Uhhhh… Oh, my aching head. Sorry. Don’t know what’s wrong with me. I know I’m not sick. I was even out and about yesterday, enjoying some unseasonably warm weather. Now I’m at home, multitasking a phone call and rocking some work on the laptop… and… Oh crap. Maybe I should go lie down…
Sound familiar? If so, you might want to stop eyeing your pet as an allergy instigator — and start looking at the gizmo you’ve been pressing close to your face. That’s right, you might be allergic to your cell phone.
There’s a new report that has unearthed a fairly stunning number: As many as 250,000 people in Sweden have been found to be allergic to the radio waves that come off mobile phones when calls are placed or received.
It’s called electro-hypersensitivity (or EHS), and it causes all sorts of weird, ill-feeling reactions like nausea, dizziness, headaches and even breathing difficulty, heartbeat irregularities and fainting. (If you’re a “Ghost Hunters” fan, you’ve probably seen Grant and Jay explain how electro-magnetic fields can cause similar reactions in people, and this is basically the same thing.)
It’s tough to know how far away is a prudent distance to keep a phone (even using a headset or hands-free kit). This is because different handsets put out different levels of radiation, so there isn’t a single guideline for this. To complicate things even more, it’s not just your cellie. Other gadgets create electro-magnetic radiation, like computers and televisions. (I’m usually surrounded by all three — and often using them simultaneously. At this rate, it’s a wonder I’m not constantly fainting.)
According to Popular Science, close to three percent of the Swedish population battles EHS. That’s actually a big percentage, and has lead to the country being the only one to categorize the affliction as a functional impairment. In fact, Sweden entitles EHS sufferers with similar rights and services it affords the blind and deaf communities. (People documented with EHS can even install metal shielding at home on the local government’s dime.)
As an example, the magazine delves into the plight of Per Segerbäck, a former telecommunications engineer at Ellemtel, a division of Ericsson. For 20 years, Segerbäck took a “non-ionizing radiation bath, from computers, fluorescent lights and the telecom antenna located right outside his window.”
Segerbäck lives on a nature reserve, practically free from electricity. This image was shot on film in broad daylight, to avoid triggering Segerbäck’s hypersensitivity.
(Image courtesy of Popular Science)
How electro-hypersensitive is Segerbäck? Very. Whenever he is anywhere near a mobile phone in use, he feels like there is “not enough room in my skull for my brain.” One time, he was on a sailboat when someone below decks placed a call on his cell. The result was headache, nausea, and unconsciousness. Today, he lives on a nature reserve 75 miles away from Stockholm.
The debate over the physical affects of electronics in our lives has been ongoing. And the case made about cell phones causing cancer has been nowhere near proven, at least conclusively. (There have been multiple studies published on both sides.) Even so, we live in a modern era, and en masse, we are likely exposed to higher radiation levels on a regular basis than any previous generation in recorded history. It’s not hard to imagine that this could affect us on a very physical level. But how many of us could take ourselves off the grid, like Segerbäck?
For many people today, our very livelihoods depend on technology, whether that’s sitting at a computer all day in a cubicle or reviewing cell phones. Luckily, it seems that the vast majority of people aren’t susceptible to this condition, but for those of us who are — take special care. And make a note: Is that undeniable queasiness occurring when you’re around electronics?