So there's a British woman who's been in the news recently for diagnosing herself with a sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation. She sleeps in a $500 EMF-blocking sack and has reportedly stayed 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 issue of EMF-related health issues, and she even got the mayor of the Spanish village where she now lives 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 seems 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 effect and 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.
Fear and nocebo effects likely spread in recent years as reports came out about cellphone radiation-causing tumors in rats, including a massive, $25-million US government study. But, as Ars reported, the studies were riddled with problems. The US government study, for instance, found that rats exposed to cellphone radiation—far more than smartphone-addicted humans would encounter, by the way—lived longer than unexposed, control animals. The control animals also had unusually low rates of cancers, skewing the data analysis. And female rats inexplicably were not affected by the radiation.
Overall, while results of observational and cohort-studies have been mixed, large-scale, high-quality studies that are not funded by the cellphone industry largely find no increased risks or spikes in cancers and tumors linked to cellphone use.
Moreover, there remains no biological explanation of how non-ionizing radiation could cause health effects. The low-frequency radiations from phones, televisions, Wi-Fi, radios, computers, and remote controls are too weak to blast ions off of molecules, which could lead to cellular and DNA damage, which could then lead to illnesses and cancers. That's in contrast to ionizing radiation, such as gamma rays and X-rays, which can remove electrons.
Some researchers have suggested that non-ionizing radiation could affect cellular functions without damaging cells, but there's no evidence to substantiate that concern.
Meanwhile, Gladwell and others have become convinced that our modern world is killing us.