When you are electrohypersensitive you can’t be around any wireless electronic devices, including wireless routers, laptops and mobile phones. How can you live in the modern world if you can’t stand technology? Gunilla Ladberg*, the Swedish author of a book entitled ‘Forced to Disconnect’, has asked this question directly to electrohypersensitive people.
Thanks to her book, it’s easier to see the human side of the problem. EHS people have commented on the careers they’ve had to quit, their relationships falling apart and they’ve also mentioned their friends and neighbours who refused to acknowledge or try to understand their condition.
We have asked Gunilla Ladberg not only about her book but also about the living conditions of EHS people in Sweden, where electrohypersensitivity is recognized as an official impairment. She told us something more. She is certain that EHS is not the main problem. “All of us are affected by radiation”, she said, “even if not everybody realizes that”.
As EHS (electrohypersensitivity) is not a well-known condition, what was your first thought when you heard about electrohypersensitivity?
Gunilla Ladberg: The first time I met someone with electrohypersensitivity was about 15 years ago. I was introduced to her by my friend. She told me about the symptoms of her condition and I just thought: “what the hell is this?!”.
I then started to read about EHS. I found The Freiburg Appeal, a paper written by German doctors describing the same symptoms my new friend had. These symptoms were associated with electromagnetic fields. They had observed similar symptoms in a lot of their patients. On reading this, I was certain we needed to know more about it.
Around the same time, a scientific work of Swedish scientist called Leif Salford was discussed on television. He is now very well-known internationally. He was experimenting on rats being exposed to radiation when he discovered that electromagnetic waves from mobile phones can break their blood-brain barrier in a few minutes. The BBB is supposed to protect the brain;
it should act as a barrier.
This news, in particular, sparked my interest in the subject of electromagnetic radiation.
I wanted to talk to people who found themselves affected by it, to get to know them and to learn more about their condition. I was never electrohypersensitive myself, nobody in my family was. I started to meet people suffering from EHS through organizations which educated people on the influence of electromagnetic fields. I am still working with one of them, The Wave Breakers (The National Swedish Association Against Harmful Electromagnetic Radiation).
You said you became interested in electromagnetic sensitivity through reading scientific research but in your book, “Forced To Disconnect”, there is no information about research. It’s more of a journalistic human-interest story.
Gunilla Ladberg: That’s right, I wrote this book to speak to people’s hearts. I wanted readers to fully understand the human side of this problem. When I met more people suffering from electrohypersensitivity, I had no expectations. I just sat there and listened to them.
People don’t pay attention to electromagnetic hypersensitivity. When they hear about it, they just tend to switch off. I understand it as long as I know how much they love this technology. They don’t want to hear about the problems it may cause. But if it turns out that someone close to them is electrohypersensitive, then they might start to listen.
Are people in Sweden more aware of EHS?
We know it’s recognized as an impairment there.
Gunilla Ladberg: You might be surprised by the fact that most Swedish doctors think EHS is the result of a patient’s imagination. In general, doctors don’t believe it so even if it is considered to be an impairment, you can’t get your doctor to sign papers stating that you need help. They are very few specialists who recognize EHS as a disability and are ready to support sufferers. According to the most doctors, EHS is nonsense.
You wrote about people who don’t understand electrohypersensitivity. In one of the stories in your book, a woman with EHS mentions her neighbors, who knew about her impairment. They used to turn on their mobile phones, walk into her garden and look through windows to check what would happen. She said it was the equivalent of putting a few nuts
in the food of a person allergic to nuts, just to see if they would get sick. Why do you think people with electrohypersensitivity are treated this way?
Gunilla Ladberg: People are not always aware that they are hurting others by acting this way. This is because – in their opinion – EHS is pure imagination. They have no idea how the people who suffer from it live. I don’t know why they do it. They might be mean or so used to technology that they get mad if someone asks them to be careful with it.
They don’t want to take it seriously because it has consequences. When I got to know more about the subject of electrohypersensitivity and radiation’s impact on environment in general,
I stopped using a wireless connection to the Internet. I also quit my mobile phone. I’ve never been a heavy user of electronic devices but I didn’t want to contribute to electromagnetic pollution. I don’t want to be a part of it because I know radiation affects not only people but also animals and plants. The level of exposure to radiation should be lowered, we need to take care of our environment and ourselves.
Before we talk about electromagnetic radiation in general, we wanted to ask you about one thing which wasn’t clearly explained in your book. As you wrote, being electro hypersensitive means being lonely. People with EHS are constantly moving out, it is hard for them to remain connected to family and friends and their relationships often fall apart when the other person can’t accept living without electricity. They are not able to work in modern society where Wi-Fi and smartphones are everywhere. You mentioned a few people who quit their jobs as it required that they use a computer. In these cases, how do they make a living? What kind of jobs could they have?
Gunilla Ladberg: Well, it depends. Some of them were given the possibility to adjust their work environment so they weren’t as heavily exposed to radiation and they could continue their career. Some can work outdoors, in fields or gardens. Others can’t work at all. If they succeeded in finding a doctor to give them documents regarding their impairment, they might receive insurance money. Some of them are living on social welfare. The most difficult situation is when they have no support from their family or friends. In many cases, the closest people to them don’t believe that electrohypersensitivity is real so they are often left feeling isolated which is really sad.
In your opinion, what should be done with regards to subject of electrohypersensitive people?
Gunilla Ladberg: Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is not the main problem. It is, for people who suffer from it, but I am sure that electromagnetic radiation affects us all. We might just be more resistant to it than others. Most of us don’t realize how strong our exposure to radiation is in everyday life. I think that one is more prone to being electrohypersensitive if their immunological system is weak or if they have other health problems. I am not sure if you can check whether or not you are more sensitive than others before you experience the typical symptoms of EHS.
Everyone should be aware of the exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Electrohypersensitivity is not the only problem. People have problems with memory, concentration and quality of sleep. They can feel stressed or fatigued. The scale of the problems caused by radiation is much wider than anticipated. We are not aware of how many of children’s problems are caused by environmental issues but radiation exposure is definitely a contributing factor.
There are also studies on animals and insects – they are also affected. There were studies on birds and bees, their navigational skills were disturbed by radiofrequency radiation. It was proven that radiation increases the risk of Alzheimer disease. A few years ago about 200 scientists in the field of non-ionizing electromagnetic field exposure wrote an Appeal to the United Nations. They called for protection from radiation, especially for children and pregnant women. It was a powerful message and still, not a lot was done on that subject.
We’ve read opinions that most, if not all, the work in this field is junk science.
Gunilla Ladberg: That happens a lot. Scientists are still being attacked for their work. I think that is because the mobile industry is so strong, there is a lot of money there. If mobile phone manufacturers contribute to research, it is often provided in such a way that it gives little or no results. There are false assumptions and inappropriate methods used. A few years ago one of the best-known scientists in this field, Martin Pall, was in Norway, and later in Sweden, for a lecture. He talked about mechanisms in the body which changed from the influence of radiation. You could watch this lecture on Youtube. He has been verbally attacked. People didn’t want to know.
What can we do to make people more aware of radiation exposure?
Gunilla Ladberg: In our organization (The Wave Breaker), we are doing a lot of things all the time. We are preparing seminars to educate people on the subject. We want to get the media interested. If newspapers or television don’t mention this subject at all, people won’t get any chance to change or voice their opinions. We are also talking to politicians. They don’t care. We want them to do something about exposure in schools, as it is happening in some other countries. When one politician wrote a motion to the parliament about it, he was mobbed.
There is enough evidence on the adverse impact radiation has on human health. Radiation will eventually affect more people and change our environment. Hopefully, it won’t be too late by then.
What advice would you give us?
Gunilla Ladberg: Keep away from electromagnetic radiation if possible, be very careful with wireless electronic devices and try to advise others to do the same.
*Gunilla Ladberg, Ph.D. in pedagogy. She is an educator, lecturer and consultant. Her main areas of work are multilingualism, the human brain and the destructive impact of wireless technology on health and the environment. She is the author of about 20 books and a large number of articles. One of her books, ‘Forced To Disconnect’ is about electrohypersensitive people and their struggles. You can find more information on her website: http://www.ladberg.se/.