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WCH’s Dr. Riina Bray speaks at a Montreal conference

September 5, 2016

By Atifa Hamir

Dr. Riina Bray
Dr. Riina Bray

Women’s College Hospital’s (WCH) Dr. Riina Bray recently gave a presentation at the Ecosphere Environmental and Ecohousing Fair, part of the World Social Forum in Montreal, on the topic of electromagnetic hypersensitivity including its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

As medical director of the Environmental Health Clinic, Dr. Bray has extensive experience working with patients who suffer from conditions linked to the environment. The clinic, which is the only one of its kind in Ontario, was established by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to be a provincial resource in promoting environmental health and also improving healthcare for people with conditions linked to the environment, which include electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

“There are large gaps in knowledge and understanding of electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” says Dr. Bray. “But what we do know about it allows us to identify certain symptoms and conduct the appropriate assessments in order to diagnose patients with this condition and help them make the necessary changes to improve their health.”

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a condition in which people can experience certain symptoms and adverse effects in response to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and/or electromagnetic fields (EMF). Sources of these exposures include cell phone towers and cell phones, power lines, cordless phones, compact florescent lights, microwave ovens, routers, wireless devices and laptops. Common symptoms include:

  • headache
  • dizziness, vertigo, nausea
  • sleep disturbance
  • heart palpitations
  • fatigue, weakness, restlessness and low mood
  • brain fog
  • memory disturbances
  • tinnitus
  • skin irritation

Other adverse biological effects can include damage to DNA, immune system imbalance, thickening of blood, leakage of the blood-brain barrier, oxidative stress worsening inflammation and other cardiovascular, neurological and endocrine system effects.

“People may not be aware of the relationship between their exposures and how they feel,” says Dr. Bray. “Feeling normal may have become a thing of the past for those who are constantly exposed to radiation and electromagnetic fields.”

Due to the fact that symptoms can be attributed to many other illnesses, the diagnostic process can be quite extensive. A physician must conduct several thorough medical, psycho-social and environmental assessments and patients must complete questionnaires.

Once a patient has been diagnosed, several treatment strategies can help reduce the severity of their symptoms including home inspections and revisions, tactics to avoid or reduce exposure, dietary changes, increased physical exercise and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction techniques.

Despite the lack of knowledge surrounding the condition, Dr. Bray has hope that this can change.

“Europe and other industrialized countries are far ahead of Canada in acknowledging and supporting people who are suffering from this condition,” says Dr. Bray. “We can and must learn how to use technology wisely, and education of our community and healthcare providers is key to protecting the public, especially those who are more vulnerable.”

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