French woman wins payout for gadget allergy

But science says it doesn't exist

Updated: 
Woman 'Allergic to Wifi' Granted Disability Allowence

A French woman has been awarded disability benefits after a court accepted that she was suffering from an allergy to electronic gadgets.

Former radio producer Marine Richard, 39, claims that she is sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, and that devices such as mobile phones, wifi routers and televisions give her heart palpitations, nausea and headaches.

Because of her allergy, she says, she is forced to live in a remote converted barn with no electricity and a Toulouse court has agreed that she has a genuine condition, and awarded her benefits of €800 a month for the next three years.

There's great debate over so-called electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), for which scientific studies have found no evidence.

In double-blind tests, where neither subjects or experimenters knew whether devices were turned on, no link between radiation and ill-health was found. People who believe that suffer from EHS are just as likely to report symptoms after a fake exposure as a real one, implying that there may be a reverse placebo effect going on.

While the condition is tentatively acknowledged to exist by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it suggests that it could be due to stress, flickering lights or poor air quality in offices.

It's not recognised as a medical disorder in most countries, including the UK. Public Health England acknowledges that there can be some effects from very high-level electromagnetic radiation exposure - such as from power lines, for example - it says there's no evidence that weak fields damage health.

Earlier this year, a US court threw out a $1.43 million lawsuit over the alleged health effects of iPhone and wifi signals. However, there's another court case in progress in Massachusetts, with a family claiming school wifi is making their son ill.

"The high-density wifi used in the Fay classrooms is causing G to suffer headaches, chest pains, nosebleeds, nausea, dizziness, and rashes, all recognised symptoms of EHS," they say.

In Sweden and Germany, EHS is officially classified as a 'functional impairment' and 'occupational disease', giving various legal rights to sufferers, and Australian courts have awarded workers compensation.

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