Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: two facets of the same medal?

Por: Francesca Romana Orlando, journalist and Vice President of A.M.I.C.A.

Several experts from different European countries agree that Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity is a real, physical illness and for some of them this condition seems to be strictly related to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). This is what came out from the congress “Mobile Telephony, Wi-Fi, Wi-Max: are there health risks?”, held at Palazzo Marini - Chamber of Deputee in Rome on the 14 June 2011. The event, organized by the Association for Environmental and Chronic Toxic Injury (A.M.I.C.A.), was meant to give an overview on the health dangers linked to the use of wireless devices.

Prof. Dominique Belpomme, Oncologist, Professor of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Necker-Enfants Malades, Chairman of Research for Anti-Cancer Therapeutics (ARTAC), in his lecture “Diagnostic and therapeutic protocols for the Electromagnetic Fields Intolerance”, showed the results of a clinical observation on more than 450 patients enrolled from 2008 to 2011. He and his team use a new technique to make the diagnosis to people reporting reactions to electromagnetic fields, a condition that he prefers to define “Electromagnetic Fields Intolerance” or "EFI Sindrome" rather than “Electromagnetic Hyper-Sensitivity”.

The new technique is the "Pulsed Eco-Doppler" of the brain, that combines the eco-doppler to a computer to evaluate the brain perfusion. Unlike other methods, this one is not dangerous and it does not involve any ionizing radiation. The results show that people with Electromagnetic Fields Intolerance have a reduced perfusion in the brain, particularly in the left part of the limbic area of the brain, compared to the control group. This is a very particular area, because is the “ancient” part of the brain that controls many body functions.

            “These results are very important – Belpomme said at the congress – because for the first time we are able to define the Electromagnetic Fields Intolerance as a physical illness basing on objective tests”.

His team uses also other tests, such as the dosage of histamine, of protein S100B and of heat shock protein hsp70 and hsp27 in the blood. The 70% of the group of patients observed showed a serious reduction of vitamine D, about 1-2% of the patients showed an increase of proteins hsp27 and hsp70, while more than the 40% of the sample had an increased histamine, a fact that is fully compatible with a physiological interpretation of this syndrome.

About the 10% of the patients had an increased protein S100B, which is an marker for Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) permeability. In one third of the sample of patients a reduction of melatonine in urine was found and this can explain symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia and depression in these patients.

These alterations are quite similar to the ones found in patients with Multiple Chemical Sensitività (MCS), particularly regarding the brain perfusion reduction, the neurogenic inflammation, the oxidative stress increase and the reduction of the defense mechanism. The fact that EMF induce the opening of the BBB may interfere with the brain protection from toxic chemicals. It is not uncommon, in fact, that patients with EFI Syndrome have MCS symptoms while many patients with MCS also reacts to EMF.

The increase of oxidative stress in Electrosensitive patients was found also by Dr. Valeria Pacifico, who lectured in Rome about “Metabolic biomarkers of oxidation-reduction imbalance and susceptibility to non-ionizing radiation”. She works in the team of Dr. Chiara De Luca at the Experimental Laboratory BILARA at Istituto Dermopatico of Immacolata in Rome, that published several works on the role of oxidative stress in environmental sensitivities. (1, 2)

“To make a diagnosis of this syndrome we need to listen first to patients and we need to verify if the symptoms improve or disappear when they stay away from EMF sources”, prof. Belpomme explained. In order to demonstrate if the electromagnetic fields were the real cause of the alterations found in these patients, the patients had to repeat the tests before and after a period of avoidance of EMF for three months. The results show that after the period of avoidance the levels tend towards the normal standard.

Given the strong correlation found by six epidemiologic studies on EMF exposure and Alzheimer Disease, prof. Belpomme believes that any electrosensitive patient with memory disfunctions should be evaluated also for AD. He stress the fact that AD is a loss of long term memory while EFI Syndrome often involves the loss of short term memory, but this symptom may be considered as a pre-Alzheimer condition.

            Prof. Olle Johansson, Assoc. prof. The Experimental Dermatology Unit, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Professor The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm talked in Rome about “The precautionary principle: from Bioinititive to the Seletun consensus”. He dedicated his lecture to people affected by EHS and MCS because “they have a very difficult life”.

            He is one of the most dedicated scientist in the promotion of new biologically-based safety guidelines for EMF. He was in Benevento for the ICEMS resolution in 2006, then in London in 2007 for a new resolution and he was also member of the group of independent scientist that published the famous Bioinitiative Report in 2007, which had a strong eco in the political agenda. Thanks to this report, in fact, the European Parliament signed a resolution on 4 September 2008 to state that the actual safety limits for EMF are obsolete and to warn EU governments about the increase of new environmental illnesses such as EHS, MCS and Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome.

More recently, prof. Johansson was part of the group of scientists who prepared the Seletun Consensus, published last February on Reviews on Environmental Health (3). It states that present standards do not protect global human population from electromagnetic fields and all EMF should be reduced now instead of waiting for a definitive proof of danger. It also states that people reporting EHS symptoms should be considered as having a functional disability.

In Sweden, for example, EHS, MCS or fibromyalgia are already classified as functional disabilities. This means that people affected by these conditions are non considered patients, but it’s the environment that creates limitations for them so it’s the environment that has to be changed. This kind of classification represents the full concretization of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed by governments on 30 March 2007. This convention should be enough to push all governments to find the right accommodation and the best welfare strategies for people with environmental sensitivities and put an end to discrimination.  

 (1) De Luca C. et al., Biological definition of multiple chemical sensitivity from redox state and cytokine profiling and not from polymorphisms of xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, YTAAP-11818; No. of pages: 8; 4C.

(2) De Luca C. et al., The Search for Reliable Biomarkers of Disease in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Other Environmental Intolerances, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8, 2770-2797; doi:10.3390/ijerph8072770

(3) Fragopoulou A ed al., Scientific panel on electromagnetic field health risks: consensus points, recommendations, and rationales, Rev Environ Health. 2010 Oct-Dec;25(4):307-17.