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Electrosensitivity forced me to change my career United Kingdom
Contamination level: Severe illness! Forced to abandon a home.
Author: Faisal Khawaja Created: 9 Aug 2005 Updated: 8 Aug 2007 Viewed: 5869 time(s)
Faisal Khawaja is a 26-year-old artist. He lives in Gloucestershire with his partner Laura and has been electrosensitive for four years
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Using wi-fi has cost me my life Created: 8 Aug 2007
Using wi-fi has cost me my life

FAISAL KHAWAJA, 28, above, trained in photography and had been assisting a professional advertising photographer -working for clients such as Mercedes, BT and Starbucks -for only a year when he says he began to feel III using mobiles and wireless laptops
MY JOB was to keep everyone happy so I spent hours on my mobile, liaising between equipment suppliers, ordering props, talking to clients.
After a year in the job, I began to get headaches on the side of my head where I'd use the mobile, along with a feeling of pressure inside my ears when I was on the phone.
They even began to ooze clear liquid.
At first the problem would last for minutes, then hours, then days. And then I started developing symptoms when I used cordless land lines, too.
I developed a red rash on my cheeks and nose, my face seemed hot and prickly, my head felt foggy and I was no longer able to focus. I couldn't form sentences and my jaw would feel locked, as if I was talking through sand.
The flashlights we used in the studio began to have the same effect and then the digital cameras. When I couldn't even use a laptop any more -essential for storing and transmitting photography - because my fingers used to burn when I touched the keypad, I had to resign. I lost everything I'd trained for.
I've had to move gradually farther and farther out of London and into the countryside the more masts and wi-fi networks have increased - if my neighbour goes wireless, I have to find somewhere else to live.
I've ended up in a house in the Cotswolds with no neighbours for 50 yards in any direction. I've been lucky in that my girlfriend, Laura, 29, has moved with me and has even retrained as an upholsterer as I'm trying to make a living as an artist so that we don't have to rely on technology for work. We've had to start all over again.
With teachers'chiefs urging the Government to suspend the use of wi-fi networks in the classroom until their safety has been definitely confirmed, JOANI WALSH reports on the symptoms of electrosensitivity and talks to the victims who say that their lives have been devastated by the effects of wireless technology

MICHAEL Bevington knows exactly what it's like to feel allergic to modern life. Head of Classics at Stowe public school in Buckingham, the father of three became so ill after the school installed wi-fi in his classroom last year that, within a week, he was ready to give up a near-30-year career rather than risk his health by continuing to work with what he believed to be the cause of his symptoms.
"I immediately began suffering from headaches, heart palpitations, nausea and pains all over my body whenever I was in the classroom after wi-fi was installed," Michael says. "And yet they eased when I left the classroom and dissipated completely at weekends."
Michael, who is in his early 50s, checked on the internet for other people reporting headaches connected to wi-fi and was astounded to find hundreds of cases across the world of people claiming to suffer exactly the same symptoms and believing they were caused by mobile phones, mobile phone masts and wi-fi technology that allows computers to connect to the internet wirelessly. It is a phenomenon that has become known as electrosensitivity.
"I was shocked," he says. "There are so many people suffering, surely we cannot deny there might be a problem with this technology."
'There are so many people suffering, surely we can't deny there must be a problem with this technology'
Michael's situation has improved since his headteacher agreed to remove wi-fi from his classroom but his concerns about the effects of its use in schools remain and were made public last week through his union, the Professional Association of Teachers. At its annual conference, general secretary Philip Parkin called for a full scientific inquiry and proposed that schools should be discouraged from installing further networks until the results are known.
Until then, Mr Parkin said, his real concern "is that the nation's children are being treated as guinea pigs in a large-scale experiment". He added: "I have never before been involved in a debate which provokes such polarisation of opinion and such venom in some participants."
Mr Parkin is primarily concerned with the impact of wi-fi on children, whose developing bodies and nervous systems are seen as being more susceptible tothe effects of electromagnetic fields and microwave radiation - both of which are present in mobile phone and wi-fi technology.
But the polarisation to which he refers is being sharply felt by adults such as Michael, who believe they are electrosensitive.
And it was felt most pointedly the week before Mr Parkin's speech when the results were published of a study by the University of Essex investigating whether short-term exposure to mobile phone masts increased symptoms in people who believe they are electrosensitive. According to the results, it did not.

One of the psychologists involved in the study, Professor Elaine Fox, was reported as saying: "We do know there is a very large literature showing that the placebo effect - the power of belief - is very powerful," and adding that she is "pretty confident that it's not the electromagnetic field causing these symptoms".
These results are disputed by sufferers of and experts in electrosensitivity, who point to the 12 "self-reported sensitives" who withdrew from the study, some of them complaining of such an escalation in symptoms as a result of the exposure required of the study, they were physically unable to continue.

One of those "self-reported sensitives" who withdrew was businessman Brian Stein, claiming he suffered a repeat of the internal bleeding he says he experiences whenever he is exposed to mobile phone masts or, indeed, wi-fi. Mr Stein, head of a multi-million-pound food manufacturing company that supplies supermarket giants including M&S and Tesco and who lives in Nottingham, asks: "How can this be psychosomatic? Maybe my gut is in league with my brain in deluding me."

Mr Stein says he has undergone internal investigation but that doctors have been unable to find a cause of the bleeding. He is angry that, having risked his health to participate in the study, his apparent adverse reaction to the mobile phone mast signals to which he was exposed ended up discounting him from the results. "It's a joke," he says.

FOR all his money, Mr Stein can't watch his favourite football team, Liverpool, on TV drive a car, travel on an electric train or stay in a hotel with wi-fi.

Dr Michael Clark, of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), an independent body set up to protect Britons' health, is in some agreement with Professor Fox, saying: "If you think something will harm you, you get real symptoms." Alasdair Philips is director of Powerwatch - which he describes as "trying to be an independent advisory group on the effects of electromagnetic fields" - and of EMFields, a company that supplies measuring instruments and screening materials mainly used by people who believe they may be electrosensitive.
'Sometimes people have so many triggers they only have to see a mast, for example to feel Ill'

HE SAYS: There are people who think they are electrosensitive and believe they are being zapped by everything and everybody. And there are people who feel grotty and are looking for something to blame. But there are also people who are genuinely electrosensitive. Sometimes they have so many triggers - mobile phones, cordless phones, mobile phone masts, microwaves, wireless computers - they only have to see a mast, for example, to feel ill. But that doesn't mean all of their symptoms are in the mind." Mr Philips is a member of the Department of Health's UK SAGE EMF Advisory Group, the Mobile Operators' Association Stakeholder Group and Sir William Stewart's HPA EMF Discussion Group looking at advice to be given to the general public on electromagnetic fields (EMF).

When it comes to the official advice on wi-fi, Sir William, who is head of the HPA, is reported as saying it would be "timely to carry out further studies as this new technology is rolled out".
"It is emerging technology," says Dr Clark, "and there is a need for more information, particularly on the levels of exposure there may be in the classroom from a wi-fi system."
However he adds: "On the basis of the studies so far carried out in-house, the agency sees no reason why wi-fi should not continue to be used in schools."

But, as Philip Parkin of PAT says: "I'm not saying there is a problem with wi-fi in schools, I'm saying we don't know there isn't." Both Mr Parkin and Mr Philips, remain hugely concerned about the lack of information and research on wi-fi in schools and urge them to stop using it.

"Absolutely no work has been done on wi-fi specifically and its effects on children," says Mr Philips, "and until there is, schools should go back to plugging in computers."
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Electrosensitivity forced me to change me carrer Created: 9 Aug 2005
Faisal Khawaja is a 26-year-old artist.
He lives in Gloucestershire with his partner Laura and has been electrosensitive for four years
‘My symptoms first appeared in 2002. I had a normal urban lifestyle in London and worked as a photographer.
My job entailed using my mobile a lot and I noticed that every time I used it I’d experience an unpleasant burning sensation in my ear.
‘Over time it became more intense until I’d get a sharp shooting pain that felt as if it was penetrating through to my brain.
My coordination deteriorated and I started to feel generally unwell.
‘I tried to reduce the amount of time I spent on my mobile and made calls from the cordless phone at home instead, but I’d get the same symptoms.
I bought a cable phone and my symptoms eased up for a while, until other household appliances started to make me feel particularly ill.’
‘After a couple of hours at the computer I’d hear a high pitched whining sound in my ears and feel agitated and frazzled.
My short-term memory became poor and I developed a red rash, which looked like sunburn across my face. It flared up very quickly, but subsided when
I logged off the computer.
‘Watching television for longer than half an hour gave me a headache.
I tried sitting further away from it and watching for only short periods of time, but it didn’t seem to ease my symptoms.
My life became increasingly restricted because every time I switched on an electrical or telephonic appliance I’d develop painful and unpleasant
symptoms.
‘There was a BT building 100 metres from our flat with a cluster of ten transmitter masts on the roof and I wondered if this was triggering my reactions.
My girlfriend Laura was getting very worried about me so we talked and decided that the only solution was to leave our flat in London and go to live in
the country with my mother for a while to see if I got better.
‘By now I was very concerned and confused because I didn’t understand what was happening.
I’d never had any allergies before and considered myself a fit and healthy man. All sorts of terrible possibilities ran through my mind –
“Could I have a brain tumour?”
‘I went to see my GP who did some tests and gave me the all-clear. I didn’t feel he believed or took me seriously as the only advice he gave me was to
take Paracetamol.
‘Although my symptoms improved when we went to Mum’s I still had strong reactions to television, phones, computers and her security system.
By now I was wracking my brains as to how I could shield myself from microwaves and currents.

FAISAL’S TOP 10 TIPS
1 Hire metering equipment to test your electromagnetic environment at www.powerwatch.org.uk
2 Discontinue using devices with high EMFs, such as cordless phones, microwaves and burglar alarm sensors.
3 Try to shield yourself against external frequencies from local transmitters.
4 Find out more about the condition by visiting www.electrosensitivity.org.uk
5 Ensure that wiring in your home is properly earthed.
6 Switch off main circuits at night from the fusebox.
7 Find out where your nearest masts are by visiting www.sitefinder.radio.gov.uk
8 Lobby your MP and GP to raise awareness of the condition.
9 Have an allergy test to eliminate other allergies.
10 Don’t be a slave to technology.

‘In desperation I built a special complex in the garden measuring six by five foot. It looked like an aviary and was made of double-strength wire mesh,
which the microwaves couldn’t penetrate.
The neighbours probably thought it was bizarre but at last I had a safe space where I could work for a few hours.
‘Laura and I are practical people who don’t tend to panic, so we just concentrated on how to make me feel better.
I booked an appointment at the Breakspear Allergy Clinic in Hertfordshire where a specialist took a history of my symptoms and gave me a series of tests.
She immediately diagnosed acute electrosensitivity, which, unfortunately, there is no cure for.
The only way of alleviating the symptoms is to radically change your living environment to minimise exposure to electricity.
‘So, early in 2003 I decided to change careers.
Although I was earning a good living from it, I could not continue working as a photographer because I was allergic to most of the equipment in the studio.
The only other thing I was good at and loved doing was painting, so I became a self-employed artist.
‘By the end of the year it was obvious that I had considerably less symptoms while living in the country than in London, so Laura and I started looking for
a home of our own.
Faisal, and his partner Laura, moved from London to the countryside in a bid to ease his electrosensitivity symptoms
‘She has been wonderful throughout this time and my greatest source of support.At the time she was training to become an upholsterer and felt confident
she could find work wherever we lived.
‘It took us three months to find a place where I felt I’d be able to stay healthy. We’d walk into somewhere and I’d sit down for fifteen minutes and see what happened. Nine times out of ten my ears would start throbbing or I’d get a headache because there were pylons or a mobile phone mast nearby.
Eventually we found a house in a little village in Gloucestershire where the nearest mast was two miles away.
‘Today I work from my studio at home and sell my paintings in local galleries and restaurants. I no longer own a mobile phone and only make short calls on
the land line.
I only watch television if it’s something I’m desperate to see and use the computer for a maximum of an hour at a time – any longer and the rash on my face
flares up again. At night I turn off every socket in the house.
‘Our nearest city is Oxford but going there can be problematic because most people carry mobiles, shops have fluorescent lighting and cafés and restaurants
are full of all sorts of electrical equipment.
‘The supermarket run isn’t as simple as it used to be so Laura and I buy local organic produce from farm shops instead.
Travelling by public transport can be tricky too. Even though most trains now have a mobile-free carriage, I can sense the electricity from the tracks.
So I get around by driving a very basic car which has only a few electronic switches.
‘Having a holiday is not without its complications either. Since my diagnosis I’ve flown in an airplane and was fine when I was actually in the air,
but waiting at the airport was a nightmare because terminals are full of radar and scanning equipment. By the time I got to the departure lounge I felt ill.
My ears had clogged up, the whining noise in my head was back and I was losing co-ordination. Taking off was such a relief.
‘Back in Gloucestershire, Laura and I usually entertain at home rather than go to pubs or restaurants.
Visiting friends can be a problem because their houses are often brimming with high-tech gadgets.
Young people tend to be heavy users of mobile phones, computers, televisions, DVDs and CD players.
It can be quite an ordeal for me because often something basic like a burglar alarm can trigger a reaction.
‘One thing I’ve learnt is that when you have an allergy, you discover who your real friends are.
Some people are very understanding and do everything they can to make you feel comfortable.
Others don’t believe there’s such a thing as electrosensitivity and think that it’s a figment of your imagination.
‘Sadly I’ve had a lot of ridicule from my peer group who don’t believe that someone could be affected by electricity simply because they’re not.
Laura and I have several good friends but it’s fair to say that my diagnosis delivered a blow to our social lives.
Fortunately now we’ve met new people who are more environmentally aware.
Electrosensitivity is still not a recognised condition in the UK so you just have to learn to live with the scepticism that surrounds it.
‘Laura and I have had to make huge changes in order for me to be able to live a manageable life.
She knows me better than anyone and took my condition seriously from the beginning because I’m not the type of person to make a fuss about nothing.
Today she’s the main breadwinner but it’s never been an issue for her.
‘I’ve no idea why I suddenly became electrosensitive. My lifestyle was similar to that of most of my friends.
The only answer seems to be that it was simply the luck of the draw. But I don’t have much to complain about – as long as I control my environment,
my health is good.
‘For the first year after my diagnosis, I really missed working as a photographer. I felt angry about having to give up a career I’d spent years training
for and spent a lot of time wondering “Why me?”
But as time went on I began to appreciate the positive things I had in my life and now I feel more grounded than ever before.
I’m no longer a slave to technology and although my pace of life is slower, I prefer it.’
‘Electrosensitivity is still not a recognised condition in the UKso you have to just learn to live with the scepticism that surrounds it’
Laura says, ‘I was very worried about Faisal because I thought he could have a serious illness like cancer. When we found out what the problem was,
the only sensible option was to move away from London. To give up your existing life for something totally unknown was a tough decision, but as an
upholsterer I’m lucky enough to be able to work more or less anywhere I live.
‘The best thing about moving to the country has been seeing Faisal start to feel well again. Our quality of life great and being the main breadwinner
isn’t a problem for me. I’ve relied on Faisal financially in the past and it’s nice that I can return the favour.
‘My advice to other partners of electrosensitive people is to stay optimistic.
There will be days where you have to be the light in the darkness for your partner and nothing is worse than being ridiculed.’
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Call 01322 619 898 or visit www.allergyuk.org
AS TOLD TO BEVERLY KEMP PHOTOGRAPHY: FAISAL KHAWAJA
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