• 09 FEB 09
    • 0

    #1014: Electrosensitivity in Sweden by Olle Johansson

    In addition to the recent message #1000 ”Electrosensitivity becomes an ”inconvenient truth” in Sweden”, published on the list by John and Rigmor Granlund-Lind, Monday December 8th, 2008, https://www.emfacts.com/weblog/?p=1018, it is important to realize that in Sweden electrohypersensitivity (EHS) is definitely not completely denied. In Sweden, electrohypersensitivity is an officially fully recognized functional impairment (i.e., it is not regarded as a disease). Thus, sick allowances are not the first step for a person in Sweden with a functional impairment. The first step is to contact the municipality’s special civil servant for disability issues, as well as the various handicap organizations and authorities, to achieve accessability measures of various types with the sole aim to have an equal life in a society based on equality.

    All authorities are not against the electrohypersensitive people, that would be a serious violation of national and international handicap laws and regulations. As the most important tool to address the responsible levels of society, such as municipalities, persons with the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity have their own handicap organization, The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive (http://www.feb.se; the website has an English version). This organization is included in The Swedish Disability Federation (Handikappförbundens SamarbetsOrgan; HSO; http://www.hso.se; the site has an English short version). As a consequence of this, The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive receives an annual governmental subsidy.

    Newspapers do not write very much about this particular impairment, but there is more news coverage about electrohypersensitivity in Sweden than for many other impairments. For instance, the TV channel TV4 just recently had a very good (and long) interview/discussion around it in the program ”Efter tio”, http://anytime.tv4.se/webtv/?treeId=9017 [the interview comes after approx. 35 minutes], and one of the most famous Swedish writers and journalists, Liza Marklund, has recently covered electrohypersensitivity in three of her columns in Aftonbladet, the biggest evening paper in Sweden [the columns can be found on http://www.aftonbladet.se ]. In addition, with the globlisation of our various media, a number of international newspaper articles, radio and TV programmes as well as internet-based video/sound files are available in Sweden.

    All of this, however, does not make me 100% content; I agree with John and Rigmor Granlund-Lind, much more can be done and should be done. For instance, I wrote a pretty lengthy and detailed commentary to the very same radio programme (”Hälsolarm”) as they mention in their text. Furthermore, I wish that the trade unions again could find the means to put pressure on the society. The health and well-being of all (!) their members is something that needs to be dealt with again, as it was during the 1980ties and 1990ties. Names like Per-Erik Boivie (TCO Development), Bruno Hagi (Sif), Gunni Nordström (TCO-tidningen), Martin Andersson (AMA-Konsult AB), and Nokia Monitors/Consumer Electronics (the first computer manufacturer to adapt their production line to the demands of TCO), as well as many, many others, will not be forgotten. A lot of their work forms the basis of today’s knowledge and recognition. If the unions nowadays instead choose silence, then – of course – the industry and authorities can more and more easily turn a blind eye at these issues.

    As mentioned above, the special responsibility for functional impairments lies within the municipalities. It is fair to say, that in Sweden a good number of municipalities needs to be further educated/informed, which I guess The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive already and constantly is working on/with. If that is not enough The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive must file official complaints at the authority named Handikappombudsmannen (HO), nowadays part of the Diskrimineringsombudsmannen (DO). And, if that is not enough one has to continue to the corresponding international authorities.

    As indicated above, in the year 2000, the Swedish government officially recognized electrohypersensitivity as a functional impairment. Furthermore, the symptoms of electrohypersensitivity were also then classified as an occupationally-related symptom-based diagnosis (code ICD-10) by the Nordic Council of Ministers. As a consequence of this – and the The UN 22 Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for People with Disabilities – since 2007 upgraded into The UN Convention on Human Rights for Persons with Functional Impairments, http://www.un.org – it is a strong legal violation to force someone, due to an impairment, to leave their home or employment.

    I certainly agree with the general view put forward by John and Rigmor Granlund-Lind, it is definitely not easy to live with the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity, but my point is that the situation, although surely dark, is not entirely black. The whole situation reminds me about the way democracy, equality and human rights have to be fought for every day and, hopefully, won every day. The best way, I believe, to conquer darkness is to actively light candles, rather than to sit put in the darkness.

    Along such similar lines, I am currently very impressed by the latest press release from the Nordic EHS meeting (also including The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive) recently held at Seletun, Norway. And, while writing this commentary, I learn that The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive is about to launch yet a forceful campaign aiming at the accessability issue. Homes are being made accessable with money from the municipality; a public lecture in the midst of Stockholm about health effects of electromagnetic fields, including also the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity, is soon to be announced; an educational programme is just now run for the informants of The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive; and Katri Linna, the Swedish Diskrimineringsombudsman (=the Equality Ombudsman), clearly states in the newspaper Sydsvenskan (January 23-26, 2009) that “electrohypersensitivity is – according to the law – a functional impairment and I recommend EHS persons that are discriminated to file a complaint”.

    All of this certainly points towards a brighter future! Furthermore, another new turning-point 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 electrohypersensitive individuals. Even more so, in a recent bill to the Swedish Parliament, Anne Marie Brodén from the right-wing party ”The Moderaterna”, asks for exactly the same action to be taken. So, the dawn is here!

    (Olle Johansson, assoc. prof.
    The Experimental Dermatology Unit
    Department of Neuroscience
    Karolinska Institute
    171 77 Stockholm
    The Royal Institute of Technology
    100 44 Stockholm

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