Called electro-hypersensitivity, the condition means the afflicted have severe physical reactions -- from dizziness, nausea and headaches to breathing problems, heart palpitations and flat-out fainting -- to the electromagnetic radiation produced by consumer electronics such as computers, televisions and cell phones.
According to a stunning new article in Popular Science, Sweden is the only country in the world to recognize EHS as a functional impairment. The article explains the plight of Per Segerbäck, one of the three percent of Swedes with the condition.
Once, while on a sailboat with friends, he recalls, he was on the front deck when, unknown to him, someone made a call belowdecks. Headache, nausea, unconsciousness. When Segerbäck is within range of an active cellphone (safe distances vary because different makes and models produce different radiation levels), he experiences the feeling that there is "not enough room in my skull for my brain."
In Sweden, EHS sufferers are entitled to similar rights and services as the blind and deaf, and can have metal shielding installed in their homes free of charge from the local government.
The mobile phone industry says scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that wireless devices are safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, the American Cancer Society and the World Health Organization agree -- and flat brain-cancer rates have thus far confirmed that assessment.
Segerbäck for 20 years was a telecommunications engineer at Ellemtel, a division of Ericsson. "He was, as a result, up to his eyeballs in a non-ionizing radiation bath, from computers, fluorescent lights and the telecom antenna located right outside his window," Popular Science writes.
His colleagues complained of similar symptoms. The company responded by offering them protective suits, modifying their living spaces and even vehicles to accommodate for their sensitivity. Ericsson produced a report in 1993 about the condition that underlined the necessity to combat it.
Still, Segerbäck was let go in 1999 for an inability to perform his work duties. Now he lives on a cottage in a nature reserve 75 miles northeast of Stockholm -- far away from gadget-produced radiation.
Do cell phones cause brain cancer? So far, no one's been able to conclusively prove it. But the body's cells are a source of electrical activity, and the emergence of the condition indicates that we might not fully understand what we've created.