From Olle Johansson:
I recently, February 18, 2009, received the very important letter below from a private person:
I was wondering whether somebody could give me some more information on what exactly the situation is on electrosensitivity in Sweden.
Prof. Olle Johansson says that this condition is officially recognized in Sweden, but other people claim that this is not really the case.
Also, at the recent workshop of the European Commission on electromagnetic fields and health, a doctor from the Karolinska Institute, Lena Hillert, said (if I remember correctly) that it is not completely correct to say that electrosensitivity is officially recognised in Sweden, because the causal factor (electromagnetic fields) is not officially recognized, or something.
It is extremely important that we get our facts right. So could somebody, please, give some more information on the exact situation in Sweden? Possibly with some links to official/government websites about the recognition of and arrangements around electrosensitivity?
Thank you very much!
The very same day I sent the answer below:
I have to somewhat repeat myself: In Sweden, electrohypersensitivity (EHS)* is an officially fully recognized functional impairment (i.e., it is not regarded as a disease, thus no diagnosis* exists).
[*It’s symptoms are classified as an occupationally-related symptom-based diagnosis (code ICD-10) by the Nordic Council of Ministers since 2000. DIVS: 2000:839; ISBN: 92-893-0559-2 http://www.nordclass.uu.se/verksam/yrke_s.htm]
An impairment is – by definition – not defined by someone else or proven by certain tests, etc. [How do you measure and prove a headache, for instance?] The impairment is always personal (private) and develops when in contact with an inferior environment.
[N.B. Remember that functional impairments are only based upon each individual’s impaired accessability to – and contact with – an inferior environment (cf. the UN), thus, there is actually no need for any “recognition” in local laws (cf. the UN). In Sweden, the former Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Lars Engqvist – as a member of the previous government – anyhow gave his “approval” in a letter dated May, 2000 [Regeringskansliet 2000-04-06, Dnr S2000/2158/ST]. He also made it clear in his response that for EHS persons there are no restrictions or exceptions in the handicap laws and regulations. Thus, these laws and regulations are to be fully applied also for EHS persons.]
Treating members of the community equally is not something that should be done as a favour; nor is it something that any parliament or government should politely request other inhabitants to provide others with. Equality is not something to be done “out of the goodness of one’s heart”. It is something one does because it is expected of every citizen, because inaccessibility and discrimination are prohibited by law. Thus, it is not alright to deliberately make your symptoms worse.
The electrically hypersensitive must therefore, in every situation and by all available means, demand respect¸ representation and power. They shall very clearly reject all approaches which reflect a mentality of “feeling pity for them” or “caring for them”. Inaccessibility is not a personal problem. It is a problem for society. Inaccessibility is not about attitudes. It is about discrimination. And discriminatory actions and conduct shall not be dealt with by well-meaning talk about treatment. Discrimination is already illegal!
This view can fully be motivated in relation to national and international handicap laws and regulations, including the UN 22 Standard Rules/UN Convention and the Swedish Action Plan for Persons with Impairments (prop. 1999/2000:79 “Den nationella handlingplanen för handikappolitiken – Från patient till medborgare”; Proposition 1999/2000:79, 1999/2000:SoU14). Also, the Human Rights Act in the EU fully applies.
If this view can not be motivated in relation to your national and international handicap laws and regulations, what should your country then do with the EHS men and women, children and adolescents? Send them to concentration camps? Or…?
At times, the view taken of the electrically hypersensitive has resembled a medical pogrom with frightening overtones. Even more frightening is that the situation today, is and is allowed to be much the same. The entire public debate has been characterised by grand words, commitments and far-reaching promises, which have often been shown to lack the necessary effect. This nonchalance and lack of commitment has per se been particularly insulting. Is all this something that we should be proud about? How much simpler, cheaper and more creditable it would have been to have provided the electrically hypersensitive immediately with the assistance and solidarity that we like to boast about. An immediate decision on a housing adaptation grant, disability allowance, etc., would have been self-evident. Now we have instead endured almost 20 years of hostilities with big losers, namely the electrically hypersensitive and their next-of-kin.
I say, there must be an end to nonchalance, lack of consideration, indifference and lack of respect on the part of society. Never accept discriminatory treatment or an insulting special treatment. Stand up for your rights and in this way you’ll stand up for everybody’s future!
I would like to quote the very wise words of Jan Åberg, a freelance writer in Trollhättan, Sweden, “Everything that happens to us human beings only happens as long as we accept it”. For how long will your authorities and their civil servants accept it? Would they demand the same type of proofs if it was about themselves, their children, mother, father…?
Finally, remember that Lena Hillert, and others, all must adhere to and follow all the handicap laws and regulations. To do the opposite is a serious violation and should immediately be reported/filed as an official legal complaint to your local authorities, parliament, government, the EU and the UN. This is of particular importance since Katri Linna, the Swedish Diskrimineringsombudsman (=the Equality Ombudsman), clearly states in the newspaper Sydsvenskan (January 23-26, 2009; http://sydsvenskan.se/chattarkiv/article408013.ece) that “electrohypersensitivity is – according to the law – a functional impairment and I recommend EHS persons that are discriminated to file a complaint”. I, thus, take it for granted that she/they will be reported.
In addition, please, also note the following:
There have been some “EHS-issues” in the kind of courts we here in Sweden call förvaltningsdomstolar, “Länsrätt” and “Kammarätt”, as well as in the Governmental Court, the “Regeringsrätten “ which by June 16, 2003, in case (Mål) no. 6950-2000, as well as in case (Mål) no. 6986-2000, recognized electrohypersensitivity as a functional impairment.
Further governmental documents (in Swedish).
The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive gets a governmental subsidy as a handicap organization according to SFS 2000:7 §2 (SFS = The Swedish Governmental Statute-Book) [Regeringsbeslut 950621 nr. 8, Dnr: S1995/2965].
EHS persons’ right to get disablement allowances has been settled in the The Swedish Supreme Administrative Court, i.a. in the judgement ”dom 2003-01-29, mål nr. 6684-2001”.
Here are, in addition, two cases when two people with EHS – through the conclusions in courts – getting the right to support (from the state).
“Kammarrättens i Jönköping dom 2002-05-15 i mål nr 2644-2001 ang bilstöd till Maria G., född 1966, bl.a. elöverkänslighet.”
“Kammarrättens i Göteborg dom 2007-07-11 i mål nr 1229-07 ang. bilstöd för SP, född år 1953. (Länsrätten i Göteborgs dom 2007-01-18 i mål nr 1582-06).”
For further reading, please, see the recent commentary, published on Don Maisch’ webpage, EMFacts, February 9, 2009:
#1014: “Electrosensitivity in Sweden” by Olle Johansson
I only wish I could do more…
With my very best regards
(Olle Johansson, assoc. prof.
The Experimental Dermatology Unit
Department of Neuroscience
171 77 Stockholm
The Royal Institute of Technology
100 44 Stockholm