26/04/2005 - WHO refuses to include leading expert's evidence
Professor Olle Johansson, a leading world expert into electrical
hypersensitivity, attended the October 2004 World Health Organisation "Workshop
on EMF Hypersensitivity" in Prague. The organisers have refused to include his
formal reservation in the summary of the workshop. This is a shame, especially
as the reservation in question is both informative and enlightening, and we have
therefore decided to show it in full with the kind consent of Professor
In Sweden, electrohypersensitivity (EHS) is an officially fully recognized
physical impairment (i.e., it is not regarded as a disease). Survey studies
show that somewhere between 230,000 - 290,000 Swedish men and women report
a variety of symtoms when being in contact with electromagnetic field
The EHS persons have their own handicap organisation; The Swedish
Association for the ElectroSensitive; www.feb.se
(the website has an English version). This organisation is included in the
Swedish Disability Federation (Handikappförbundens SamarbetsOrgan; HSO).
HSO is the unison voice of the Swedish disability associations towards the
government, the parliament and national authorities and is a cooperative body
that today consists of 43 national disability organisations (where The Swedish
Association for the ElectroSensitive is 1 of these 43 organisations) with all together
about 500,000 individual members. You can read more on www.hso.se (the site has an English short version).
Swedish municipalities, of course, have to follow the UN 22 Standard Rules
on the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities
("Standardregler fÖr att tillförsäkra människor med
funktionsnedsättning delaktighet och jämlikhet"; about the UN 22
Standard Rules, see website: www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/dissre00.htm). All persons with
disabilities shall, thus, be given the assistance and service they have the
right to according to the Swedish Act concerning Support and Service for
Persons with Certain Functional Impairments (LSS-lagen) and the Swedish
Social Services Act (Socialtjänstlagen). Persons with disabilities, thus,
have many different rights and can get different kinds of support. The
purpose of those rights and the support is to give every person the chance
to live like everyone else. Everyone who lives in the Swedish municipalities
should be able to lead a normal life and the municipalities must have
correct knowledge and be able to reach the persons who need support and
service. Persons with disabilities shall be able to get extra support so
that they can live, work, study, or do things they enjoy in their free time.
The municipalities are responsible for making sure that everyone gets enough
support. Everyone shall show respect and remember that such men and women
may need different kinds of support.
In Sweden, impairments are viewed from the point of the environment. No
human being is in itself impaired, there are instead shortcomings in the
environment that cause the impairment (as the lack of ramps for the person
in a wheelchair or rooms electrosanitized for the person with EHS). This
environment-related impairment view, furthermore, means that even though one
does not have a scientifically-based explanation for the impairment EHS, and
in contrast to disagreements in the scientific society, the person with EHS
shall always be met in a respectful way and with all necessary support with
the goal to eliminate the impairment. This implies that the person with EHS
shall have the opportunity to live and work in an electrosanitized
This view can fully be motivated in relation to the present national and
international handicap laws and regulations, including the UN 22 Standard
Rules and the Swedish action plan for persons with impairments (prop.
1999/2000:79 "Den nationella handlingplanen för handikappolitiken - Fran
patient till medborgare"). Also the Human Rights Act in the EU fully
A person is disabled when the environment contains some sort of impediments.
It means that in that moment a man or woman in a wheelchair can not come
onto the bus, a train, or into a restaurant, this person has a disability,
he or she is disabled. When the bus, the train or the restaurant are
adjusted for a wheelchair, the person do not suffer from his disability and
are consequently not disabled. An EHS-person suffers when the environment is
not properly adapted according to their personal needs.
Strategies to enable a person with this disability to attend common rooms
such as libraries, churches and so on, are for instance to switch off the
high-frequency fluorescent lamps and instead use ordinary light bulbs.
Another example is the possibility to switch off - the whole or parts of -
the assistive listening systems (persons with EHS are often very sensitive
to assistive listening systems).
In the Stockholm municipality - were I live and work as a scientist with the
responsibility to investigate comprehensive issues for persons with EHS
- such persons have the possibility to get their home sanitized for EMFs.
It means for example that ordinary electricity cables are changed to special
cables. Furthermore, the electric stove can be changed to a gas stove and
walls, roof and floors can be covered with special wallpaper or paint with a
special shelter to stop EMFs from the outside (from neighbours and mobile
telephony base stations). Even the windows can be covered with a thin
aluminum foil as an efficient measure to restrain EMFs to get into the
room/home. 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. These areas have lower levels of irradiation than others.
The Stockholm municipality also intend to build a village with houses that
are specially designed for persons who are electrohypersensitive. This
village will be located in a low-level irradiation area.
Persons with EHS also have a general (legal) right to be supported by their
employer so that they can work despite of this impairment. For instance,
they can get special equipment such as computers that are of low-emission
type, that high-frequency fluorescent lamps are changed to ordinary light
bulbs, no wireless DECT telephones in their rooms, and so on.
Some hospitals in Sweden (e.g. in Umea, Skelleftea and Karlskoga) also have
built special rooms with very low EMFs so that persons who are
hypersensitive can get medical care. Another example is the possibility for
persons who are electrohypersensitive to get a specially designed car so
that the person can transport himself/herself between his/her home and their
Recently, some politicians in the Stockholm municipality even proposed to
the politicians responsible for the subway in the Stockholm City that a part
of every trainset should be free from mobile phones; that the commuters have
to switch of the phones in these selected parts to enable persons with EHS
to travel with the subway (compare this with persons who have an allergy for
animal fur whereupon people consequently is prohibited to have animals, such
as dogs or cats, in selected parts of the trainset).
In addition, when the impairment EHS is discussed it is also of paramount
importance that more general knowledge is needed with the aim to better
adapt the society to the specific needs of the persons with this impairment.
The Swedish "Miljöbalk" (the Environmental Code) contains an excellent
prudence avoidance principle which, of course, most be brought into action
also here, together with respect and willingness to listen to the persons
Naturally, all initiatives for scientific studies of the impairment EHS must
be characterized and marked by this respect and willingness to listen, and
the investigations shall have the sole aim to help the persons with this
particular impairment. The presently proposed WHO initiative seem to lack
this aim and the suggested research programme rather seems to question,
throw suspicion on, and - on very flimsy grounds - psychologize the
impairment EHS. This is a set-up that completely is in contrast to Rule
13 in the UN 22 Standard Rules which clearly says that scientific
investigations of impairments shall, in an unbiased way - and without any
prejudice - focus on cause, occurrence and nature and with the sole and
explicit purpose to help and support the person with the impairment.
In addition, it must also be mentioned that quite recently, by the end of
2004, The Irish Doctors' Environmental Association (IDEA) has announced that
"they have identified a sub-group of the population who are particularly
sensitive to exposure to different types of electromagnetic radiation. The
safe levels currently advised for exposure to this non-ionising radiation
are based solely on its thermal effects. However, it is clear that this
radiation also has non-thermal effects, which need to be taken into
consideration when setting these safe levels. The electrosensitivity
experienced by some people results in a variety of distressing symptoms
which must also be taken into account when setting safe levels for exposure
to non-ionising radiation and when planning the siting of masts and
transmitters. (The Irish Doctors' Environmental Association (IDEA), 2004,
"IDEA position on electro-magnetic radiation"; www.ideaireland.org/emr.htm)
Furthermore, the IDEA also points out the following:
- An increasing number of people in Ireland are complaining of
symptoms which, while they may vary in nature, intensity and duration, can
be demonstrated to be clearly related to exposure to electro-magnetic
- International studies on animals over the last 30 years have
shown the potentially harmful effects of exposure to electro-magnetic
radiation. In observational studies, animals have shown consistent distress
when exposed to EMR. Experiments on tissue cultures and rats have shown an
increase in malignancies when exposed to mobile telephone radiation.
- Studies on mobile telephone users have shown significant levels
of discomfort in certain individuals following extensive use or even, in
some cases, following regular short-term use.
- The current safe levels for exposure to microwave radiation were
determined based solely on the thermal effects of this radiation. There is
now a large body of evidence that clearly shows that this is not
appropriate, as many of the effects of this type of radiation are not
related to these thermal effects.
(The Irish Doctors' Environmental Association (IDEA), 2004, "IDEA position on
electro-magnetic radiation"; www.ideaireland.org/emr.htm).
Finally, The Irish Doctors' Environmental Association "believes that the
Irish Government should urgently review the information currently available
internationally on the topic of the thermal and non-thermal effects of
exposure to electro-magnetic radiation with a view to immediately initiating
appropriate research into the adverse health effects of exposure to all
forms of non-ionising radiation in this country, and into the forms of
treatment available elsewhere. Before the results of this research are
available, an epidemiological database should be initiated of individuals
suffering from symptoms thought to be related to exposure to non-ionising
radiation. Those claiming to be suffering from the effects of exposure to
electro-magnetic radiation should have their claims investigated in a
sensitive and thorough way, and appropriate treatment provided by the State.
The strictest possible safety regulations should be established for the
installation of masts and transmitters, and for the acceptable levels of
potential exposure of individuals to electro-magnetic radiation, in line
with the standards observed in New Zealand." (The Irish Doctors'
Environmental Association (IDEA), 2004, "IDEA position on electro-magnetic
Of course, these very recent findings must also be taken into serious
consideration for any research proposal.
With my very best regards
P.S. The text about my presentation in the Rapporteur's (=professor Kjell
Hansson Mild, National Institute for Working Life, Umea, Sweden) report is
not correct either. It should instead read (in its present, very short (!),
Dr Olle Johansson, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, provided
scientific data as well as general information on Swedish men and women
seeking medical care for skin symptoms in conjunction with VDT work. He
informed us about the fact that persons with electrohypersensitivity has
been fully recognized as an physical impairment, and that The Swedish
Association for the ElectroSensitive has been likewise officially
recognized as a handicap organization, both since 1993. The latter receives
financial support from the government for its activities.
Dr Johansson has been studying skin biopsies from persons with the
impairment electrohypersensitivity and reported that, in their skin, PGP
9.5-positive nerve fibres are scarce and short, and this might, in some
way, lead to each nerve terminal having to work more and thus become
supersensitive. He also found an increased number of mast cells in facial
skin samples from persons with electrohypersensitivity. In addition to
this, he also summarized a large number of other observations, both in
persons with electrohypersensitivity as well as in normal healthy
volunteers subjected to VDTs, mobile phones, etc.
[*At the moment, I know that professor Mild is considering my alterations,
so hopefully at least the Rapporteur's report will finally come out correct
regarding my contribution.]
(Olle Johansson, assoc. prof.
The Experimental Dermatology Unit
Department of Neuroscience
171 77 Stockholm