Cell phones make you ill? It's in your head

New study shows that those who suffer from electrical sensitivity aren't actually able to detect electromagnetic radiation at all.

If you feel ill from being around cell phones, power lines or microwaves, chances are it's all in your head, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Essex.

The study, detailed in an article from New Scientist, shows that those suffering from what's known as electrical sensitivity, or electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), are not able to detect electromagnetic radiation at all, as some people believe.

Those who suffer from EHS say they experience illnesses, such as headaches and fatigue, or an allergic reaction when they are near electrical equipment such as microwaves or mobile phone base stations.

As part of the study, the researchers exposed 44 self-reported EHS sufferers and 114 control participants to standard GSM signals and 3G signals. At times, during "sham" tests, no signals were emitted.

The study showed that only two, or 4.5 percent, of the self-reported sufferers could tell whether or not a signal was being emitted. "Short-term exposure to typical GSM base station-like signal did not affect well-being or physiological functions in sensitive or control individuals," according to the report.

Of course, even if the symptoms are psychological in nature, as suggested by the study, that doesn't mean EHS shouldn't be taken seriously. Even if EHS sufferers may be wrong about the cause of the illness, the symptoms are still very real, many health professionals say.

Tech Culture
About the author

Desiree Everts DeNunzio is a freelance editor and writer. She's dabbled in digital media and technology for the past decade, including stints at CNET News and Wired magazine. When she's not fiddling with various gadgets, she spends her time running after chickens and her own brood.


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