Written by: Martine Vriens, Director of International Legal Affairs for We Are The Evidence
On January 17th, 2019, the French Court of Cergy-Pontoise ruled for the first time that Electromagnetic Hyper Sensitivity (EHS) is an occupational disease that can be developed also from exposure to levels of radiation which are considered to be safe by the government (if they can be injurious as the court ruled then they are clearly unsafe).
The importance of the decision is not only that it’s another decision which recognizes EHS / Microwave Sickness as a condition caused by exposure to wireless radiation but by recognizing that if the exposure to electromagnetic radiation was for the purposes of work, the EHS developed from the exposure may be considered an Occupational Disease. This decision should make employers concerned as it may lead to widespread liability.
This decision joined other decisions by courts in France that recognize EHS (also known as Microwave Sickness, which is the older more accurate name). The other recent decision from France, from September 2018, recognized that an employee was injured in an accident at work as a result of exposure to wireless radiation because of the employer’s failure to accommodate his Microwave Sickness and re-assign him to a different position with less exposure.
The employee in this case was employed as a research technician in a chemical laboratory since 2006. At work he was exposed to atypical and significant EMR of various types, including a mass spectrometer for 4-8 hours a day. The radiation measurements showed that the exposure limits were not exceeded, nevertheless, after two years he started developing various symptoms including tinnitus, digestive problems, insomnia, concentration problems and headaches.
Between 2008 to 2011 he visited the company’s doctor several times and in 2011 Professor Dominique Belpomme diagnosed him with EHS and recommended that the employee should avoid Electro Magnetic Radiation (EMR) including those which are considered low intensity, otherwise he may develop serious damage including brain damage. The diagnosis was confirmed by two other doctors.
On 15 March 2016, the Commission de Reforme, a body that advises on accidents at work and occupational diseases concluded that the employee’s intolerance to EMR is due to his work.
The Court’s Findings and Decision
The Court ruled that the specific circumstances of this case, and in particular the favourable opinion of the Commission, make it sufficiently likely that the employee has acquired EHS through his work. This is despite the lack of medical consensus on a causal link between long-term health effects and EMF exposure. Press Here for the Court’s Decision in French.
The Court further found that the worker was exposed to long-term and significant multi-frequency EMF at his workplace, some of which is atypical. The exposure to EMR has led to real and medically disabling conditions in the worker, which have developed two years after the start of his employment. It is also sufficiently plausible that the employee’s EHS is related to his work due to the absence of a previous disorder or other external factors not related to his work.