• 08 DEC 08
    • 0

    #1000: Electrosensitivity becomes an “inconvenient truth” in Sweden

    The below article was sent to this list by John and Rigmor Granlund-Lind as a follow-up to the previous message #996: “NO RISK”: A Trade Union Initiative cut short by Industry It is a translation of an article for FEB’s Swedish newsletter Ljusglimten (The Gleam of Light),

    Don
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    Gunni Nordström let us read your article about SIF. We could see that you might be interested to see other parts of the Swedish society regarding the new strong trend to deny the fact that more and more people get ill from electromagnetic fields. In 1989 electrohypersensitivity was something
    that was discussed in the newspapers, and researchers had started making studies. Now it is completely denied, and the electrosensitives have difficulties becoming sick allowances when they can no longer work. All authorities are against the EHS people, and practically all newspapers
    have stopped writing about the matter.

    John and Rigmor Granlund-Lind
    December 4, 2008

    On the 12th of October 2008 Lena Hillert, Med.Dr, from the Department for Working Life and Environment Medicine at the Karolinska Hospital, and Lars Mjönes, Senior adviser from SSM, the Radiation Safety Authority, previously SSI, the National Institute for Radiation Protection, were interviewed in the radio program “Health Alarm”. They claimed that electrohypersensitivity does not exist and that those who report that they react on electromagnetic fields are indeed ill, but there is no evidence that their symptoms are due to the fields, as provocation tests have never been able to confirm that. Therefore it is of no use to reduce the fields.

    That is what is said today. In 1989 and a few years ahead other things were said. In 1993 the enterprise Ellemtel (today Ericsson UtvecklingsAB) in their book Överkänslighet i arbetsmiljön (Hypersensitivity in the Working Environment) confirmed that they had had 49 electrohypersensitive engineers who had all been able to return to work after a huge field reduction. In 1995 electrohypersensitivity was acknowledged by the state as a kind of disability.This meant that our association could join HSO, Handikappförbundens Samarbetsorgan (the union of handicap organizations) and were granted government subsidy.

    In 1997 there was a turning-point in connection with the introduction of the GSM system for mobile telephony. Now the electrohypersensitives were an obstacle for the technical development and the enormous economic potential of the ‘seamless’ communication systems and mobile telephones.

    But let us go back to the 24th of May 1989 and the day when the journal Ny Teknik (the Union Journal of the Masters of Engineering) arranged a conference about electrohypersensitivity in Stockholm. The background was the response this journal had received after having published articles about this subject with headlines like “Technicians at Risk”, “Hysterical Old Men In Their Thirties”, and “Ny Teknik Does Not Keep Quiet”. The editorial staff received huge amounts of phone calls from technicians having problems with EHS and therefore they wanted to arrange this seminar in order to try to find out how far research had reached in this field and at the same time give the readers of Ny Teknik a possibility to put questions to the researchers. Everything was tape-recorded, and the quotes below are taken from the recordings.

    Ulla Karlsson, the journalist at Ny Teknik leading the seminar, first introduced Thomas Josefsson, electrohypersensitive master of engineering and at that time vice-president of FEB, the name of our association at that time. Thomas’s EHS had been triggered by his computer in December 1988 with eye problems, a burning face, body pricklings, fumblingness, feelings of stress, cramps in the heart and the stomach, joint pain, dyslexia, concentration difficulties, larynges pain, thirst.

    Thomas had noticed that the symptoms did not appear immediately after exposure but were delayed. On the other hand they could remain for several days. He also found a connection between dosage and response. When Thomas moved to his parents´ summer-cottage and could live completely without electricity he felt well, and thanks to an understanding employer he could work from there on half-time.

    The next speaker was Roger Wibom, researcher from the Working Environment Institute, who had worked in a team led by professor Bengt Knave. They had made a study on 32 EHS people, most of them between 36 and 45 years of age. Wibom confirmed that Thomas’s description of his symptoms were typical for this group. Nearly all of them, 97%, had skin problems, and most of them also had symptoms from the nervous system and the eyes, just like Thomas.

    From these 32 people, 29 had reported that the computer screen had started the symptoms, and 3 had reported fluorescent lights. When the EHS had established itself, half of the studied people reported that also the sun, bulb light, electrical equipment, fans and electric cables could trigger symptoms.

    There were only a few who became electrohypersensitive as soon as they started using computers, but many had got problems when they got a new screen, and then very soon, it often took only a few days. The general prognosis was relatively good for those who had only got skin problems but worse for those who had also developed symptoms from the nervous system.

    The National Institute for Radiation Protection was that day represented by Lars-Erik Paulsson. He, as well as all the others speaking, expressed no doubt that EHS was due to electromagnetic fields. Like all the others he was eager to find the mechanisms behind it: “What makes people hypersensitive of electricity? Are there certain troubling frequencies or is the problem different patterns of how the electricity behaves?” Paulsson also had an explanation to the skin problems of the EHS people. Electrical power lands at a right angle against all leading objects, also parts of the body, and thus the fields are much higher in the face: “The field strength has increased because the face is curved.”

    The next speaker was Yngve Hamnerius from Chalmers Technical High School. He had for fifteen years studied how electromagnetic fields effect people. He explained how electric and magnetic fields are different, both how they arise and how they can be eliminated.

    Hamnerius was the expert consulted by Ellemtel concerning field reduction for their 49 engineers who had become EHS around 1990. In the above-mentioned book by Ellemtel Hamnerius wrote the chapter Research and Debate. An International Review.

    Very interesting was the reasearch referred to by Kjell Hansson Mild from the Working Life Instutite in Umeå, among other things studies where rats, mice and also human cells had been exposed to different kinds of electromagnetic fields. Electric and magnetic fields have different biological effects and the reaction can be due to the signal being amplitude-modulated or pulse-modulated. Also the earth’s magnetic field can influence in combination with technically made fields.

    Mild also reported studies showing that a biological reaction can depend on a certain frequency – a frequency window – or a certin amplitude modulation – an amplitude window – and that effects can arise at very low levels of energy. Mild continued: ” Perhaps it is not the field in itself but the change, the on and off, that we feel.”

    Mild also made an account for experiments where cells were exposed to 60 Hz electromagnetic field during one hour, and afterwards the enzyme activity was checked. In some cells immediate effect could be seen, in others the effect came later but remained for different amounts of time.

    Thomas had already mentioned that not only human cells but also EHS people have delayed but persevering reactions. This, as well as the fact that there might be frequency and amplitude windows, might be one of the explanations that it has been nerly impossible to make reliable provocation tests.

    Mild further reported that continuous exposure to electromagnetic fields has an effect on well-being by eliminating the natural night and day variations of serotonin and melatonin. A deficit of serotonin is known to cause depression, a deficit of melatonin sleeping difficulties. Nowadays melatonin is prescribed even to children as a rising amount of children have sleeping difficulties, as well as prozac medication to adults i order to raise seratonin and relieve depressions, something that many young women suffer from. A healthier alternative to medication would of course be to lessen the electromagnetic exposure. This was well known as early as 1989.

    The last speaker was Monica Sandström, at this time working life hygienist at the dermatological clinic at the regional hospital in Umeå and also a researcher at the Working Life Institute. Her task was to solve problems for electrosensitives at their workplaces, and she had noted that computer screens were one factor triggering EHS. But there were also other factors involved. At the same time as more and more people had started working with computer screens in offices, many other electrical devices had also been introduced.

    The around 200 patients had come from different areas of professions: they were researchers, programmers, bank employees, secretaries and industrial workers in surveillance localities and thay had all got their problems either as soon as they had started working with a computer or when they changed computers or had their working time at the computer increased. For every patient there was a certain dose-responce connection.

    Different steps had been taken to help the afflicted. One had been to diminish the time before the computer, another had been a change to a LCD screen. But what had had the best effect was to eliminate the electric alternating fields.

    At the end of the day the audience could put questions to the speakers. Then Lars Rundqvist, chief editor of the Ny Teknik, thanked the speakers and with an ironical hint at the professors David Ingvar and Bernhard Frankenhaeuser he called the journalist Ulla Karlsson, who had organized and led the conference, the uppermost “field hunter” of the country.

    Rolf Lindgren from Vattenfall, Sweden’s largest utility company, who at this time published newsletters about electromagnetic fields, said that there were some people in this country who ought to “throw themselves against the wall” with reference to these gentlemen, who had called the electrosensitives and those who take EHS seriously superstitious field hunters.

    Today those who ought to throw themselves against the wall have multiplied and in contrast to Ingvar and Frankenhaeuser they do not deny the EHS problem from sheer ignorance. They know very well what it is all about. Just as other environment catastrophes are concerned short term economical interests steer the tongues of the deniers.

    Lars Rundqvist wrote in an editorial in the Ny Teknik No. 8 23rd February 1989: “The élitist view represented by David Ingvar and Bernard Frankenhaeuser in their article in the Svenska Dagbladet show better than anything else how important the field hunters are for the sake of democracy and enlightenment. As a counterbalance to the knights of the established truths.”

    Today the situation for democracy and enlightenment is much worse. Even the Ny Teknik has stopped speaking. The electrosensitives have been left to their fate.

    But a new turningpoint might be on its way. The EU parliament demanded in its resolution from 4th September 2008 that the allowed levels for electromagnetic radiation be considerably reduced with regard to public health. The parliament referred to The Bioinitiative Report from 2007 that especially mentions the electrosensitives.

    This fact, however, was disregraded by Hillert and Mjönes in the interview in October.

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