A British woman has been in the news recently for diagnosing herself with a sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation and sleeping in a $500 EMF-blocking sack. She reportedly stays in the sack, from time to time, for 30-hour stretches.
The woman—70-year-old Rosi Gladwell of Totnes, Devon—helps lead a small advocacy group on the topic of EMF-related health issues, and she even got the mayor of a Spanish village to look into ways to limit Wi-Fi access for residents. She fears that the introduction of 5G mobile networks will kill her.
Now seems like a good time to remind readers that there is no evidence to support the idea of “electromagnetic hypersensitivity.” The World Health Organization calls it “idiopathic environmental intolerance with attribution to electromagnetic fields,” or IEI-EMF.
Nevertheless, many people believe themselves to be afflicted. A 2007 survey in the UK found that 4% of people felt they were sensitive to radio-frequency EMF. And, as Ars has reported before, “electrosensitives” have flocked to the EMF dead-zone around the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. Federal and state laws restrict transmissions in a 10-mile radius that might interfere with the observatory’s sensitive radio telescopes, creating a haven for those in fear of low-frequency radiation.
A small study in 2017 suggested that sensational media reports seem to amplify the idea that EMF sensitivities are real. The German and Belgian researchers behind the study determined that being exposed to sensational reports “enhanced perception of tactile stimuli in healthy participants.”
Overall, they concluded:
Receiving sensational media reports might sensitize people to develop a nocebo effectand thereby contribute to the development of IEI-EMF. By promoting catastrophizing thoughts and increasing symptom-focused attention, perception might more readily be enhanced and misattributed to EMF.