Are some people allergic to emissions from electronic devices? Courts in France and the United States are grappling with this question in two recent lawsuits from people who claim to suffer from a medical condition known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). Although EHS is not officially recognized as a medical disorder in most countries, it is characterized by headaches, fatigue, nausea, skin irritation, and heart palpitations. People who suffer from EHS say that these symptoms are caused by electromagnetic field exposure. However, scientific studies have not been able to conclusively show that symptoms are linked to exposure of electronics. In fact, studies have shown that people with EHS are not able to tell when they are exposed to electromagnetic fields, suggesting that EHS is a psychological, rather than physical disorder.
Still, people continue to experience similar physical symptoms, and some EHS sufferers have taken extreme measures to avoid electronics, such as moving to remote areas or shielding their homes from radiation. French courts recently awarded a disability grant to a woman who says that she is unable to work because she is allergic to the radiation from electronic gadgets. The court agreed that her symptoms prevent her from working, and the ruling allows her to claim a disability which entitles her to an allowance of 800 Euros ($902) per month for three years. EHS advocates are calling the decision a breakthrough, although the French courts did not officially recognize EHS as an illness.
Now, in Massachusetts (just about half an hour from the In Compliance headquarters), a school is being sued by a family who claims their son has EHS. According to the boy’s parents, he started suffering typical EHS symptoms in spring 2013, when the school installed a stronger wireless service in the school, going from 2.5GHz frequencies to a 5GHz network. The family wants the school to switch to Ethernet or turn down the Wi-Fi signal, which they say will help ease their son’s bloody noses, dizziness, and other symptoms. The parents say their concerns about EHS were met with a “hostile attitude” by the school so they are suing for damages, fees, and to force the school to change their Wi-Fi to accommodate their son. The suit claims that the school’s response violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. For now, we are staying tuned; a ruling in the Massachusetts case has not yet been announced.