EMILY WEBBER investigates ways of protecting yourself against everyday radiation
HANNAH HUGHES was a bubbly and energetic child, so when the 11 year old began to fall ill every Wednesday after school her family were mystified.
"I didn't understand why she was coming home sick, " recalls her father Glynn Hughes who at the time worked as a telecommunications consultant.
"Shortly after she moved to her secondary school she would complain of headaches every Wednesday. She'd also vomit and look very pale."
A friend thought it could be radiation sickness and asked Glynn if his daughter, now 16, spent any time in the part of the school which had a mobile phone mast. It transpired that each Wednesday she had a class just eight feet away from a mast. This was eventually moved from the school but Glynn from Preston Lancashire began looking into mast emissions and how to shield against them.
Hannah Hughes who's electrosensitive
Soon local residents turned up at his door concerned they or their children were being made ill by radiation and wanting his expertise. Eventually he devoted himself full-time to the issue, setting up his company Wireless Protection (www.wirelessprotection.org).
He now receives calls for help from around the world. "I think there is a much higher percentage of people with electrosensitivity than diagnosed, " he says. "As soon as you remove or reduce the levels of radiation they are exposed to they feel much better, which is evidence in itself."
Electrosensitivity is the name given to the condition suffered by people who in varying degrees claim to be made ill by connection to electricity.
Particular hazards are thought to include pulsed microwaves or high-frequency radio waves given off by devices such as mobile phone masts, cordless phones, mobiles, WiFi, baby monitors and burglar alarms. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, headaches, earache, skin tingling, chest pains, gritty eyes, joint aches, lack of concentration, anxiety and depression.
Intrigued, I decide to see if my home is awash with electro pollution. On the internet I discover you can buy or hire devices that monitor electricity levels. I hire an electromagnetic frequency (EMF) reader, used to measure emissions from electrical sources. I also rent an electrosmog detector, a pleasingly sci-filooking gadget which converts pulsed microwaves into an audible sound. Armed with my new gizmos, I search my home.
MY MOBILE phone and computer don't seem to register on the electrosmog detector but it gives off an alarming sound around my cordless phone. The EMF meter gave more predictable responses, registering high levels next to lamps or any electrical equipment left on or switched on at the plug.
According to Glynn the most important place to check is your sleeping area. While the body can cope fairly well with radiation throughout the day, it needs deep sleep to recover from radiation overload and restore the immune system. Once you have established where in your house you are getting high readings, the next step is to remove all electrical equipment from near your bed.
You can stop any incoming radiation (from a neighbour's WiFi or nearby mast, for instance) by using special shielding material.
The material most commonly used is netting impregnated with silver-plated copper fi bre which reflect back radio frequency emissions. It can be bought as curtains, bed canopies or tunics.
You can even buy an antielectrosmog hood which look like a beekeeper's headnet.
The subject of whether electro pollution is harmful or not divides scientists. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has called for urgent action to reduce exposure to radiation from WiFi, mobiles and masts after an international science review concluded safety limits for radiation were "thousands of times too lenient".
The German government advises its citizens to use wired internet and landlines instead of WiFi and mobiles. Earlier this year a group of Dutch health specialists and scientists called on their government to minimise exposure to electromagnetic fields after noticing a sudden increase in chronic diseases with uncertain causes.
ELECTROMAGNETIC radiation has also been linked to cancer. Dr Andrew Goldsworthy, retired lecturer in biology at Imperial College, London, says calcium ions - the cement holding cell membranes together - can be pulled away from cell walls by pulsed microwaves. "There are indications people are getting brain cancer from frequencies in mobile phones, " he says.
However, the public health watchdog the Health Protection Agency claims research shows no harmful effects on living tissue.
"There is no evidence to back up the claims when tests are carried out in laboratory conditions, " said a spokesman.
An electromagnetic frequency reader is £25 for a week's rental and £374.50 to buy. An electrosmog detector is £15 to rent for a week and £58.99 to buy. Both are available from Healthy House, www.healthy-house.co.uk