Is electrical sensitivity making techies sick?

— 10:20 AM on March 29, 2006

Could the gadgets around you be harming your health? We've heard lots of about possible connections to cancer, but perhaps there are other consequences to having high-tech electrical devices around. Canada's Globe and Mail has an article up today about the possibility that sensitivity to electromagnetic fields could be causing some people an array of nasty symptoms:

Symptoms of electrical sensitivity include the joint pain Mr. Byrne experienced, but also a bewildering array of other common problems most everyone feels at one time or another, such as fatigue, headaches, poor sleep quality with frequent wakefulness, ringing in the ears, depression, difficulty remembering things, and skin rashes. The list of symptoms has created speculation that some cases of sick building syndrome, where people working in buildings complain of nausea and headaches, might be due to electrical sensitivities.
The article tells the story of this Mr. Byrne, a technical writer who experienced many of these symptoms until he installed electrical filters in his home. The question is: was it just a placebo—or, heh, an elaborate tinfoil hat—or did the filters actually help alleviate a biological problem?

One of the experts quoted in the article suggests the more complex power usage patterns of computers could be a problem:

The change in power quality means more variable electromagnetic fields, and possibly more biologically active ones, are associated with electricity than there used to be. This is a possible explanation for the rise in electrosensitivity complaints in the view of Denis Henshaw, a professor at the University of Bristol in Britain, who is an international authority on the health effects of power transmission lines.

He says that if electricity were flowing in a constant way, most people's bodies would likely adapt, but with all the interference from modern devices, the resulting fields are too variable for people to get used to. "We just don't get to adapt to these because they don't have any special pattern to them," he said. "There is no proof of this, it's just an opinion."

So Cool'n'Quiet could lead to Tired'n'Tinnitus? We may never know for sure, but if sitting at the computer all day makes you feel awful, well, welcome to the club. Grab a tinfoil hat and start Googling for answers.
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