On the shelves of the supermarket, Karine scrutinizes each person who gets a little too close. For fear of having your shopping cart stolen? “I think that’s what people think”, she concedes, hilarious. The newly retired is actually trying to escape the “nausea and headaches” which sometimes seize her abruptly. The reason, she says: “All cell phones. » Because Karine calls herself electrohypersensitive (EHS), or more simply “very affected by electromagnetic waves”. When she realized this « trouble », his life has changed. “I moved to a smaller town, changed my cell phone to a landline and reduced my trips to the bare minimum. Result: the pain that I had had for years has greatly decreased,” she assures. In his house, the wi-fi disappeared and the colored walls darkened. “The black graphite paint prevents the waves from penetrating”, she explains learnedly. And when asked about the merits of these precautions, Karine cuts short, accustomed to criticism :“I am not a conspiracy or anti-science. But I would like us to recognize the handicap of those who suffer from it. »
Real symptoms, but for the moment unexplained. This is the observation made by the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (Anses), in its last opinion on the subject in 2018. If it assesses the number of French people at 5% EHS, or about 3.3 million, she recalls, however, that “Current scientific knowledge does not show a causal link” between the symptoms and the exposure to the waves. “When we confronted this public with electromagnetic fields, we were never able to observe any physiological changes”, explains René de Seze, director of research at the National Institute for the Industrial Environment and Risks (Ineris).
Proof that electrohypersensitivity does not exist? According to the doctors interviewed by ANSES, some studies have methodological limitations, so much so that the agency recommends “continuation of research”. For his part, René de Seze bet on “the nocebo effect” (as opposed to the placebo effect) to explain this putative sensitivity, i.e. the appearance of undesirable phenomena linked to a mechanism purely psychological. In 2012, researchers Michael Witthöft and James Rubin showed that participants who had watched a film describing the harmful effects of wi-fi reported more symptoms than others when exposed to these waves.
Psychological or not, Patrice Goyaud rejects the label of ” sickness “. The president of Robin des Toits, an association which warns of the dangers of waves, criticizes the studies carried out: “By exposing patients to waves, doctors expect them to react directly. But for the majority, symptoms appear hours or even days after exposure. »
If scientific evidence is lacking, “the way people look at us is starting to improve”, wants to believe Patrice Goyaud. In 2018, the Social Security Court of Versailles (Yvelines) thus considered that the discomfort of an employee who occurred at his workplace in 2013 was indeed linked to his electrohypersensitivity. In 2015, the Toulouse incapacity litigation court recognized the right to a disability allowance for an Ariégeoise EHS.