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Karolinsk
a Institutet
Depart
m
e
nt
of Neurosci
ence
Experi
m
e
nt
al
Derm
at
ol
ogy
Uni
t
Stockholm
,
October 1, 2008
Mr Geoffrey Carr
Science Editor
The Econom
ist
25 St Jam
e
s’s Street
London SW
1A 1HG
England
Dear Sir,
Re: MIND YOUR PHONE – ELECTROHYPERSENSITIVITY
I read your very interesting recent article in the print edition of the Econom
ist dated 27
th
Septem
ber 2008 and wish to m
a
ke you aware of the situation in Sweden.
In Sw
eden, electrohypersensitivity (EHS) is
an officially fully recogniz
ed functional
impairment
(i.e., it is not regarded as a disease)
. Survey studies show that som
e
where
between 230,000–290,000 Swedish m
e
n and wom
e
n – out of a population of 9,000,000 –
report a variety of sym
t
om
s when being in contact with electrom
a
gnetic field (EMF) sources.
The electrohypersensitive people have their ow
n handicap organiz
ation
, The Swedish
Association for the Electrohypersensitive (
http://www.feb.se
; the website has an English
version). This organization is include
d in the Swedish Disability Federation
(Handikappförbundens Sam
a
rbetsOrgan; HSO).
HSO is the unison voice of the Swedish
disability associations towards the governm
e
nt,
the parliam
e
nt, and national authorities, and
is a cooperative body that today consists of 43
national disability organizations (where The
Swedish Association for the Electrohypersensitiv
e is 1 of these 43 organizations) with all
together about 500,000 individual m
e
m
b
ers. You can read m
o
re on
http://www.hso.se
(the
site has an English short version).
Sw
edish municipalities
, of course, have to follow
the UN 22 “Standard Rules on the
equalization of opportunities for people with disa
bilities” (“Standardregler för att tillförsäkra
m
ä
nniskor m
e
d funktionsnedsättning delaktighe
t och jäm
likhet”; about the UN 22 Standard
Rules, see website:
http://www.un.org
; since 2007 they have been upgraded into the UN
“Convention on Hum
a
n Rights for Persons with
Functional Im
pairm
e
nts”). All people with
disabilities shall, thus, be given the assistance a
nd service they have the right to according to
the Swedish Act concerning Support and Serv
ice for Persons with Certain Functional
Im
pairm
e
nts (“LSS-lagen”) and the Swedish Social Services Act (“Socialtjänstlagen”).
People with disabilities, thus, have m
a
ny dif
f
e
rent rights and can get dif
f
e
rent kinds of
M
a
iling addr
ess
Visiting addr
ess
T
e
lephone
E
xper
i
m
e
ntal Der
m
atology
Unit
Retz
iuslabor
ator
iet
Dir
ect
468-
52 48 70 58
Depar
t
m
e
nt of Neur
oscience
Retz
ius väg 8
Switchboar
d
468-
52 48 64 00
Karolinska Institutet
Solna
Fax
468-30 39 04
171 77 Stockholm
Fax (
K
I
)
468-
31 11 01
Sweden
Karolinsk
a Institutet
Depart
m
e
nt
of Neurosci
ence
Experi
m
e
nt
al
Derm
at
ol
ogy
Uni
t
support. The purpose of those rights and the support is to give every person the chance to live
like everyone else. Everyone who lives in the Sw
edish m
unicipalities shall be able to lead a
norm
a
l life and the m
unicipalities m
u
st have co
rrect knowledge and be able to reach the
people who need support and service. People with disabilities shall be able to get extra
support so that they can live, work, study, or
do things they enjoy in their free tim
e. The
m
unicipalities are responsible for m
a
king sure
that everyone gets enough support. Everyone
shall show respect and rem
e
m
b
er that su
ch m
e
n and wom
e
n m
a
y need individual and
different kinds of support.
In Sw
eden, impairments are view
ed
from the point of the environment.
No hum
an being
is in itself
im
paired, there are instead shortcom
ings in the environm
ent that cause the
im
pairm
e
nt (as the lack of
ram
p
s f
o
r the pers
on in a wheelchair or room
s electrosanitized for
the person with electrohypersensitivity). This
environm
ent-related im
pairm
e
nt view,
furtherm
ore, m
eans that even though one does
not have a scientifically based com
p
lete
explanation for the im
pairm
e
nt electrohypersens
itivity, and in contrast to disagreem
ents in
the scientific society, the person with electrohypersensitivity shall always be m
e
t in a
respectful way and with all necessary support with
the goal to elim
inate the im
pairm
e
nt. This
im
plies that the person with electrohypersens
itivity shall have the opportunity to live and
work in an electrosanitized environm
ent.
This view
can fully be motivated
in relation to the present national and international
handicap laws and regulations, including the
UN 22 Standard Rules/UN Convention and the
Swedish action plan for persons with im
pairm
e
nts (prop. 1999/2000:79 “Den nationella
handlingplanen för handikappolitiken – Från
patient till m
e
dborgare”). Also, the Hum
a
n
Rights Act in the EU f
u
lly applies.
A person is disabled
when the environm
ent contains som
e
sort of im
pedim
e
nt. It m
eans that
in that m
o
m
e
nt a m
a
n or wom
a
n in a wheelchai
r cannot com
e
onto the bus, a train, or into a
restaurant, this person has a disability—he or
she is disabled. W
h
en the bus, train, or
restaurant are adjusted f
o
r a wheelchair, the person does not suf
f
e
r f
r
om
his disability and is
consequently not disabled. An electrohypersensitive person suffers when the environm
ent is
not properly adapted according to their personal need
s. Strategies to enable a person with this
disability to attend com
m
on room
s such as librari
es, churches, and so on, are, for instance to
switch off the high-frequency fluorescent lam
p
s and instead use ordinary light bulbs.
Another exam
ple is the possibility to switch
of
f
the whole or parts of
—the assistive
listening system
s (persons with electrohypersens
itivity are often very sensitive to assistive
listening system
s).
In the Stockholm municipality
—where I live and work as a sc
ientist with the responsibility
to investigate com
p
rehensive issues for people with electrohypersensitivity—such persons
have the possibility to get their hom
e sanitized
f
o
r EMFs. This m
eans, f
o
r exam
ple, that
ordinary electricity cables are changed to speci
al cables. Furtherm
ore, the electric stove can
be changed to a gas stove and walls, roofs and floors can be covered with special wallpaper
or paint with a special shelter to stop EMFs
from
the outside (from
neighbors and m
obile
M
a
iling addr
ess
Visiting addr
ess
T
e
lephone
E
xper
i
m
e
ntal Der
m
atology
Unit
Retz
iuslabor
ator
iet
Dir
ect
468-
52 48 70 58
Depar
t
m
e
nt of Neur
oscience
Retz
ius väg 8
Switchboar
d
468-
52 48 64 00
Karolinska Institutet
Solna
Fax
468-30 39 04
171 77 Stockholm
Fax (
K
I
)
468-
31 11 01
Sweden