Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)

There is growing evidence that some people may be more sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted from power sources than others. A variety of health problems have been attributed to exposure to EMF. For some individuals the symptoms are mild and they respond by avoiding fields as best they can, while for others the symptoms are so severe that they need to cease work and change their entire lifestyle.

There has been a steady increase in environmental exposure to manmade EMF as demand for electricity and new technologies have resulted in an increase in the number and diversity of electromagnetic field (EMF) sources. Wireless telecommunications have become prolific in all aspect of life.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) EMF Programme –

“Electromagnetic fields of all frequencies represent one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences, about which anxiety and speculation are spreading. All populations are now exposed to varying degrees of EMF, and the levels will continue to increase as technology advances.”

Sources of Electromagnetic Fields

Electrical appliances in the home

  • Televisions
  • Computers and devices such as tablets
  • Microwave ovens
  • Mobile phones and cordless phone
  • Wi-fi routers
  • Smart meters
  • Handheld electronics appliances eg tablets, phone, hair dryer
  • Fluorescent lights and other lighting
  • Household wiring


  • Radar
  • Security systems
  • Electric trains and trams
  • TV and radio
  • Mobile phone and cell towers
  • Background EMF from electricity transmission and distribution
  • NBN fixed towers

While frequency and wavelengths emitted by these sources vary, they all emit energy in the form of electromagnetic fields (or radiation).

There are three general categories of nonionizing EMF people may be exposed to:

  1. Extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields from power lines, household wiring, electrical appliances and electronic equipment
  2. Electrical pollution in the 3-150kHz range that flows along and radiates from wiring in affected homes, also known as “dirty electricity”, harmonics or high frequency transient spikes
  3. Microwave and radiofrequencies from wireless telecommunication devices such as microwave ovens, mobile phones and cell towers, wi-fi, antenna and transmission towers.

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS)

Individuals who adversely react to being in close proximity to EMF are referred to having Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS). EHS is characterised by a variety of non-specific symptoms on exposure to EMF. These symptoms include redness, burning and tingling of the skin, fatigue, concentration difficulties, ringing in the ears, confusion and disorientation, nausea etc

Health Effects

For information on health effects from Electromagnetic radiation visit the EMR Australia website page http://emraustralia.com.au/health

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity

MCS and EHS often co-exist increasing the isolation and suffering of the affected individuals. Both conditions are characterised by a range of non-specific symptoms associated with low levels of exposure to EMF in the case of EHS and chemicals for MCS.

Individuals with MCS can develop hypersensitivity to EMF and those with EHS can develop sensitivity to chemicals. It is possible that MCS and EHS may develop through a common patho-physiological mechanism/s.

Prevalence of EHS

There is no prevalence data on EHS in Australia, but estimates of the prevalence of EHS in the early 2000s ranged from 1.5% of the Swedish population, 3.1% in California to 8% in Germany (Genius SJ, 2011).

A WHO 2005 fact sheet on Electromagnetic Fields And Public Health reported that estimates of EHS varied from a few people per million from a survey of occupational medical centres to higher rates from a survey of self help groups. EHS was reported to be severe in approximately 10% of reported cases (WHO Publication, 2005).

This is why it is so important to collect data on the prevalence of EHS in Australia and determine if other environmental illness such as MCS and CFS do co-exist with EHS in the Australian population.

Australian Standards for Electromagnetic Radiation

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is the Australian Government’s primary authority on radiation protection and nuclear safety.

ARPANSA regulates Commonwealth entities using radiation with the objective of protecting people and the environment from the harmful effect of radiation.

The Electromagnetic Energy Reference Group (EMERG) was established by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) to provide advice and input to address public health issues related to the use of the radiofrequency spectrum (3kHz to 300 GHz). More information on EMERG can be found at this website. Electromagnetic Energy Reference Group

Steve Weller is a community representative who tries to keep ARPANSA honest. He recently gave a presentation at the EMERG May 2015 committee meeting organised by ARPANSA on Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, this presentation can be viewed/downloaded here EHS Presentation to EMERG – Steve Weller.

For more information on the valuable work he is doing visit the Stop Smart Meters website.

ARPANSA Electromagnetic Radiation Health Complaints Register

‘The Health Complaints Register collects reports of health concerns related to possible EMR field exposures in the range of 0‑300 GHz. The register is not limited to telecommunications equipment like mobile phones and broadcasting transmitters but will also include reports related to sources such as powerlines, induction heaters, microwave ovens and other personal, industrial and scientific EMR producing equipment.’

The ARPANSA Electromagnetic Radiation Health Complaints Register can be found at the webpage: Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency


Genuis SJ, Lipp CT, Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: Fact or fiction? Sci Total Environ (2011), doi:10.1016/ j.scitotenv.2011.11.008

WHO EMF Publications 2005, Electromagnetic fields and Public Health December 2005 http://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/facts/fs296/en/


By Dr Sharyn Martin June 2015