Study of self-reported hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields in California.
Cases of alleged hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) have been reported for more than 20 years, and some authors have suggested some connection with the "multiple chemical sensitivity" illness. We report the results of a telephone survey among a sample of 2,072 Californians. Being "allergic or very sensitive" to being near electrical devices was reported by 68 subjects, resulting in an adjusted prevalence of 3.2% (95% confidence interval = 2.8, 3.7). Twenty-seven subjects (1.3%) reported sensitivity to electrical devices but no sensitivity to chemicals. Characteristics of the people reporting hypersensitivity to EMFs were generally different from those of people reporting being allergic to everyday chemicals. Alleging environmental illness or multiple chemical sensitivity diagnosed by a doctor was the strongest predictor of reporting being hypersensitive to EMFs in this population. Other predictive factors apart from self-reporting chemical sensitivity were race/ethnicity other than White, Black, or Hispanic; having low income; and being unable to work. The perception of risk of exposure to EMFs through the use of hair dryers (vs. exposure to power and distribution lines) was the factor the most associated with self-reporting about hypersensitivity to EMFs. However, risk perception was not sufficient to explain the characteristics of people reporting this disorder.