Worried that your cell phone is giving you cancer? Concerned that your computer is giving you headache? It seems you may not be alone. Some studies are reporting that a small group of us are actually allergic to modern life. Can you imagine?

Amplify’d from www.wired.com
Illustration: Don Clark

Illustration: Don Clark

Attention! Do you suffer from tinnitus, memory lapse, or irregular heartbeat after prolonged exposure to your computer monitor? Does proximity to a Wi-Fi network give you nausea, headaches, or fainting spells? If so, you may be suffering from gadget allergies, an affliction recognized by medical authorities such as… er, no one.

Depending on which survey you read, as much as 3 percent of the population is basically allergic to modern life. This disorder has no uniform symptoms, can range from mild to severe, and seems to be most prevalent in places like California and Sweden. It does have a name, though: electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome.

The culprit, according to many EHS “victims,” is the storm of interference produced by microwave ovens, TVs, radios, cell phone towers, and various other accoutrements of the 21st century. The afflicted have resorted to viewing computer monitors through binoculars, wearing Faraday hairnets, and, in some cases, moving to the Swedish wilderness.

Unfortunately for sufferers expecting a cure to emerge from new research, not one of 46 blind and double-blind studies of EHS has identified a credible correlation between the ailments and any radio wave or magnetic field. So what’s going on? James Rubin, a psychiatry research fellow at London’s King’s College, attributes EHS to the “nocebo effect”: “You expect something to cause symptoms, get anxious about it, and start looking out for those symptoms in your own body,” he says. Sure enough, you sometimes find them.

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