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24 July 2015

Switzerland: Electrosensitivity: "Electrosmog Makes Me Sick"

"The underestimated risk"
Electrosensitivity :  "Electrosmog makes me sick"
Beobachter 15/2015, 24 July 2015 (translated by the Editor of this blog with the help of Google.)

Around 5 percent of the Swiss population consider themselves electrosensitive - Lucja Stankiewicz is one of them.

Electrosensitive persons suffer not only from their ailments, but also from the stigma of being a hypochondriac.

Lucja Stankiewicz has had a successful career as a psychiatrist.  She was also a municipal councillor in Muri, well-traveled, and much involved socially.

When she bought a new cellular phone, the complaints began. Suddenly she felt dizzy when making calls. She returned the phone and switched the old one back on. The symptoms disappeared.  Months later,  technicians laid an ISDN line. Stankiewicz suddenly began to suffer from severe insomnia, which disappeared after switching off the line.

"I live like a cave dweller because electrosmog makes me sick" : Lucja Stankiewicz

Then came 27 October 2008. The oil heater in the house was replaced by a gas heater. "The work must have changed something in the electrical situation of the house," says Stankiewicz.  She began to feel an inner agitation, she sensed she was unwell, had headaches, and felt she could no longer stay in the apartment.She moved temporarily to her parents. There, the symptoms subsided.

Stankiewicz remembered an article in a medical journal about electrosensitivity, was on the telephone consulting the doctors of Environmental Protection [MfE]. "They told me to have my apartment checked by an "Elektrobiologen" [building biologist]. Also, I was examined medically and psychologically, "says Stankiewicz.  She had a mains cut-off installed in her apartment. The lines are only under power when it is really needed, e.g. when a lamp is switched on. Above her bed, she stretched a canopy made of a special fabric, spun in fine silver thread, which shields the electromagnetic pollution.

The final confirmation of her electrosensitivity came during a holiday in Unterbäch, a small village in the Valais near Raron. "When I got there, I immediately noticed that I could not stand it there. I had to cut short my vacation. In retrospect, I learned that the community produces power with a small electrical utility," says the 66-year-old psychiatrist.

After staying in Unterbäch, her complaints sharply worsened. Virtually any electromagnetic source:  trainlines, antennas, wireless networks, caused dizziness, a burning sensation behind the breastbone. She felt unsteady on her feet, suffered from itching and nausea, was irritable and felt limited in her thinking.

Gradually, her ailments forced Stankiewicz to withdraw from work and social life. She moved into an apartment building whose owner is also electrosensitive. He has covered the walls with special paint to make it shield the rays. Throughout Stankiewicz's living area, there are few electrical appliances and in the bedroom, there are none.  The current to the lamps flows via a shielded cable, the TV has been discarded.  She listens to music only from a battery-powered radio. "I feel good and I can recover from the electromagnetic pollution-related symptoms."

More than meets the eye

A survey carried out in 2003 revealed that about five percent of the Swiss population were electrohypersensitive.

The complaints range from mood swings, headaches, and concentration disorders to cardiovascular symptoms. There are no generally accepted criteria for an objective diagnosis. The causes of the health effects, according to Bafu [Swiss Federal Office for the Environment] usually cannot accurately be determined.

"Electrosensitivity is a subjective term: The patient has symptoms and suspects that they are caused by electromagnetic pollution," says Peter Kälin, president of the association Doctors for Environmental Protection.

However, the potential risks of cell phone radiation alarm many people without symptoms.  For example, Christoph Thomet. "The four-meter high mobile antenna on the gable of the adjacent building sparked my unease." Thomet and his family renovated a house in Derendingen.The 36-year-old social scientist wants to do everything right. He got advice from a company specialized in electrosmog.

"Distance of Bed and Sofa"

Markus Gugler from Deitingen SO advises private individuals and companies regarding non-ionizing radiation.  Even simple means go a long way: "furniture such as a bed or couch, where we spend a long time, should be placed as far away as possible from the radiation source," said Gugler.  What surprises his customers the most today is that most electromagnetic radiation comes from within the home, not from outside.  Appliances such as stoves, hair dryers or irons produce locally strong magnetic fields. "Man is exposed only briefly to this radiation. In addition, it decreases with increasing distance from such facilities."

Unlike electrical installations or equipment in continuous operation: With clock radios, chargers and lamps with transformers, Gugler recommends a distance of at least one meter. Cordless phones, wireless speakers, and wireless networks, in continuous operation, emit strong radiation. "With Wi-Fi only switched on when needed, you are already contributing a lot to reducing radiation exposure in the home."

Making calls with less radiation:

Make calls using a hands-free set (headset) in order to reduce radiation to the head.  Carry this phone on your belt or in the side pocket.  Using wireless hands-free with a Bluetooth transmitter is suitable and recommended.

Call if possible in UMTS mode ("3G" will be displayed on the phone). You need a UMTS-enabled mobile phone.  UMTS mode emits about 100 times weaker than the "usual" GSM operation ("2G" display).

Make calls short. Or: Write a text message or use a corded phone.
Call if possible only when reception quality is good (the display shows the signal strength).

Do not hold the phone to your ear when connecting, because it emits at full strength (in UMTS mode, this measure is unnecessary).

When you buy a mobile phone, look for a low SAR "radiation value" or purchase a UMTS device. 

Read the full cover story on mobile phone radiation ["Cell Phone Radiation:  How Great Is the Risk?"] in the current issue of "Beobachter".  [We are not translating this article, but may write a brief summary.]

Original article in German:

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