Despite dispute over the very existence of the syndrome, it has emerged that a French court has recognised a 39-year-old woman’s disability claim for “hypersensitivity to electromagnetic waves”.
In the first case of its kind in France, the Toulouse court awarded Martine Richard €800 ($900) a month for three years - according to Robin des Toits, an organisation that campaigns on behalf of sufferers. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS or électrosensibilité in French) is purportedly caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields such as those generated by WiFi and mobile phones.
In a statement on Wednesday, Étienne Cendrier, Robin des Toits spokesman, hailed the news as a victory, saying: “We can no longer say that it is a psychiatric illness.”
Victims of EHS say it causes headaches, joint pain, sleep disruption and dozens of other varying symptoms. Nonetheless the World Health Organisation has no clear diagnostic criteria for the condition.
Richard, a former playwright and radio documentary director from Marseille, says she is now forced to live in a remote part of the Pyrenees, without electricity, to escape from electromagnetic fields.
The French National Agency for Health Safety of Food, Environment and Labour (ANSES) accepts that those claiming électrosensibilité have real symptoms, but note the absence of “an experimentally reproducible causal link” to electromagnetic waves. A report is due in early 2016. ®
Many studies have been conducted in which self-identified electrosensitivity sufferers are sometimes within electromagnetic fields and sometimes not, but are not told which. El Reg is not aware of any study in which the sufferers were able to tell whether the fields were active or absent with significantly greater accuracy than random guessing would have achieved.
Nobody doubts that the condition is a real and potentially painful one, but it appears to actually be caused by the belief that one is within an electromagnetic field, rather than being caused by an electromagnetic field. It also requires other curious beliefs, such as the belief that only groundbased, manmade electromagnetic fields are a problem. Ms Richard, despite her remote residence, almost certainly has microwave emissions from satellites and aircraft overhead sleeting through her body on a routine basis - not to mention the electromagnetic emissions from the Sun, the stars, the cosmic background and the planet Earth itself.
Hopefully she won't read this bootnote. Or she doesn't believe that Ku-band from TV satellites etc will make her ill, though we'd hazard a bet that she'd get ill if someone pointed a Ku-band speed gun at her and she knew it was happening. Still, maybe she lives in a cave. -Ed