Brian, 57, believes his symptoms
began as a result of using mobile phones. "I had used one since they came on the market about 20
years ago," recalls Brian, who runs Samworth Brothers, a Leicestershire company that supplies chilled foods
to supermarket chains.
"Then seven years ago I
started to experience a tingling sensation in my face and right ear, a bit like earache. It happened only
while I was using the mobile phone. At first, I could use it for 20 minutes without a problem, then only
for 15 minutes.
"Then one day, about a year
later, as I put the phone to my head, it felt as if my eardrum had burst - there was a sharp, stabbing
pain. I swore I would never use a mobile again and never have.'
Unfortunately for Brian, that was
not the end of his problems. Soon after, he began to experience head pains when he sat in front of his
computer or drove his car. Convinced he had a brain tumour, he visited his GP, who told him that his
symptoms were not consistent with a tumour.
But his fears were not allayed and
he asked to be referred to a neurologist who - at Brian's insistence - arranged an MRI scan, which was clear.
Over the next few weeks the
symptoms spread to include a sore throat, frequent chest pains and palpitations. "I wondered what the
hell was happening to me," he says.
"It was my wife who went on
the internet, just over a year after I first started having problems, and found out about electrosensitivity.
As I read through the list of symptoms, I ticked all the boxes. It was like a jigsaw fitting
Brian began conducting a series of
'experiments'. Driving the car made him feel unwell, but getting out of it made the symptoms subside.
From the internet he learned that
old vehicles with fewer electrics are less likely to cause problems for people with electrosensitivity than more
sophisticated models, so he began driving his wife's old Nissan, which he still uses.
He also found that being near the
washing machine caused a pain in his chest and watching television resulted in headaches.
Some rooms in his home caused him
no problems, but in others his symptoms would flare up.
By this time Brian had made contact
with Alasdair Phillips, scientific director of Powerwatch, an organisation that researches electromagnetic
fields. Alasdair's company, EMFields, sells electrosmog detectors - devices that convert
electromagnetic radiation into noise. - - - - /
Using one of these, Brian
discovered that some rooms in his home had higher levels of radiation than others. He concluded the radiation
was coming from a mobile phone mast about half a mile away, as the rooms affected were those positioned closest
Delighted to have identified the
cause of his illness, Brian again visited his doctor — and was shocked at his response.
"He told me that
electrosensitivity did not exist and said now that the brain scan had given me the all-clear, he thought my
symptoms were psychosomatic. I knew they weren't but it is intimidating when a doctor says that."
Things were getting worse. Within
two years of first experiencing head pains, Brian found that merely sleeping in a room with an electricity
supply for more than a few nights caused him to develop pains all over his body and ringing in his ears.
At first he switched off the house
electricity supply every night, but as this caused the fridge-freezer to defrost, he had a special extension
built, using a silver-plated insulating material that screens out virtually all radiation. This is where he now
Although neither his wife nor his
three grown-up children suffer from the problem, they try to be sympathetic.
"The children get exasperated
that they cannot watch the television when they come to visit," he says, "but they are very
understanding. It does make our home life challenging.
"One of the biggest problems
is staying in hotels when I am in London on business. If the room has wireless internet access, I wake up at 1am
trembling, with ringing in my ears."
All electrical appliances have been
removed from his office and his secretary handles his e-mails. "Instead of doing presentations from a
laptop, we use slides and overhead projectors.
"If somebody needs to get hold
of me, they leave a voicemail message which I collect from a land line. I have never lost a contract through
being out of touch.
"Because I am the chief
executive, I can modify my environment. However, as a trustee of the EM Radiation Research Trust, which lobbies
for more research on electromagnetic radiation, I have met many people who are severely electrosensitive like
me. Everyone apart from me has had to give up work."
Nobody knows how many people in the UK suffer from electrosensitivity
because the symptoms vary from person to person and the condition is not recognised by most doctors.
A review carried out by the Government's Health Protection Agency in
2005 estimated that somewhere between a few people per thousand and a few per million are affected by symptoms
they believe to have been caused by electromagnetic radiation.
But others put the figure much higher. Professor Olle Johansson, from
the Karolinska Institute's department of neuroscience in Sweden, where electrosensitivity is recognised as a
disability, estimates the prevalence of the condition in his country at three per cent.
In the capital, Stockholm, sufferers can have their homes adapted to
screen out sources of electromagnetic radiation. They can even rent council-owned cottages in areas of low
And according to a report published by the Swiss Government in 2005,
"electricity supply systems, appliances and transmitters for various wireless
applications generate electrosmog that can be harmful to our health".
In contrast, the British Health protection Agency report investigated
various symptoms attributed to electrosensitivity, including fatigue and headaches, but decided that there was
no proven link between them and exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
The World Health Organisation came
to the same conclusion: "It has been suggested that symptoms experienced by some individuals might arise
from environmental factors unrelated to electromagnetic fields.
"Examples may include
"flicker" from fluorescent lights, glare from VDUs and poor ergonomic design of computer workstations.
"Other factors that may play a
role include poor indoor air quality or stress in the workplace.
"There are also indications
that these symptoms may be due to pre-existing psychiatric conditions as well as stress reactions as a result of
worrying about electromagnetic health effects, rather than the exposure itself."
"With most diseases, sufferers
have roughly the same symptoms, but people who have this condition show a variety of responses," says
Professor Lawrie Challis, chairman of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme, which, though
funded by the Government and the mobile phone industry, is independent of
- - - - /
Professor Lawrie Challis, chairman
of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme continues . . . .
"The symptoms are real but we
do not know what they are caused by."
For the past five years, the
research organisation has been investigating the short-term effects of mobile phones and masts and is due to
publish the summary of this work in May.
"We have looked at a range of
possible effects on memory, blood pressure and inner ear function," says Professor Challis.
"We have taken blood samples
and measured hormones. These are high-quality studies and the signs are that they do not show any short-term
effects from exposure to mobile phones.
"What we have found is that
when extra-sensitive people are placed in conditions where they do not know whether a mobile phone is on or off,
they are unable to tell more often than you would expect."
Brian Stein believes the Government
is reluctant to acknowledge the danger posed by mobile phones because the industry generates around £13 billion
a year and brings large amounts into the state coffers through taxes and the granting of licences.
Those who, like him, are convinced
that electromagnetic radiation is detrimental to health have suggested various theories as to why this should be
Some believe an allergic reaction
is at work. Others argue that pulsed radiation from mobiles or laptops using wi-fi interferes with the
body's internal electro-chemical signalling systems.
The Reflex study, funded by the
European Union, reported in 2004 that electromagnetic radiation caused DNA damage to cells in the laboratory,
but it said that this did not prove that mobile phones could cause cancer.
Recently, however, more serious
concerns about mobile phones have begun to surface. - - - - /
Some studies, including one
published in the International Journal of Cancer last month, suggest that there may be a correlation between
using mobile phones for ten years or more and an increased risk of brain tumours, though the authors stress the
link could be due to chance or to bias in the research.
"This needs further
investigation," says Professor Challis. "Cancer takes more than ten years to appear: we have seen that
with cigarettes, asbestos and the atomic bomb.
"We have no evidence so far of
harm coming from mobile phones, but that does not mean that there is no harm. We cannot sit around and do
nothing for the next ten years. Short-term experiments do not tell us much about long-term effects. The only
sure way of finding out whether there are long-term effects is to study people's health over a long