Scientists serious about ‘electricity sickness’ claims

Scientists serious about ‘electricity sickness’ claims

Reports by Nic Fleming, Health Correspondent

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Scientists and health advisers are taking the claims of people who say electricity makes them ill seriously for the first time.

The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) is carrying out a review of existing scientific studies into “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” (EHS).

  Brian Stein
Brian Stein suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity

Two studies into the condition, funded with £750,000 from the Department of Health and the telecommunications industry, are already under way.

Sir William Stewart, the government’s adviser on radiation, has called for more research into the issue.

Some researchers believe a proportion of the population suffers ill health, with symptoms including fatigue, severe headaches and skin problems, because of exposure to electromagnetic fields. Other scientists say there is no evidence.

The Swedish government, which recognised EHS as a physical impairment in 2000, calculates that 3.1 per cent of its population – 200,000 people – suffer from the condition. A recent warning by Sir William, head of the NRPB and the Health Protection Agency, that parents should limit their children’s use of mobile phones received widespread publicity.

However, his suggestion that another section of the population, as well as the young, could have extra sensitivity to exposure to either radio frequency fields from mobiles or electromagnetic fields in general did not.

The NRPB has commissioned Dr Neil Irvine, of the Health Protection Agency, to carry out a review of existing scientific literature on EHS.

His report, focusing on symptoms, prognosis and treatment, will be published in the summer.

The Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme, funded by the Government and the telecommunications industry, is spending £8.6 million on 29 studies, two of which will investigate EHS.

A team at King’s College, London, is looking at whether mobile phones cause symptoms such as headaches, nausea and fatigue in those who claim to be hypersensitive and those who do not.

Researchers at the University of Essex are exposing two groups of volunteers to signals from a mobile mast to test if cognitive functions such as attention span and memory are affected. Half will be people who say they suffer EHS.

Dr David Dowson, a former GP who is now a complementary medicine specialist based in Bath, said he had seen around 10 patients he believed to be suffering from EHS. “I think the condition is increasing in prevalence, because we are living in a more electrically polluted environment.”

Olle Johansson, associate professor of neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, has been studying EHS for 20 years.

He has shown in experiments that there is an increase in the number of mast cells near the surface of skin when exposed to electromagnetic fields, a similar reaction to that when it is exposed to radioactive material.

He said: “If you put a radio near a source of EMFs you will get interference. The human brain has an electric field so if you put sources of EMFs nearby, it is not surprising that you get interference, interaction with systems and damage to cells and molecules.”

Others say the condition is in the mind.

 

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Bali mob want Amrozi dead

CHAOTIC scenes marred yesterday’s third anniversary of the Bali bombings as a former Indonesian president suggested his country’s military or police may have been behind one of the 2002 bombings.

A violent mob of 2000 angry protesters stormed Bali’s Kerobokan jail, breaking down a wall outside the prison and demanding the execution of three of the Bali bombers.Chanting “Kill Amrozi, kill Amrozi”, the crowd removed part of the jail’s main steel door before riot police stopped them from entering the prison where some of the Bali bombers are held.

Australian’s Schapelle Corby, model Michelle Leslie and the Bali Nine are being held in the same compound.

The violence co-incided with the claim by former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid that Indonesian police or military officers may have played a role in the first Bali bombing.

Wahid told SBS’s Dateline program that he had grave concerns about links between Indonesian authorities and terrorist groups and believed that authorities may have organised the larger of the two 2002 Bali bombings which hit the Sari Club, killing the bulk of the 202 people who died.

Officials and experts were quick to play down his claims which, if true, would have grave diplomatic consequences for Australia’s relationship with its nearest neighbour.

Asked who he thought planted the second bomb, Mr Wahid said: “Maybe the police … or the armed forces. The orders to do this or that came from within our armed forces, not from the fundamentalist people.”

Speaking in Jakarta last night, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said “it’s just rubbish”.

Singapore-based terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said the report had “absolutely no credibility”. “The Indonesian police have been doing a great job of hunting down the terrorists.”

He said Indonesia’s political leaders were committed to combating terrorism and there was “no evidence to suggest TNI (Indonesian military) involvement, either”. “I can’t understand why a man of his standing would be raising such issues,” Mr Gunaratna said.

Greg Fealy, an Indonesian expert at the Australian National University, said Wahid’s claim was a “bizarre suggestion”. “There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the Indonesian police are in cahoots with the terrorists.”

Wahid’s claims will not help the investigation into last week’s Bali bombings, which left 23 people dead, including four Australians.

The protesters who tried to storm Kerobokan jail yesterday were seeking the three death-row ringleaders of the 2002 bombings – Amrozi bin Nurhasyin, his elder brother Mukhlas and Imam Samudra. But the three were moved for security reasons to Batu prison on Nusakambangan, an island south of Java, before yesterday’s third anniversary of the attacks.

Dateline also reported claims that Indonesian intelligence had close links with many local terrorist groups. “There is not a single Islamic group either in the movement or the political groups that is not controlled by (Indonesian) intelligence,” said former terrorist Umar Abduh, who is now a researcher and writer.

He has written a book on Teungku Fauzi Hasbi, a key figure in Jemaah Islamiah, who had close contact with JI operations chief Hambali and lived next to JI spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir.

He says Hasbi was a secret agent for Indonesia’s military intelligence while at the same time a key player in creating JI.

Documents cited by SBS showed the Indonesian chief of military intelligence in 1990 authorised Hasbi to undertake a “special job”. And a 2002 document assigned Hasbi the job of special agent for BIN, the Indonesian national intelligence agency.

Security analyst John Mempi told SBS that Hasbi, who was also known as Abu Jihad, had played a key role in JI in its early years.

“The first Jemaah Islamiah congress in Bogor was facilitated by Abu Jihad, after Abu Bakar Bashir returned from Malaysia,” Mr Mempi said. “We can see that Abu Jihad played an important role. He was later found to be an intelligence agent. So an intelligence agent has been facilitating the radical Islamic movement.”

Meanwhile the investigation into the second Bali bombings appears to have stalled.

Bali police chief Made Mangku Pastika yesterday denied the detention of 45-year-old construction worker Hasan was significant in the investigation into the triple suicide bombings, while senior police refused to confirm local reports that a man named Yanto was one of the bombers.

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