History of This Illness
The term “radio wave sickness” was first used by Russian doctors to describe an occupational illness developed by large numbers of workers exposed to microwave or radiofrequency radiation. The symptoms were called “neurasthenic.” “Neurasthenia” was an older term for this group of symptoms, which was coined by an American physician, George Beard, in 1868, to describe a new type of illness that followed the building of the railroads and the telegraph system in this country.
The illness was particularly common among telegraph, and later among telephone operators. The term “neurasthenia” fell out of fashion in the twentieth century in North America, when this cluster of symptoms, or a large number of them, began to be referred to as “anxiety” symptoms, presumably of purely psychological origin. Illness by radio waves has been rediscovered, and is now classed with illness caused by electricity in general, under the term “electrical sensitivity.”
There have been four international scientific conferences held in recent years on electrical sensitivity—one in Austria, two in Denmark, and one, for medical doctors, in Dallas, Texas. Two books exist on the subject, by Grant (1995) and Bergqvist (1997).