Over the past decade, controversy has been building as to whether radiation from wireless devices like cellular and cordless phones can cause health problems ranging from insomnia to cancer. As a growing number of people are reporting symptoms such as dizziness, heart palpitations and digestive disturbances when exposed to various electromagnetic fields (EMFs), concerns have risen as to whether electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is truly a hypersensitivity issue.
Researchers had hoped that the long-awaited Interphone Study results would help resolve the issue and assist authorities in determining whether current safety standards1 should be revised; however, the study results were deemed “inconclusive” due to biases and errors despite data that “heavy” cell phone use (30 minutes per day for 10 or more years) was linked to increased risk of cancer2. Other experts published the BioInitiative Report in 2007, through which evidence from a wide range of other studies was summarized to suggest that safety standards should be revised because electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from wireless technologies may cause non-thermal health effects like heart arrhythmias, insomnia, and immune system dysfunction. Most of the studies, though, have not demonstrated instantaneous or direct evidence of such negative health effects… until now, that is.
The Havas Study on EMFs and Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
In late 2010, Magda Havas, Ph.D, an electrosmog and electrosensitivity expert, published results of a groundbreaking study in the European Journal of Oncology which demonstrated that some wireless EMFs can adversely affect heart function. Using a NervExpress HRV Monitoring System and a Lifeforce UA-767 digital blood pressure monitor, Havas and her colleagues first measured baseline heart rate variability (HRV) and blood pressure in 25 generally healthy individuals. The researchers then continually monitored the subjects’ HRV and blood pressure during a series of exposures, in 3-minute intervals, to cordless phone base station emissions (2.4 GHz – which is about the same frequency as WiFi and microwave ovens).
The subjects, who had filled out wellness and EHS questionnaires prior to the physiological testing, were located approximately two feet from each base station and were unaware as to whether each base station was operative; background EMF was also carefully measured and accounted for. While 15 of the 25 did not demonstrate detectable cardiovascular changes in response to the EMF exposure, 10 of the subjects (40 percent) displayed increased heart rate, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats, a.k.a. heart palpitations), or other disturbances in HRV. Four subjects experienced overt tachycardia, or intense and prolonged heart racing, after a second or two of exposure, with one subject’s heart almost tripling its rate. The 10 subjects with noticeable cardiovascular changes had HRV readings which evidenced strong increases in sympathetic nervous activity and decreases in parasympathetic activity.
HRV: a Diagnostic Test for EHS?
The finding that exposure to cordless phone EMF can directly impact heart rate and autonomic nervous system function may provide a groundbreaking diagnostic test for EHS. Cardiologists now use HRV to help determine whether a person is at risk of cardiovascular events due to too much stress. Chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system branch and not enough parasympathetic activity also explains many of the symptoms EHS sufferers commonly report such as heart palpitations, dizziness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and nausea. Until now, determining whether a person is electromagnetically hypersensitive has been a matter of speculation; use of HRV to physiologically measure stress levels brings a whole new dimension to EHS.