“Electrosensitive” in the Guardian

Chris McKenzie, Cumbria
Chris McKenzie, Cumbria

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been working on a documentary project over the last year looking at the condition Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity or EHS*.  The project is called Electrosensitive: Outliers in a Wireless World.

My photos, an article by Nicholas Blincoe and an excerpt from a short film I’m making will be published tomorrow (30th March) online and in the Guardian Weekend Magazine.

During my travels around the country, I’ve met a wide variety of people along the way; individuals who suffer from EHS, parents who are concerned about the impact of mobile phones and wi-fi on their children’s health, and scientists and academics who have studied and analysed the condition, and the wider issue of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and public health.

Hannah Metcalfe, Kent
Hannah Metcalfe, Kent

As I sit here writing this in my office, I am surrounded by computer equipment, a wireless router, cordless phone, wireless printer, mobile phone and an array of other devices that emit electromagnetic fields.  My office would be unbearable for the majority of the people with EHS, yet I can work here seemingly unaffected.  This was one of the reasons why I was drawn to this topic and have found it so fascinating to work on. What started as an initial interest to know more, became an exploration.

Over the past 12 months, I have read a huge amount of material on EHS as a condition and the effects of man-made electromagnetic fields on our health.  Some papers I have read have made me think that I should pack up all the equipment I have into boxes, insulate my house and begin a device-free lifestyle in the mountains.  Yet I’ve read others that have assured me that I have nothing to worry about, and that any concerns people may have are unfounded. Seemingly qualified and highly distinguished academics and scientists from either side of the debate are saying very different things.

Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, London
Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, London

In working on this project, my intention is not to provide all the answers or prove the science on either side of the debate.  I don’t have the expertise, time, or team of researchers to prove conclusively either way.  However, I approached this project with an open mind.  The people who agreed to be interviewed have shown courage in talking publicly about EHS. My hope is that they are treated with empathy and respect and their stories and concerns are acknowledged and taken seriously.  The condition and the debate surrounding mobile phones and wireless technologies is very contentious and divisive. When someone speaks openly about even the possibility of negative health effects they are often met with disbelief, dismissal or accused of scaremongering. Moreover, the vociferous debate about whether these technologies are carcinogenic or not has tended to drown out any conversation about other possible non-carcinogenic biological effects on human health.

Everyone has an opinion on this issue, some are well informed, some are not. I would urge anyone who wants to know more about the topic to look at some of the links at the bottom of this post, before passing judgement or drawing conclusions.

Raphael Cuesto, Teacher, North London
Raphael Cuesto, London

The publication of my images and video excerpt in the Guardian is not the end point of this project for me.  I will continue more research and will be shooting more material throughout the year with the view to putting on an exhibition and screening of the full version of my film.  In the meantime, you can find images and info on my website.

Happy Easter!


For those of you looking for more information – the papers and reports below are a good starting point. These are just the tip of the iceberg so this is not meant to be an exhaustive list.

The Council of Europe (2011) – “The potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment”

World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s classification of EMF as possibly carcinogenic (2011) – See note below about this.

The European Environment Agency’s report (2013) – “Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation”  Pages 541-557

The UK Health Protection Agency Report (2012) – “Health Effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields”

The Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme Report (2012)

The BioIntiative Report (2012) – “A Rationale for Biologically-based Exposure Standards for Low Intensity Electromagnetic Radiation”

COSMOS website – An international cohort study investigating possible health effects from long term use of mobile phones and other wireless technologies at Imperial College London.

Cancer Research UK blog post about IARC classification of EMF (2011)

Paper by Prof. Andrew Marino (Louisiana State University) International Journal of Neuroscience Paper (2011) – Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: Evidence for a Novel Neurological Syndrome

Prof. Andrew Marino’s Book –  “Electromagnetism and Life”

Dr. James Rubin’s (King’s College London) British Medical Journal Paper – “Are People Sensitive to Mobile Phones”  (2006)

Dr James Rubin’s review of provocation studies on EHS (2011).

Prof Olle Johansson, Karolinska Institute Sweden (2006) – “Electrohypersensitivity: State of the Art of a Functional Impairment”

Stephen Genuis, University of Alberta Canada (2011) – “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity – Fact or Fiction”

ECOLOG-Institute paper commissioned by T-Mobile (2000) –  “Review of the current scientific research in view of precautionary health protection”

Electrosensitivity UK charity website.

Radiation Research Trust Website

Note about IARC’s Class 2b classification.

The classification of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as a Class 2b carcinogen, (‘possibly carcinogenic’) by IARC in 2011 has, as expected, divided opinion.  Those who believe this is nothing to be concerned about, will cite that coffee and carpentry are also class 2b carcinogens.  Yet those who are very concerned by this classification, will cite that DDT and exhaust fumes are also in the same category.  This approach is misleading, as Lennart Hardell in his report for the European Environment Agency outlines below…

“Different agents in the same classification group are evaluated on the basis of very different kinds of evidence and exposure conditions that are specific for each substance. Some 2B agents will be at the lower end of the probability range, others will be close to the nearly one in two probability and the rest are somewhere in between, depending on their very specific characteristics. By loosely lumping together several randomly chosen carcinogens from the 271 in Group 2B such as dry cleaning fumes and coffee, which invites comparison to mobile phones, journalists and others help to complicate the already difficult discussion about the likelihood of cancer risks. Each agent needs to be considered on its own evidence.”

Lennart Hardell (2013) Pg 554 “Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation” European Environment Agency

You can find the full IARC list here.

* I am aware that there are a variety of other names and acronyms, but to avoid confusion I am referring to it as EHS or electrosensitivity.


10 thoughts on ““Electrosensitive” in the Guardian

  1. “yet I can work here seemingly unaffected”.
    Most do not “feel” a dental x-ray or a chest x-ray. However some do.
    The ability to feel the effects is not a measure of the harm.. The only difference between the cellular damage done by non ionizing radiation or ionizing radiation is the speed at which that damage occurs.
    Lab tests reveal that the effect of wireless radiation, especially the microwaves emitted by smart meters, on oblivious subjects is no different than it is for those who are consciously aware that they suffering from microwave sickness.
    Awareness of the effects of radiation is not to be confused with the fact that the often irreversible DNA shredding damage and blood brain barrier breaching happens anyway.

  2. Fascinating piece in today’s Guardian. Hats off to you for your open mindedness and empathy.
    We may not be sure if the issue is real, but the suffering clearly is.

  3. Great work Thomas. Im a 35 yrs old photographer and electrosensitive myself. I’ve got a wife, two kids and It has changed my life completely. Computers and driving my car are my biggest problems, so i have stopped working as a photographer since it involes alot of computer work. Now looking into other job options, but thats not easy!

    At times im in doubt myself whether its psychological or not. A part of me hopes/ wants it to be all in my head, so it could be fixed by a good psychologist. But i havnt heard of anyone being cured by a psychologist, have you?

    Keep on searching and exposing your finds to the people.

    Peace & Love.

    1. thank you for your message Peter. I’m glad you like the piece. I’m sorry to hear about how EHS has affected you and your work. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be and I’m sorry that you had to give up work as a photographer. I’ll post up details of future screenings of the film and exhibition later in the summer. Cheers, Thomas

  4. Beautiful photos, and a really compassionate telling of an important story that is just beginning to emerge. Thank you Thomas Ball.

    As far as the “sham effect” research, I’d like to point out:
    1. Electrosensitives often react not just to RF, but low frequency voltage as well. The voltage from the battery of the cell phone didn’t necessarily, but could have, impacted the subjects.
    2. The ‘feeling of heat in the head’ is a common symptom of ES. SO the researchers actually caused the subjects to experience a symptom within a supposedly clean environment, and then proceeded to claim “sham effect” when the subjects experienced symptoms.

    In short, the research seems completely tainted–by the researcher’s own apparent zeal to demonstrate a sham effect. The experiment almost sounds as though it was designed to create a particular outcome!

    Additionally, the researchers seem to have chosen a very specific and weak RF signal to test on the subjects. I can only wonder for how long the subjects were exposed, for how long the researchers waited in between exposures and ‘non-exposures’, how many times they went back and forth.

    I’m not a scientist, but I know it would be easy to create an UNBIASED experiment that demonstrates the causality between RF and ES. I would not be afraid to submit myself to such an UNBIASED experiment. I’ve experienced symptoms enough to know that the causality is very real.

    Anyway, really powerful work! Thanks again.

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