Electromagnetic hypersensitivity

World renowned experts present the latest scientific evidence of electromagnetic hypersensitivity in Dallas.

In June specialists from around the globe gathered in Dallas for a four-day conference on electromagnetic hypersensitivity that presented the latest medical and scientific research on this little-understood condition.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is an extreme reaction to some electromagnetic frequencies, in the same way that people react to one or more chemicals.

Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, pain, nausea, depression, burning, tingling,

While some people are affected only mildly, others experience such severe reactions that they are unable to tolerate being near technology of any sort—and this means they are often unable to live in modern cities. As a result, many have been obliged to live in secluded areas to obtain relief from their symptoms.

The good news from the conference is that electromagnetic hypersensitivity is treatable and people can recover their ability to function normally in society. The bad news is that there’s no quick fix.

Sponsored by the American Environmental Health Foundation and University of North Texas Health Science Center, the conference featured a galaxy of speakers who are experts in this and related fields.

Here are some of the highlights.

Dr William Rea

Dr Rea is Director of the Environmental Health Centre at Dallas, which provides a clean environment for people with environmental sensitivities and offers accommodation for long-term patients.

He has treated many people with this condition and observes that it is becoming more frequent in recent years, particularly since the advent of WiFi technology.

He’s observed that patients with EHS are also often sensitive to metals, mould and chemicals. According to Dr Rea, exposure to pesticides triggers EHS in approximately 80% of his patients.

Dr Rea treats patients with a range of therapies. He uses nutritional support–either orally or intravenously– such as multivitamins, lipids and oils. He uses sauna to help with detoxification and oxygen therapy because most people with EHS, he find, are oxygen-deprived.

He has also developed a neutralisation technique for counteracting reactions to chemicals that he finds useful for most EHS patients.

Dr Lisa Nagy

Dr Nagy is a medical practitioner and environmental health specialist who suffered with EHS, chemical sensitivity and dysautonomia (malfunction of the autonomic nervous system). She was unable to tolerate fluorescent lighting, passed out after placing a landline phone on her chest and experienced a burning hand when using a mobile phone.

‘I never thought I would survive the horror I was experiencing,’ she told the conference.

Dr Nagy was treated by Dr Rea and began to detoxify her body and her environment. She had metal fillings removed from her teeth and removed sources of mould from her home. Over time her condition improved and today she is obviously healthy and energetic. She has now returned to practice and is helping others with similar problems.

Dr Jean Monroe

Dr Monroe specialises in treating patients with environmental sensitivities and is Director of Breakspear Medical Group in the UK.

Fatigue, which is a symptom of EHS, is a symptom of mitochondrial dysfunction. This dysfunction can occur when the process of converting ADP (adenosine diphosphate) to ATP (adenosine triphosphate) for energy is blocked by an environmental pollutant. Calcium and magnesium are involved in this process.

Dr Monro has found that some children with autism have mitochondrial dysfunction.

Using the Lymphocytes Sensitivity Test, she has shown that young patients have pollutants such as heavy metals and chemicals attached to their DNA. Some genes are affected more than others. This means that mitochondrial dysfunction can be inherited.

Dr Monro uses vitamin C and other chelators to help detoxify her patients. She recommends research into the presence of mitochondrial disorders in autism and environmental sensitivities.

Dr Devra Davis

Dr Davis, from the University of Pittsburgh, spoke about the inadequacy of international standards for mobile phones. Standards for radiation absorption in the head (Specific absorption rate or SARs) appeared in the US in 1993 at a time when there were only 3 million users. They were developed using a plastic model called SAM (Specific Anthropomorphic mannequin).

However, SAM’s head is anything but typical of the average phone user. He is the equivalent of a 6 foot man head weighing 200 lb, with an 11 lb head.

People with smaller heads—and this would apply to most people, especially children—would absorb more radiation from their phones than SAM. This has been demonstrated in studies by various scientists.

Radiation absorption is also affected by a number of other factors. For example, changing the tilt of the head, the amount of fluid in the model, the width of the ‘ear’ or the antenna length will all result in different SAR measurements.

According to Dr Davis, mobile phone standards are set for phone use and head sizes that are irrelevant and are, therefore, grossly inadequate.

Prof Andrew Marino

Professor Marino, from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, began his renowned career working with pioneer EMF researcher Dr Robert Becker.

He told the conference that electromagnetic fields interact with and are sensed by all living things. He has demonstrated that people have a magnetic sense by measuring evoked potentials (a response of the nervous system) following exposures to low or high frequency fields.

According to Prof Marino, the body’s response to these signals is non-linear. In other words, it doesn’t always respond in the same way. This means that studies that attempt to duplicate results will not always find them and are based on a faulty understanding of the body’s response system.

Dr Gilbert de Paula (MD)

Dr de Paula is Medical Director of the Clinic of Allergy Nutrition and Environmental Medicine in Manus, Brazil.

He put forward the hypothesis that EHS may be linked to an imbalance of calcium and magnesium levels in the body. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle weakness, pain, hypertension, spasms, insomnia sleep disturbance, fatigue, weakness, confusion, headaches, seizures, nausea, anxiety and allergies—all of which are associated with EHS.

Moreover, magnesium supplementation has been found to be helpful for fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivity and LTS—which are also related to EHS. Dr Bill Rea reported that 40% of his patients with chemical sensitivity improved after magnesium supplementation.

Following Dr de Paula’s talk, the benefits of magnesium supplements for EHS were echoed by members of the audience. Dr Kou Sakabe

Dr Sakabe, from Tokai University in Japan, described EHS as a neurological disorder that primarily affects the central nervous and autonomic nervous systems.

He has observed that people with this condition often have abnormal responses to some opthamological tests, indicating affects on the autonomic nervous system. He has developed the EMF Challenge Test in which he has demonstrated that people with EHS react differently to such provocations.

Dr James Oschman

Dr Oschman described the importance of understanding the electromagnetic characteristics of the body. Not all reactions in the body occur as a result of a chemical ‘key’ triggering a receptor ‘lock’. Instead, as Nobel prize winning scientist Albert Szent-Györgyi showed, molecules don’t have to touch to produce a reaction but can communicate by electromagnetic fields.

‘Each tissue, each cell, each molecule, each atom, each sub-atomic particle and space itself both emits and responds to specific frequencies’ said Oschman. ‘Any conducting material will work as an antenna.

Proteins in the body are semi-conductive and therefore the body functions as an antenna. It is constantly receiving information from environmental sources and produces an identical response to either a molecule or the electromagnetic emission of that molecule.

Dr Arpad Szallasi (MD)

Dr Szallasi is the Medical Director of Monmouth Medical Center Pathology in New Jersey. At the conference he suggested that EHS reactions may occur when a group of ion channels called Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels are activated.

This group of channels is known to be involved in responses to environmental irritants. They are triggered, for example by cigarette smoke, chlorine, capsaicin (in chili) and even jellyfish toxins. One of these channels is involved in skin irritation and burning. Some of them cause coughs and inflammation.

TRP channels are all involved in sensitivity to temperature.

Trials are underway to relieve symptoms, such as coughing, using TRP antagonists.

Dr Magda Havas

Dr Havas is an Associate Professor in Environmental studies at Trent University in Toronto. She described five different tests that can be used to demonstrate reactions to EMR that may be useful for testing people who claim to be hypersensitive.

Firstly she suggested that exposing a person to a source of dirty electricity—by using a treadmill, for example—results in elevated blood sugar levels which she described as ‘diabetes 3’. These levels normalize on removal from the source.

She also suggested monitoring of obvious symptoms of MS—such as tremors—during or after exposure to EMR.

Next she suggested monitoring heart rate variability of people before and after exposure. She cited the example of a woman who was exposed to a DECT cordless phone which operated at just 0.3% of radiation level allowed by the standard. Changes in heart rate were measured which indicated up-regulation of the sympathetic nervous system and down-regulation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Fourthly, Dr Havas said that live blood analysis can be used to observe differences before and after exposure. She showed changes in Rolex formation in blood samples taken after exposure to a computer and mobile phone.

Finally, she showed skin rashes in a woman who sat in front of a CFL globe for just 20 minutes. She described these globes as ‘probably man’s worst invention’ and said they produce radiofrequency signals, UV and dirty electricity.

Dr Martin Pall

A former professor of biochemistry at Washington State University, the now-retired Dr Pall presented his theory about the cause of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) which may also explain the related condition of EHS.

Dr Pall says that there are seven class of chemicals involved in causing MCS, all of which can be shown to increase activity of NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartame) in the body. NMDA is an amino acid which binds to receptors for glutamate which is found in the central nervous system.

When NMDA receptors are activated, calcium leaks into cells and the result is an increase in levels of nitric oxide (NO) and an increase in peroxynitrate.

Dr Pall refers to this cycle as the NO/ONOO cycle and says it is responsible for diseases such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and multiple chemical sensitivity—which are all related to EHS. He said, ‘the primarily local nature of the cycle explains how many different diseases can be produced by a single mechanism. It also provides explanations for why there is so much variation from patient to patient and for why some suffer from various comorbid diseases and others do not.’

He said that the cycle can be increased by chemical exposures, infection, excessive exercise, allergens and stress.

Some of the agents that have been demonstrated to help undermine this unhealthy cycle—at least for some conditions— include magnesium, fish oil, coenzyme Q10 and ecklonia kava extract.

Dr Stephanie McCarter (MD)

Dr McCarter is a practitioner of environmental medicine and a former sufferer of EHS.

She said that EHS occurs, not just as a result of exposure to EMR, but also from exposure to pesticides, mycotoxins (moulds) and heavy metals. The presence of yeast and unhealthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract will also increase sensitivity.

The first step in treatment is to reduce patients’ exposure to EMR. It’s also important to eliminate the moulds and heavy metals and this can be done by detoxification and the removal of amalgam fillings.

A diet for EHS sufferers should ideally be yeast free and include ‘good fats’, which build membrane integrity, and plenty of water.

Dr Ron Overberg

Dr Overberg is a nutritionist at the Dallas Environmental Health Centre., who establishes dietary programs for people with sensitivities. He said that EMR changed mineral status in the body and that it was important to compensate for this.

He’s found that symptoms improved for patients given fish oil and magnesium. He recommends a rotation diet (to avoid eating the same foods on consecutive days) and not drinking with meals. He uses hair mineral analysis to determine what mineral supplements patients require.

Dr Cyril Smith

A retired physicist and author, Dr Smith is a consultant for the Breakspear Medical Group run by Dr Jean Monro, which specialises in treating people with environmental sensitivities. He explained that, in such patients, the first system to be compromised is usually the autonomic nervous system which controls involuntary body functions.

According to Dr Smith, people with chemical sensitivities are at risk of developing EHS. Effects are triggered by specific frequencies and are all non-thermal (ie below levels that cause heating that are addressed by international standards). ‘The problem seems to arise when the frequency pattern of a toxic chemical in the body matches that of the person’s electrical environment. It is the frequencies in the electrical environment which makes the body think it is under chemical attack.’

EHS is often triggered by exposure to pesticides or herbicides, formaldehyde and amalgam fillings.

He has observed that patients with EHS can be seen to have changes in respiration, heart rate, pupil dilation, perspiration, muscular weakness and speech or writing difficulties.

28th Annual International Symposium on Man and His Environment in Health and Disease—The Chemical Mechanisms Leading to EMF Sensitivity, June 3-6, Dallas, 2010.

from 'EMR and Health' Sept 2010, vol 6 no 3