Ghezel-Ahmadi D, Engel A, Weidemann J, Budnik LT, Baur X, Frick U, Hauser S, Dahmen N. Heavy metal exposure in patients suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Nov 22, 2009 Ahead of print.
People suffering from so-called electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) have multiple non-specific symptoms which appear or worsen during perceived exposure to electromagnetic fields and which are not usually accompanied by any indication of organic lesion. The pathophysiology of EHS is unclear. A hypothesis exists that exposure to heavy metals may play a role in EHS. As a consequence, some EHS patients undergo chelate therapy to remove metals from the body or have metal containing fillings removed from their teeth.
The objective of the study was to test the hypothesis of a link between EHS and exposure to heavy metals.
The focus of this study was exposure to 3 heavy metals; cadmium, mercury, and lead, because of their importance and ubiquitous nature. Participants were 132 patients (42 males and 90 females) and 101 controls (34 males and 67 females) matched to cases for age, gender and body mass index. Exclusion criteria were acute psychiatric disorders. The participants were seen by a psychiatrist and each filled out questionnaires on their medical history and symptoms. Venous blood samples were collected for metal determination.
Cadmium blood levels were significantly higher in the controls than in the EHS patients (p<0.001), partly due to significantly more smokers among the control subjects. This difference remained significant after stratification into smokers and non-smokers. No significant differences were observed between EHS patients and controls in blood mercury (p=0.352) and lead (p=0.411) levels. However, 2 EHS patients had mercury levels above 5 µg/L, one patient- above 15 µg/L, 3 patients had lead levels above 100 µg/L and one – above 150 µg/L. None of the control subjects had such elevated blood metal levels.
Interpretation and Conclusion
These results do not support the hypothesis that heavy metals play a causal role in EHS except for rare cases, in which symptoms may reflect metal toxicity. Based on these findings, heavy metal detoxification in EHS is not recommended.