Woman receives diagnosis for allergy to electricity
The Western Star
CORNER BROOK — Joanne March-Laberge always knew in her heart that it wasn't all in her head.
She says she now has the documentation to prove it.
In a story published in the Aug. 4, 2007 edition of The Western Star, March-Laberge claimed to be suffering from a form of "electromagnetic and chemical sensitivity," but was unable to get an official diagnosis because she said the illness wasn't recognized or acknowledged by medical doctors in the province.
Through the passage of time, March-Laberge's symptoms have gotten progressively worse, especially since she's been living in St. John's surrounded by electricity producers. However, she says she has finally received the diagnosis from her current doctor, Maureen Gibbons, which advises that she suffers from the illness and will require accommodations in single housing in an area of the province, which is a great distance away from power stations and electrical sources.
That was certainly a better reaction for March-Laberge than the usual "it's menopause, depression, anxiety or it's all in your head" diagnosis she had been receiving from various doctors up until that point.
Through her own research and tenacity, she managed to put the pieces of the puzzle together and came to grips with what she knew she had, and then managed to convince her doctor, thanks to a plethora of information from interviews with others involved with the illness, both researchers and sufferers.
"She wasn't convinced at first, but I had my facts," said March-Laberge. "I wasn't accepting depression or menopause or anything of that as a cause of what was wrong with me."
Anything can trigger it.
Now, the main issue for March-Laberge is successfully moving out of St. John's into an area where her body won't constantly be bombarded by the electrical currents that have crippled her once active lifestyle. Symptoms of the illness include nausea, headaches, shortness of breath, rapid heart beat, chest pain and a burning sensation up the throat and mouth — absolutely anything that emits electric energy can trigger the allergy.
"I now know what I have, what caused it and how to live with it," she said. "But the best thing is avoidance and in St. John's, I'm surrounded. It's like a blanket that continuously gives out signals.
"I had to spend all my savings to find out about this illness," she added. "I cannot work and now I'm considered disabled. I had to put a plea into our government for help and assistance to try to get me out of the city and into a smaller place, but it takes time."
March-Laberge is hopeful her situation may be straightened away sooner rather than later, but she insists her main goal is to force the government and the medical community to recognize the illness as the serious, life-altering illness that she says it is.
"All things go in three stages in life — first is ridicule, then it's morally opposed and then it's accepted," she said. "I hope the government doesn't wait too long to recognize this, for our children and our grandchildren as we use more and more technology and electricity.
"All I need is a place in Newfoundland away from most towers and I'll be fine," she added. "That's not too much to ask for when we have so many forests, but it all comes down to money and politics. So many people have this illness and our government is trying to knock it down."
'Conservative approach to human health'
Green Party supports study into cancer and electricity
By Katie Hyslop
A Norris Arm native who has been fighting for eight years to prove a link between electromagnetic frequencies and cancer has the support of federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May.
Electromagnetic frequencies can be emitted by transformers and high-tension transmission wires as well as cell phones, computers, and clock radios just to name a few.
Gerry Higgins, who has been asking for a study into the health effects of prolonged exposure to electromagnetic frequencies since his wife died of cancer eight years ago, says he first contacted May when she was executive director of the environmental group Sierra Club of Canada.
"Gerry's persistence really led me to do the research," says May. "It's not a matter of being superstitious or nonsensical — when you look at the kinds of studies, and they fall on both sides of the fence right now, but that's a long way from saying that (electromagnetic frequencies) don't cause a problem."
Higgins has been contacting politicians on the municipal, provincial and federal levels to try and garner support for an independent study into the correlation between cancer and electricity.
"I have 99 towns in Newfoundland and Labrador, that mayors and councilors faxed me stating that the same thing is happening in their communities as what's happening in Norris Arm," says Higgins, who says the towns include Joe Batt's Arm, LaScie and Port Saunders.
"There's one family in the town of Norris Arm, four people — two died, two lived. The transformer, the pole is seven feet from his door, and the transformer is on that pole. And he's got brain cancer, his wife died at 29 years old with breast cancer. He has a son between 11 and 13 (who) had a cancer tumour removed from his anklebone."
And he lost his mother to cancer, and the two homes were about 25-30 feet apart in the one yard."
Higgins touts the research of Magda Havas, associate professor of environmental and resource studies at Trent University, whose research into electromagnetic frequencies convinced May there was something wrong with assuming electromagnetic frequencies are harmless.
"But the policy of Health Canada on a wide range of issues is to insist that there is not enough known, that there is no reason for changing the status quo," she says. "We should be looking at the evidence in any kind of balanced way, and seeking the truth and being fair and scientific about it — there is absolutely no way to conclude that those exposures are safe."
May says she's not 100 per cent sure that exposure is causing cancer, but says cancer rates are on the upswing despite people taking better care of their health in other ways, like quitting smoking.
"Basically the lifetime risk of getting one form of cancer or another for both men and women is approaching one in two," she says. "It's epidemic. Now that's not because all of us have adopted really bad lifestyles. Some of it, sure, but we should be seeing cancer rates going down as fewer and fewer people smoke cigarettes, but we're not."
May agrees with Higgins that an independent study is needed into the health effects and says the Green Party will be making it part of their policy in the next federal election.
Until then, she recommends people subscribe to Havas' suggestions for reducing electromagnetic exposure in their own home.
"When you have a home computer, put that home computer facing against an outside wall, not facing against a wall where on the other side of the wall there's somebody's bed," she says, suggesting moving clock radios away from beds and not using electric blankets, as well.
"Let's be sensible and take a conservative approach to human health."