SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • environmental illness;
  • electromagnetic fields;
  • somatoform disorders;
  • environmental exposure;
  • cellular phone

Abstract

Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF; formerly ‘electromagetic hypersensitivity’) is a medically unexplained illness in which subjective symptoms are reported following exposure to electrical devices. In an earlier systematic review, we reported data from 31 blind provocation studies which had exposed IEI-EMF volunteers to active or sham electromagnetic fields and assessed whether volunteers could detect these fields or whether they reported worse symptoms when exposed to them. In this article, we report an update to that review. An extensive literature search identified 15 new experiments. Including studies reported in our earlier review, 46 blind or double-blind provocation studies in all, involving 1175 IEI-EMF volunteers, have tested whether exposure to electromagnetic fields is responsible for triggering symptoms in IEI-EMF. No robust evidence could be found to support this theory. However, the studies included in the review did support the role of the nocebo effect in triggering acute symptoms in IEI-EMF sufferers. Despite the conviction of IEI-EMF sufferers that their symptoms are triggered by exposure to electromagnetic fields, repeated experiments have been unable to replicate this phenomenon under controlled conditions. A narrow focus by clinicians or policy makers on bioelectromagnetic mechanisms is therefore, unlikely to help IEI-EMF patients in the long-term. Bioelectromagnetics 31:1–11, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.