The emergence of electrosensitivity
A now-retired GP puts the 'new' condition of electrosensitivity into perspective.
In the early 1980’s I was an N.H.S. general practitioner in the Bournemouth area. I had already developed an interest in complementary medicine, and was particularly concerned that orthodox medicine was tending to concentrate too much on the symptoms of illness rather than trying to rectify the cause. Too little attention was being paid to possible environmental factors and nutritional aspects
The practice area was very much retirement land with estates of bungalows scattered around. Over a couple of years I began to notice that there were certain areas of the practice where there was a higher proportion of frequent surgery visitors or ‘fat-note’ patients. Commonly the complaints of these patients were vague symptoms such as lethargy, tiredness, depression, general aching, and insomnia.
Two miles north of the practice there was a substation on the ‘Southcoast Bus’. This is a high voltage National Grid line, passing all along the south coast, feeding the seaside towns, and from this substation three 400kV lines left to Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole - and all of them passed over my practice area.
Kids have amazing insight and possibly intuition. The family at that time were aged nine and seven. Dr Who was an obsession (even though it was often from behind the sofa) and the Daleks were the ultimate evil. When out driving the National Grid pylons were viewed as the evil Daleks and shot at with two pointed fingers and appropriate noise accompaniment. I began to wonder if there was something in their apparent wisdom. Were these things affecting us?
Over the next few months I took note of the areas that the ‘fat note’ patients came from, and it seemed that there was a preponderance from two estates, one at the southern end and one towards the west of the practice. The odd thing was that the population in these estates was very different. One was of four bedroom houses, so attracting families with working parents who often commuted to local towns, whereas the other was almost entirely retired couples. But the common factor was that over the former ran the high voltage line to Bournemouth, and over the other the line to Poole.
I then became aware of concerns, particularly in the U.S., of a possible association between H.V. lines and leukaemia following a study in 1979. Also in 1983 the New York Power Line Project published its report, again seeming to indicate an increase of childhood leukaemias around power lines. Perhaps a little study within my practice would be revealing.
The estate to the west of the practice was of little white painted bungalows, with a slightly Spanish feel due to red tiled porches and arched entrances. There was an almost identical estate elsewhere in the practice, but with no power line. I decided to compare the health of these two populations.
The First Study
As a relative newcomer to research, and unable to predict the findings I devised a very basic questionnaire about chronic or recurrent illness, developing since the residents had lived in their present homes. This was delivered to 120 homes on each estate with a covering letter. This letter made no reference to the other group being studied, and no reference to the power line. The respondents were not asked for name, but only details of age and sex. The questionnaires were collected, completed, one week later.
Two conditions appeared to predominate in the group exposed to the line - headaches and depression. Clearly the latter could result in various psychosomatic problems, possibly explaining the vagueness of some complaints. Fortunately, although the questionnaires were anonymous they had been coded, in the exposed group, as to the distance of the property from the power line, and on closer analysis this revealed that there was a significantly higher incidence between 60 and 80 metres from the line.
At that time there was a free journal, distributed to all G.P.’s - ‘ The Practitioner’ . I realised that my small amateur study was not going to get into the ‘big gun’ journals, so submitted it to the publication, where it was published in 1984.
The Second Study
To my surprise, and rather depressingly, there was widespread criticism of my paper. This was mainly because I had not used a questionnaire designed for headache and depression. Irritatingly the critics ignored the fact that I had no prior knowledge of this finding, but to try to settle things a more robust study was performed two years later with the help of Southampton University. This came up with the same findings, with an increase in frequency, duration and severity of headaches in the exposed group.
The outstanding questions which arose were why the occupants of some houses affected and not others? Why were some occupants affected but others - living in the same property - not so? Initially I thought that the most likely answer would be duration of exposure, so that a housewife might be affected as she is at home more than a working husband. But careful questioning of some of the affected group showed that this was not the case. So the only possibility was varying sensitivity between people - hence the concept of ES.
Testing for E.S.
Developing from the realisation that there was great variation in the capacity for subjects to tolerate increasing levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields without suffering symptoms came the idea that it should be possible to test patients. The major problem with this is that you need an electromagnetically ‘clean’ room to begin with. By this time (the late 1980’s) I had left general practice and was a partner at a practice using predominantly complementary medicine. I persuaded my partners to convert a small examination room into a clean EM environment by incorporating screening materials into the walls, floor and ceiling. This screening material was aluminium foil and - separately and insulated - aluminium mesh. Into this room we placed a range of oscillators (mainly ex-M.O.D. units as old valve driven ones are more accurate in their frequency production than new transistor ones) so that we could expose patients to a range of frequencies from extremely low right up into the microwave range. This led to some unexpected findings.
A well remembered patient was a lady in her 30’s, referred to me by her G.P. (they were more open minded then!) as she had developed epilepsy since moving to her present home. Independently she had noticed that she never had a fit when away from the house and the enlightened G.P. consequently thought that there was an environmental cause.
Having drawn a blank at any more common environmental factor, such as chemical exposure, but aware that epilepsy is an electro-magnetic ‘storm’ in the brain, I decided to test her. Nothing happened for ages, and then, as I reached 80 megahertz she started fitting. Alarmed I immediately switched off the oscillator, and her twitches reduced, but then, thinking ‘I want to be sure about this’ switched it on again, and, sure enough, the twitching resumed.
So what was it about 80 megahertz? I found a ‘directory’ of frequencies assigned to particular functions, and 80 megahertz was used for pagers. This was in the days before mobile phones, and pagers or bleepers were used to request the recipient to take some action, usually by making a phone call.
Puzzled I went to look around the location of the patient’s house, as she lived in a village on my commuting route. Then the penny dropped. Fifty yards from the patient’s house was the village fire station. So what? On the roof was an aerial, and there was no accommodation for the fire crew. They were part-time, with other local jobs, and were called to the station by pager. Whenever the paging signal was sent my patient had a fit.
This was probably the most extreme example, as most patients tested just became extremely fatigued when exposed. Usually this was at mains frequency (50 Hz) or at the frequencies given off by domestic items. Occasionally there would be a reaction at a frequency found in the work place. One patient complained that she was falling asleep at work, an occupation which involved making decorative neon lights for bars and restaurants. I found that these lights produced very complex harmonic frequencies (one frequency on top of another), and during testing she immediately fell asleep when exposed to these in the testing room.
De-sensitisation to E.M.F.’s
During testing a further unexpected event became apparent. Whilst there were frequencies making people ill, there appeared to be others which made them feel better. I then recalled hearing that the Americans, in the early days of space exploration, had described space-sickness, and that it had been resolved when it became clear that the reason for this was that spacemen were outside the earth’s natural magnetic field (the Schumann Resonance) of about 7.8 Hz. When oscillators to reproduce this frequency were incorporated into space suits or space capsules the problem was resolved. We need the Schumann Frequency for health.
Clearly the finding of beneficial frequencies led to the question as to whether there was a way of continuing the exposure of the patient to their helpful frequency. I became aware of the pioneering work of Professor Cyril Smith, author of Electromagnetic Man a book 20 years before it’s time, who had found that he could ‘imprint’ frequencies into water by simple exposure in a coil of wire.
I built a simple coil - by winding wire round a cardboard tube - and connected it to the oscillators. Once a patient’s beneficial or ‘switch-off’ frequency had been identified, the water, in a dropper-bottle, was exposed. This was then wrapped in aluminium foil whilst still in the testing room - to avoid contamination outside the clean environment, and then given to the patient. The patient was instructed to take one drop orally twice daily.
Initial impressions, and reports from patients, indicated that this did indeed seem to reduce their sensitivity to E.M. fields, and that the imprinted water seemed to last about three weeks. So I devised an experiment.
At their second visit for imprinted water they were given two tubes, marked A and B, with the impression that they had both been imprinted, when in fact only one had. They were instructed to take one for two weeks, storing the second in a biscuit tin (a miniature screened room), and then start the second. I kept a record of which had been imprinted, but no instruction as to which tube to take first was given.
Invariably I was either phoned within days: ‘This medicine’s not working’, so they had clearly taken the unimprinted water first. A request that they take the other water consequently worked. Or I had a phone call two weeks later as they had taken the imprinted water first and the second - unimprinted - wasn’t working.
For various reasons I left that practice in the early 1990’s, so no longer had the facility for testing. Furthermore the practice subsequently moved premises so then had no access to the room.
Screened rooms (or Faraday Cages, to give them their correct term) do exist as they are used by the electronic industry and the military for testing equipment, but, as far as I am aware, none are used for testing patients. As they are owned by electronic companies it would seem unlikely that they would allow them to be used for testing people who are directly antagonistic to their interests.
The publicity I gained from the two power line studies led to interesting contacts. Probably the most bizarre was a gentleman from south Scotland who had symptoms of severe but variable back pain. He had noticed that his pain would increase in severity over a period of a few days and then suddenly cease. He was convinced that there was an environmental factor to this, and had tried for many months to identify this, looking at diet, pollution, barometric pressure and eventually finding that it coincided with the strength of the earth’s magnetic field. He had produced graphs of this correlation which he sent to me, demonstrating an impressive relationship. Subsequently he had noticed that the resolution of his pain was associated with another natural phenomenon in that he was able to predict earthquakes!
He found that as the magnetic field increased his pain worsened, but shortly before an earthquake the magnetic field becomes concentrated in the area of the quake, so dropping elsewhere, and his pain cleared. About twenty-four hours later the earthquake happens.
He would ring The International Seismological Centre in Edinburgh whenever there was a marked drop in his pain levels, and in view of his accuracy with any earthquake over 6 Richters eventually The Centre accepted the reality of his prediction of the occurrence of a quake. But, sadly, other than it not being in Scotland, he couldn’t predict where.
There was also an interesting by-product of the original power line study. Not surprisingly the local paper in my G.P. area reported the findings, and I was approached by a gentleman in the locality and invited to visit him because he had electrosensitivity (this was 1983!). When I called he took me into his back garden to show me his purpose built Faraday Cage into which he retreated when his symptoms became too much. This was (and I suspect still is!) a solid iron box the size of small room. Without heavyweight lifting gear I would imagine is irremovable, so is probably still there. So if anyone knows of a large metal box in the back garden of a house in …….. Avenue, south side, near the S-bend in a suburb north of Bournemouth please let me know. I know of some people who could use it.
If you wish for more information or to contact the author, please email FoodsMatter.
First published in December 2012