(the Association for Research and Treatments against Cancer) has established diagnostic criteria for EHS.

For several months, the Association for Research and Treatments Against Cancer, ARTAC has been conducting research into the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs).  A number of studies have already shown a link between EMFs and certain cancers:

  1. an increased risk of childhood cancer when the home is situated less than 600m from an overhead power line (275,000 to 400,000 volts).
  2. an increased risk of brain tumours after prolonged mobile phone use (1 hour per day for 10 years).
  3. breast cancer and other adult cancers (leukaemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, melanoma).

These associative links are difficult to establish due to the extended period of exposure time needed for a cancer to appear.  It is thought that the carcinogenic mechanisms of EMFs could involve perturbing cellular division, possibly due to an increased production of free radicals.

As far as the nervous system is concerned, the health effects and action mechanisms of EMFs are better established (see the Bioinitiative Report). In accordance with the precautionary principle, ARTAC considers that public authorities urgently need to take measures to regulate the use of wireless technologies – principally mobile phone masts, WiFi and mobile phones.  Many people now claim to be “electrohypersensitive” and feel unwell when in the presence of EMFs (headaches, memory problems, insomnia, fatigue, etc).  In Sweden, a country which first developed wireless technologies in the early 1980s, electrohypersensitivity is recognised as a “handicap” which affects to a greater or lesser degree 250,000 people out of a population of 9 million.

For almost a year Professor Belpomme has undertaken examinations of several dozen patients who claim to be electrohypersensitive.  These people are real patients and have enabled ARTAC to carry out scientific research in this field.  First, ARTAC produced a clinical description of what Professor Belpomme calls the EMF intolerance syndrome.  Two phases have been identified :

  1. an initial phase characterised by headaches and neurological problems, heart rhythm disturbances and difficulties concentrating.
  2. a secondary phase characterised by a trio of chronic symptoms – insomnia, fatigue, depression.  These symptoms can be accompanied by memory and behavioural problems – irritability, aggression, and even suicidal tendencies.

In terms of diagnosis, the EMF intolerance syndrome can be recognised on the basis of several criteria: the absence of any other recognised pathology which could explain the symptoms; an abnormal pulsed echodoppler examination of the brain showing a clear decrease in the pulsatility of several areas of the brain; an increase in the blood of stress proteins and other biomarkers reflecting cerebral suffering.  In addition, about 50% of patients have shown a decrease in the levels of urinary melatonin (a sleep hormone), which could be a cause or a consequence of their insomnia.

ARTAC’s Research on EMF intolerance syndrome
ARTAC’s research programme has led to the establishment of an international working group and a specific research team. Objective diagnostic tests have been carried out, notably a pulsed echodoppler examination of the brain which shows characteristic effects on the brain.  The echodoppler and the biological markers prove the clinical reality of this syndrome, but do not yet allow the ARTAC research team to connect it to EMFs.. A second phase of research is presently underway using provocation tests aimed at proving objectively a causal link between symptoms of the EMF intolerance syndrome and EMFs. These tests consist in carrying out dosages of markers and electroencephalogrammes, first in an environment clear of EMFs and then after exposure to EMF-emitting equipment.

ARTAC’s Reasearch on Electrosensitivity
Electrosensitivity must be clearly distinguished from the EMF intolerance syndrome. Research on electrosensitivity is needed to determine why some patients are affected by the EMF intolerance syndrome while others are not. Our brains contain millions of tiny magnets known as magnetosomes, which could account for the causal link between symptoms and EMFs in electrohypersensitive patients. ARTAC is trying to find out whether there are individual differences in the number of magnetosomes and has organised a cohort study to identify patients and to study the evolution of this syndrome.

Professor Belpomme consulted by the AFSSET

In 2005 the AFSSET (French Agency for Sanitary Security in the Environment and Workplace) published a report on mobile phones that claims EMFs do not have harmful effects. The AFSSET will publish another report in the next few months and consulted Professor Belpomme on the matter on 28 January 2009.

The cancer specialist spoke for three hours on the potential dangers of WiFi and mobile phone masts and on the need to establish a firm diagnosis for people suffering from EMF intolerance  These patients need to be given close medical supervision as they may be at an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and possibly of cancer.  Professor Belpommme also explained the cerebral symptoms caused by electromagnetic fields. These symptoms might be due to the adverse biological effects induced by the cerebral system in response to EMFs.

It is hoped that the new report by the AFSSET will be based on objective and impartial scientific considerations and will therefore lead to a revision of the conclusions of its previous report in 2005, in which the risks of EMFs were minimised.

More articles on electro sensitivity

First Published in 2009

Top of page