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Open Access Research article

Sensitivity to electricity – Temporal changes in Austria

Joerg Schröttner* and Norbert Leitgeb

Author Affiliations

Institute of Health Care Engineering, Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:310  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-310

Published: 12 September 2008

Abstract

Background

An increasing number of persons suffer from non-specific health symptoms such as headache, sleep disturbances, difficulties in concentrating and more. In lack of a medical explanation, more and more persons take refuge to the assumption that they were electromagnetic hypersensitive (EHS) and electromagnetic pollution causes their problems. The discussion whether electromagnetic fields (EMF) could cause such adverse health effects is still ongoing.

Methods

Based on the Austrian inhabitants a statistical cross-sample of the general population with regard to age, gender and federal state had been investigated to assess the actual situation and potential temporal changes in comparison with a former study of 1994. In a telephone survey a total number of 526 persons were included.

Results

This study showed an actual EHS prevalence of 3.5% compared with 2% estimated in 1994. About 70% of the sample believed that electromagnetic pollution could be a risk factor for health. More than 30% declared to at least some degree to be concerned about their well-being near mobile phone base stations or power lines. However, only 10% were actively looking for specific information. Media triggered EHS hypothesis in 24% of the cases.

Conclusion

The results show that concerns about EMF did not decrease with time in spite of scientific studies and health risk assessments concluding that a causal relationship of EMF below recommended reference levels and non-specific health symptoms would be implausible.