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02/11/2005 - HPA Report on Electrical Hypersensitivity

Powerwatch CommentsPowerwatch welcomes the Health Protection Agency Radiation Protection Division's (HPA RPD) release of its long-awaited review "Epidemiology and Management of Electrical Hypersensitivity" by Dr Neil Irvine.

We believe that Electrical Hypersensitivity (EHS) affects at least 3% of the British population (maybe 2 million of the 17 million people currently suffering from long-term chronic adverse health problems). It is important that the association between exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) and ill-health effects is medically recognised so that Doctors can advise appropriate treatments. Sources of EMFs include microwaves radiation from mobile phones, cordless phones and phone masts, powerlines, etc. The current preferred method of treatment is using psychiatric drugs. This is unacceptable.

After press articles on 11th and 12th September in the Sunday Times and Daily Mail, the HPA-RPD issued a brief statement:

"The report will be a scientific review of the topic of electrosensitivity with a public health perspective. It will not be a definitive statement of policy from the Board of the Health Protection Agency. The Board of the Agency is not in a position to make a decision on whether electrosensitivity is a "medical condition" or not. This is for the medical profession to decide on, on an international basis"

HPA-RPD Press Statement, 12th September 2005

It appeared that the HPA were trying to distance themselves from the implications of the report, denying that they have any responsibility for affecting medical policy. An obvious question to ask then is "Did they collaborate with the Department of Health, before the review, or after the results of the review were known? What is the response of the Department of health to the findings?" GPs in other countries have reported dramatic health deterioration in their patients who live near microwave radiation sources. No such work has yet been carried out in the UK, or is even planned as far as we know.

Last week, on the 28th October, the HPA published another report on the burden of disease in the UK, that included: "A small percentage of the population may express an increased sensitivity to a range of electric and magnetic fields with symptoms including: skin sensitivity, dizziness, headache and fatigue. This has not been quantified but the symptoms and increased levels of stress and anxiety will contribute to health costs". This is a tacit acknowledgement of the problem of EHS, and its possible implications for an overburdened health service. So, what is being done to investigate it?

We hope that Neil Irvine's report has not just turned into a "literature review", as one HPA person suggested, nor has it been "watered down" to come in line with current WHO thinking that EHS is "all in the mind". However, we have been told that "People are just getting paranoid about reported so-called dangers of EMFs and it is this paranoia that is making them ill, not the EMF exposure" and when Mike Repacholi (of WHO's EMF project) was recently reported in New Scientist (10th September 2005, page 14) as saying that "the worst effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident are mental health problems brought on by too much worry", we do have to wonder what is going on in the minds of the people in charge of investigating these matters.

Perhaps a clue could be a sentence, discussing potential future research, from an HPA representative in a paper delivered at the Electrical Hypersensitivity Workshop in Prague, 2004: "An acceptance that EMF has a causal role in ES would have widespread implications for future policy on prevention and management." Maybe the HPA know that the report is going to show EHS to be a real, debilitating health condition that is affecting a significant proportion of the country's population? They are fully aware of the likelihood that the public will want someone to be held accountable, not only for the causation of the problem, but for providing the solution. Is it this accountability that they are trying to avoid? Of course, if the government's Health Protection Agency are unwilling to be accountable for the protection of the UK population's health from the effects of EMFs, who will? Surely that is what the HPA is for?