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EMF Studies

25 June 2015

Swiss TV Program from 2009 on Electrosensitivity

Swiss TV program : « A bon entendeur », 3 March 2009, Radio TV Suisse Romande on electromagnetic fields and electrohypersensitivity

 The film is excellent. An electrosensitive person explains her symptoms to an informed physician, member of Parliament and ecologist, Dr. Yvonne Gilli.  Charles Cavanaugh, electrosensitive, had to quit his job as analyst in a big bank and learn how to live with his symptoms. In Stockholm, at the prestigious Karolinska Institute, Professor Olle Johansson has been interested in electrohypersensitivity for at least 40 years.

The text of the film follows as an excellent portrait of electrohypersensitivity in Switzerland and in Sweden.    Philippe Hug, electrosensitive, President of ARA (Association romande alerte aux ondes électromagnétiques - www.alerte.ch )  is also in the film.  He died in 2010 at the age of 54, a victim of electromagnetic waves.   

It seems that Switzerland’s understanding of electrosmog and electrosensitivty has regressed since the film was produced in 2009. 

The film is available here in French : Ondes : vous êtes cernés ! - 32 min. - 3 March 2009

Waves in the spotlight (translated from French)

Microwave oven, wifi, cell phone … We are permanently evolving with waves all around us. Certain persons develop rather serious symptoms that they attribute to these waves. We call this: electrohypersensitivity.

Waves all around us 

Peter Schlegel is an engineer with a diploma from the Zurich Federal Polytechnic School. For some ten years, his principal activity has been to measure electromagnetic waves present in our environment. Demonstration on a rooftop in Geneva, where Peter Schlegel detects waves from various places thanks to a measuring instrument.
Our many devices use and emit, sometimes 24 hours a day, waves of diverse forms and different frequencies. For example, Peter brings his equipment up to the 4th floor of a typical apartment located in the center of Geneva. His spectrum analyzer furnishes a kind of map of electromagnetic waves found in the apartment, decrypted by the specialist, “We have here three TNT emitters, a mobile phone, GSM 900 and 1800 for cell phones, UMTS for mobile Internet and finally, wifi. For electrosensitive people, it is too much.” Are there people then who do not tolerate these waves?

Second measurement, this time in the countryside. The intensity of exterior waves is much weaker than in the apartment in town, but that does not mean there are no waves. Peter detects the microwave oven, for example, when it is in use. “It is shielded but there is leakage that we detect.” The cordless DECT phone is the most persistent source in the house. Given the age of the model, the base permanently emits a wave even when the phone is on its base.

A higher norm ?

Third measurement in another place in Suisse Romande, the garden of a house in the suburbs a few meters from a mobile phone antenna : « we detect GSM and UMTS, at around 0.2 volts per meter. Again, it is a rather high value.” It is exactly the same value as the one measured that morning in the apartment in town. A 30th of the maximum limit value authorized in Switzerland for a mobile phone antenna in a sensitive living area. Subject closed? On the contrary, it is this norm which leads to discussion. Peter Schlegel’s usual clients are electrosensitive people, who experience health problems, at times rather serious, that they attribute to electromagnetic emissions. The engineer considers that a 30th of the Swiss norm is a rather high value because in his career, he has met people who begin to experience symptoms at a thousandth of the norm.

The electrosensitive

Elsbeth Schöneman lives in Zurich. She complains about sleep problems, dizziness, headaches and trembling. “I cannot walk straight, I have trouble with movement and worse, trembling that bothers me a lot. I can no longer live normally. During the day, I’m okay. I can go out and after two to three hours my body repairs itself. But at night, I cannot flee and in the morning I feel destroyed.” Today, not being able to tolerate everyday radiation makes life very complicated. Peter Schlegel: “The radiation increases from year to year. Electrosensitive people no longer know where to live. They no longer find a place where they do not experience disorders.”

A real challenge which Philippe Hug knows well. He lives in Les Rochettes, in the Jura Mountains in canton Vaud, with a mobile phone antenna 2.5 kilometers away. Peter Schlegel confirms that the waves here are weak. Philippe Hug: “I had to flee twice, from Bullet to Auberson, then from Auberson to here. Each time, antennas were added near to where I lived. It was catastrophic. I go as little as possible to Yverdon and I avoid cities like Geneva. It takes me two days to recover. I lose my appetite, I am very tired. I experience palpitations or nausea, sleeping troubles… An antenna nearby would be a firing squad. I would not know what to do. In Switzerland, I do not know of a “white zone”, where there are no emissions.”

Electrosensitive : a real ill ?

Vera Keller started to experience this type of problem four years ago in Basle, by living close to a mobile phone antenna. She says she now has troubles because of the wifi devices of her neighbors. She can no longer live in her own home and explains her symptoms to an informed physician, the National Councillor and ecologist, Yvonne Gilli: “I notice that I am no longer able to sleep and that I have difficulty concentrating, even on simple things. I am always very tense. I feel as if a current were running through me, everything pulsates, my face throbs. The worst is that I cannot stop this. This places me in a permanent state of stress.” For some years, Yvonne Gilli has been seeing patients in her practice who complain of these kinds of symptoms. She has consulted older Russian and German studies on the issue and has formed a multidisciplinary network of doctors interested in this problem. How do doctors establish a diagnosis? “We are doing an in-depth patient history, asking the patient about his understanding of his illness, how he noticed the relationship between his troubles and the environment. We are wondering if there are pre-existing risk factors or other illnesses. We cannot diagnose an electrosensitive person because the means of diagnosis are not available to us, but we can tell the patient that it is plausible that electrosmog is the principal cause of his/her troubles.”

Real suffering

According to a recent study, nearly 5% of Swiss think they are sensitive to electromagnetic waves, but the existence of this disorder is still a subject of great controversy in the scientific world. Martin Röösli, of the Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine in Basle, has been conducting studies on this subject for some years. “Some people say that it exists, others, the contrary. The majority of scientists think that a large part of the troubles which one hears about are due to causes other than radiation, but many feel that we cannot completely exclude the possibility and that we need better research on the issue. But whether or not electromagnetic fields are the cause, the symptoms are real and people are suffering.” In the electromagnetism and acoustical lab at the Federal Polytechnic School in Lausanne, we are studying, inventing, and perfecting devices which use electromagnetic waves. Have we already met an electrosensitive person in flesh and blood in this temple of technology? Juan Mosig: “We have met one or two persons over the last 20 years who came to us to tell us they feel waves. We did not believe them. We tested them: in both cases, statistically, their detection of waves was above average. I think that we can thus believe the persons who say they are electrosensitive. We are interested in detecting and treating these persons.”

In a « white zone »

Electrosensitive, Charles Cavanaugh left his work as an analyst in a big bank and is trying to learn to live with his symptoms. He has discovered a “white zone” in Alsace, a place without electrosmog, where he likes to stay and sleep from time to time. But his house is in the suburbs, in Argovie, distant from his “white zone”. He is thus working to adapt it to his needs. His priority: to succeed in starting to work on a computer once again: “My first objective was to take out all the electrical devices from the office, because I do not feel well working in a normal office building. I relegated the electricity to the outside and got rid of wifi.” The computer and printer are placed beneath the carport. The image of the computer is projected by video on a screen glued to a window of the house that is made from special anti-radiation glass. Charles’ new office is a room built out of clay. “There is no electrical equipment in my office. Thanks to an infrarouge keyboard, all the equipment is on the outside.” In a normal office, he suffered various symptoms: “loss of short-term memory, great difficulties in concentrating at work and that made me tired. Then, I developed this approach and I feel rather well.”
It is also necessary to adapt one’s living space. « I spent nearly 3 years trying to shield myself from electromagnetic fields in the office and at home. And I noticed that I did not feel well with a perfect protection, that is, surrounding myself with metal.” Charles then opted for a radical solution: he had a yurt built which he can occasionally displace to “clean” areas. And his means of livelihood? “I live off my savings. There is no insurance for this, it is not recognized. I am not entitled to unemployment insurance and I cannot work in an office. It is an tough break compared to my past life, but I try to get past it and find new opportunities for working in an environment that I tolerate.” Even if this new life is not always obvious: “I have no permanent room where I can really feel at home. These days, I sleep where I can. It happens that I sleep a little in the clay room or in my minibus. When I go to a clean environment, my symptoms disappear, thus there must be something to it.”

Sweden is sensitive to the issue

Sweden is the first country to have recognized electrosensitivity and taken measures to relieve persons who are victims. In Stockholm, at the prestigious Karolinska Institute, where each year the Nobel Prize for Medicine is selected, Professor Olle Johansson has been interested in electrohypersensitivity for 40 years: “It started at the end of the 70’s, early 80’s, the first cases were reported in the United States, in Norway and then in Sweden and other countries. In the beginning, it was especially skin problems. We have started studying samples of skin of electro-hypersensitive people, at a time when one spoke of “electrical allergies”. Leif Ockerberg worked at the Karolinska Institute in 1993 when she started to feel ill in front of her computer. At first, spots, then red patches, more and more serious skin problems. Her employer decided to react, putting her on sick leave: “When I returned, my work environment had been changed. They had reduced the electromagnetic fields in my office in order for me to continue to work. I have not worked on a computer for 4 years. My employer assumed a part of the cost, I assumed another part by buying several old telephone models. The Office of Sickness Insurance also participated. Thus, it was not expensive for anyone. I greatly reduced my electrical exposure, also at home […] I started to heal very quickly after all that. From then on, I was more careful.”

In Sweden, electrosensitivity was recognized in 1995 as a functional deficiency, a genuine handicap, even if officially one recognizes that the relation between electromagnetic waves and these troubles has not been proved. “The only thing that you have to do is to go to your Municipality to see an ombudsperson whose job it is to take care of your needs as a handicapped person and whose only objective is to ensure you can live a life that is the same as that of others.” But even in Sweden, the road is maybe very long. Bengt Hokansson considers that his initial symptoms started in 1989. He was able to work in the city until 2002, in spite of multiple health problems which were aggravated by the rhythm of development of mobile communications. He then spent 3 years on sick leave, until the Unemployment Office found him a solution. He managed 150 computers. Now he is an assistant gardener at the museum castle of Tyreso, not far from Stockholm. “It is much better than the city and it is outdoors. There is practically no computer, few emissions. I can feel their absence, my body relaxes without radiation.” The next priority for Bengt is to complete the shielding of his apartment. The city of Stockholm has paid for a part of the material: antiradiation paint, aluminum sheeting and special insulated fabric which will serve as curtains and canopy in the bedroom. Necessary, given Bengt’s sensitivity. He feels the emissions from our filming equipment: “I feel the sound transmitter that I have in my pocket. It is causing a tingling on my tongue. It is the part of my body which reacts first.”

1 comment:

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