Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

08 February 2014

Switzerland: "We Are Intoxicated By Wireless"

Sosthène Berger
We are “intoxicated” by wireless
Résumé of article by Simonetta Caratti, LaRegioneTicino, 7 February 2014

A major article on electrosensitivity, “Noi ‘intossicati’ dal wireless”, was recently published in a newspaper from Italian-speaking Switzerland. It comprises several parts, the testimonies of two electrosensitive persons, a researcher, an expert in measuring non-ionizing radiation, and an oncologist. In addition, it states many of the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health, advising precautionary measures to take in the use of wireless technology. Below are near-verbatim excerpts from the article, thanks to the Google translation.

The journalist, Simonetta Caratti, is to be praised for her balanced presentation of the issue of the health effects of wireless technology and electrosensitivity. It was disappointing, however to note that an eminent oncologist played down the carcinogenic risks of such technology, saying that they are not as great as those of smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, exposure to radon, infections. The authorities and medical profession seem to consider cancer “prevention” as an individual responsibility, namely lifestyle, not the responsibility of industry which is polluting our environment, the major cause of cancer.

The article implies that there are over 500 electrosensitive persons in Switzerland, whereas it is estimated that actually, 3% of the population is electrosensitive: 240,000 persons.

Not all the associations aiding electrosensitive persons in Switzerland were mentioned. We have added two:

http://gigaherz.ch/pages/home.php (German-speaking Switzerland)
www.alerte.ch (French-speaking Switzerland)


Extracts and commentary

“Headache, nausea, insomnia… the nightmare of an engineer and a secretary who discovered, by chance, they are electrosensitive. Over 500 Swiss “allergic” to Wi-Fi, cordless phones, smartphones, tablets… A disability that Bern does not recognize, but other countries do.”

Testimony of Sosthène Berger

« My body was not working anymore. It was as if intoxicated. Insomnia, headache, ringing in the ears, palpitations, fainting, red spots on the skin, pain in the teeth and the adrenals… I visited seven doctors who could not find anything. My life was a living hell. Then one night, driven by desperation, I followed my instinct without understanding why and went down into the cellar. I lay down on a mat and I finally slept as I had not for months.” It was an April night in 2011 when the Bernese engineer, Sosthène Berger, 50 years old, discovered by chance he was electrosensitive… He is a meticulous man, designing aircraft with the same precision as he analyzes his situation. “I asked why I was sleeping in the basement and not in the bedroom. I realized that it was protected from electric and electromagnetic fields,” says the engineer who lives in La Neuveville. He has spent tens of thousands of francs shielding his home from electric and electromagnetic pollution. Today, he is back in form, runs each week, has no more headaches, works, sleeps at night, but he must protect himself from electromagnetic fields. If he doesn’t, he is sick. But waves are everywhere.

The number of people “allergic” to electromagnetic fields and electrical systems is increasing due to the spread of cell phones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, antennas, radar - more than 500 people in Switzerland...

The engineer’s life has changed drastically. He has shielded electromagnetic fields in the house where he lives with his wife and two daughters: “We have removed the cordless phone because the base station emits waves all the time. We have no Wi-Fi, cell phones or microwave oven. All electrical cables are wrapped in copper. I was so debilitated that I could not stand two meters away from a switched-on vacuum cleaner. We shielded the walls with a special paint in order not to let in the neighbors’ Wi-Fi,” he explains. Sosthène Berger must also shield his body and head with fabrics made of strands of silver.

No travel, no dinners at a restaurant, movies are out of the question as is the end-of-year celebration at his daughters’ school. “I must also avoid public transport where electromagnetic fields are too high because so many people are surfing and the signal bounces from one antenna to another,” he says. “It’s hard to live in a wireless society for those who are electrosensitive. In addition, no expense is refunded because for the Federal Office of Public Health, the relationship between these symptoms and exposure to electromagnetic waves is not proven (see below)… Most doctors treat us as if we were crazy,” he concludes.

Testimony of Gabriela Schürch: “My skin burns when a wireless phone rings”

Gabriela Schürch, 52, had to leave the city of Fribourg to protect herself from electromagnetic fields which made her sick. She found refuge in a small village. If she is not exposed to waves, she is fine. “It burns my skin. If exposure lasts, I begin to feel dizzy and panic.” Until four years ago, the secretary from Lucerne did not even know what a wave was. In 2009, she went to live in an apartment on the fourth floor of a building in Fribourg, 80 meters from a mobile phone antenna. “It did not seem a problem,” she says. A few weeks later, the symptoms started. “Insomnia, weak immune system, muscle and back pain, cardiac arrhythmia, exhaustion.” She consulted 12 doctors. “The worst time was at the end of the year when people send SMS wishes. I woke up at 4 in the morning, my skin burning like it was on fire.” She went to the emergency room and was given tranquilizers. “When the phone rang, I felt the waves burn the nerves under the skin.” She had to leave the apartment that she could not shield because it was too close to the antenna. Her electrosensitivity worsened because it took time to find a new place to live.  She became "disabled" in this world of waves and today is not able to take trains or buses, to go the dentist, or be treated in a hospital... “The State should recognize our handicap and help us as is the case in Sweden,” she concludes.

Advice from the Federal Office of Public Health

The article cites advice for limiting use of cordless phones, Wi-Fi, cell phones, and shielding (for the home, special paint, wallpaper and curtains; for the body, there are clothes with copper or silver, for example, silver-lined garments - see http://lessemf.com/personal.html)

Peter Schegel, expert in measuring waves and shielding homes

Peter Schlegel is one of the few experts in Switzerland, shielding homes. The engineer, a graduate of the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, helps hundreds of electrohypersensitive (EHS) individuals all over Switzerland shield themselves against electromagnetic fields. EHS has arisen with the proliferation of wireless technology. “For 12 years, I have been measuring electromagnetic fields in homes and public buildings. I have met more than 500 EHS people in Switzerland… By decreasing exposure, as a rule, the state of health of the electrosensitive person improves. Then there are the severe, chronic cases, and the person does not know where to live. There are those who move into a camper to sleep where there are no waves. What does it mean to shield a home, to avoid electromagnetic fields? Remove or minimize everything that is wireless, from phones to Wi-Fi. Graphite paint shields waves from antennas but it is more difficult to protect yourself from neighbors’ Wi-Fi. There is material with metal wires, which can be used as curtains.

The State does not recognize EHS. In Sweden, however, EHS is recognized legally as a disability, and in France, white zones without waves are being planned. Parents’ associations in Canada and England are waging war on Wi-Fi in schools. The State must protect the health of its citizens. But research has not established a link between waves and illness. It would be useful to have scientific studies, independent of industry, given the continued increase in the number of EHS people and the particularity of their disease. Regarding smartphones, even if on standby, they emit waves, especially if they have many Apps that continue to search for information. There are high values of electromagnetic radiation even in trams, buses and trains, due to numerous mobile and tablet users. Public transport is a torture chamber for those who are electrosensitive.

The level of waves is measured in volts per meter. Outside, it can be up to 60 V/m. Inside apartments, offices, schools, it should not exceed 0.06 V/m (for a good night’s sleep for electrosensitive persons, at most, 0.006V/m). We must develop a technology that is less harmful. We should all contribute to lowering emissions. Fewer and fewer doctors treat EHS people with psychotropic drugs. But they can do very little. The only remedy is to reduce exposure.

Dr. Ariane Giacobino, genetics expert: “Pay attention to the effects of Wi-Fi on DNA”.

The risks to health of various wireless gadgets “are everything and its opposite.” These gadgets now accompany us from morning to night: Wi-Fi in the livingroom or the microwave, the mobile antenna... We are immersed in constant electromagnetic fields. Can we defend ourselves without becoming paranoid? There are those who alarmingly talk about the conspiracies of industry continuing to make billions. There are those who throw water on the fire, saying all is well. Maybe we are guinea pigs… But let’s keep our feet on the ground. Research has established thermal effects of mobile phones and Wi-Fi. As in a microwave oven, electromagnetic fields excites and heats up molecules. This could have negative health effects. Studies prove fertility problems. The other aspect is biological in nature. Prolonged exposure to electromagnetic fields could lead to mutations in DNA.

We asked Dr. Ariane Giacobino for an explanation, medical geneticist at the University Hospital of Geneva (HUG). “Well-conducted scientific studies on the effects of electromagnetic fields are few. But some studies show that exposure to Wi-Fi causes problems with male fertility and DNA,” explains Dr. Giacobino. In one study, small animals were exposed to Wi-Fi for a few hours per day. In the second, the sperm of fertile men were placed on a computer connected to Wi-Fi. These sperm showed greater fragmentation of DNA and were less mobile. A third study, published in a journal of pediatric urology, shows DNA lesions in the testicular tissue of animals irradiated for 4 weeks, 4 hours per day, with radio frequencies comparable to Wi-Fi. “The impact of waves from Wi-Fi on health should not be underestimated and should be studied thoroughly.” She concludes, “A direct link between EHS and exposure to Wi-Fi has not been proven, but rather, with “excessive use of the computer.” In conclusion, Dr. Giacobini recommends caution without falling into hysteria. “A good rule of thumb is to switch off all gadgets in order to limit exposure. Nothing is certain, especially concerning multiple exposures to which we are all subjected.”

The Federal Office of Public Health – Bern recommends extreme caution.

“Keep the laptop away from the body if you are surfing. Turn Wi-Fi on only when you use it and keep the access point a meter away from where you are working, relaxing or sleeping. Do not keep the base of the cordless phone (less than 50 cm) in bedrooms and offices when occupied for long periods of time. Prefer models with low radiation emission (SAR). For long phone conversations, opt for a fixed phone or equip yourself with headphones. With cell phones, make only short calls or send text messages. Do not ever call when driving, even with a hands-free device…” The list of recommendations on the website of the Federal Office of Public Health regarding use of cell phones, cordless telephones and Wi-Fi… is very long and detailed. Why so many recommendations, if they continue to repeat that electromagnetic fields generated by wireless networks are not dangerous to health? Are fields harmful? We do not know. “Until now, there is no scientific evidence demonstrating the harmful effects on health, but this is not certain. So it is our duty to draw attention to precautionary measures that people can follow,” says Daniel Dauwalder, spokesperson for the Federal Office of Public Health.

Indeed, the role of the State is also to protect the health of its citizens. We interviewed an oncologist of international repute, Dr. Franco Cavalli, but we also understand that oncologists are groping in the dark regarding cancer risk. “Concerning the risk of developing tumors, some laboratory research has shown something but there are doubts about methods and results. Then there is also the problem of the influence of research of the big telecommunications companies,” states the oncologist. “One cannot exclude a carcinogenic effect, but if it is there, the impact would be minimal compared to other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, exposure to radon or infections,” concludes Dr. Cavalli.

Dear Readers, if you are an electrosensitive person living in Switzerland, you may contact one of the above-mentioned associations for assistance.  Sosthène Berger also has a Website dedicated to helping ES/ EHS people:  www.gigasmog.ch

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