It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it describes a condition in which individuals claim to suffer ill-health as a result of exposure to electrical or magnetic radiation from kettles, television sets, computers, power lines, or mobile phone base stations. Symptoms include burning sensations, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, and digestive disturbances.
The term has been around in a quiet way for some time (the first example I’ve found is in Robert O Becker’s Cross Currents of 1990), but it had wide circulation in Britain in May 2006 or so as a result of a series of reports in popular newspapers focussing on the condition. It is also known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome (EHS) and sufferers are sometimes described as electromagnetic hypersensitives or as being electrosensitive.
It is controversial, with no study finding a clear link between low-level electromagnetic radiation and symptoms. Researchers are sure that those complaining of symptoms are sincere, experiencing a real problem that can be disabling, but can find no evidence that suggests a connection with radiation.
We wanted to inform the Health Secretary about the debilitating symptoms experienced by electro-sensitive people. Patricia Hewitt was sympathetic whilst seemingly unaware of the electromagnetic hypersensitivity problem.
Birmingham Mail, 12 Jan. 2006
If there’s no real explanation, perhaps a “placebo” explanation — like “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” — can have almost all the same properties as a real one.
Guardian, 13 May 2006
Search World Wide Words
Recently added pieces
Boot and trunk; Zoilism; Fish-faced; Poach; Immensikoff; Habiliments; The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker; Agister; The Word at War; Not so green as you’re cabbage-looking; Peely-wally; Draw a line in the sand; Porphyrogeniture; Set one’s cap at; Epicaricacy; Furthest and farthest; Hide one’s light under a bushel; Jentacular.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!