Research Blog

June 5, 2024

EMFs and Chemical Hypersensitivity Part 2: Health Effects

Welcome to part 2 of ODX's "Electromagnetic and Chemical Hypersensitivity" Series. In the second post, you'll learn about the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and their impact on human health, including cancer risks, neurodegenerative disorders, mood changes, and more.

The ODX EMF Series

Dicken Weatherby, N.D. and Beth Ellen DiLuglio, MS, RDN, LDN

  1. Electromagnetic and Chemical Hypersensitivity Part 1: Electromagnetic Fields
  2. Electromagnetic and Chemical Hypersensitivity Part 2: Health Effects of EMFs
  3. Electromagnetic and Chemical Hypersensitivity Part 3: TILT, MCS, and Immune Dysfunction
  4. Electromagnetic and Chemical Hypersensitivity Part 4: Mitigating SRIs

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorizes extremely low EMFs (high-voltage line radiation) and radiofrequency EMFs (cellphone radiation) as possible carcinogens, i.e., category 2B. However, low and high-frequency EMFs may also cause neurodegenerative disorders, memory loss, mood changes, oxidative stress, inflammation, altered cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism, DNA damage, and genotoxicity (Deruelle 2020).

Source: Radio Frequency Radiation and Cell Phones.

Early research confirmed that exposure to cellphones and wireless communication systems can cause symptoms in humans, and exposure is rising. Low-frequency EMF exposure is becoming ubiquitous due to the proliferation of wireless communication and microwave technology. Electromagnetic field exposure can cause pathophysiological changes and symptoms in healthy subjects, including heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure variability, sleep disturbances, headaches, fatigue, appetite loss, emotional lability, and concentration and memory changes. Symptoms can be magnified in those with electromagnetic hypersensitivity or electrohypersensitivity (EHS), a recognized pathological disorder characterized by an acute sensitivity to even low levels of EMF exposure (Belpomme, 2022).

A World Health Organization international workshop in Prague defined EHS as a phenomenon where individuals experience adverse health effects while using or being near devices emanating electric, magnetic, or electromagnetic fields.” Individuals with EHS have persistent symptoms and often suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) as well. Both EHS and MCS are associated with low-grade inflammation, oxidative stress, DNA damage, potential neurotransmitter abnormalities, and breaches of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), potentially at very low levels of exposure. Animals, plants, and microorganisms may also be negatively affected (Belpomme 2022).

Clinical symptoms in EHS self-reported patients

Clinical Symptoms EHS (%) Normal Controls (%) MCS (%) EHS/MCS (%)
Headache 88 0 80 96
Dysesthesia 82 0 67 96
Myalgia 48 6 48 76
Arthralgia 30 18 24 56
Ear heat/otalgia 70 0 16 90
Tinnitus 60 6 35 88
Hyperacusis 40 6 20 52
Dizziness 70 0 52 68
Balance disorder 42 0 40 52
Concentration/attention deficiency 76 0 67 88
Loss of immediate memory 70 6 56 84
Confusion 8 0 0 20
Fatigue 88 12 72 94
Insomnia 74 6 47 92
Depression tendency 60 0 29 76
Suicidal ideation 20 0 9 40
Transitory cardiovascular abnormalities 50 0 36 56
Ocular deficiency 48 0 43 56
Anxiety/panic 38 0 19 28
Emotivity 20 12 16 20
Irritability 24 6 14 24
Skin lesions 16 0 14 45
Global body dysthermia 14 0 6 8

These data result from the clinical analysis of 150 consecutive clinically evaluable cases issued from the database including an already published series of EHS and/or MCS patients who were investigated for biological markers.

Source: Belpomme, Dominique, and Philippe Irigaray. “Why electrohypersensitivity and related symptoms are caused by non-ionizing man-made electromagnetic fields: An overview and medical assessment.” Environmental research vol. 212,Pt A (2022): 113374. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2022.113374 This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

A meta-analysis of 15 original research studies found that artificial EMF exposure was associated with sympathetic dominance of the ANS characterized by decreased SDNN and SDANN. Both SDNN and SDANN reflect an individual’s ability to cope with stress, and lower values may be associated with autonomic dysrhythmias, anxiety disorders, and chronic fatigue syndrome. EMFs were also associated with lower pNN50 index values, indicating impaired vagal activity and increased sympathetic tone, which is proarrhythmic. Reduced HRV measures can lead to increased vulnerability, stress, cardiovascular disease, and death and may be associated with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Researchers suggest lifestyle changes to reduce exposure to EMFs by limiting exposure to cellphones, electronic devices, wireless communication antennae, and high-power electric lines (Mansourian 2023).

Just 5 minutes of EMF exposure in the chest area caused a shift to sympathetic overactivity and parasympathetic underactivity in 30 young, initially healthy, symptom-free subjects. A 2400 MHz WiFi exposure was associated with sympathetic overactivity, and 2600 MHz 4G (LTE) mobile network exposure was related to cardiovagal underactivity. The reduced cardiovagal modulation may contribute to future cardiovascular risk and altered emotional, social, and cognitive abilities (Parizek 2023).

EMFs from video display terminals (VDTs) and fluorescent lighting may also cause an immune hypersensitivity reaction, including “screen dermatitis” characterized by pain, itching, stinging, and burning sensations in the skin and sinus and breathing issues. This reaction may be due to increased mast cell degranulation and release of mediators, including histamine (Gangi 2000, Kaszuba-Zwoińska 2015).

EMFs also disrupt blood glucose regulation. Animal studies demonstrated that exposure to cellphone radiation for longer than 15 minutes daily was associated with significantly higher fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin, and insulin resistance HOMA-IR values (Meo 2013). Animal studies also found that those exposed to WiFi EMFs had significantly higher blood glucose and lipid peroxidation and significantly reduced insulin secretion, plasma insulin, superoxide dismutase, glutathione, and glutathione peroxidase, important antioxidant compounds (Masoumi 2018).

A cross-sectional study of 159 elementary school children observed that those exposed to higher doses of EMFs from nearby cellphone towers had significantly higher hemoglobin A1C and a significantly higher risk of diabetes than those exposed to a lower dose. An estimated 7.3 billion people worldwide use cellphones, creating a greater need for cellphone towers and infrastructure. Researchers recommend that cellphone towers/bases not be installed in heavily populated areas or near school buildings (Meo 2015).

Exposure to transient electromagnetic fields, also known as “dirty electricity,” may also increase diabetes risk. These fields can be generated from indoor electric wiring, electronic equipment, wireless devices, and even treadmills, which have been associated with increasing blood glucose levels. EMFs may promote the production of stress hormones, including norepinephrine, which can inhibit insulin release. EMFs may even alter the insulin molecule and reduce its receptor binding capacity, further exacerbating hyperglycemia (Havas 2008).

General health effects from EMF exposure (Genuis 2012):

  • Blurred vision
  • Chest discomfort
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • General malaise
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Memory impairment
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Night sweats
  • Paresthesia
  • Restless legs
  • Sleep disorder
  • Thought processing difficulties
  • Tinnitus
  • Weakness

Peripheral and central nervous system effects of EMFs Include (Kaszuba-Zwoińska 2015):

  • Adverse effects on neurotransmitter release, including serotonin, acetylcholine, GABA, glutamate, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and the neuromodulator PEA
  • Increased risk of early childhood disorders, including ADHD, for children exposed to cellphones while in the womb and those utilizing cellphones before the age of 7.
  • Increased blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability, allowing large molecules through, including toxins and viruses that can damage the cerebral cortex and hypothalamus. Increased blood levels of S100B, a marker of cerebral tissue damage, have been associated with EMF exposure.
  • Structural brain changes, including enhanced demyelination and rapid glial cell growth. Increased myelin antibodies have been observed in the blood of individuals with EHS.
  • Malignant transformation of brain cells from cellphone use
  • Altered neurotransmitter and brain cell membrane metabolism
  • Altered cerebral blood flow to the limbic area of the brain associated with emotions
  • Increased brain glucose consumption near where cellphones are held to the head
  • Decreased synthesis of melatonin, a hormone vital to sleep, heart rhythm, and antioxidant status, has been observed in those with EHS
  • Stimulation of the peripheral nervous system and increased central nervous system electrical activity affecting hearing and vision in those with EHS
  • Alterations in the synthesis of several brain-derived proteins
  • Increased production of oxygen and nitric free radicals
  • Reduced cerebral cortex activity is observed in those with EHS
  • Subjective symptoms, including headache, nausea, fatigue, feelings of burnout, tinnitus, cardiac symptoms, feeling short of breath, memory dysfunction, sleep disturbances, stress, and depression

Optimal Takeaways Health Effects of EMFs

  • Man-made EMFs from the increasing usage of cellphones, WiFi, and other technologies can bypass natural protective measures like Earth's magnetosphere, exposing people to higher-than-natural levels of radiation.
  • Lifestyle changes, including reduced use of electronic devices and prudent placement of infrastructure like cellphone towers, are recommended to decrease EMF exposure and its associated health risks.
  • Electromagnetic fields (EMFs), categorized by the IARC as possible carcinogens, are linked to numerous health risks including
    • Cancer and DNA damage
    • Neurodegenerative disorders
    • Mood changes
    • Heart rate variability
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Diabetes
    • Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity
    • Headaches
    • Tinnitus
    • Dizziness
    • Fatigue

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Belpomme, Dominique, and Philippe Irigaray. “Why electrohypersensitivity and related symptoms are caused by non-ionizing man-made electromagnetic fields: An overview and medical assessment.” Environmental research vol. 212,Pt A (2022): 113374. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2022.113374

Deruelle, Fabien. “The different sources of electromagnetic fields: Dangers are not limited to physical health.” Electromagnetic biology and medicine vol. 39,2 (2020): 166-175. doi:10.1080/15368378.2020.1737811

Gangi, S, and O Johansson. “A theoretical model based upon mast cells and histamine to explain the recently proclaimed sensitivity to electric and/or magnetic fields in humans.” Medical hypotheses vol. 54,4 (2000): 663-71. doi:10.1054/mehy.1999.0923

Genuis, Stephen J, and Christopher T Lipp. “Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: fact or fiction?.” The Science of the total environment vol. 414 (2012): 103-12. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.11.008

Havas, Magda. “Dirty electricity elevates blood sugar among electrically sensitive diabetics and may explain brittle diabetes.” Electromagnetic biology and medicine vol. 27,2 (2008): 135-46. doi:10.1080/15368370802072075

Kaszuba-Zwoińska, Jolanta et al. “Electromagnetic field induced biological effects in humans.” Przeglad lekarski vol. 72,11 (2015): 636-41.

Mansourian, Mahsa et al. “Effects of man-made electromagnetic fields on heart rate variability parameters of general public: a systematic review and meta-analysis of experimental studies.” Reviews on environmental health, 10.1515/reveh-2022-0191. 18 May. 2023, doi:10.1515/reveh-2022-0191

Masoumi, Ali et al. “Radiofrequency radiation emitted from Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz) causes impaired insulin secretion and increased oxidative stress in rat pancreatic islets.” International journal of radiation biology vol. 94,9 (2018): 850-857. doi:10.1080/09553002.2018.1490039

Meo, Sultan Ayoub, and Khalid Al Rubeaan. “Effects of exposure to electromagnetic field radiation (EMFR) generated by activated mobile phones on fasting blood glucose.” International journal of occupational medicine and environmental health vol. 26,2 (2013): 235-41. doi:10.2478/s13382-013-0107-1

Meo, Sultan Ayoub et al. “Association of Exposure to Radio-Frequency Electromagnetic Field Radiation (RF-EMFR) Generated by Mobile Phone Base Stations with Glycated Hemoglobin (HbA1c) and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 12,11 14519-28. 13 Nov. 2015, doi:10.3390/ijerph121114519

Parizek, D et al. “Electromagnetic fields - do they pose a cardiovascular risk?.” Physiological research vol. 72,2 (2023): 199-208. doi:10.33549/physiolres.934938

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