Idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF): A systematic review of identifying criteria
BACKGROUND Self-reported annoyance from electrical equipment has been in evidence since the mid-1980s, and the first reports of illness from everyday chemicals arose in the 1960s. However, the extent of the problem has not yet been fully established. AIMS The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of annoyance related to electrical and chemical factors in a Swedish general population, and to assess possible relationships with subjective health and daily functioning. METHODS In total, 13,604 subjects, representative of the population of Scania, Sweden, answered a survey containing five questions regarding annoyance from five environmental factors: fluorescent tube lighting, visual display units, other electrical equipment, air that smells of chemicals, and other smells. The survey also obtained data on self-reported health (SRH-7), mental well-being [General Health Questionnaire (GHQ)-12], work situation and daily functioning. RESULTS Almost one-third of the respondents reported annoyance from at least one environmental factor. Annoyance was more frequent among women, subjects of working age and immigrants. Subjects who reported environmental annoyance scored higher on GHQ-12 and lower on SRH-7, indicating impaired subjective physical and mental well-being. They were also more likely to report deteriorated daily functioning. CONCLUSIONS Annoyance related to electrical and/or chemical factors was common in a Swedish population. Subjects reporting environmental annoyance rated their overall health significantly poorer than the general population. The association with subjective health and functional capacity increased with severity of annoyance, which suggests that there is some connection between environmental annoyance, well-being and functional capacity.