Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 4:35 pm on 25th June 2019.

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Photo of Tonia Antoniazzi Tonia Antoniazzi Labour, Gower 4:35 pm, 25th June 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the health-related effects of electromagnetic fields.

I am honoured to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. This Westminster Hall debate is timely. It comes on the back of an historic decision by Glastonbury Town Council to oppose the roll-out of 5G because of a severe lack of evidence about its effect on the health of those living and working around 5G sites. In the words of Martin Pall, emeritus professor of biochemistry at Washington State University:

“Putting in tens of millions of 5G antennae without a single biological test of safety has got to be about the stupidest idea anyone has had in the history of the world.”

We saw the roll-out of 5G postponed in Brussels when Céline Fremault, Environment and Energy Minister, identified that it was not compatible with Belgian radiation safety standards; and a planned upgrade to 5G in Geneva has been stopped, through application of the precautionary principle, until independent findings on possible health damage become available.

I was approached by an old friend who is now a constituent about how a sensitivity to electromagnetic fields seriously affects her health and the way she lives her life. Annelie lives in France for part of the year and has to return to Wales as her health deteriorates while working as a university lecturer. I was intrigued by the effects and wanted to know more, so I have been in contact with a number of people who either have concerns about the health-related effects or are suffering at first hand. Following discussions with others, I was keen to secure a debate on the subject, because the Government are sweeping the health concerns under the carpet and there appears to be an absolute refusal to acknowledge that the health-related effects even exist.

Initiating a conversation about electromagnetic sensitivity has had members of my own team and family telling me that it is all made up. That in itself motivated me to keep reading and to speak to as many people as I could in Wales and beyond who were suffering. What shocked me was the number of people who have ES but are too afraid to talk publicly about their illness, because they are really wary of being humiliated and ostracised.

Electrosensitivity is the symptomatic sensitivity to electric or magnetic fields of any frequency, including radio frequency transmissions. The condition was first described in 1932. It is when a person’s physiology is affected by external electromagnetic fields, giving rise to a spectrum of symptoms, which are often neurological. It is therefore an illness caused by environmental agents—essentially, an environmental toxic pollutant. The condition can arise because of continued exposure to an environment polluted by man-made EM and RF wireless signals at levels at orders of magnitude below those that produce heating effects, and it is well understood in many other countries. Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, disturbed sleep, tingling, pains in limbs, head or face, stabbing pains, brain fog and impaired cognitive function, dizziness, tinnitus, nosebleeds and palpitations. As we saw with chronic fatigue syndrome, however, there was disbelief about those presenting with symptoms of this condition. Indeed, it was construed by others, through a lack of knowledge and difficulty in diagnosis, as a psychological illness. I believe that electrosensitivity will be recognised in years to come—sooner than that, I hope—and that the Government will have to own up to their part in it.

To be honest, this is not a subject that I ever thought I would stand here and talk about, even though as a mother, I have always been keen to charge my son’s phone outside his bedroom but have never applied the same rule to myself. Parents seem to care about this in relation to their children, and we hear that masts—one was recently fitted to a school in Haringey—are no longer being put up on primary schools. There is something in this.

I also worry about the impact of social media on mental health, and about the smartphones’ increasingly addictive nature, which is impacting on the lives of the youngest of children. There is some evidence about the effects of radio frequency signals on mental health and behaviour in children and young people, but those effects are not considered in current attempts to address the increase in mental health and behavioural problems in the UK. I ask the Minister to include the effects of wireless signals when considering solutions for such problems in children and young people. The recent advice from the UK chief medical officers on screen time and wellbeing in young people has ignored evidence for the adverse effects of wireless signals.