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01 July 2017

Belgium: Proposal of Resolution for the Recognition of Electromagnetic-Hypersensitivity (EHS) to the Belgian Senate

Proposal of resolution for the recognition of Electromagnetic-hypersensitivity (EHS) to the Belgian Senate

(auto-translation from French)

*** Tables and footnotes don't appear in this auto-translation, but can be found in the original document - link at the bottom ***

Senate of Belgium
2016-2017 session

24 May 2017

Motion for a resolution on the recognition of electro-hypersensitivity (Presented by Mr Philippe Mahoux and others)


The past century has been marked by an unprecedented increase in the number and diversity of sources of electromagnetic fields. These sources include all modern electrical and electronic equipment as well as the development of the infrastructures essential to their operation.

Recently, new information and communication technologies have been added to these technological revolutions that have marked the industrialization of our societies and have led to the introduction of various wireless information exchange systems based on the " Use of pulsed high-frequency electromagnetic waves, also called "microwaves" or "radiofrequencies".

Appearance of unexplained syndrome

As early as the 1950s, some countries in Eastern Europe observed numerous health problems such as headaches or insomnia among military personnel assigned to the use, inspection or repair of transmitting equipment Of microwaves, at the time mainly of the radars.

All of the symptoms were grouped together and referred to as microwave syndrome or asthenic syndrome. The syndrome was studied by local scientists (1) and was the subject of numerous publications (2).

The existence of health effects that did not result from the heating of the tissues remained a subject of study during the 1960s and 1970s. American scientists, including Adey, Frey, Lai, etc., and Europeans Johansson) were also concerned about the appearance of possible non-thermal biological effects. However, most of their research was not pursued for budgetary reasons.

The term electromagnetic hypersensitivity (3) was used for the first time in 1994 in a congress in the city of Graz. The term was later taken up in a report by the European Commission in 1997. These years were marked by the exponential development of new wireless telecommunication networks throughout Europe and throughout the world. At the same time, the prevalence of hypersensitivity to radio frequencies used by these new networks has been increasing.

While a study (4) funded in 1996 by the European Commission reported fewer than a few cases per million (United Kingdom, Italy, France) to a few tenths of a percent for Denmark, Ireland and Sweden, Values ​​will gradually appear in studies carried out in subsequent years. This trend is particularly evident in Sweden (5) where the number of people claiming to have an electrosensitivity swells in a few years. Other countries experienced similar developments:

Year% EHS Country Reference 1997 2.00 Austria Leitgeb N. et al., 1998, 2005 1997 1.50 Sweden Hillert L. et al., 2002 2001 6.00 Germany Schroeder E., 2002 2003 8.00 Germany Infas, 2003 2003 5,00 Ireland This is London, 2005 2003 9,00 Sweden Elöverkänsligas Riksförbund, 2005 2004 11,00 England Fox E., 2004 2004 9,00 Germany Infas, 2004

To date there are no figures for Belgium. Nevertheless, the percentages provided by the WHO (1) make it possible to extrapolate that between 1% and 3% of the population of the Kingdom is likely to be between 100 000 and 300 000 people.

The existence of continuously increasing estimates coupled with growing scientific interest in this unexplained syndrome prompted the World Health Organization to organize a symposium on this subject in the city of Prague in October 2004. The Aide Memoire N ° 296, which she publishes the following year, summarizes what she considers to be the state of knowledge of the time on electromagnetic hypersensitivity. The reader is told that this hypersensitivity "is characterized by various symptoms that the affected individuals attribute to exposure to electromagnetic fields. Dermatological symptoms (redness, tingling and burning sensation), neurasthenic and vegetative symptoms (fatigue, weariness, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations and digestive disorders) may be mentioned among the most frequently reported symptoms. Some report mild symptoms and respond by avoiding as much as possible these fields, others are so severely affected that they stop working and change their lifestyle altogether. "

The memorandum ends with the following conclusions: "These symptoms have a certain reality and can be of very variable gravity. Whatever the cause, electromagnetic hypersensitivity can be a disabling problem for the affected individual. There are no clear diagnostic criteria for this health problem, nor is there a scientific basis for linking the symptoms of HSEM (1) to exposure to electromagnetic fields. Similar conclusions were reiterated in 2014 in aide-mémoire No. 193.

The Higher Council of Health and the Brussels Institute for Environmental Management (IBGF) have aligned themselves with the position of the WHO in opinions issued in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Is not excluded that "some people (intolerant or not) can perceive the presence of these electromagnetic fields for intensities equivalent to those to which is, for example, subjected the user of a gsm held against the ear". The fact sheet of the Brussels Institute also acknowledges that "some moderate effects of exposure to gsm have been observed in subjects whatever (intolerant or not) on spontaneous electroencephalogram and sleep" for intensities typical of those to which The user of a mobile phone is exposed, but no real impact on health can be deduced from it.

The gradual increase in the number of persons who were said to be inconvenienced to varying degrees by electromagnetic waves was prosecuted. The courts were often called upon to pronounce on the harmfulness of these and on their responsibility for the emergence of disabling diseases. For example, the Italian Court of Cassation (2012) and the Federal Administrative Court of Germany (2014) (2) recognized the existence of an occupational disease related to exposure to electromagnetic waves in a tumor- Benign to the brain due to the intensive use of a mobile phone and to a radar operator who became EHS whose health had deteriorated as a result of chronic exposure to microwaves.

In France, a cell phone operator was sentenced in October 2012 by the Court of Cassation (3) to compensate an electrosensitive Strasbourg for the protection of its housing against electromagnetic waves. Such insulation work was also carried out in April 2014 at the home of a young Saxon scientist who became EHS, thanks to material aid granted by the local departmental office for the disabled. In July 2015, a legal action through the Disability Dispute Tribunal of Toulouse (1) allowed an electrosensitive young lady living in Ariège to obtain an allowance for adults with a disability for a functional impairment estimated at 85%.

In Spain, electromagnetic waves were again at the center of a judgment (2) pronounced by the Madrid Superior Court of Justice on 6 July 2016, which recognized that electromagnetic waves A situation of total permanent incapacity for the practice of his profession with a telecommunications engineer suffering from EHS.

In Switzerland, the first electrosensitive building (3) was opened in Zurich in April 2014 at the initiative of one of the residents, himself EHS, and with financial support from the local authorities.

Beyond court actions and individual initiatives, some countries were quick to take measures that were sometimes structural in order to best respond to the new challenges created by an ever-changing electromagnetic environment. In December 2000, electromagnetic intolerance included the list of occupational diseases in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) and was classified under R68.8. As early as 2002, Sweden recognized electrosensitivity as a functional disability. As such, persons suffering from this syndrome are protected by the United Nations Resolution 48/96 of 20 December 1993 on the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities (4) and benefit from the aids provided for in the National Plan of Action Of people with disabilities (5). They may, inter alia, request adjustments to their place of work and residence and be supported by the Swedish authorities in their efforts to adapt public spaces to their disabilities. The city of Stockholm provides homes for people with the most acute sensitivity to homes in peripheral areas less covered by mobile phone networks. In addition, the problem of hospital stays has not been overlooked, and specially equipped rooms have been set up to allow EHS people to receive care.

The conditions for hospitalization of electrosensitive persons were also discussed in France in a note (1) which the Directorate-General of Health sent to the Regional Health Agencies in May 2014. This stipulates that the said conditions of hospitalization "must reconcile the Patient's demand with the constraints of emergency, organization and safety of care ". In addition, France recently decided to adopt a law to moderate the exposure of the public to radio frequencies. Although this law, known as the Bee law, does not lower the exposure limit values ​​in force, it requires the National Frequency Agency (ANFR) to carry out an annual census of "atypical points" Ie sites with significantly higher levels of exposure than the national average and oblige operators to reabsorb them when technically possible. Beyond this temperance of excessive values, it also pursues the objective of installing more transparency and dialogue between the parties concerned (operators, local authorities, associations of landlords and owners, ANFR, etc.) Procedures prior to the implementation of new antennas. The protection of younger children is also one of the reasons for this law; In this respect it prohibits the installation of wifi terminals in nurseries and nurseries and prescribes the deactivation of wifi devices in primary outside the digital teaching activities.

The growing scientific community

There is a controversy now in the scientific community about the harmfulness of high-frequency electromagnetic waves and the existence of non-thermal effects, that is, harmful biological effects occurring at very high exposure intensities Lower than the current standards that have been set to protect the population from so-called thermal effects, that is to say effects caused by the heating of the tissues under the action of electromagnetic radiation. In recent years, however, there has been a heap of new publications, most of which point to serious health risks.

Compiled in 2007, with updates in 2012 and 2014, the BioInitiative (1) report includes more than four thousand studies on the health effects of electromagnetic waves at high and very low frequencies. Twenty-nine independent scientists contributed to its drafting. This report accuses electromagnetic waves, among other things, of undermining biological effects such as gene transcription abnormalities, single and double-strand breaks in DNA, chromatin condensation, loss of Repair of DNA in stem cells, reduction of anti-free radical enzymes, neurotoxicity, carcinogenicity, reduction of male fertility, negative effects on children's behavior and brain development in the human fetus, imbalance of the immune system, Metabolic disturbances and, finally, emergence of an electrosensitivity syndrome.

Different doctors, in several countries, have decided to meet and sign medical appeals. Since 1998, there have been a dozen. One of the most famous, the Friborg appeal, signed by more than a thousand doctors, already expressed in 2002 the concern of its authors in the following terms: "As doctors of all qualities and especially in environmental medicine, We feel that we need to address ourselves to the medical profession, to health and public health officials, and to the public because of pressing concerns about the health of our fellow citizens. During our services to our patients, we see a dramatic increase in serious and chronic diseases in recent years, in particular:

- disorders of learning, concentration and behavior in children (hyperactive children, etc.);
- blood pressure disorders;
- cardiac disorders; - infarction and stroke (stroke, apoplexy);
- disease with neurological degeneration (Alzheimer's disease) and epilepsies;
- cancer diseases such as leukemia and brain tumors. "

"Given that we know the residential environment and the habits of our patients, we are seeing a clearer relationship between the onset of these illnesses and the Beginning of the extension of the irradiation by radio waves, for example:

- the installation of a mobile phone relay antenna in the vicinity of the patient's home;
- the intensive use of a mobile phone;
- the use of a cordless DECT telephone in the patient's house or in the vicinity. We can no longer accept the hypothesis of a coincidence or the effect of chance because:
- too often we see a striking accumulation of certain diseases in neighborhoods or buildings;
- too often the condition of the patient improves or the disorders that have lasted for months disappear in relatively short time after the reduction or elimination of the radio waves near the patient;
- all too often local measurements based on habitat biology criteria show abnormal levels of radio electromagnetic field density, which reinforce our observations on patients. "

In February 2015, 220 scientists (1) from 42 different countries sent an open letter to the UN Secretary-General and the WHO Director-General informing them that "many recent publications show that TMEs ( Electromagnetic fields) affect all living organisms at much lower thresholds than most national and international recommendations ... Damage goes far beyond the human species: Harmful effects on all plants and animals (from a single cell to bees and mammals) "and encourage" the World Health Organization to exert strong pressure to develop much more protective recommendations Against electromagnetic fields (EMFs), that precautionary measures are taken and that the public Especially those faced by children and developing fetuses ". This international appeal also calls for "6. medical professionals to learn the biological effects of electromagnetic energy and receive training in the care of patients with hypersensitivity to electromagnetism ... 9. zones without radiation be created" .

At the end of the symposium held on 18 May 2015 at the Royal Academy of Medicine in Brussels on environmental intolerances, the declaration (1) signed by twenty-five scientists includes the following statements: "We doctors, acting in accordance with the oath d 'Hippocrates, we scientists, acting in the name of scientific truth, all of us doctors and researchers working in different countries all over the world hereby declare with complete independence of judgment ... that there is (2) worldwide [...] That on the basis of peer-reviewed scientific evidence available today and the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and Chemicals, and on the basis of clinical and biological examinations carried out on patients, EHS is associated with exposure to electromagnetic The MCS to chemicals ... We therefore call on all national agencies and institutions to become aware of this major environmental health problem and to take urgent action, in particular WHO, by updating its 2005 and 2014 on EHS and recognizing EHS and MCS as included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) as is already the case in particular in Germany and Japan which have classified the MCS under a specific code. Mechanisms of action One of the main obstacles to the recognition of electromagnetic hypersensitivity was, until now, a misunderstanding of the mechanism (s) of action of electromagnetic fields (EMF) at low radiation intensities , Intensities from which electrosensitive people report feeling disabling symptoms.

However, in 2013 and 2015, Professor Pall (1) published the results of his research and made a critical assumption about the mechanism of action of EMF on our cells. In his publications, he explains that EMC activates the blood-pressure-dependent calcium channels of cell membranes, promoting intracellular calcium inflow, a cascade of free-radical chain reactions and oxidative stress. These reactions are responsible for multiple patho- physiological effects.

Other scientists (2) emphasize the toxic impact of EMF on mitochondria (producing ATP and therefore energy), stressing the effect of EMF on pairs of free radicals (3).

In December 2015, a French team (4) led by Professor Belpomme, an oncologist, published preliminary results following the analysis of biological tests and medical imaging performed on 727 electrosensitive and / or chemically-sensitive patients. Their data reveal an inflammation of the brain with histamine as the main mediator. The results also demonstrate an autoimmune response, cerebral hypoperfusion in the capsulothalamic region, an opening of the blood-brain barrier and a melatonin deficiency. These results enable the authors of the study to affirm that "patients who claim to be electrohypersensitive and / or have multiple sensitivities to chemicals are real sick people, that their affection is not at all a psychiatric or Even psychosomatic "(5).

At the European level

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in its Resolution No. 1815 (27 May 2011) on the potential danger of electromagnetic fields and their effects on the environment, recommends that Council of Europe member states: "8.1 .4 pay special attention to "electrosensitive" persons with EMS syndrome and take special measures to protect them, for example by creating "white areas" not covered by wireless networks. "

The European Parliament, in a resolution dated 2 April 2009 entitled 'Concerns about the health effects of electromagnetic fields', calls on the Member States' to follow the example of Sweden and to grant persons suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity The status of a person with reduced capacity, so that they are given appropriate protection and equal opportunities ".

Situation in Belgium

It is mainly testimonies given by electrosensitive persons themselves that make it possible to draw up a state of the situation in Belgium. Many testimonies come to us in which electrosensitive people describe the innumerable difficulties they face. Every aspect of their lives is impacted by intolerance and its consequences: the pursuit of a professional activity is often compromised given the very busy electromagnetic environment encountered in the workplace, Many smartphones, wifi connections, telephones (cordless indoor) DECT, antennas relays, and so on. The relationship with occupational medicine or employment services is a source of multiple tensions because of the current lack of recognition of the disease.

Housing is also particularly arduous because of the financial difficulties associated with losing a job and because of the proliferation of mobile telephony antennas that make many places uninhabitable for a person who develops an intolerance to the waves produced By these antennas. The immediate proximity of neighbors who use devices emitting this type of waves also complicates the search for housing. These difficulties are compounded by social and sometimes inevitable social isolation when account is taken of the many restrictions imposed by the disease and the loss of income.

The envisaged deployment of electricity, gas or even smart electricity meters, that is to say transmitting household consumption to the radio-frequency network operator in real time, would make the obstacles to electrosensitive persons insurmountable In the years to come. Indeed, it would be impossible for them to live without permanent health problems in homes where digital devices emitting bursts of electromagnetic waves up to 10,000 times a day (1) would be installed, at intensities equal to or greater than Those of a smartphone. A generalization of the deployment of these devices of a new type would be equivalent to depriving the persons whose electrosensitivity is the most severe of any possibility of lodging, forcing them systematically into exile to shelters devoid of any elementary comfort.

Particular attention must therefore be paid to these people given their physical inability to evolve in a transforming electromagnetic environment.

The current lack of scientific consensus around the syndrome can not be a reason to postpone any action to better take into account the enormous medical and societal needs not met by people with electrosensitivity. Waiting for the ultimate scientific evidence of the causal link between electromagnetic waves and the syndrome to take the first steps to accompany and supervise the people suffering from it could have serious future health and economic consequences, Worsening health status and increasing prevalence of the syndrome.

In Belgium, the Belgian Bioelectromagnetic Group brings together scientists from three universities (Liège, Ghent and Brussels) and conducts research on 50 Hz electric current intolerance and, very incidentally, on pulsed high-frequency electromagnetic waves. However, the Liège team, which receives electrosensitive patients, only includes psychologists and psychiatrists and offers patients no therapeutic support other than cognitive and behavioral therapy. In addition, ethical issues remain as to how to finance its activities. As a result, a large number of electrosensitive people go to Paris at the Alleray-Labrouste clinic at the service of Professor Belpomme, where they are offered a treatment protocol, including the obligation to protect themselves from electromagnetic waves To an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Given the ubiquity of these waves on Belgian territory, these people sometimes have no choice but to move to one of the few low-radiation zones that still exist, which becomes de facto the last resort when the place of life is too Or when intolerance has reached a paroxysmal stage. The precise delimitation of "white areas" as well as their future preservation corresponds to an expectation of this part of the population in great suffering and also responds to the recommendations formulated by the European Parliament.

Recognition of the syndrome by the Belgian authorities as an illness or as a disability would allow for reasonable accommodation in the workplace and living environment to ensure that EHS people retain their ability to function normally in society. Otherwise, a proactive attitude and recognition of electrosensitivity as a new phenomenon and worrying about its possible implications in terms of public health is a necessity. The examples given by France and Sweden reveal that this issue will inevitably integrate public debate. It will be the responsibility of the authorities and the scientific community to approach this complex subject in complete independence, without interfering with private interests.

The transparency of the information communicated to the public will make it possible to broaden the reflection to all the health effects caused by exposure to electromagnetic waves and the possible precautionary measures to be taken for the benefit of the whole population, Better information for pregnant women about the risks to the fetus, the prohibition of installing wifi transmitters in the vicinity of infants or the lowering of the exposure limit values ​​currently in force. Such measures can only be taken with a view to maintaining a precarious balance between the economic interests of the telecommunications industry on the one hand and the need to protect the health and The population, including future generations, while ensuring that each citizen is free to choose how often to use his or her mobile digital networks and their wired alternatives (fiber optics, cable, etc.). ).

Philippe MAHOUX.
Christie MORREALE.
Patrick PRÉVOT


The Senate,

A. having regard to the Friborg medical appeal published on 9 October 2002 calling, inter alia, for a reduction in the exposure limit values ​​and the power density of microwaves emitted by mobile telephony installations and wireless devices;
B. having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 2 April 2009 on concerns about the health effects of electromagnetic fields;
C. having regard to the Seletun declaration on the health risks of electromagnetic fields, adopted in November 2009 by a panel of scientific experts meeting in Norway;
D. having regard to Resolution No. 1815 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, adopted on 27 May 2011, on the potential danger of electromagnetic fields and their effects on the environment;
E. having regard to the BioInitiative Report 2007/2012/2014 on the biological and health effects resulting from exposure to extremely low and high frequency electromagnetic fields;
F. having regard to the Bee Law (Law No 2015-136) on sobriety, transparency, information and consultation on exposure to electromagnetic waves, adopted on 29 January 2015, promulgated on 9 February 2015;
G. having regard to the international appeal "EMF International Appeal" signed in May 2015 by two hundred scientists to demand effective protection of humans, fauna and flora from exposures to non-ionizing electromagnetic fields;
H. having regard to the fifth colloquium of the Paris Appeal held on 18 May 2015 at the Royal Academy of Medicine in Brussels, following which was adopted an international scientific statement on electro-hypersensitivity and sensitivity to products Chemical properties;
I. having regard to the increasing exposure of the population to various electromagnetic fields, which have become ubiquitous in the environment;
J. whereas more and more citizens are complaining about the health problems they attribute to their exposure to electromagnetic fields;
K. whereas these complaints concerning health are gradually increasing in intensity and frequency and for which there is a significant deterioration in the quality of life of those affected;
L. whereas these degradations in the quality of life are observable in all aspects of health, employment, housing, family and social relations, etc. ;
M. whereas a growing number of studies and medical appeals insist on the need for caution in dealing with electromagnetic fields accused of being responsible for non-thermal health effects, including, inter alia, electrosensitivity ;
N. whereas the granting of the status of persons with disabilities associated with the development of adapted spaces has made it possible to significantly improve the situation of electrosensitive persons in Sweden;
O. having regard to the lack of care of electro-hypersensitive patients by the medical profession and social services in Belgium, leaving these people in pain without any interlocutor;
P. whereas the scientific controversy around the physiological character of intolerance to electromagnetic waves can not justify a wait-and-see attitude towards the syndrome and the people who suffer from it, given the high probability that a scientific consensus can not be reached Reached before many years;
Q. whereas the WHO opinion has not been re-evaluated since 2014 and has therefore not been able to take into account recent publications which corroborate the possibility of a physiological origin of the syndrome,

Requests all entities:

1. to officially recognize the existence of electro-hypersensitivity and to pay particular attention to the people who suffer from it and to their needs;
2. to develop and encourage independent research aimed at identifying an objective diagnosis of electro-hypersensitivity and defining its impact on health in Belgium;
3. To make healthcare professionals and managers of public institutions (hospitals, schools, etc.) aware of the existence of electro-hypersensitivity and encourage them to take the necessary measures to ensure that people Who complain;
4. to consider a number of adaptations in urban areas and the existence in public places of areas free of wireless networks in order to protect electro-hypersensitive persons and to give them access to social, public, health and social services, Education;
5. To encourage the construction of suitable housing equipped with protection against electromagnetic waves, enabling electrohypersensitive people to continue living, living and working in localities with numerous mobile digital networks, wifi, etc. ;
6. take into account the existence of intolerance to electromagnetic energy in a section of the population when developing government policies that have a direct or indirect impact on the levels of exposure of the population to radiation Electromagnetic high frequency;
7. pay particular attention to the specific needs expressed by people with electro-hypersensitivity.

April 25, 2017.

Philippe MAHOUX.
Christie MORREALE.
Patrick PRÉVOT.

Original version in Dutch and French:

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