The debate has been so heated that you'd expect a mobile-phone mast attached to the PC Advisor website, but now boffins claim that phone-mast allergies are all "in the mind". Wi-Fi worriers read on.

Experiments prove that people who believe phone masts trigger symptoms such as anxiety, nausea and tiredness couldn't detect if signals were on or off in trials at Essex University.

When the lab rats believed the signal was on they did report more distress. This indicates a psychological problem says Professor Elaine Fox, of the University of Essex, who led the three-year study.

However, the Environmental Health Perspectives study stressed people were nonetheless suffering real symptoms (sweaty skin and high blood pressure): "Belief is a very powerful thing," said Fox. "If you really believe something is going to do you some harm, it will."

According to the BBC, the Essex experiments are some of the largest and most detailed to date. No plans for similar trials on Wi-Fi Electrosensitivity have been announced.

When the signal was being emitted, and they were informed of this, sensitive individuals reported lower levels of well-being. However, when tests were carried out in which neither the experimenter nor participant knew if the mast was on or off the number of symptoms reported was not related to whether a signal was being emitted or not.

Only two of the 44 sensitive individuals correctly judged if it was on or off in all six tests.

"This proportion is what is expected by chance," said the researchers.

LINK: University of Essex research

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