A court in France has ruled that a woman can claim a disability allowance for an illness, which she claims is caused by exposure to electromagnetic radiation from man-made sources. Known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), no scientific evidence exists for the condition described by the woman. She will receive €800 ($900, £590) a month for three years.
EHS sufferers are supposedly made sick by signals from mobile phones, Wi-Fi routers and other gadgets. Symptoms include headaches and nausea. Marine Richard, 39, said her condition had forced her to move to a remote barn in south-west France to avoid signals from such devices. It’s not clear how she deals with the constant stream of electromagnetic radiation from Earth itself, and the Sun, while living in her remote location.
Richard called the ruling a “breakthrough” and her lawyer, Alice Terrasse, told The Times it could allow “thousands of people” to make similar claims in court.
However, it should be stressed that the court in Toulouse did not recognize EHS as an actual illness. It simply accepted that Richard's symptoms, whatever the cause, prevent her from working and awarded a disability allowance to reflect that. Most experts think that EHS is caused by the “nocebo” effect, where just knowing that a Wi-Fi signal is present makes people think they should be feeling unwell.
Numerous studies have been carried out, including double-blind trials, where supposed sufferers of EHS are asked to say when they can “feel” the presence of a Wi-Fi signal in a room. None has ever shown any evidence for EHS as described by Richard.
While the World Health Organisation does list EHS as a condition, it does not suggest electromagnetic radiation is the cause, leaving the door open to the nocebo theory. “EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF [Electromagnetic Field] exposure,” it writes on its website.
Public Health England agrees, saying of EHS: “There is no consistent scientific evidence of sensitive or specific pathophysiological markers.”