Medical and Legal Perspectives on EHS
8 February 2016 – “Mobilfunk Newsletter – EMF Omega News”
See attached documents and comments below by EHS pioneer Olle Johansson PhD
Informant: André Fauteux
Excerpt from the CHRC report Accommodation for Environmental Sensitivities: Legal Perspective
International approaches to definitions of disability in human rights protection vary in their reliance on medical diagnoses and symptoms. At one end of this spectrum are the Canadian and Australian approaches, in which a very broad definition of disability is adopted.3 As a result of this, complainants are required to provide minimal medical evidence to establish that they qualify as persons with a disability, and individuals with environmental sensitivities do not need to prove the veracity of their condition. In fact, the courts have specifically held that the inability of the medical community to diagnose a condition or identify its cause does not affect whether an individual has a disability, so long as its triggers can be identified.4 Instead, the analysis is meant to focus on the individual’s accommodation needs and the behaviour of the employer or service provider.5
In contrast, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies a very restrictive medical test for an individual to qualify as a person with a disability and be eligible for protection under the ADA.6 Individuals with environmental sensitivities often find it difficult to establish that they have a disability under this definition. In one case, for example, the United States District Court held that a woman did not qualify as a person with a disability because her sensitivities to chemicals only affected a major life function (breathing) while at the office and exposed to chemicals.7
From: Olle Johansson
A functional impairment does not need any diagnosis, nor any recognition (apart from the personal one), no tribunals or similar. Please, read my latest paper for an update on this: Johansson O, “Electrohypersensitivity: a functional impairment due to an inaccessible environment”, Rev Environ Health 2015c; 30: 311–321 [enclosed as a pdf]
Also see what medical doctors* may do if they are given the opportunity: Johansson O, “Electrohypersensitivity – In January 2015, how far from January 1945 were we?”, Newsvoice.se 24/2, 2015a
It has been investigated many times, and it turns out that it is a very uncommon situation; it is not so fun to ‘play the role’ of a handicapped person, as you may imagine, and the monetary gain is not that big. In rich countries, this uncommon behaviour is not an economical problem, so it is far better to allow this rare incidence to take place instead of running the risk of chasing entitled persons out of their human rights. We can afford it. (I once positioned myself at a Stockholm roundabout and during 10 minutes (and this was not during the rush hours) more than 60 million Swedish kronor, approx. 10 million Canadian dollars, passed. So, yes, we can afford it.)
Furthermore, it has also been shown that early support cuts the later costs for the society, for the employers, for the health care, etc., down to a tenth (or even lower), so here you may gain billions whereas above you may loose (perhaps) a few millions.
Finally, the greatest economic gain lies in the fact that when you make a society completely accessible then everyone benefits from it. A phased-off sidewalk in Stockholm, meant for persons with movement disorders, are used to at least 99.9% by normal healthy people taking advantage of it while being on a roller board, a bicycle, pulling a shopping cart, pushing a baby pram, using a Segway, a walking frame, a skateboard, etc. The economic advantages of this are, of course, astronomical.
As a citizen – even as a top journalist like yourself – it is of paramount importance to only see the possibilities, not the problems, when it comes to functional impairments and accessibility measures. Many times, only thanks to functionally impaired persons, society has developed immensely.
There is still a very strong tendency to be afraid of persons with Down’s syndrome, odd movement impairments, MCS persons, EHS persons, and Swedes without knowledge of the French language. Especially medical doctors react in a rather primitive way, looking at these persons as potential patients, to be given diagnostic criteria, hospital clothes, and flimsy ‘treatments’. I cry when I think about how, for instance, the persons with Down’s syndrome were treated in the 1940ies and 50ies here in Sweden, being looked away for life in their homes or most often at medical institutions, being victims of homemade ‘treatments’ and unfounded theories; nowadays they are the most loved and respected citizens, having their own movies, theater plays, winning awards, writing poems, books, etc. And the irony is that if you really want to have a loving creature, filled with the uttermost kindness, they even outbeat a puppy! (…But they were not treated as puppies, but as filthy dogs…) And nowadays physicians want to go down such an avenue again, to ‘treat’ EHS persons…and then, in the future, maybe Swedes without knowledge of the French language … or Canadian journalists, if you see what I am driving at. :-(((((
In summary, in Sweden EHS persons are not seen as patients, they do not have an overriding medical diagnosis, but the ‘patient’ is only the environment – inferior and potentially toxic. This does not mean that a subjective symptom of a functionally impaired can not be treated by a physician, as well as get sick-leave from their workplace as well as economic compensation, and already in the year 2000 such symptoms were identified in the Internal Code of Diagnoses, version 10 (ICD-10; R68.8/now W90), and have been since. But the underlying cause still remains only the environment. (As a matter of fact, the EHS persons in Sweden are even “allowed” to break a leg, have diabetes and get psoriasis treatments. Thus, ‘functional impairment’ and ‘medical condition’ are not mutually exclusive. They are different things. In the everyday world, having EHS is definitely a huge disability and it impairs the ability of a person to have an optimal quality of life. If it was not an impairment, only those interested in esoterica would care about it. So, the pragmatic aspect that makes it important is the simple fact that it is an impairment that disables people’s lives. (And interventions for people who have the condition include medical treatments of their symptoms, but not of their environmental causes – there we need technicians, physicists, electricians, and others to make the latter accessible.) About this, the current whole society needs to be educated. Furthermore, prevention is yet another aspect that definitely should be in the discussion; when will we see my dream of tomorrow’s green, human-friendly technology come into play?)
[*As you know, the UN definition of functional impairments includes everyone.]
Olle Johansson, associate professor
The Experimental Dermatology Unit
Department of Neuroscience
171 77 Stockholm