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Press Reports on EMF
Toronto Star, November 11, 2005
by Tyler Hamilton
started with nausea and vomiting in the morning, followed by insomnia
and the annoying sound of clicking in her ears.
Bandera, sitting in her east-end Toronto apartment, begins to cry as
she recalls how her symptoms gradually got worse over the course of a
year. They included everything from shaking hands and blurred vision to
burning skin and mild convulsions. Sessions at a sleep clinic, brain
scans, an epilepsy test and numerous visits to her family doctor and
various specialists in Toronto failed to determine the cause.
would not listen, they are not hearing their patients,” she says.
It wasn’t until a trip to Europe that a doctor there suggested her
symptoms may be related to extreme electrical sensitivity, or ES, a
suspected allergic-like reaction to radio and electrical frequencies
associated with cellphones, wireless base stations, computer screens,
power lines and common household appliances that use electricity.
is known about the phenomenon of ES or how many people think they have
it, but the government of the United Kingdom took a small step last
week toward recognizing the controversial condition after its health
protection agency released a report calling for more research into
“The starting point for this review is recognition … of the need to
consider ES in terms other than its etiology (causes), as this position
alone is failing to meet the needs of those who consider themselves
affected by ES,” the report stated.
report emphasized there’s no scientifically proven link between
symptoms and exposure to electrical and magnetic fields. It’s the main
reason health agencies in countries such as Canada don’t recognize ES.
hasn’t stopped Sweden, with an estimated 250,000 suffers, from
accepting ES as a physical impairment. Dr. Olle Johansson, associate
professor of experimental dermatology at the Karolinska Institute in
Stockholm, says residents of some municipalities can get their home
“sanitized” from electromagnetic frequencies.
electricity cables in the home are often replaced with special cables
and electric stoves can be changed to natural gas. If the problem
persists, roofs and floors can be covered with special wallpaper and
paint that can block outside frequencies. Windows can also be fitted
“If these alterations turn out not to be optimal, they have the
possibility to rent small cottages in the countryside that the
Stockholm municipality owns,” says Johansson, who investigates cases of
ES. “The municipality also intends to build a village with houses that
are specially designed for persons who are electrohypersensitive.”
the workplace, Swedish employees can request special computer monitors
and lighting fixtures that dramatically cut down frequency emissions.
issue of electrical sensitivity first gained a profile in 2002 when Dr.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, then director-general of the World Health
Organization, confirmed in a media report that she banned cellphones
from her office because they gave her headaches.
a medical doctor and former prime minister of Norway, told the Star
during a visit to Toronto late last month that the condition needs to
be taken more seriously by health authorities, and that little is known
because research to date has focused largely on the potential links
between electromagnetic frequencies and more severe illnesses,
“I get headaches and feel terrible when I am in contact with mobile
phones, even if I’m not using it but it’s 1 or 2 metres away. I can
identify it by feeling a mobile phone in a room without knowing it’s
there,” says Brundtland, adding that it may not be life-threatening but
can affect quality of life.
U.K. health agency was quick to point out that the conclusions of its
review were drawn largely from the study of electromagnetic fields from
power lines and electrical appliances, as the widespread use of mobile
phones is relatively new. “Similar symptoms have been reported from
exposure to radio frequency transmissions and there is some research
being carried out in the U.K. on this topic,” according to the agency.
that the prevalence of ES — also known as electrohypersensitivity — has
not been measured in the United Kingdom, it estimates as many as a few
people per thousand among the population could be affected.
Magda Havas, a professor of the environmental and resource studies
program at Trent University in Peterborough, is one of the few trying
to track the condition in Canada.
estimates as much as 35 per cent of the population may be suffering
from moderate ES, with the severe form Bandera experiences affecting 2
per cent. She speculates that ES may have an association with diseases
such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes.
and diabetes are both on the increase and I wonder how much of this is
due to dirty electricity and our inundation with radio frequency
radiation,” says Havas, who has experimented with filters that help
block what she calls “electropollution.”
“I have videos of MS patients who walked with a cane and can now walk
unassisted after a few days or weeks with the filters.”
a church basement in St. Catharines last month, dozens of people
gathered to hear Havas talk about ES. It was part of an event organized
by the SWEEP Initiative, which stands for “safe wireless electrical and
group, led by Brock University professor David Fancy, was created in
the summer as part of a grassroots effort to raise awareness and begin
documenting cases of ES in Canada. The hope is that health authorities
and politicians will recognize it as a problem.
is a lot of front-line work happening, as people reach out to those
with a variety of symptoms who are having to move out of suburbia and
live in the woods,” says Fancy, who wears special protective clothing
to help block signals.
compares the condition to an allergy that affects certain people in
different ways. Other SWEEP members, such as retired police officer
Martin Weatherall, former head of legal services at the Toronto Police
Association, prefer to think of it like a poison that accumulates in
says one of her missions is to engage medical professionals in Canada
to help them understand ES. Many of those at the St. Catharines event
were doctors, she says.
physician, working at a high-profile Toronto hospital, told the Star
she’s seeing an increasing number of patients exhibiting unexplainable,
often disabling, ES-like symptoms and feels compelled to learn more.
But she’s afraid to speak openly about it because of skepticism in the
medical community, which tends to treat such patients like they’re
think it’s a bunch of hooey,” she says, asking that her name be
withheld. “But we don’t understand everything. We don’t know
everything. So we have to take these people seriously.”
suspecting that nearby hydro lines and a neighbour’s home wireless
network may have contributed to her symptoms, moved a few weeks ago to
a different apartment, only to find a wireless phone tower nearby. Her
symptoms persist, but so does denial from the medical community.
“I’m still searching to get well from this,” she says, sounding tired
and defeated. “People need to be aware that this condition exists.”
Hamilton is the Star’s technology reporter.
SEE ALSO: Electrical Fields Can Make You Sick
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