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August 6, 2012

(This article is a bit long, so if you get impatient please at least read the first four paragraphs and the last two paragraphs.)

After I developed MCS, I used to sit for many hours every day writing patent applications with my body two feet from a computer and with the switching power supply of an overhead projector one foot behind my shoulder. At the time I was also designing, building and testing a high voltage pulsed switching power supply. I had no symptoms of electrical sensitivity at all. A friend of mine with MCS told me that she also had EHS, and described it to me. I was very skeptical, and chalked it up to her emotional fears. I continued working for a few more years as I just described above, and then for another few years with a different set-up, also with a computer two feet from me. No EHS symptoms.

Then I purchased a data projector to use with a rear projection screen as my computer monitor (to try to solve my subliminal flicker problem; see my article: Subliminal Flicker I ). The projector was a full ten feet in front of me, and the image was beautiful and had less flicker than anything else I had tried. I used it sucessfully for a few hours a day for about a week, but then began to notice a strange burning sensation on my skin all over my body. At first the burning started after the projector had been on for two hours, then a few days later after it had been on for 20 minutes, and by the end of the next week the burning started within a few minutes. I returned the projector. This was my first experience of EHS. I assume that I had been predisposed to developing EHS, and that this projector was my initial trigger. (Projectors have a powerful and noisy switching power supply used to power their lamp.)

Soon after that I bought an external back-up drive for my computer. I set it up 10 feet from me, and as soon as I powered it up I felt a tightness in my arms and other symptoms. Then my beloved electronic MIDI keyboard began to give me problems - my hands and wrists began to hurt after playing it for only a few minutes, and left residual stiffness and pain that began to resemble carpal tunnel syndrome. I developed similar symptoms in one hand that was close to a CRT monitor for a while.

The fastest symptom I ever had was the first time someone handed me a wireless phone (I don't remember if it was a cordless or a cell phone) - a call had come in for me - and without thinking or worrying about it I put it to my ear. It felt like someone had hit me on the side of the head. It hurt and made me dizzy for a few minutes.

Once I walked up to an cardiac ultrasound machine to see if I could tolerate it; I had been having arrhythmia and A-fib (since resolved) and they wanted to do a scan. (I was not afraid of ultrasound, I thought it was neat; I had had a gall bladder ultrasound scan many years before, before I was electrically sensitive - no problem.) When I was about 5 feet from the powered-up cardiac ultrasound machine and 2 feet from its transducer, the skin all over my body began to burn; I walked away immediately, and the burning lasted 4 hours.

Another example: I had purchased a 30 amp welder (an extremely powerful switching power supply) to use in electrolytic wastewater treatment. It made my legs burn and leg muscles hurt if I was closer than 75 feet to it. If I was between 75' and 50' the burning stopped immediately soon after I stepped further back than 75', but if I got closer than 50' for more than a few seconds, the burning persisted for at least a half hour. I managed inadvertently to repeat this experiment at least a dozen times over a period of a few weeks while working with an assistant on my project. I wanted to stand closer to be more involved, but could not.

Another: I was doing some experimental electroplating for which I tried to use my Wavetek function generator. Boy, did that hurt at around 300 KHz - I could not stand next to it to tune it, as much as I wanted to. I had loved my Wavetek.

Many other examples:

Some computers seemed fine (short-term), some immediately caused a burning prickly sensation on my skin from 8' away. When my arms were reaching over a flat-bed scanner while it was operating - muscles in forearms spazed, and hurt for a few minutes. It felt very wierd.

A few months ago I tried out 5 different data projectors to choose one for shielding for use at a distance as a rear-projection computer monitor for electrically sensitive persons - a few of my clients are electronic engineers desperate to get back on-line. My symptoms at 10 feet: tinnitus, skin burning, muscles and/or joints hurting, ADD, peripheral neuropathy. Each projector produced a slightly different combination of symptoms. Some projectors caused more pain than others. With some the symptoms disappeared almost immediately when I shut the projector off, with others symptoms persisted for a few days and made me more electrically sensitive to other devices for awhile. And of course of all of these projectors were rated to be within the FCC Class B (for residential use) guidelines for EMF emissions.

Other FCC Class B devices that have increased my sensitivites for many weeks were a HP printer with its WiFi on (I had been told by tech support that the WiFi was off by default but it was not), and a Samsung 40" LCD LED TV.

I am a hands-on experimental basic research scientist, very objective, with a good nose for artifacts. I know how to keep my variables separate - one thing at a time. I am a real techie, and love electronic devices. EHS is absolutely real. Sigh.

Another experience I had that resulted in strong symptoms from EMF exposure and was a very good (and inadvertent) experiment because it was not merely single-blind (me being the completely blind subject), but reverse-biased double-blind (the experimenter - the massage therapist - expecting a positive effect if any): A number of years ago I was driving from Marin county to Berkeley once a week for a therapeutic massage from a really good oriental guy, who was helping me considerably with my fatigue and other things. He had me lie on a sheet-covered thin futon on the floor while he worked on me, and I always felt better during and after his work. One time I began to feel poorly while he worked on me, an uncomfortable, cloudy-drugged sticky feverish feeling, as if I needed a cold shower to clear my head and body. I continued to feel poorly when he was done, and when I got up I had a ringing in my ears, and ADD. The uncomfortable feeling and tinnitus persisted, and during my drive home, when I turned on the radio, I could not stand to listen to even classical music; sounds were distorted for about 3 days. I called him and he told me about a new treatment pad that he had placed (for the first time) under the futon, he said it was electronic and helped to quiet the mind - he "could not even concentrate to read" if he sat on it. He used it for meditation.

On my next visit I brought along my Tektronix storage scope. For the first time I saw a small metal box six feet away from the futon, with a wire running from it to under the futon I had been lying on. I peeled back the futon and saw what looked like a heating pad maybe 2' or 3' wide x 4' or 6' long underneath. I unplugged the wire from the pad and connected it to the scope, and saw a waveform of about 10 to 12 KHz broadened by noise, sort of a noisy spread-spectrum. It had definitely affected the way I felt for a day or two, and my hearing remained distorted and music and some voice sounds were uncomfortable for at least 3 days. Since then I have discovered that some of the common symptoms of exposure to EMF in sensitive persons are ADD and tinnitus, which in some cases can progress into hyper-acousis.

A common symptom of EMF exposure is peripheral neuropathy: tingling, pins and needles, and/or numbness in the hands or feet. I drove a Subaru Legacy for a few years and my right foot was numb the whole time. A few months after I changed to an old Toyota Corolla the numbness went away, but since then my right foot has been like an EMF meter. For example the tingling and numbness in my right foot returns and persists for a few days or weeks after exposure to computers in Dr’s offices, or to projectors I was trying out. Once I had to be in a hospital with WiFi for 6 days, and did pretty well because I had all the electronic devices in my room switched off and the rooms next door were vacant, but on the 5th day I developed peripheral neuropathy in both hands, which persisted for 6 weeks. Since then it has only returned in my hands once, after inadvertently being near a hidden switching power supply for an hour in someone’s office.

One of the strongest symptoms I have experienced was when I test drove an older Saab that I wanted to buy. By the time I got half-way around the block, I had terrible chest pains, which felt like my heart was clutching, which I had not experienced before or since (my heart is fine), and my legs muscles cramped (also unusual for me). I almost did not make it the rest of the way around the block back to the dealership. The symptoms disappeared within a minute after I turned off the ignition. Turns out the Saab has 3 computers in the engine compartment just behind the firewall. Also, I came back later with a gaussmeter (VLF range) and it read 100 milligauss at the driver's seat.

So I don't rely on opinion or belief, rather, I rely on direct experiences, both my own and that of many others I've talked to who developed symptoms before they had ever heard of EMF sensitivities, symptoms that they later correlated with EMF exposure. It is not necessary to be able to conceive of or to understand a mechanism before acceptance of good anecdotal or experimental evidence. In that case we would never have any new discoveries. No good scientist would discard reproducible evidence out of hand just because it is anecdotal and does not fit pre-conceived ideas or theories, instead she or he would become excited at the prospect of new understanding.

In summary, none of my statements are based on a belief but on a great deal of direct experience, later corroborated by the experience of others, and examined by my overcritical experimenter's mind. Anecdotal evidence is irrefutable when it comes from the independent testimonies of many people who were initially naive. People only realize that they have become electrically sensitive because of repeated correlation of symptoms with exposures, sometimes in inadvertently "blind" experiments where they were not at first aware that they were being exposed. It is understandable that someone who has never experienced EMF symptoms in their own body would reject the possibility of EHS at first, thinking the person "claiming" EHS to be an impressionable fearful nut. It takes hearing about EHS from more than one person, reading about it in more than one place, to begin to be convinced. Becoming convinced at the intellectual level is only the first step; getting it emotionally is even more difficult. Years ago, before anything had been written about EHS, I did not think it was real until I experienced it myself.