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A victim of electromagnetic waves – and wilful ignorance


SALLY Burns’s health changed for ever after she had CT and MRI scans on the same day. The dual X-rays seemed to sensitise her to electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs), low-level radiation emitted by Wi-Fi, cordless phones, phone masts, microwaves, computers and even low-frequency electrical wiring.

Her symptoms included insomnia, dizziness, brain fog, headache, palpitations, vibrating sensations, pain in her body when near radiation sources, and sensitivity to noise and light.

Mrs Burns, a social care assessor, developed electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) (recognised by the World Health Organisation in 2005) so disabling that she had to claim early retirement at 59, and leave a job she loved.

It was in 2010 that Mrs Burns, who is also a qualified mental health nurse, had the scans. She said: ‘Not long after I developed symptoms I couldn’t explain. My job, supporting some of the most disabled and vulnerable members of our society and advocating for their rights, was stressful. But I had always coped well with it.

‘My favourite spot on our sofa was a spot that was halfway between our Wi-Fi router and cordless phone. When I sat there, my heart would be racing and pounding.

‘To help me cope I took a mindfulness course, which was interesting but didn’t help. I began to realise I might have to give up work to regain my health. My husband is an architect so I decided to take a Feng Shui course (the Chinese art of creating a balanced and harmonious environment) so that I could look at interior design and potentially work with him.

‘Part of the course was how to create a modern, healthy home by looking at EMF emissions. We were given radio frequency meters to measure radiation in our own homes. I discovered ours was full of EMFs.

‘I bought an earthing sheet (which neutralises any positive electrical charges in the body) to sleep on and things improved slightly but once I created a Faraday cage (wire mesh sheets which block electromagnetic frequencies) my sleep returned and for the first time in two years, I got eight hours straight through.’

This solved her problem at home, but in the office and in spaces polluted by Wi-Fi such as cafes, restaurants, shops and concert halls, her symptoms would come back. Mrs Burns realised only radical change would provide consistent relief so eventually she and her husband moved to a countryside retreat. Electric wiring was a problem at their new home so they spent £6,000 shielding the lighting circuitry because Mrs Burns’s ‘fight and flight’ reaction would kick in involuntarily and she’d have to leave the house. ‘It was a really strong physical reaction,’ she said. ‘There was absolutely nothing I could do about it.’

Changing her surroundings gave Mrs Burns the proof she needed that EHS was her problem, but convincing her employer and GP was a difficult task. She had to brief a lawyer who was sceptical and had to be educated about EHS to help her gain early retirement, and finally managed to retire last summer having been sick for 12 years.

The battle to recognise Wi-Fi harms is still raging, with industry claiming EMS does not exist, although in 2014, the World Health Organisation classified Wi-Fi as ‘possibly carcinogenic’. It has not updated its advice and with 5G the situation will not improve.

Industry argues that mobile phone radiation is non-ionising, with low frequency which does not damage DNA, whilst X-ray radiation is recognised as ionising radiation capable of increasing cancer risk.

According to the National Cancer Institute, cell phones in the 2G, 3G and 4G era emitted radiation in the radiofrequency region of 0.7-2.7 GHz. 5G is anticipated to take a huge jump and use the frequency spectrum up to 80 GHz, which all governments claim is not harmful but have not conducted long-term safety studies to prove it.

To try to make sense of this complex subject, I sought out an expert researching the biological effects of electromagnetic fields. Dr Erica Mallery-Blythe is the founder of Physicians’ Health Initiative for Radiation and Environment (PHIRE) and a member of four other organisations looking at electromagnetic sensitivity.*

She shared a press release published by the International Commission on the Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields (ICBE-EMF) which says in no uncertain terms that the effects of 5G on human beings have not been tested. It states that ‘radiofrequency radiation (RFR) is associated with a range of adverse health effects including cardiomyopathy, carcinogenicity, DNA damage, neurological effects, increased permeability of the blood brain barrier and sperm damage’.

It states that since 2002, ‘multiple robust epidemiologic studies of mobile phone radiation have found increased risks for brain tumours which are supported by evidence of carcinogenicity of the same cell types from animal studies’.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the regulator for radio waves, satellite, television and cable, and the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an American non-profit organisation providing advice on the effects of non-ionising radiation which includes microwaves, radio waves and radiofrequency energy from mobile phones, say that there are no adverse health effects from RFR exposure. But this conclusion comes from a study conducted in the 1980s – before mobile phones became ubiquitous – on small numbers of rats and monkeys. Their exposure time was one hour, and the frequency used was 4 watts per kilogram for frequencies ranging from 100 kilohertz (kHz) to 6 gigahertz (GHz).

A growing number of peer-reviewed studies have found adverse biological and health effects at lower doses or for longer durations of exposure. Despite this concerning information, ICNIRP and FCC have ignored all warnings.

Dr Mallery-Blythe, a former A&E doctor, was quoted in mainstream media on how radio waves can harm. She says that these two organisations have ‘ignored or inappropriately dismissed hundreds of scientific studies documenting adverse health effects at exposures below the threshold dose claimed by these agencies’.

There is evidence that those supposed to protect us know about the harms. In 2011, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted Resolution 1815 which said there was sufficient proof of the potentially harmful effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) on the environment and human health. The Council proposed a ban on mobile phones and Wi-Fi in schools, which many schools have ignored.

They based their conclusions on the Biolnitiative Report in which 26 scientific experts reviewed more than 1,500 research papers and concluded that they needed to revise exposure levels for all devices transmitting EMF in the 0.1 MHz-300 GHz frequency range. With 5G hitting up to 80 GHz we need robust, independent studies.

The experts fighting for EMS recognition are clear. Cindy Sage, co-editor of the BioInitiative Report, wrote: ‘The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO-IARC) has just issued its decision that non-ionizing radiofrequency radiation is classified as a 2B (possible) carcinogen. This is the same category as DDT, lead, and engine exhaust.’

Dr Ronald Melnick, Commission chair and a former senior toxicologist with the US National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said: ‘Many studies have demonstrated oxidative effects associated with exposure to low-intensity RFR, and significant adverse effects including cardiomyopathy, carcinogenicity, DNA damage, neurological disorders, increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier, and sperm damage.’

Dr Lennart Hardell, former professor at Örebro University Hospital in Sweden and author of more than 100 papers on non-ionising radiation, added: ‘Multiple robust human studies of cell phone radiation have found increased risks for brain tumours, and these are supported by clear evidence of carcinogenicity of the same cell types found in animal studies.’

For Mrs Burns, trying to get recognition has rocked her faith in human nature. She said: ‘To have been on the receiving end of societal prejudice, discrimination, ignorance and misunderstanding has been devastating. Because doctors aren’t taught about EMS in medical school, it’s almost impossible to get help through traditional routes.’

Meanwhile, governments worldwide continue to protect the £300billion mobile phone industry, and those unfortunate enough to have hypersensitivity are simply collateral damage.

*Dr Erica Mallery-Blythe is Founder Physicians’ Health Initiative for Radiation and Environment (PHIRE)

Special Expert: International Commission on Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields (ICBE-EMF)

Honorary Member British Society of Ecological Medicine (BSEM)

Medical Advisor Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory Association (ORSAA)

Medical Advisory Electrosensitivity UK (ES-UK)

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Sally Beck
Sally Beck
Sally Beck is a freelance journalist with 30 years of experience in writing for national newspapers and magazines. She has reported on vaccines since the controversy began with the MMR in 1998.

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