From Nottingham Evening Post
(ESS Comments – Brian Stein, Chief Executive Samworth Brothers Ltd, suffers from electro-hypersensitivity. He is on the Board of Trustees for Radiation Research Trust, an organization that promotes awareness of EMF. )
Brian Stein has not watched TV for four years. Not necessarily a bad thing perhaps, but the 55-year-old does not have a choice. “Last summer my children were inside watching England play in Euro 2004,” he said.
“Every time England scored and I heard cheering I wanted to run in to see the goal – but I was stuck out in the garden.” Frustrating as it is, missing England going out again on penalties is the thin end of the wedge for Mr Stein, who says he has an allergic reaction to electricity.
Mobile phones are out of the question, as are computers, the cinema, music devices plugged into the mains, long haul flights and electric trains.
The chief executive of a chilled food manufacturer, Mr Steinsays he has been forced to trade in his top of the range car for a “banger”.
“Most new cars are full of microchips, it’s like driving a computer, I need something less sophisticated,” he said.
In his office, the computerised heating system has been replaced with old-fashioned central heating, and apart from lighting, electricity is isolated and power sockets left dead.
The closest computer terminal sits on his secretary’s desk next door, and Mr Stein can only use the hands-free speaker phone in his office for a short time. Board meetings mean flip charts and overhead projectors.
At home in East Bridgford, he has to turn off the mains to get to sleep.
He admits his is a problem which sets him apart from most of the population.
In the past, he says, medical professionals have treated him like he was “visiting Earth from the Moon”.
“I was a normal person, I spent 15 years using a mobile phone,” he said.
“But in the last year I started experiencing weird symptoms. I suppose medically it would be described as a headache, but this was unlike any headache I’d ever experienced before.
“It was more like I could feel very sensitive nerve endings in my head.” He said he could almost turn the pain on and off like a switch.
“I’d pick up the mobile phone, put it to my ear and there was pain. It was quite ridiculous.
“But I didn’t stop using the phone then. A while later I was using it when I felt intense pain. It was excruciating like something had burst in my head. The damage had been done.” From that moment the situation got rapidly worse.
“I found I was starting to get weird sensations when I was near computers, and when I was driving my car.” After seeking medical advice, Mr Stein was nowhere nearer to working out the problem.
He spoke to medical professionals and scientists who told him his ‘condition’ did not exist.
“My doctor examined me and couldn’t find anything wrong.
“But I insisted I needed to see a specialist and that I needed a brain scan.
The scan came back clear.
“It was great on one hand, because I was worried it may have been a brain tumour or something, but at the same time I was thinking ‘What the heck is happening?’ he said.
At the beginning, Mr Stein could even tell if someone he was speaking to had a phone switched on in their pocket.
“Whatever it is that most people have that defends them against electromagnetic fields was damaged,” he claims.
Mr Stein spent time at Breakspear Hospital in Herts, where allergy and environmental illness is treated. But his symptoms continued.
“My only way of dealing with it was experimenting on myself, to work out what caused the problem.
“I visited alternative practitioners and found they could not do anything. The only thing that worked was avoidance.
“I’m lucky because I’m the chief executive of a company and can modify my environment so I can still work.
“I have to take a lot of precautions. I can travel on low cost flights, because there is no in-light entertainment.” Mr Stein said he tries not to dwell on any long-term effects of his condition.
“I don’t want to think about it – you only have to look at what mobile phones can do to rats in laboratories.” And he says he can only advise those close to him to be careful.
“Just before I became sensitive I bought my wife, mother and three kids mobile phones.
“My mother and my wife say they rarely use them.
“As far as the kids are concerned it’s a bit like cigarettes – you can only tell them how you feel, but I suppose mobile phones are a part of their culture.” Some existing research suggests symptoms of EHS include fatigue, severe headaches and skin problems.
Other scientists say there is no evidence the condition exists.
But now it appears scientists and health advisers are taking the claims more seriously. The National Radiological Protection Board
(NRPB) is carrying out a review of existing scientific studies into EHS.
Two studies, funded with £750,000 from the Department of Health and the telecommunications industry, are already under way.
And Sir William Stewart, the government’s adviser on radiation, has called for more research.
Mr Stein says he was asked to take part in one of the studies, run by researchers at the University of Essex, but declined.
Volunteers will be exposed to signals from a mobile phone mast to test if cognitive functions, such as attention span and memory, are affected.
Mr Stein believes more and more people will be coming forward as sufferers and thinks concern about mobile phone use should have been taken seriously.
‘Sufferers can feel shame and guilt’ Rod Read, director of the ElectroSensitivity-UK charity, said EHS is the “environmental consequence of over-exposure to electromagnetic fields for sensitive individuals over a period of time”.
Symptoms can include headaches, irritability, sleeping difficulties, fatigue, loss of concentration and short-term memory. Sufferers may also have flu-like symptoms such as sniffles, sore throats, and muscle and joint pains. Mr Read said because of mood swings the condition can affect relationships and home life.
“Withdrawal and isolation are common reactions – no phones, no TV, no travel, no chemically emitting papers or even sunlight for some.
“It can be horrendous, catastrophic.
“There is even shame and guilt, often unwittingly provoked by the disbelieving nearest and dearest, which is aided and abetted by ill-informed doctors and arrogant psychiatrists.” Mr Read added: “Doctors are some of the worst offenders.
“They react very badly to attempts to explain from the patient, all too often with a ‘I’m the doctor here’ attitude. Less obviously competent people are made to feel very silly and ashamed.”