Names have been anglicised to make the text more widely available on computers without Scandinavian fonts. No lack of respect is intended.
Electro-Hypersensitive People's Right to an Accessible Society
DVD Box Sleeve:
Stockholm County Council (SLL) and The Municipality of Stockholm hosted a seminar entitled Electro-hypersensitive People's Right to an Accessible Society.
The seminar described different measures taken to offer people with the disability of Electro-HyperSensitivity (EHS), the possibility of living a life like everybody else in society. The seminar was held May 8, 2006 and addressed all interested civil servants and politicians in the local government and County Council.
The two disks of the proceedings contain:
An opening speech by Vice Mayor in charge of Social Services,
Recent legislation and activities in the municipality of Stockholm presented by Johan Bonander, researcher at the local health and welfare department in the municipality of Stockholm.
Motions proposed and decisions taken by the County Council regarding housing modifications, disabled travel services and other measures to ensure electro-hypersensitive people's access to society presented by Inger Hallquist-Lindvall, political secretary.
Johan Sjolander, Chairman of the Board for Disabled Transport (Paratrasit) Services.
Electro-sanitizing Modifications in Houses and Healthcare Facilities presented by Lars Rostlund.
The representative of The Swedish Association for Electro-Hypersensitives (FEB) for Stockholm, Sonja Akerberg.
Closing speech by the Disability Ombudsman for the municipality of Stockholm, Riitta-Leena Karlsson.
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Introduction by Margareta Oloffson, Vice Mayor in charge of Social Services.
Welcome to this unique conference about electro hypersensitive people's right to an accessible society. This conference is unique in that we have invited many civil servants and politicians from the municipality and local government in Stockholm. With us today are also civil servants from the Ministry of Health in Norway, handicapped organisations from Norway, representatives from the municipality of Trondheim, the City of Stockholm Disability Board and electro hyper sensitive’s organisations in Sweden and Norway. And of course everyone else here today, you are all very welcome!
The seminar today will address mobile free zones in the subway, electro sanitized cars for para-transit services, electro sanitized rooms in emergency and local hospitals and also cottages to rent with low electromagnetic radiation for electro hypersensitive people. Having said that, I hope all of you realise that mobile phones should be turned off. This is always the case during conferences but they should be completely turned off, not just on silent.
We will start the seminar by listening to what has happened in the municipality of Stockholm. I just spoke to someone outside his room and said "Do you remember, we must have met at the conference in 1994?" That is a while ago, 12 years to be precise. It was held in rather dark room without all the electronic devices we have here today. And we told everyone then that mobile phones must be turned off during the breaks, as we do today. If you need to make a call, then we ask you to step away for a while. Hopefully things have changed since then. The purpose of that conference was for the government, scientists and the organisations of electro hypersensitives to meet and have a dialogue. Unfortunately it did not turn out too well. It was hard to establish a dialogue between the electro hypersensitives' organisations on the one hand and scientists and representatives of the government on the other. But it created a foundation we could build on.
We from the Socialist party... I have just realised I have not introduced myself! My name is Margareta Oloffson and I am the Vice Mayor in Stockholm...and I am also a member of the Socialist Party. I am going to tell you about the two propositions we put forward for which we got positive feedback. The first one was put forward in 1994, which concerned the need to build new developments for electro-hypersensitive people, and the proposition received a positive response. In 1995 we took one more step with a second proposition to enable hypersensitive people and those injured by computer screens to receive financial support for home modifications and home service for these people under the same conditions as people with other injuries or disabilities. Education on electro hypersensitivity should be given to those responsible for subsidies for home modifications and creating electro-sanitized homes. We also suggested that the most risky electromagnetic fields could be mapped out, including a calculation of the expenses needed for action to limit the chance of injuries. All of these things were not realised, but they met a positive response and that took us a bit further. After the presentation, you will hear Johan Bonander speak about what happened in his field in the municipality of Stockholm after these propositions were addressed. Things do not always move quickly when it comes to decision making and execution. But hopefully a few things have changed. We have kept working on spreading knowledge of electro-hypersensitive peoples' situation. We realised that these people need to know where mobile phone masts are located but the National Post and Telecom agency did not want to publish a complete map of masts. Therefore, we in the Socialist Party started to create a map ourselves. People who live in the city have the right to demand information about masts close to their homes. For example, we could write and ask "What masts are installed in my area?". This is how we managed to put the pieces together and create our own map. It covered the inner part of the city and most of the suburbs. We published this map on a website in May 2005. Afterwards the Swedish Government decided to commission the National Post and Telecom Agency to publish the location of all the mobile masts in Sweden on their website. So things are moving ahead, which is always nice to know. We have managed to make some progress, but lots still has to be done, especially at the governmental level. Because even if it is not visible, it might exist. We need independent research on the risks of electromagnetic radiation. The precautionary principle should be used until we know how dangerous the radiation is. We would like the government to legally enable the local authorities to establish low radiation zones. With that we thought we had won a great deal but unfortunately we did not succeed because of new infrastructure. One of the mobile operators put a mast in the area. We would like to change this. The operator is not the only one who should have rights! There ought to be Free Zones. Electro-hypersensitivity is today classified as a physical impairment, which I think is a step forward. This is new. Understanding of this topic has not been good. We have many things to accomplish to be able to create zones with low enough radiation so electro-hypersensitive people can live and work like everybody else. And, in the future, one has to consider very carefully how to construct and behave in ordered to not create more electro-sensitive people. With this, I once again would like to welcome you to this conference. I am fully convinced that we will walk out of here today much wiser than when we came in.
Recent Legislation and Activities in the Municipality of Stockholm - Johan Bonander
My name is Johan Bonander, and I work as a researcher in this building at a small department called Staben. Staben has the task to follow-up on disability issues within the City of Stockholm. We educate staff and create new guidelines and policy documents. The issue about electro-hypersensitivity was raised by coincidence about four years ago. The Swedish Association for Electrosensitives approached us during the EU Disability Year and asked; "Please could you raise the issue of electro-hypersensitivity in some way? We have had a hard time and find it difficult to make our voice heard."
We arranged a conference in 2003 with a similar name to this one. It was arranged in cooperation with the Swedish Association for Electrosensitives, as today's is. We had representatives from the organisation telling us about their disability, the National Disability Ombudsman, the Disability Ombudsman in the municipality of Stockholm; Riitta-Leena Karlsson, who you will meet later today. We also had some technicians who displayed how easy it is to drastically reduce electromagnetic fields from high-frequency fluorescent light and low energy light bulbs. They put up some equipment and showed how to reduce the fields in a simple way. Olle Johannson from The Karolinska Institute talked about his research into electro sensitivity and Rigmor Granlund-Lind, who is also here today talked about the book she has put together called Black on White, which was brand-new at the time. A big government investigation, called RALF gathered testimonies of what it is like to be electro-hypersensitive and people told about how the symptoms start, effects on everyday life, social life etc. These testimonies were stored at the Ministry of Industry and never published. Eventually they were turned into a book and I, along with many others, find reading it both interesting and scary. It is now possible to have a copy for free. You can find it outside the door. Before the conference three years ago, we conducted quite a lot of research. Some of the research consisted of me looking into how electro-hypersensitive people live. Whether their homes were electro-sanitized and what precautions had been taken. We studied the scientific research and other information available. I was convinced that we were facing a major change and that it would happen any minute now. It was so obvious. One could just not ignore this group of electro-hypersensitive people. It was obvious society had major things to do here. But as the conference approached, things turned out to be more problematic. We experienced quite a lot of resistance. People from the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority called and questioned the purpose of the conference, as did representatives from the mobile phone industry. They also called the politicians in charge and ask if this conference was really necessary. This would never have occurred with other disabilities because nobody ever contacts us from any governmental authority to question the basis of a conference. Over the years, I have sometimes been invited by electro-hypersensitive peoples' organisations to talk about legislation and have met a lot of people who have told me their stories. The scary part, from a humanitarian point of view, is that presently people with electro-hypersensitivity are often treated badly in this country that we live in today. We look forward to when we can meet people and offer them electro-sanitized homes and when we can offer cottages for recreation in low radiation zones. There is also work in progress to build a small village. I will tell you more about that later. The interesting thing is that one often encounters a media picture of electro-hypersensitive people confined to cottages without electricity, or in a caravan or a tent, completely cut off from society. There is often a fourth picture, and yes, there are people who live in the woods under such conditions but as far as I know, this is a fairly small group, about 200 - 250 people. Even so, it is a horrible situation of them. But the latest estimate, based on 36,000 people in Stainer, in the south of Sweden gave us a figure of 9% who thought of themselves as sensitive to electromagnetic fields. In an earlier public-health survey, 250,000 - 300,000 Swedish people reported problems with electromagnetic fields. With these figures we have by far surpassed diseases like diabetes 2 and psoriasis. All in all, a lot of people are experiencing problems with electromagnetic fields, but out of this very large group, very few have severe problems.
Among those who experience major problems, some claim it is because they never took the minor problems they had seriously. Sometimes employers have been unwilling to modify working conditions, claiming that it was just imagination. Sometimes the person themselves does not want to believe what is going on. People are rather fond of technology; the computer, the mobile phone and the wireless connection. People do not want to take the symptoms seriously and this creates a risk of the situation getting worse. I particularly remember a woman who worked in Karlskoga when new computers came in the 1990's. Some computer screens were more or less like radiation guns. She told me she wore a Santa Claus mask at work, which she had covered with aluminium foil. Even so, she had wounds on her arms and hands. This is scary, but it is even scarier if we do not take the disability of electro-hypersensitivity seriously. There is a risk that we will see more people with serious problems. It is not economical, it is not wise, but most of all, it is not very humane.
Another association that I have made over the years was when I was 16 or 17. My best friend and I were about to make a choice for further education, he said: "We have to choose medical school because there are so many girls there." and he was right; there were a lot of girls from all over the county (Vaster Gotland). It was fun, but not the part when we walked through wards of the toughest psychiatric cases. We were given exemptions, since we attended this pre-medical school. They were treated like cattle and washed with hoses and were talked about in a very derogative way. Then to the huge wards where there were 7-10 people in each room. That encounter ruined parts of my picture of what kind of society I lived in. No one had told me about this, not my school or my parents. But the scariest part was when I went home to my parents and neighbours and talked about it. They did not want to listen. They would rather leave things the way they were.
There is a parallel to what we are talking about here today: if one does not take things seriously and takes the trouble to listen, it produces strange human behaviour.
I have two examples:
One during an aid program for "Children of the World" a couple of years ago.
This Swedish comedian is playing around, pretending he is electro-hypersensitive. He acts generally itchy and stupid. He is followed by another comic show with another comedian who looks into the screen and says: "Now I'm going to tell you something which those of you who I am addressing cannot accuse me of - because you cannot watch TV! I hate you electro-hypersensitive people."
How is this possible? Such a thing would never be said to anyone with defective vision or with a hearing disability. There is no chance! But this happens to the electro-hypersensitives. People like to brush this impairment aside and it produces these kinds of manifestations. Historically we know such attitudes can make us lose direction.
When I have travelled around the country I have met many people who have suffered a lot. This is due to the narrow-minded approach of the Government. As the impairment is not scientifically proven, they claim there is no need for action and it is on this that employers lean. It is possible to use this argument as a reason not to take action. Despite all the electro-hypersensitive people who say: "I feel much better when my surroundings are sanitized from radiation, if I receive tools that adjust to my needs. I want to work, I want to be part of society, but I do not want to work with computers etc."
This is exactly what a disabled person is entitled to.
We have a wheelchair slope here. Someone in a wheelchair should be able to make a speech. This ramp is a new addition. When the head of the Department for Disability Issues was coming to hold a speech, we realised: "Oh, it would be appropriate to have wheelchair access here."
So we all have something to learn.
If you look at the legislation that a municipality and the National Insurance Agency has to obey, the laws are connected to the concept of environmental disability. A person is disabled only when the environment contains some kind of impediment. One rarely talks about diagnosis as a right to receive support. The exception is the Swedish Act concerning "Support and Services for Disabled People" which encompasses three spheres:
The first sphere includes people who are mentally retarded or autistic. The second includes people with severe brain damage and both groups automatically fall within this law. But there is also a third sphere which proceeds from the individual's needs due to their disability.
The disability legislation follows the concept of environmental disability and this derives from the UN 22 Standard Rules for Participation and Equality for Disabled People. Sweden used these rules and developed a National Plan of Action regarding the politics of disability issues. In 2010 Sweden is supposed to be accessible for all groups of people with disabilities. UN 22 Standard Rules and a National Action Plan have been interpreted differently in many municipalities. In Stockholm, we have a political disability programme. I think Riitta-Leena will tell us more about it later, and we have one Disability Council in all public administrations and sometimes in companies. They are involved in all issues concerning disabilities. One cannot escape this kind of law as is illustrated by the statement of the Lower Court in Gothenburg concerning a case where a woman was applying for financial support for travelling to work since she was unable to use public transport. She had, among other things, problems with all mobile phones as used on public transport. She turned to the court and the court's reaction was this:
"The correlation between exposure of electromagnetic fields and different symptoms is not scientifically proven, a correlation is neither proven nor disproved. Many patients with light or less extensive problems can be more or less symptom-free with help from a combination of interventions, usually including some kind of sanitizing of electric fields. Her obstacles travelling to work cannot be proven with current scientific knowledge, but they should not lead to denying her support as she is in need of it."
This was a statement from the National Board of Health and Welfare sent to the court in Gothenburg. Case No. 444-1998. It was the medical adviser from the National Board of Health and Welfare, Mr Svartling, if I remember correctly, who made this statement. A similar approach could be seen when the National Board of Health and Welfare's Department of Disability Issues gave statements about these questions. But the National Board of Health and Welfare is a big unit and there are others who interpret the question of electro-hypersensitivity differently. This could be seen for example in the "Guide to Financial Support for Modifications to Homes." They go back to two statements made by the National Board of Health and Welfare in 1991 and 1995 where the National Board of Health and Welfare claimed that it is impossible to prove the impairment. But in parallel to this, we have Mr Svartling, who says:
"Even if a correlation between exposure to electromagnetic fields and symptoms cannot be proven, this may not result in denying support."
This is in line with the UN 22 Standard Rules and in line with the Swedish laws. I will just mention, it is interesting that the National Board of Housing and Building have a manual on their website where they say:
"Although there is no such thing as Electro-Hypersensitivity, we know that many people are helped by electro-sanitizing their homes."
So things are moving ahead.
Three years ago, the National Radiation Protection Board, claimed there were no reasons to worry. Now they have changed the message on their website and say:
"There is some reason to be concerned about health effects."
Things do happen, but from the electro-hypersensitives point of view I think it takes far too long. When Stockholm decided to include the rights of electro-hypersensitives to sanitize their homes, it was a reaction to what has been.
The issue was discussed and prepared in the municipality. I am going to read the board's motivation:
"Today there are many people who are electro-hypersensitive in Stockholm - people who are impaired due to their electro-hypersensitivity. Scientifically, there is no undisputable knowledge of the medical reasons for electro-hypersensitivity. We know that all living cells in animals and humans are affected by electricity and this new and very complicated area is already very extensive and growing rapidly. On the other hand, experience shows that electro-hypersensitivity is a reality. Some computer screens and other electric devices are the triggering factors. The city will work to minimise negative health effects and as far as possible use the precautionary principle by taking protective measures before evidence is available."
The departments referred to for consideration in this matter agreed that measures should be taken so that electro-hypersensitives can live and work in the city in a way that reduces their problems. One of the referral departments writes:
"Many people feel they have substantial problems with electro-hypersensitivity. Different scientific reports discuss whether these problems are due to electro-hypersensitivity or not. Regardless of who is right, people who consider themselves as Electro-Hypersensitive in many cases claim they become much better if their homes are electro-sanitized. This result is important for the individual, regardless of whether electro-hypersensitivity exists or not. Financial support for home modifications is to be considered in respect of each individual in the same way. This is done for people with other needs, regardless of medical diagnosis."
This is how it it is done in Stockholm. If one is electro-hypersensitive, one turns to the Stockholm City Planning Committee Department of Housing Modifications who send a technician to evaluate the radiation in the house and he will later come back with suggestions of what to do. These suggestions might look quite different depending on what the house is like. A lot of the time the wiring is changed to use shielded cables. If there is an old fuse box, it can be replaced. If there is centralised municipal heating, they sometimes eliminate the fields by using plastic connectors. Lars Rostlund, who is a technical consultant, will talk later about how to sanitize hospitals and he will partly mention homes too, I think. Other modifications could be painting with shielding paint which protects people from electromagnetic fields. There is thin plastic foil for the windows and they can also install a transformer to clean-up the electricity supply.
Well, how much is it? Is it expensive for the city? Between 1996 and 2000, the cost was 1.8 million Swedish Crowns (£132,000), that is 300 - 400,000 (£22,000 - £33,000) for each year in a city like Stockholm with 750,000 inhabitants. This means, there are no great expenses. It is not big money. They are now other cities who follow Stockholm; for example Enkoping. You may contact them if you would like to study what the process is like in other municipalities.
A formal decision is needed before granting such financial support. You cannot just hand the money out, you have to legally come to a decision. This could be consistent with Chapter 4, second paragraph of the Swedish Social Services Act - decide to grant financial support to home modifications for electro-hypersensitive people. In Stockholm we have used the current law concerning disabilities, UN 22 Standard Rules meaning one should not exclude people from the right to the help they need.
Well, has this helped? Yes, it has, but there is also a time continuum to observe. Those who received help early on, then came in contact with things like neighbours who bought cordless telephones, new masts nearby and wireless networks. Then the things that had been done earlier were not sufficient and they had to move from the city. When we arranged the conference in 2003, even people in this building were sceptical. But things changed. After the conference my superior said: "Well we have to think forward." She then bought new flat screens, and bought low-radiation headsets for our mobile phones. Some of us were able to change our mobiles to ones with less radiation. This is caring for ones co-workers. On the other hand, the problem we are facing is one of class distinction. All of us here today are well educated and well paid. It was a rather small investment since we were a rather small group of people. What would happen if all the cashiers at Willy's ignored some of their duties because they felt ill? There is great risk that employers will claim the symptoms do not exist.
This is where we are today.
Do we want to help or not? Do we want to listen or not?
That is why it is so pleasing that during these three years, a lot has happened. Not the least that which Inger is going to tell you about in the Stockholm County Council. The actions taken were based on propositions sent to the County Council where the Municipality of Stockholm and the local Board of Health and Welfare were the referral bodies. I'm going to read an excerpt of some of the answers we gave them.
"During research prior to the conference in 2003 we found disagreement about electro-hypersensitivity. There was on the one hand the National Board of Health and Welfare, the National Board of Housing and Building, the Swedish Work Environment Authority, and the Swedish Radiation Prevention Authority, and then there were the Electro-Hypersensitive people themselves. Those who are affected lack confidence in the government's approach to disability issues and think it is characterised by lack of interest and has low priority within the government. Mind you, despite the uninterested surface, it became evident that this is a delicate issue. It was for example difficult to recruit people to a plan discussion. From the government's departments or other authorities, there was no one who participated. The local Department for Health and Welfare, the City Council and the Opposition's Commissioner got a mail from the Swedish Radiation Institute and Mobile Phone Industry - MTB. Both authorities had the view that the conference had the wrong perspective and asked for the government's view on the issue. We also found a rather poor general knowledge of Electro-HyperSensitivity. Most of the knowledge derives from research within the field of psychology. They have looked for psychological reasons to explain Electro-HyperSensitivity. It is also often within this field that government departments search for support for their approach. At the same time one can see that theories have not helped the electro-hypersensitive people. Therefore, there is a request for further research within the medical field."
Then we preceded by writing this:
"Generally the local Department of Health and Welfare think it is important to point out that the development of the technology for mobile phones and other cordless technologies has been done at such high speed that it is impossible for science to keep up. To prove new technology dangerous on a scientific level is therefore only possible with years of delay. Free and unbiased research within this field has little money, not least in Sweden."
The majority of all research is paid for by the mobile companies themselves and they decide what questions to explore.
I had stepped into the area of unexpected health effects from mobile phones. This was a question for the County Council. This is not our approach here today.
We talk about electro-hypersensitivity as an impairment and about the right to equality with other human beings. But as both issues come together, I cannot help wondering why people have such a guarded approach to these issues and do not want to discuss health affects more openly.
Considering my own four children, I am not happy about the answers I receive from the Government. All this belongs to another seminar, but I still want to mention it.
I was once asked. "What would happen if someone is electro-hypersensitive and applies for support and you found out the house was mouldy? It might be their house that triggered the symptoms. What would you do about that?"
The answer is: it would be great to find out more about it, and cooperate in an unprejudiced manner with doctors to explore more within this area. Then one could find out what caused the sensitivity. Maybe electro-hypersensitivity in many cases is a reaction to something in the body that is not well. Many electro-hypersensitives themselves describe it like that, and often associate it with dental injuries.
Now I will open up for questions.
My name is Helena. I am from the local government, and I have a general question about children. How could one electro-sanitize schools?
In Norway the Children's Representative firmly stated that children should not use mobile phones. In Sweden the Radiation Protection Board says on their website that children should use a headset. There are no consequences for other government departments, no one takes action. I often visit the Varmland (in the north-west of Sweden) where people are giving up their landline phones. They only used a mobile phone even though they live many kilometres from the nearest mast. Teenagers have free phone subscriptions and sometimes talk for hours. They even have the phone on their pillow when they sleep. The last research published about brain tumours and mobile phones estimated a 2.5 times rise in the risk when talking for one hour a day, five days a week during a period of 10 years. And I'm talking about children and young people. You do not need to be an Einstein to realise we are beating around the bush.
I brought the subject up at kindergarten. There they use a cordless phone, which of course is very convenient when working with small children, but there are brands with less radiation. Most cordless phone base stations emit signals all the time like a mobile mast. It is a bad technique. I asked them to buy another one and also brought them some information leaflets but nothing happened.
I would just like to mention; I visited a private school to hold a lecture some time ago. The children attending the school have rich and powerful parents. The school had a very strict policy. They said to the children. "You are tomorrow's business leaders, bankers and politicians. You have to be careful about your health." That is why they have very strict regulations regarding how and when to use mobile phones and computer screens. This indicates that the management knew that it might be dangerous.
But I had to ask "Why do you not turn to the rest of society and demand this safeguard for all children?"
Yes, this is a problem. There is a class differentiation. At my office I have a good electro-environment but as soon as you stop asking questions it becomes a class distinction. It is dangerous only to rely on the government to provide information. If one does, one will make a mistake.
One more comment. If one looks at the big insurance companies, for example Lloyd, and asks what is not covered when it comes to personal insurance, there are two exceptions; the first is damage caused by genetically modified food, and the second by electromagnetic radiation.
You mentioned the possibility of renting cottages for recreation. We work for that department but we are sorry to say there are not many cottages today. Do you know when more will be available?
No, I do not know, but we can come back to that. There are other people from the municipality here today.
There are many people who are looking for cottages.
Yes, many people look for houses in low radiation zones. One has to be firm about these zones when new infrastructure legislation is being decided. The City of Stockholm used to make sure that there were no masts near cottages where electro-hypersensitive people lived.
I have contact with an electro-hypersensitive woman who is on the disability board in Farsta. When she arrived there for the first time she had to ask them to turn off the high-frequency fluorescent light and a conventional computer used by an interpreter had to be changed. There was a problematic light in the hallway shining into the room which also had to be replaced. So they brought in a technician and made the changes and today it works well. This was a good place for the rest of the board to learn about the situation for electro-hypersensitives. Sometimes I tell people about this when I lecture to local disability boards. Mind you, it is sometimes sad to meet the relatives of electro-hypersensitive people. As many electro-hypersensitives find it hard to visit the lectures, I often meet their relatives instead. Once there was a man who told me that he and his wife used to visit churches to listen to music. Now they have changed the lights to low energy bulbs it has made it impossible for his wife to attend. This is very sad. It would be so simple to have a part of the church conventionally lit. There are similar stories regarding libraries. It would be very easy to use ordinary lights during lectures so that everyone could attend.
On the other hand, we still have a lot of work to do. There are 43 different disability organisations in Sweden and there are constant requests for things to be done for the ES group. Even so, this group must be given the opportunity to speak. This is a group who has difficulties in attending regular meetings in non-sanitized environments. That is why we have to pay particular attention.
Governments and representatives from Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Japan and Sir William Stewart of the British National Radiological Protection Board have contacted the municipality of Stockholm. They are all interested in the work we have done. They take it seriously. When people from other countries call and one starts to compare what it is like elsewhere, it is obvious that a few good things have happened here over the years. Amongst these are the decisions made by the Stockholm County Council over the last couple of years. I feel pleased to work in this organisation.
And now we...Yes?
If one adds up all radiation, there has to be a lot of it. I wonder, how do you measure it?
That is a topic that could generate several other seminars, but now we have to take a break.
Inger Hallquist-Lindvall - Decisions by the City Council Regarding Housing etc.
My name is Inger Hallquist-Lindvall and I am from the Stockholm County Council. I am a political secretary in charge of disability questions, among other things. I am standing in for Lena-Maj Anding, who is politically responsible for and Chairman of the County Council Medical Programme. Unfortunately she could not be here today, but as a political secretary I have handled these questions. I will tell you how the County Council has acted during this mandate regarding electro hypersensitivity and exposure to radiation and electromagnetic fields. This is a cooperative endeavour between the Stockholm City Council and the Stockholm County Council. The Health and Hospital Committee in the County Council decided that we should participate. This was originally suggested by "Medical Program Preparation Committee No.3" which is a committee where all parties are represented and is responsible for disability questions, environmental medicine and for public health. The last part is interesting even though we do not touch upon it that much here. So far we have focused on the concept of impairment as it has been the best route to follow. Next we will look at public health issues and their medical effects from a larger perspective, but we have not come that far yet. I tried to bring the minister responsible for this issue along, Berit Andnor, but she could not find the time. I also contacted the National Disability Ombudsman who referred me to the new department but they did not have the time to attend either. Anyhow, in the County Council we have been able to address the issue thanks to two motions. The first came from Lena-Maj Anding at the end of the last mandate in 2002. After that came a motion from a representative of the "Moderaterna" (Conservative Party). The motions had quite a similar content and we turned them into one. We, the Social Democrats, the Communist Party and the Environment Party had the majority that enabled us to deal with them. On the 7 June 2005, we took three decisions:
The first was to create a policy regarding electromagnetic radiation and electromagnetic fields that we can apply in all of Stockholm County Council. To be more hands-on, we also commissioned the public transportation company Storstockholms Lokaltrafik AB (SL) and the Para-Transit Service to look into and take suitable steps to improve the possibilities for electro hypersensitives to use public transportation and para-transit services. This was made even more specific when it came to SL themselves. It was decided in the budget of 2006 that there had to be mobile phone-free zones within transportation. This put some pressure on the politics in order for something to be done. With this in mind, the budget document was written with a strong political will. When it came to the Health and Hospital Committee, it became a mission. They were asked to offer a service in modified rooms and if needed, home visits and to also co-operate with the local government if someone needs an evacuation home, when under rehabilitation or when they are undergoing treatment. This was also made very clear. The propositions were extensively circulated for comments. This was done for several reasons; we wanted to hear others points of view, but also to firmly establish the issue as part of the political agenda and involve many different groups. The politicians accepted their responsibilities and included the issue on their agendas. We also chose to reach outside the County Council in our circulation, which obviously was unusual. I had a hard time getting administration to send things outside the County Council. I have slides that show who we received comments from.
We got answers from: The County Council Disability Board, the Board of Para-Transit Services, the Cultural Affairs Board, The Patients Advisory Committee, the Office for District Traffic Planning, the South Hospital District, Danderyd Hospital, Norrtalje Hospital, Soder Hospital, Sodertalje Hospital, Locum - who are responsible for the care of houses, SL, the Swedish Association for the Electrosensitive, Swedish National Institute for Public Health, the National Board for Health and Welfare, the Social Welfare Board of Stockholm and the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority.
Some organisations did not answer. I do not have any slides with them on but these are some of them: the Karolinska University Hospital, the Stockholm County Association of Local Authorities, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, and Waxholm Antsartyg AB.
The responses we did receive were generally supportive. There were two exceptions: the National Board for Health and Welfare and the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority. They emphasised very strongly that this was not scientifically proven. I have a feeling this will become a very interesting document in medical history. I think it is rather unwise to make such determined statements the way they did.
I have some other statements with me which are interesting for future work within the City Council. This is a comment from SL which is included in the political majorities addendum: " The accessibility is of such importance that SL should begin to develop a project in close cooperation with the user-organisations". This again is the citizen perspective.
The next slide is a rather poor one, but I would like to share it with you anyway. It is a statement from the Para-Transit Service included as an additional comment beside the statement of the civil servant. "We wish the Para-Transit Service Board to look into the possibility of vehicles being modified to enable electro-hypersensitive people to use the facilities by for example, turning off some of the electronic equipment."
Today the Chairman of the Para-Transit Service is here. Maybe he can tell us how far they have come. Maybe you would like to say something right now? No? Okay. We will proceed with this instead.
This is some of what came up during the circulation for comments. It became evident that there are no electro-sanitized hospital rooms within the County Council's area of responsibility. The only one to be found was at the "Patient Hotel" at Danderyd Hospital. It is very meagre compared to other county councils, some of whom have only recently started electro-sanitization. I have also brought some of the statements from the Medical Program Preparation Committee No.3 where they expressed the need to develop knowledge about the impairment and about the long-term effect on public health. There are also comments about the need to find strategies to quickly lessen the exposure, when one becomes electro-hypersensitive, as Johan Bonander mentioned earlier. The committee stressed the use of the precautionary principle when knowledge is incomplete. As I said, it was possible to start working with this issue from a disability perspective and in that way lessen the level of exposure.
In step 2 we have to deal with the scientific discussions. We would only end up disagreeing with each other so long as the authorities' attitude is the way it is. That is why we acted like this. We saw that you in the municipality of Stockholm seemed to succeed using the disability approach. That has proven to be a constructive way for us too as we have seen our suggestion approved.
This is written in the County Council's text before reaching the specific commitments: "Electro-hypersensitive people are going to receive a respectful reply and support to ease their disability even though we cannot altogether explain the physical reactions within the scientific paradigm."
The file became this thick with comments. There is a lot of interesting information to read. But what will happen to it being actioned? This is a slow process. But there are things happening, maybe Johan could come and tell what the para-transit service is doing.
Now I will show you my last slide. We are planning to have the policy ready in June 2006. The policy is thought of as an opportunity to educate within the County Council. When we make the policy known we also underline things like respectful replies. We also talk about what could be done with little effort. Things could happen fairly quickly. At Locum they deal with room adjustments and building modifications. We will demand a report from them before the summer. We would like to know what has been done, and what the time schedule looks like.
I am now finished reporting how the politicians work with this issue. I hope Johan Sjolander, Chairman of the Board of Para-transit Services will now tell us about his work.
Johan Sjolander – Para-transit Services
My name is Johan Sjolander, Chairman of the Para-transit Service and I am a politician. Para-transit Service is public transport for people with disabilities or impairments who are unable to use ordinary forms of public transport. It is natural that we should be involved in this issue however one has to remember Para-transit Service is never the first alternative. If it is possible for SL (Stockholm’s' Public Transport provider) to be used, it has to be considered the better alternative. The most important thing is to make public transport accessible to electro-hypersensitives. But even then not everyone will be able to use it and the Para-transit Service will be an important complement.
We have examined two areas of further questions concerning electro-hypersensitivity.
The first: Is it possible (for electro-hypersensitives) to access Para-transit Services? How will they do this?
The second is: If an electro-hypersensitive person orders Paratransit Service, how will the vehicle operate?
I quite willingly admit that I cannot give you an answer to these questions.
We are not yet finished but we have started to address these questions. Right now there is work being done to put together the answers from a questionnaire. The Para-transit Service and The Association for Electrosensitives (FEB) are asking their members how they feel. I cannot present the answers yet, which is a pity, it would have been good, but I can give you the statistics of the answers; about half of them have responded.
There are two questions:
How will electro-hypersensitives be able to access para-transit services?
If they are able to access it, will they be able to use it?
We will also examine what the vehicles will look like. Is it possible to make taxis and buses accessible? What will they look like? This is where we stand.
We now need to discuss with the concerned parties, collect information and modify the vehicles. I think this was the answer to that question I got. Thank you!
Lars Rostlund Electro-sanitization and Room Modifications
My name is Lars Rostlund and I perform electro-sanitizations. I myself became electro-hypersensitive between 1995 and 1999. Two weeks ago, I measured microwaves in the executive manager’s room of the adjacent building. On the building opposite there is a mast directed straight towards the room. Within a week we will put up special curtains and foil the windows to lessen the radiation. There is also a block of apartments exposed to the radiation but these people are not protected. There is constantly an increasing number of products causing radiation.
This slide illustrates this activity.
Electromagnetic fields can be divided into three groups:
The most severe group is Magnetic Fields, which are usually caused by "stray currents" from transformers, electrical equipment and the like.
The second group, the Electric Fields can easily be removed using shielded cables or grounded wall sockets.
Magnetic fields pass right through metal so they behave quite differently.
All this is limited to low-frequency, commonly referred to as alternating current (AC), as in wall sockets.
There is also direct current (DC) which exists naturally on earth and we do not measure it in frequency. DC has its own magnetic field that the compass adjusts to. It is the same with the electrostatic fields up here. They are also natural and they are created just by lifting our feet off the ground. We attract electrons and these create an electric field that discharges when we touch things.
The fields created by AC are problematic for electro-hypersensitives and there is also a risk of cancer.
Today there is no reason to keep using AC. When we first used electricity it was DC. Today, technical knowledge of DC has surpassed AC. Now it is expensive and wasteful of resources to use AC. It is also difficult to make use of this AC energy if for example one has as a house with solar energy. The last DC in Stockholm disappeared in the 1970s. Today it would be much more effective and healthy.
At the bottom of this slide we can see these microwaves and antennas. Down here the magnetic fields and the electric field are combined into a single unit. You multiply the magnetic field by the electric field and if you avoid one, each can be recreated from the other. So they are there together in this "far field" which we measure in Watts per square metre instead of Amps per metre or Volts per metre. This is the most commonly used unit for microwaves. Microwaves are reflected by metal. Electric fields and charge pass through and are connected to the earth and therefore behave differently. Different techniques are required to remove the fields that cause problems. An electro-hypersensitive person could be sensitive in different parts of the body or all over. In the same way, reactions differs from one person to another.
What we are specifying as microwaves are radio waves moving around with the speed of light with a wavelength of shorter than 1 metre. That is the old definition. The new definition is on a higher frequency. The electric and magnetic fields combine into a single electromagnetic field soon after they leave the antenna. When we talk on a mobile phone the antenna transmits electromagnetic rays in all directions at the same time.
This slide illustrates the curtains incorporating the woven wire by which the microwaves are reflected. This slide illustrates how the microwaves react. They easily follow the wire in a normal hands-free headset. The wire inside is a better conductor than the air but with an "air-tube-hands-free kit" the microwaves stop before the ear. Next to the microphone, there is a small speaker that delivers the sound to the ear via an air tube. This makes it more difficult for the microwaves to force their way into the head. This is a simple, good and effective aid. The worst hands-free headsets are the stereo ones as they allow the waves to go straight into both ears. Even if this gives a 50% reduction, this is nearly as bad as holding the phone against the head. With an ordinary (wired) hands-free kit for one ear only, it is important to hold the wire close to the body so that the body absorbs the microwave radiation before it gets to the head. If you hold the wire straight out from the body you may get a 60% reduction but if you hold the wire close to the body you can reach up to a 90% reduction.
We have cooperated with some dressmakers who make protective clothing. This slide shows a professional electrical worker working with transmitters. Electro-hypersensitives also use protective clothing. These clothes should be available at "Aid Centres". The material is the same as I mentioned before and it reflects microwaves. At Aid Centres there are no protective aids at all for electro-hypersensitive people.
Here is another necessary aid, a shielding canopy and a shielding carpet under the bed. The canopy becomes a shield as the metal reflects the microwaves and inside it there is little radiation. This shows how to shield with screening paint. The black colour reflects [absorbs] the microwaves. This slide shows the antenna on the building opposite and you can see the effect of the shielding. If one uses Watts per square metre, the screening creates 40 times lower radiation. If we only use a copper net or window foil, it is not enough. The radio waves behave like they do in hands-free kits, they follow the cables coming into the room. To achieve a reduction of 40 times one has to shield each individual cable that comes into the room.
This slide shows a photograph of the room where my son sleeps. 800 metres away, outside the window there is an antenna with its radiation going straight into the room so we shielded it as a preventative measure. He is 10 years old and not electro-hypersensitive but should not sleep in this radiation anyway.
This slide shows how we connected this black paint to earth.
So what measures can be taken? These materials; the paints and wallpapers are all shielding. Distance to the object is also good protection against magnetic fields.
There are different organisations that fight against "Electrosmog". The Environment Party and the Communist Party are good at fighting this as well as an organisation called Folkets Vilja (The Will of the People) and Vagbrytarna (Wave Breakers).
To sum this up; Electric fields are easy to remove with a thin sheet of metal. Magnetic fields permeate the whole of our planet and are always around us. With TCO-labelled screens we often find magnetic fields with opposing directions which neutralises the effect. If you need to shield from microwaves to a higher degree, then shields have to be very tight or microwaves will still get into a shielded room.
Here are some numbers. These figures are not valid for all electro-hypersensitives but maybe a 90%. We have the TCO limits for display terminals at 0.2 microTesla and 25 nanoTesla for the high frequency [HF] band. TCO applies these to the line and the frame frequency fields though electro-hypersensitives can react to electric and magnetic fields at levels 10 times lower. TCO lacks a safety level for microwaves. It has an "Efficiency Norm" called TCP and it tells you how effectively a device broadcasts the microwaves instead of heating up the head. Electro-hypersensitive people have different sensitivity depending upon how the microwaves are modulated or pulsed. NMT (AM?) and FM radio are not so severe and far fewer people are affected by them. GSM and VELOM (DECT?) come second whereas wireless (WiFi/WLAN?) and 3G create most reactions.
I know a woman in Nylan who has chosen to step forward and tell her story. She has cervical cancer and is having an operation in two weeks time. If you would like to contact her you are welcome to phone her. She has a tumour in her uterus. The hospital is located about 100 km from her house and is not at all interested in making any electro-sanitizing changes to help Ann-Christine. They told her to go to Umea Hospital if she needs an electro-sanitized room. That is 200 km away. Ann-Christine has fairly good health but extremely low blood pressure. In her house the microwaves are low and she feels okay. When she goes to the hospital in Solltea she becomes ill more or less instantly. She becomes tired, gets dizzy and feels like she has a fever and shivers. The microwaves are 4000 times higher than in her house. One of the major reasons is the wireless network. If the hospital would shield the room with a net it would lessen the radiation up to 40 times. If one could bring down the level to 12 micro Watts per square metre it would still not be enough. Radiation would still force its way in via the cables. A canopy would lessen the radiation 2000 times and it would end up around 0.2 micro Watts. This is the level in her own house. But the hospital did not want to buy a canopy. So there has been a fundraising amongst a group of electro-hypersensitives and now she can buy a canopy.
What adjustments could be made at the hospital? Everyone should get the treatment they need. There should not be transmitters and masts directed at the hospital, WLAN, WiFi or DECT cordless phones and base stations inside the hospital. One should check if there are low magnetic fields at the entrance and inside the patients' rooms. Magnetic fields are the most difficult ones to change afterwards. It is sometimes possible to move an antenna but transformers and electrical distribution equipment may be more difficult. It is also good to shield the whole room enabling patients to go to the bathroom outside the canopy. To shield a room, one uses shielded cables, wall sockets, light switches and lamps. All fluorescent lamps have to be changed to incandescent light bulbs.
Ann-Christine decided to postpone her operation to be able to turn off as many lights as possible. She has to travel to the hospital, take the elevator and walk through a long corridor to reach her room. This is quite difficult for her. It is necessary to use a canopy or to make the room "ROS" protected. I make ROS-protected rooms to reduce the microwaves. ROS-protection is usually used in boardrooms to make it impossible for signals to leak out but of course it works the other way around too. To make such a room one has to put a filter between the paint or wallpaper and the cables. Mind you, it is also important for the staff to respect the patient and not bring transmitters into the room.
Now there are 5 minutes left. Any questions?
What kind of metal is there in the shields?
All metal has the same effect. In this case we used coated copper covered with silver. There are materials that can be connected to earth but not this one. We isolate the threads with seven layers of paint which protects it from damage.
In India they use material with metal in it which is much cheaper than it is here. Can you use it instead?
They are probably not woven as a tight net. It has to be very small stitches. If you look at a Venetian blind it does not give any protection at all.
How small are the stitches?
Less than 1 mm.
Why did the manager want to shield their room?
Health reasons. Not because they needed to secure information.
We heard earlier today that the electro sensitive people have to be met with respect. That implies that there are groups who do not need to be met with respect. Those living in the house next to the manager have not been respected as they have neither the knowledge nor the funds to protect themselves in this way. A strong person, like the patient you mention, should take this up with the Disability Ombudsman.
This is the question: should electro-hypersensitives have access to support or not? The disability law clearly states they have the right to help. It is not a question of different levels.
I would like to talk to my hospital about electro-sanitizing. How can I contact you?
Well, I could turn around so you can read! www.elsanera.nu
Sonja Akerberg - Swedish Association of Electro Sensitives (FEB)
I am representing the county association. I will start by representing the association and then tell you about three electro-hypersensitive people. And then tell you how they have solved the problems the symptoms have created in their lives.
In the beginning of 2005 my regional association counted 614 members in three local subgroups. The association is represented in HSO which is the union for disability questions. We also have a newspaper called Stockholm's Glimpten. Members of the board have also participated in the Swedish Radiation and Protection Authorities project called "Transparency Forum" handling mobile phone issues. The association has participated in seminars and an education programme organised by the association working with discrimination issues together with an adult education association. We arranged study circles within the subject; "How to develop equal access to society for electro-hypersensitive people". These are some of the things that have been happening during 2005.
Now I will tell you what happened at my work when I became electro-hypersensitive 12 years ago. I worked as a biomedical analyst at the Karolinska Institute Hospital. My electro sensitivity developed over some months. I used a computer with a high radiation cathode ray tube screen (CRT). It started with skin problems and later I also got other symptoms. I began to react to fluorescent light, mobile phones, TV, the vacuum cleaner and some other items. I was then sick-listed for some weeks and received a lot of help from the former safety engineer. He had my workplace electro-sanitized, however this was not enough. I had to make changes in my house and in my summer cottage too. When I came back to work, I had a room of my own and could adjust the environment to fit my needs. The fluorescent light in the room has been covered with a metal net and is connected to earth. The light on the table is shielded with a filter and now has shielded wire. LOCUM changed the fluorescent light to another type and I swapped the telephone to an older type. They also changed the CRT screen next door as it turned out to be a problem. After that I did not work with computers for four years but then I had to start using them again. I applied for financial support from the Swedish Swedish Social Insurance Agency. They granted the request and today I have a computer with an LCD screen that is modified and the electromagnetic field is eliminated. It uses DC instead of AC and has now worked okay for 12 years. Nowadays I live a fairly normal life even though I am sensitive to CRTs. I usually try to avoid fluorescent light, halogen lamps or low energy bulbs for long periods. I do not use mobile or cordless phones and I rarely watch TV. If I do, I must be far away from the screen.
The second case is a woman who is much more affected than me. She is a trained economist and used to work at an IT company. She worked in a very electro-intensive environment with lots of computers. Everyone had mobile phones and the company had a wireless network. She had to stop working altogether but she has managed to solve her housing situation. As the neighbours' electronic gadgets made her ill, she moved from her detached house to a stone one. She bought a soapstone stove to reduce the need for electric heating. The fridge and the other appliances are placed in a small building outside. When the washing machine and dishwasher are in use she leaves the house for a walk. It is possible for her to use public transport but there are too many mobile phones in use at peak hours. At most times she uses her own car. She managed to find a dentist with electro-sanitized facilities but it is very difficult to go to any healthcare centre due to low energy bulbs and computers.
The third person is severely electro-hypersensitive. He is educated in electrical-engineering and was a manager at Ericsson when he became ill. The triggering factor was the computer screen. He cannot work any longer and had to move from town. Now his house is heated with wood and the cooking is done on a wood stove. In the summer he cooks outside on a camping stove. He uses candles for light he has only one lightbulb of 15 Watts in the house. He has a washing machine and a water heater but he takes a walk when they are in use. The fridge and freezer are in another house. He cannot use TV but he has a battery radio. Groceries are delivered once a week and clothes are bought by mail-order. It is impossible for him to visit a healthcare centre or a dentist. During the last seven years he has had two home visits from doctors. They have been planned but what would happen if there were acute problems?
To summarise, we can say there are different levels of sensitivity and unique reactions. There are also time factors that are important. It is possible to cope with an electro-hypersensitive environment during a short time, not for long. This of course depends on the level of severity. For some people it is not possible at all. One could very quickly end up with increased sensitivity, perhaps after less than a day. It can take a very long time for recovery. Our major problem is the housing situation but also dentists, hospitals, opticians and the lack of electro-sanitized homes for the elderly. This is very important.
Riitta-Leena Karlsson - Disability Ombudsman for the Municipality of Stockholm.
In my work I answer directly to the board of the local authority. My role is to be responsible for disability questions within the 18 districts of the municipality, the professional committees and the municipal companies. I help with the local administration. I know quite a bit about disabilities but I cannot become an expert. To learn more about the problems, the disability organisations are an important source of information. My task today is to summarise and reflect on what we have heard. A great task, one I do with pleasure. It is nice to be part of a local government that, in relation to others, is making progress. It might come down to the fact that we in this big city live in a very electro-intense environment.
Regarding other disabilities, there are many other local governments who are progressive and carrying out changes and we are the slow ones. Big cities are a bit like a big ship - it takes time to change direction. When it comes to electro-hypersensitivity, I recently read this book. Johan showed the (political action plan for disabilities) in Sweden earlier. A couple of weeks ago, a follow-up to that one appeared. I will talk about two parts of that.
The National Action Plan is directed to the 14 regional authorities in Sweden whose task it is to lead the way in making Sweden more accessible for impaired people. The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning is one. The National Post and Telecom Agency is another.
So what do they say in this follow-up?
The Board for Housing and Planning says:
"A good indoor environment is very important for people who are allergic or very sensitive. It is therefore of great importance that the measures taken for energy-saving purposes do not result in worse indoor environments."
This is what they say.
We need to put some substance behind "energy measures". What do they mean by that? Then they proceed to write about houses and noise in the environment etc.
Then comes an addition "Accessibility for the disabled is rarely mentioned in the descriptions and consequences of environmental impacts and is an area to be developed"
This is worth thinking about.
The National Post and Telecom Agency focuses on new technical possibilities like access to computers and broadband.
This does not apply to electro sensitive people but in "Access to a forum for dialogue with the users" it says:
"There is a need for yet another forum to have an ongoing discussion with distributors, operators scientists and the user and user organisations."
There is another passage where they point out the lack of clarity regarding accessibility. It is described as "design for all" and implicitly guarantees access for everyone to all products used by the general public and all services within the sector including TV and digital TV. This is something vital for the future: design for all. This includes all technical devices at home. To include understanding of electro sensitivity in the "design for all" is important for the future. Johan thought I should mention the city's political programme for disabilities. I did not intend to, but having heard this, I went back to my room to collect some information. I also checked how we covered the issue of electro-hypersensitivity in our action plan. The Action Plan is a product in which one sets goals to direct the political work on disability questions. It is written with the UN Standard Rules and the National Action Plan in mind. The end result is the municipality of Stockholm's own Action Plan for Disability Goals Ending 2010.
When this was written, we avoided talking about specific groups. We thought the principle "no one mentioned, no one forgotten" is the best one. Otherwise there is a risk that the city might say "This group is not mentioned". Still, I have noticed that in the paragraph regarding accessibility, it states "in broad perspective" and by that they definitely intend more than just modifications to doors and toilets. It encompasses communication, participation and accessibility to public premises. In the paragraph "clarifying questions", it is written that it is the responsibility of authorities to make sure that public meetings are held in premises designed for people with disabilities. We mentioned the work of the disability committees. We have 32 of them, which is a world record. One of them is directly under the local government and consists of politicians and representatives. The other 31 contain representatives from disability organisations. There are around 40 organisations to compete for the seats however it is not always a competition. Sometimes it is even difficult to recruit people. On some of the committees electro sensitive people are represented. Influence from the users is an important stepping-stone for politicians to see what needs to be done. Users are the best source of knowledge except currently there is a lack of young people. Children are represented by their parents but we need more young people in order to have complete coverage in committees.
Which issues do I come into contact with a work? It is also my duty to give advice and guidance. People can contact me freely - but maybe I should have one of those T-shirts you have. It was cool. Perhaps I'll have to pump up my muscles a bit as my e-mail address is very long.
So what do people want to talk about? Well first of all I am struck by the similarity between electro-hypersensitive people's situation today and that of other disability groups in earlier years. If we rewind the tape we have had impaired people who have had to move straight to a nursing home. The parents were told that this baby was not worth wasting time on. They should get another one instead. At the beginning of the 1950s this was far too common. I have even met parents who had to escape from the hospital with their baby so they could keep it. We have also had a recent discussion about people with neuropsychiatric impairments. People spoke, more or less ironically, about "letter diagnosis". Are they necessary or not? Does everyone have to find "a letter" to label oneself with? Following that discussion there is today a greater interest in neuropsychiatric diagnoses. If it is of no interest to get a diagnosis, maybe that should apply to cancer and other illnesses where there is a cure or relief today. This is the same regarding neuropsychiatric impairments. We have an ongoing project in which the County Council and local government have come together to share knowledge about these diagnoses. We have met at Nalen several times and the room has been packed with people. There will surely come a time when electro sensitive people will receive this kind of recognition.
The phone calls I received from electro sensitive people come most of the time from the IT sector. The callers used to use mobile and wireless phones a lot. For comfort, I could add that they are usually met with understanding by their employers. The employers have seen them as capable people who would not make this kind of thing up. They have adjusted the work environment and the people could keep on working. But when they call me they often want to discuss problems with the environment at home. It is amazing, but also typical for our time, that they do not know how to describe their problems. They are afraid of my reaction to the problem and do not know how to start telling me or other people about the problems as they think people will consider them mentally ill. This indicates how we label people with psychiatric disorders even though they are equally important. Regardless of what kind of disability one has, it is also possible to have a psychiatric disorder. On the other hand, it does not imply that if one is electro-hypersensitive one can have have a diagnosis. This is something that a lot of people feel the need to explain. They say: "I have no delusions, angst or obsessions." They are so used to having their sanity questioned. With this, I would like to underline that the problem today is attitudes towards electro-hypersensitives. I know that the municipality of Stockholm and Stockholm County Council has extensive cooperation with SL, the Para-transit Service and the user organisations within the "Accessible-Project". In this forum the issue of electro-hypersensitivity has been discussed. There is hope for the future if we start to listen to people individually and not bundle them together.
There is also a success factor connected to electro-hypersensitivity. Electro-hypersensitivity can affect people regardless of political persuasion, education or income. It seems to affect many people in specific occupations. In the future we will probably meet more politicians and executive managers who themselves have direct experience of electro hypersensitivity which could mean a better understanding of the problem. Then we might come one step closer to some practical solutions. There are new diagnosis and disability definitions coming all the time. Electro-hypersensitivity is not the last one but one in the line of others. We need more understanding and empathy regarding this disability until we make practical and substantial decisions, at which time it will be fully included in our policies so that Sweden will be accessible for everyone.
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