Electrohypersensitivity – In January 2015, how far from January 1945 were we?

publicerad 24 februari 2015
- Olle Johansson
Olle Johansson, KI - Foto: NASMS, A. McDowell


I will always remember January 2015. That month we all commemorated the terrifying atrocities performed by the Nazis in the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau; it was then 70 years after the camp had been liberated by the Allied forces. It is with an enormous sense of shame and guilt one watches the films and written documents describing what happened then, and the role certain medical doctors had in the horrible experiments and brutal killings of Jews, Romani, Slavs, communists, and the functionally impaired persons.

By Olle Johansson, associate professor in neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

The parallels between January 2015 and January 1945 are present and real. In January 2015, we could witness in Sweden a huge massmedia-based attack launched against persons with the functional impairment called electrohypersensitivity. They were accused of not having a proper diagnosis, no proofs to back their claims of ill health when exposed to the moderns society’s artifical electrosmog, and so it was meant that they obviously should not be entitled to any economic support from the Swedish state.

Medical doctors (including the head of the Swedish Medical Association, Dr. Heidi Stensmyren!), journalists, reporters, news anchors, and newspaper editors, all participated in this witch-hunt, and views such as:

”Our government shall not support nonsense”, ”the taxpayers’ money shall only be given to persons with real needs”, ”support to organizations based upon pseudoscience is theft”, ”The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive consists of unscientific tricks and humbug”, ”hence they (=the Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive) can, thanks to taxpayers’ money, spread their dubious propaganda about electricity’s so-called harmful effects on humans”, and ”there is an imminent danger that the Swedish state soon contributes to more sanctioned nonsense”.

This could be read in major newspapers, and heard and viewed in radio and TV channels. One medical doctor – on prime time public TV news – even introduced Santa Claus as a way of trying to ridicule persons with the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity.

The odd thing was that The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive had done nothing wrong. In Sweden all handicap organizations can apply for economic support, and – based on the number of members – a fixed governmental subsidy per person is granted via The National Board of Health and Welfare (Sw. ”Socialstyrelsen”).

It is the same for everyone, and electrohypersensitivity (EHS) in Sweden is an officially fully recognized environment-based functional impairment (i.e., it is not regarded as a disease, thus no diagnosis* exists; N.B. This is not special for Sweden, the terms ”functional impairment” and ”disease” are defined according to various international documents (see below)). Among the nine million Swedes there are currently around 250,000 people with this disability.

[*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 www.nordclass.se/ICD-10_Nordic%20Occupational_2000.pdf]

Swedish authority forgot to mention that electrohypersensitivity is a functional impairment, not a disease

The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare actually has pointed out in a separate document that electrohypersensitivity is not a medical diagnosis, but they forgot about the symptoms, and they forgot to mention that electrohypersensitivity is a functional impairment, not a disease. With the latter in mind it is completely superfluous to point out that it is not a medical diagnosis. One could just as well say that it is not a car, a boat, a mountain or a spade.

It was claimed to be an enormous injustice that other handicap organizations, such as “Ung Cancer” (=”Young with Cancer”), gets far less monetary support/year, but the “injustice” lies in – thank God! – that young persons with cancer are many fewer, something that we shall be very glad for. Finally, over and over again, editors, medical doctors and news anchors came back to the notion that there is no scientific evidence that electromagnetic fields cause the symptoms electrohypersensitive persons experience. This in complete opposition to the United Nations whom has strongly pointed to that such lack of scientific evidence never can be held against persons with functional impairments!

So, in summary, persons with the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity thus have their own handicap organization, The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive (www.eloverkanslig.org). This organization is included in The Swedish Disability Federation (Handikappförbundens SamarbetsOrgan; HSO; www.hso.se). So as a consequence of this, The Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitive receives an annual governmental subsidy, meaning that each year, each person with the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity in Sweden is subsidized with less than 7 Swedish Kronor/year (!) (=less than 1 USD/year). I do believe our economy can survive that.

Gro Harlem Brundtland - Video: Harvard University

Gro Harlem Brundtland suffers from electrohypersensitivity.

People suffering from electrohypersensitivity – Canaries in a coal mine?

Artificial power frequency magnetic fields and microwave radiation affects everyone and everything on the planet. This is science. Those suffering from electrohypersensitivity may merely be the first generation to manifest the symptoms in large numbers – and their numbers are growing.

Today we can not say what the underlying factors are; physical/pathophysiological, psychological/psychosomatic, or a mixture. If it would be purely psychological, it would mean that approx 37,000,000 Europeans and 16,000,000 Americans in the USA are suffering from some kind of mutual mental disorder or illusion. Sounds quite epidemic/pandemic to me, pretty scary, and should call for immediate action, since then something seems to be very wrong in Europe, USA, and elsewhere.

The good thing with the functional impairment recognition is that it does not differ between physical/pathophysiological and psychological/intellectual; everyone still is entitled – through accessability measures – to live an equal life in a society based on equality.

Fortunately, for most persons with electrohypersensitivity their impairment is not life-debilitating, thus, with accessability measures and alterations of their home, their workplace, their means of transportation, and their places of leisure, they can manage their life well.

People with severe electrohypersensitivity exist and must have a place in the modern society

However, for a smaller proportion of persons the symptoms are very severe, and for yet another group they can be completely devastating, leaving them no other choice than to leave our modern society and spend a lengthy time in desolated parts of their country, living in small shielded cabins, huts, tents or trailers. Such refugees can be found in many countries, including Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, France, Germany, the UK, the USA and in Canada.

The first step for a person in Sweden with a functional impairment to take 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 (according to 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, www.un.org.)

An impairment is – by definition – not defined by someone else or proven by certain tests, etc. 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. And we must all, even if we are medical doctors, editors, journalists, reporters or news anchors, completely and always respect them.] 

Sweden has ratified 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, 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.

Kvinna-trott-utbrand-eloverkanslig Crestock

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 a EHS person’s symptoms or personal situation 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 all the ones mentioned above.

At times, views about the electrically hypersensitive have resembled a medical pogrom with frightening overtones. Even more frightening is that the situation today 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 of? How much simpler, cheaper and more creditable it would have been to 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 other’s rights and in this way you’ll stand up for your own future!

I would like to quote the very wise words of the late 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 authorities and their civil servants, medical doctors, editors, journalists, reporters or news anchors, accept it? Would they demand the same type of proofs if it was about themselves, their children, their mother, their father…?

I say that the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity actually works as a mirror into which our so-called democracy and it’s representatives reflect themselves. And the image that comes back at us is not flattering for our society, not at all. In Luke 23:34 you can read Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. Maybe it is time to rewrite the Bible and instead have “Father, do not forgive them, for they know exactly what they are doing”…?

Finally, remember we 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; sydsvenskan.se/chattarkiv/article408013.ece) that “electrohypersensitivity is – according to the law – a functional impairment and I recommend EHS persons that are discriminated against to file a complaint”.

Hypersensitives should not be refugees

Also remember that forcing people with such functional impairments out into various sanctuaries or zones is completely in opposition to the UN disability laws, the Standard Rules, and it’s Convention, and could be the beginning of a terrible trend. … Where would it end …? That even medical doctors, editors, journalists, reporters or news anchors would be forced off to camps based on someone’s flimsy private opinions? (I shudder when I think of such a trend! The images from WWII are still too vivid…)

No, make it easy for you – make sure to connect to all the UN texts, realize that it’s the whole environment that must be accessability-adapted, and do not forget that such accessibility measures actually are 100% positive for everyone to share!

(N.B. People with functional impairments should have full access to the entire society, not just a small part of it. The human rights for all of us, regardless of functional impairment, is that we should live an equal life in a society based on equality. It’s that simple. [I’ve never heard anyone voluntarily wanting to give up their human rights, so be sure not to have any country forcing it’s citizens to it; it would be extremely shameful.)

Recently, the former Swedish Prime Minister, Mr. Fredrik Reinfeldt, urged the Swedes:

“to open their hearts to the very vulnerable people who we now see around the world”.

He talked about the soon-to-be increasing numbers of foreign refugees seeking shelter in Sweden as immigrants. But maybe he should also have urged certain Swedish medical doctors and media persons to open their hearts for our own medical emigrants, the electrohypersensitive, who has to flee the current society, and that are ridiculed and hunted by various persons in authority and media power?

(Actually, I asked for Fredrik Reinfeldt’s support already in 2007 [Johansson O, ”Fredrik Reinfeldt, now that you are Sweden’s prime minister, are you prepared to listen?”, J Aust Coll Nutr & Env Med 2007; 26: 19-20] but he never did…)

When I read what Tommy Nordbrandt, from Umeå, wrote in the newspaper “Norran”, February 7, 2015, I felt deep shame. He summarized:

“We do not need a media hunt, we need help. It’s easy to kick on someone laying down. To put different disability groups against each show bad taste. Everyone has different needs and require support that is tailored to their disability. We ask that society should stop harassing people who are suffering and have a very hard time, and instead look at the research available and help to develop treatments that bring persons with electrohypersensitivity back to a normal life. It’s just what we want.”

I felt I was back in January 1945. I suddenly clearly understood why medical doctors – having been in charge in the concentration camps for the persons with functional impairments – after WWII were rid of this by the UN, and why the responsibility for this was transferred from the county councils and the medical profession to the municipalities and their civil servants (=Sw. “funktionshindersombudsmän”). Let us now not turn back, but move ahead. Let us give the persons with electrohypersensitivity an equal life in a society based on equality. We can afford it.

By Olle Johansson, associate professor in neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

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