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Provocation With Stress and Electricity of Patients With “Sensitivity to Electricity”

Lonne-Rahm, Solbritt MD; Andersson, Bengt MA; Melin, Lennart PhD; Schultzberg, Marianne PhD; Arnetz, Bengt MD, PhD; Berg, Mats MD, PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: May 2000 - Volume 42 - Issue 5 - p 512-516
Original Articles

Twenty-four patients with self-reported “sensitivity to electricity” were divided into two groups and tested in a double-blind provocation study. These patients, who reported increased skin symptoms when exposed to electromagnetic fields, were compared with 12 age- and sex-matched controls. Both groups were exposed to 30-minute periods of high or low stress situations, with and without simultaneous exposure to electromagnetic fields from a visual display unit. The matched controls were tested twice and given the same exposure as the patients but had the fields turned on every time. Stress was induced by requiring the participants to act in accordance with a random sequence of flashing lights while simultaneously solving complicated mathematical problems. Blood samples were analyzed for levels of the stress-related hormones melatonin, prolactin, adrenocorticotrophic hormone, neuropeptide Y, and growth hormone, and the expression of different peptides, cellular markers, and cytokines (somatostatin, CD1, factor XIIIa, and tumor necrosis factor-α). Skin biopsies were also analyzed for the occurrence of mast cells. Stress provocation resulted in feelings of more intense mental stress and elevated heart rate. The patients reported increased skin symptoms when they knew or believed that the electromagnetic field was turned on. With the blind conditions there were no differences between “on” or “off.” Inflammatory mediators and mast cells in the skin were not affected by the stress exposure or by exposure to electromagnetic fields. The main conclusion was that the patients did not react to the fields.

From the Department of Dermatology, Karolinska Hospital (Dr Lonne-Rahm, Dr Berg), the National Institute for Psychosocial Factors and Health, and the Department of Stress Research, Karolinska Institute (Dr Arnetz), Stockholm; the Department of Psychology, University of Uppsala (Mr Andersson, Dr Melin) and the Division of Geriatric Medicine, NEUROTEC, Karolinska Institute, KFC, Novum, Huddinge (Dr Schultzberg); Sweden.

Address correspondence to: Solbritt Lonne-Rahm, MD, Department of Dermatology, Karolinska Hospital, S-171 79 Stockholm, Sweden.

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.