Are you sensitive to electromagnetic fields?

Electromagnetic FieldsMany people still assume that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by their devices (cell phones, computers and ipads, etc.) are completely harmless. This conventional believe persists despite thousands of research studies that identify EMFs as an obstacle to the body’s natural repair mechanisms.[1] If preventive health is a priority for you or if you have chronic illness of any kind, then EMFs should concern you. If you think you might have symptoms that are caused by EMFs, please continue reading!


What Are Frequencies?

The best way I’ve come to understand frequencies are as patterns of electrical activity, like pulses. These pulses are measured as cycles-per-second or “hertz”. Every living thing has this. For example, in my office we can measure the frequency of your heart’s nervous system as Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which also happens to be a well documented indicator of your risk for various chronic illnesses. It sits ideally at about 0.1Hz. This interesting Scientific American article explores the frequencies of brain waves and human consciousness, including theta brain waves which sit at about 7 Hz. The Earth’s electromagnetic field also has a natural frequency of about 7.83 Hz (and this is affected by climate change). The sound of a woman’s voice is about 165 to to 255Hz.

What about frequencies of man-made things? Well, 60Hz describes most household appliances and many mobile device screens. Cell phones pulse so fast they’re measured in millions of cycles per second (“mega” hertz – MHz), and WiFi (wireless internet) pulses are measured in billions of cycles per second (“giga” hertz – GHz)! Ultrasound machines that we use to “see” inside the body are measured in MHz too. These faster mega- and giga- hertz frequencies are also sometimes called “radiofrequencies” (RFs).


Electromagnetic Fields

Electricity is surrounded by a “field” or region called an “electric field”. When electricity moves, whether through to a home appliance or through our heart and brain as part of normal physiology, a “magnetic field” is created. (In other words, the human body naturally produces electric and magnetic fields.) A compass points north because of the Earth’s magnetic field, and many animals navigate by sensing magnetic fields in a process called “magnetoreception”.[2] Collectively, we can call these electric and magnetic fields “electromagnetic fields”, or EMFs.

All of this is well understood in science. What we don’t seem to understand yet is: what happens when man-made EMFs intersect with natural ones in our bodies and environment? Can some people feel this? Or is it more like high cholesterol that we can’t feel but have been told is harmful in the long-run?


Electromagnetic Field Symptoms

Absolutely some people can acutely feel the impacts of exposure to man-made EMFs. The World Health Organization and some government health agencies call this “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity” (EHS). Various research papers consider prevalence of EHS to be between 3% to 8% of the population.

EHS symptoms are extremely variable and can include:

  • Discomfort or neurological symptoms (e.g. heat, tingling) in the ear, face, scalp, or body part closest to the device.
  • Tinnitus, “Eustachian Tube Dysfunction”, or a sensation of pressure in the ears.
  • Hypersensitivity of the senses, including to noise (hyperacusis), light, or scents.
  • Blurred vision (especially up-close) or flashes of light in your vision.
  • Headaches – especially ones with neck stiffness.
  • Dysequilibrium (the sensation that you’re off-balance), or light-headedness.
  • Heart palpitations or sudden changes in blood pressure.
  • Transient changes in cognitive function, including confusion, difficulty focusing or finding words, and memory impairment.
  • Changes in mood or behaviour, including anxiety, sudden irritability, tension or restlessness, hyperactivity, especially in children.
  • Flu-like symptoms, or symptoms of dehydration, including static shocks.

People who are more sensitive can experience progressive worsening of all these symptoms and symptoms that persist even when not acutely exposed to man-made EMFs.

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity often starts gradually after a person has already developed chemical sensitivities (such as to perfumes or exhaust fumes), or mould intolerance. These symptoms can look a lot like other chronic illnesses, including chronic Lyme disease, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and Fibromyalgia.


Are you EMF sensitive?

Yes. The short answer is, yes – we’re all sensitive to varying degrees to electromagnetic fields, even if the health impacts are poorly characterized and highly variable. Whether you qualify for the diagnosis of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity depends more on whether symptoms appear within 24 hours of EMF exposure. You can learn more about this on the Electrosensitive Society website.

Politicians and some scientists still argue about whether the evidence is conclusive enough to do more than warn people about limiting their EMF exposure… I’m challenged to succinctly write about why we’re stalling. Politics, culture, and discernment of complex natural systems, all come into play. At least where science is concerned, the newer field of epigenetics explains much about how environmental toxins impact human health for generations to come. [3] I’m also quite interested in how principles of quantum physics – in which everything is energy and everything is connected – are becoming increasingly accessible and applied across fields, including in biology, and even business organizational culture.


Diagnosing Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS)

The best way to know if electromagnetic fields are contributing to your symptoms might be to take an “EMF vacation” and spend time in a remote location with no cell phones or electronics. Otherwise, do your best to review and eliminate EMF sources in your work and home environment and then reintroduce these sources to see if symptoms develop. Remember to evaluate sources outside of your home, like cell towers, smart meters, and activities in neighbouring homes.

EMF sources are sometimes measured with an EMF reader, or with the help of a Building Biologist who is trained in the evaluation of EMF exposure.[4] Some benchmarks for what readings are normal or above normal on your EMF reader, are printed in the Austrian Medical Association guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of EMF-related health problems.

Finally, some published literature identifies tests that serve as “biomarkers” of EHS illness. This includes components of an organic acids test requisitioned by your Naturopathic Doctor, and blood tests for vitamin D, hsCRP (a common inflammatory marker), and IgE. However, many chronic complex illnesses will show up on these tests and you can’t use these tests to diagnose EHS or distinguish EHS from other chronic stressors, like chronic infection or environmental toxin exposure.


Reduce your Exposure

The first step is to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields. For a checklist of ways to do this, see “Reducing your EMF Exposure”.

If you’ve applied as many of these measures as you can and need to reduce your exposure further, it’s time to apply shielding tools, much like you use sunscreen to shield you from radiation from the sun. EMF-shielding tools include EMF-blocking paints and fabrics, silver-lined clothing, and cell phone shields.  Be cautious about manufacturer claims for benefits of shielding stickers, patches, snap-on beads for cords, and various stones. Some more well documented shielding materials that I’ve enjoyed (including shielding clothing), can be found here. Shielding building materials can be found here.

If you’ve applied these techniques and you’re still experiencing symptoms, work with a healthcare professional who can help your body adapt to exposures and reduce your body’s overall allostatic load.[1]  Also consider working with a Building Biologist to further reduce your exposure and create safe spaces in your home.


Healthy Electromagnetic Fields

“Grounding” or “Earthing” is about intentionally exposing yourself to the Earth’s electromagnetic fields simply by touching the earth. It doesn’t mitigate the effect of manmade EMFs, but it’s an opportunity to balance harmful exposures with healthy ones. Some of this comes through the traditional methods of “forest bathing” or “shinrin yoku”. Some people benefit from additional grounding mats or shoes (also found here).

Other treatment options include Pulsed Electromagnetic Frequency devices or “PEMF” machines, which are Health Canada approved medical devices commonly used to address blood flow and pain, though its potential is more significant than this. (More to come about this later!)



[1] An integrative health perspective includes the conventional term “allostatic load”, which describes the cumulative wear-and-tear on the body after repeated stress. This concept is critical to an understanding of environmental exposures such as EMFs on the body.

[2] Cryptochromes are proteins in animal cells that help some animals sense the Earth’s magnetic field. Humans have cryptochromes too, but so far we’ve only directly linked them to our circadian rhythm, which is connected to all body processes and reflects our body’s alignment with the Earth’s sun and moon cycle.

[3] EMFs aren’t strong enough to impair our DNA directly, but they can affect our DNA repair mechanisms and our “epigenetic code”. Epigenetics is a large scientific discipline that includes exploration of how our lifestyle choices and chemical exposures “turn on” and “turn off” our genes. Epigenetics accounts for up to 90% of chronic illness (i.e. chronic illness usually isn’t because of “bad genes”).

[4] If your wireless devices and cell phones have been turned off and you’re still experiencing symptoms, rule out “dirty electricity”: Magnetic fields are apparently intensified if your electrical wiring is crossed, or if you have/use dimmer light switches, smart meters, solar panel inverters, and compact-fluorescent lamps. Measuring EMFs can get quite complicated – let us put you in touch with a Building Biologist for a home assessment, if you’d like some additional help.





Intuition Physician: Excellent health articles, videos, and podcasts about shielding and grounding, and items for purchase.

Safe Living Technologies: EMF meters and building materials.




Belpomme D, Irigaray P. Electrohypersensitivity as a Newly Identified and Characterized Neurologic Pathological Disorder: How to Diagnose, Treat, and Prevent ItInt J Mol Sci. 2020;21(6):1915.

Belpomme D, Campagnac C, Irigaray P. Reliable disease biomarkers characterizing and identifying electrohypersensitivity and multiple chemical sensitivity as two etiopathogenic aspects of a unique pathological disorder. Rev Environ Health. 2015; 30(4):251-271.

Belyaev I., Dean A., Eger H., et al. EUROPAEM EMF Guideline 2016 for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of EMF-related health problems and illnesses. Review on Environmental Health. 2016; 31(3): 363-397.

Clinical Practice Guidelines in the Diagnosis and Management of Electromagnetic Field Hypersensitivity (EHS) at the Environmental Health Clinic, Women’s College Hospital at University of Toronto

Irigaray P, Caccamo D, Belpomme D. Oxidative stress in electrohypersensitivity self‑reporting patients: Results of a prospective in vivo investigation with comprehensive molecular analysisInt J Mol Med. 2018;42(4):1885-1898.

Marshall TG, Heil TJR. Electrosmog and autoimmune diseaseImmunol Res. 2017; 65: 129–135.

Sage C, Burgio E. Electromagnetic Fields, Pulsed Radiofrequency Radiation, and Epigenetics: How Wireless Technologies May Affect Childhood Development. Child Development. 2017;89(1) 129-136.


children, Electromagnetic frequencies, fatigue, Lyme disease

Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND

Dr. Sonya Nobbe is a Naturopathic Doctor and Director of Kingston Integrated Healthcare Inc. She has been practicing in the Kingston area since 2007. Dr. Sonya maintains a family practice, with a clinical focus on complex chronic disease, including Lyme disease and Fibromyalgia.


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