Hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields: results of the ENVI-EHS study

Some people suffer from health problems they attribute to electromagnetic fields (EMF). This is commonly referred to as electrohypersensitivity (EHS). This is a syndrome in which sufferers report symptoms they attribute to exposure to a range of waves from static fields to the end of the radiofrequency range (fields generated by electrical installations, mobile telephony -GSM and base stations, Wi-Fi, etc.). These symptoms are varied and non-specific: migraines, tinnitus, fatigue, skin rashes, difficulty concentrating or memorizing, etc. And they remain medically unexplained.
In December 2020, the Institut Scientifique de Service Public (ISSeP), in partnership with Sciensano, launched a call for volunteers to take part in a study aimed at improving knowledge of the possible links between exposure to electromagnetic fields and the symptoms of electrosensitivity. One of the innovative aspects of this study was the use of a test protocol co-created with people who declared themselves hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields. The project, in which 102 volunteers took part in a specially dedicated laboratory (part of the Walloon environment-health plan ENVIeS, which aims to study and limit environmental risks to human health), is now complete.
To assess the role of EMFs in the EHS syndrome, the preferred instrument is experimental provocation testing. These involve voluntary, double-blind exposure of EHS subjects to EMFs. In other words, neither the participants nor the researchers know whether EMFs are actually generated or not.
The protocol, which included some adaptation to the specific characteristics of certain test subjects (e.g. reduced exposure time for those complaining of overly incapacitating symptoms, migraines, fatigue, etc.), included various measures such as perception of exposure, verbalization of symptoms, observation of behavior, cognitive tests and measurement of physiological parameters. A pause button enabled exposure to be suspended (ON or OFF) at any time. In ON exposure, volunteers were exposed to a cocktail of real signals, to be as close as possible to exposures encountered in everyday life.

A total of 47 EHS sufferers, 14 of whom had questions about their sensitivity (known as “EHS?”), were included in the study and took part in the habituation session. In this group, 27 volunteers took part in at least the first session (including 8 “EHS?”), 26 took part in at least three sessions (including seven “EHS?”) and 16 attended all twelve sessions (including 3 “EHS?”), thus enabling an analysis of their individual results.

As part of the analyses, EHS volunteers were asked to report during the sessions whether they perceived themselves to be exposed to electromagnetic fields, and also whether they felt a difference in symptoms.


In conclusion, the ENVI-EHS study failed to show an association between exposure status (ON or OFF) and volunteers’ perceptions or symptom reporting. None of the 16 “EHS” and “ESH?” volunteers who took part in the 12 sessions perceived the ON and OFF exposures consistently.


Faced with the suffering of EHS sufferers, the approach of limiting exposure does not seem to provide a lasting solution to the difficulties, and leads these people into spirals of exposure avoidance, potentially damaging from both a social and professional point of view. Symptomatic management should be explored. Cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) could hypothetically form part of the therapeutic tools, but other strategies should also be tested, such as cardiac revalidation, which has demonstrated its effectiveness in the management of post-Covid patients.

We have also taken note of the request, made during the results feedback workshops, to inform the medical world of work in progress. Even if the link between symptoms and electromagnetic fields is not confirmed by this study, and there is currently no validated diagnostic tool for EHS, people are asking for their suffering to be taken into account.