupt onset of aching in her arms and legs when she awoke in the morning. It felt as if she had exercised the day before but she did not work out. She also woke up with heart irregularities. Throughout the day she noted intermittently that she felt her heart stop for no reason. She consulted a respected cardiologist. Her blood pressure, blood tests, EKG were all normal.
Her symptoms progressed over the next two years and she developed constant fatigue along with insomnia. She had trouble staying asleep and would awaken every one to two hours during the night. Researching these vague symptoms she came upon health effects of wireless devices. This led her to the potential sources of radiofrequency radiation and her symptoms. She learned they had a Wi-Fi router in the house and after some coaxing, her husband switched to a wired computer and printer. She substituted the cordless phone with a landline wired phone. She also found that two years prior a smart meter had been installed outside her house, that transmitted electricity use wirelessly to the electric company. (3) She then had the smart meter switched back to the prior analogue meter. Within a short while she noted she was symptom free.
At that time, in 2011, there were not many businesses that offered Wi-Fi thus she was able to function normally in regular activities in her home and around town. Three years later, in 2014, she noted her symptoms returning, including insomnia. She also noted that she again developed erratic heart beats when out of the house, noting at times that a cell tower was very close and other times not seeing one. She states she can feel an uncomfortable vibration in her body when exposed to a high level radiowave signal in her environment and that the only place she can now sleep is in the center of the house in a hallway. She turns off the power where she sleeps as well.
She does not sequester herself in the house at all times but goes shopping and driving her children to school. She notes that she does not feel well afterwards, with fatigue and “brain fog” if she is out too long but knows that at home she can recover.
She has been hesitant to go back to the cardiologist as she feels that nothing will be found. She is also worried that if she expresses her concern that wireless devices may be the issue her physician may consider this only psychological.
Top 10 list of Challenges for
Physicians on Health Effects from Wireless Technology
1) Symptoms are nonspecific, nonlinear and exposures are unrecognized
2) Safety of radiofrequency technology is assumed
3) Benefits of technology are heavily marketed and risks are dismissed.
4) Long term exposure studies are dismissed.
5) Science is complicated, controversy persists.
6) Multiple toxic exposures complicates determining a causal effect
7) Limited EMR research funds in the United States.
8) Effects of overuse of technology could be physical (EHS) or physiological (addiction).
9) There is neither government policy recommendations for precautionary-technology use, nor an International Classification of Diseases coding for EHS. (See Electrosensitivity: A Clinical Approach for recommended ICD10 codes).
10) Physicians are already overscheduled and visits are shorter.
1) The Study That Helped Spur the U.S. Stop-Smoking Movement. American Cancer Society. January 9, 2014. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/the-study-that-helped-spur-the-us-stop-smoking-movement.html
2) Section 504, the ADA, and Public Schools. http://www.ldonline.org/article/6108
3) An Overview of California Smart Meter Policy & Deployment. Aloke Gupta. Energy Analyst California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). September 4, 2008. http://web.stanford.edu/group/peec/cgi-bin/docs/behavior/workshop/2008/presentations/01-02_An_Overview_of_California_Smart_Meter_Policy_and_Deployment.pdf
4) A Coming Storm For Wireless? Gloria Vogel. Thursday, July 27, 2017 . http://www.talkmarkets.com/content/stocks–equities/a-coming-storm-for-wireless?post=143501&page=2
5) The implications of non-linear biological oscillations on human electrophysiology for electrohypersensitivity (EHS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). (2015) Rev Environ Health. 2015 Sep 12. Sage C. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=26368042
6) Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: Evidence for a novel neurological syndrome. (2011) McCarty D. Intl J Neurosci 2011; 121: 670-676. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21793784
7) Response to letter to the editor concerning “Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: Evidence for a novel neurological syndrome. (2012) Marino A. Intl J Neurosci, Early Online, 1-2, 2012. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51886262_Response_to_Letter_to_the_Editor_Concerning_Electromagnetic_Hypersensitivity_Evidence_for_a_Novel_Neurological_Syndrome