As mentioned in my previous post, I have been working on a documentary project over the last year looking at the condition Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity or EHS*. The project is called Electrosensitive: Outliers in a Wireless World.
During my travels around the country, I’ve met a wide variety of people along the way; individuals who suffer from EHS, parents who are concerned about the impact of mobile phones and wi-fi on their children’s health, and scientists and academics who have studied and analysed the condition, and the wider issue of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and public health.
As I sit here writing this in my office, I am surrounded by computer equipment, a wireless router, cordless phone, wireless printer, mobile phone and an array of other devices that emit electromagnetic fields. My office would be unbearable for the majority of the people with EHS, yet I can work here seemingly unaffected. This was one of the reasons why I was drawn to this topic and have found it so fascinating to work on. What started as an initial interest to know more, became an exploration.
Over the past 12 months, I have read a huge amount of material on EHS as a condition and the effects of man-made electromagnetic fields on our health. Some papers I have read have made me think that I should pack up all the equipment I have into boxes, insulate my house and begin a device-free lifestyle in the mountains. Yet I’ve read others that have assured me that I have nothing to worry about, and that any concerns people may have are unfounded. Seemingly qualified and highly distinguished academics and scientists from either side of the debate are saying very different things.
In working on this project, my intention is not to provide all the answers or prove the science on either side of the debate. I don’t have the expertise, time, or team of researchers to prove conclusively either way. However, I approached this project with an open mind. The people who agreed to be interviewed have shown courage in talking publicly about EHS. My hope is that they are treated with empathy and respect and their stories and concerns are acknowledged and taken seriously. The condition and the debate surrounding mobile phones and wireless technologies is very contentious and divisive. When someone speaks openly about even the possibility of negative health effects they are often met with disbelief, dismissal or accused of scaremongering. Moreover, the vociferous debate about whether these technologies are carcinogenic or not has tended to drown out any conversation about other possible non-carcinogenic biological effects on human health.
Everyone has an opinion on this issue, some are well informed, some are not. I would urge anyone who wants to know more about the topic to look at some of the links at the bottom of this post, before passing judgement or drawing conclusions.
The publication of my images and video excerpt in the Guardian is not the end point of this project for me. I will continue more research and will be shooting more material throughout the year with the view to putting on an exhibition and screening of the full version of my film. In the meantime, you can find images and info on my website.
For those of you looking for more information – the papers and reports below are a good starting point. These are just the tip of the iceberg so this is not meant to be an exhaustive list.
The Council of Europe (2011) – “The potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment”
World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s classification of EMF as possibly carcinogenic (2011) – See note below about this.
The European Environment Agency’s report (2013) – “Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation” Pages 541-557
The UK Health Protection Agency Report (2012) – “Health Effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields”
The BioIntiative Report (2012) – “A Rationale for Biologically-based Exposure Standards for Low Intensity Electromagnetic Radiation”
COSMOS website – An international cohort study investigating possible health effects from long term use of mobile phones and other wireless technologies at Imperial College London.
Cancer Research UK blog post about IARC classification of EMF (2011)
Paper by Prof. Andrew Marino (Louisiana State University) International Journal of Neuroscience Paper (2011) – Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: Evidence for a Novel Neurological Syndrome
Prof. Andrew Marino’s Book – “Electromagnetism and Life”
Dr. James Rubin’s (King’s College London) British Medical Journal Paper – “Are People Sensitive to Mobile Phones” (2006)
Dr James Rubin’s review of provocation studies on EHS (2011).
Prof Olle Johansson, Karolinska Institute Sweden (2006) – “Electrohypersensitivity: State of the Art of a Functional Impairment”
Stephen Genuis, University of Alberta Canada (2011) – “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity – Fact or Fiction”
ECOLOG-Institute paper commissioned by T-Mobile (2000) – “Review of the current scientific research in view of precautionary health protection”
Electrosensitivity UK charity website.
Note about IARC’s Class 2b classification.
The classification of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as a Class 2b carcinogen, (‘possibly carcinogenic’) by IARC in 2011 has, as expected, divided opinion. Those who believe this is nothing to be concerned about, will cite that coffee and carpentry are also class 2b carcinogens. Yet those who are very concerned by this classification, will cite that DDT and exhaust fumes are also in the same category. This approach is misleading, as Lennart Hardell in his report for the European Environment Agency outlines below…
“Different agents in the same classification group are evaluated on the basis of very different kinds of evidence and exposure conditions that are specific for each substance. Some 2B agents will be at the lower end of the probability range, others will be close to the nearly one in two probability and the rest are somewhere in between, depending on their very specific characteristics. By loosely lumping together several randomly chosen carcinogens from the 271 in Group 2B such as dry cleaning fumes and coffee, which invites comparison to mobile phones, journalists and others help to complicate the already difficult discussion about the likelihood of cancer risks. Each agent needs to be considered on its own evidence.”
Lennart Hardell (2013) Pg 554 “Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation” European Environment Agency
You can find the full IARC list here.
* I am aware that there are a variety of other names and acronyms, but to avoid confusion I am referring to it as EHS or electrosensitivity.