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October 12th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in electrosensitivity, powerwatch - alasdair philips | 18 Comments »

I thought I’d briefly share this email which just arrived. As you can see the Powerwatch/EMFields product range is expanding, and as they say, electromagnetic hypersensitivity has been officially recognised as a disability by the government. If you’re frightened about electromagnetic radiation you can pay £28 to subscribe to the Powerwatch website. You can read for free.

What’s New?

We have electrocloth back in stock! This is the material, that in additional to providing excellent screening against microwaves and electric fields as curtaining, also is tough enough (and can be handled well enough) that you can make it into clothing or bedding. One of our customers can be seen here wearing a shirt made from electrocloth.

If you have one of our instruments, or are considering buying one, why not buy a carrying case for it? Available in three sizes (small, medium, large) and two colours (blue or black), you should be able to find a carrying case suitable for any instrument or combination of instruments. (see: here for pictures, price and availability).

VAT Recognition

Although this news probably doesn’t seem terribly significant, we feel that it’s a huge step forward in getting EHS (Electrical Hypersensitivity) recognised by more people. What’s happened? We applied (back in April) to the VAT office to request that our silver bobbinet headnets and bed canopies be considered for zero-rating of VAT. They finally responded with a firm YES!
This means that EHS has been officially recognised as a disability by a government body!

The way that the canopies and headnets are eligible for this is that they have been manufactured solely for people with the disabling condition of EHS. According to the VAT office’s definition of a disability, the symptoms most commonly reported by sufferers of EHS have a significant effect on people’s lives and therefore they classify EHS as a disability.

So, if you suffer from EHS, and sign a declaration to this effect, we are now able to supply headnets and bed canopies with no VAT added. This change is not retrospective, and we do need the declaration before any products are shipped. You can find the full information here.

Unfortunately the material itself and the paint cannot be considered under this category as they can be used for other purposes too, and therefore are not eligible.

Progress on the Acousti-meter

Those of you who are aware of the plans for a new instrument (the Acousti-meter) will hopefully be pleased to know that R&D is on track, and it is currently looking like the instrument will be available to hire or to buy at the beginning of 2008. The price is still not fixed, but will probably be in the £150 – £250 region (to buy, and probably £35 to hire)(depending on the final components that are being used). This instrument will both provide the acoustic (sound) indication AND provide a digital display of the microwave level emissions it is detecting. It will be more sensitive than the COM monitor (currently our only low cost instrument that indicates signal strength). We’ll keep you informed of progress.

Powerwatch Subscriptions
Still a very useful service this one, if you are interested in reading more information about the topics on the website, some extremely technical articles (and more articles designed for the not-so-technical minded amongst us) can be found on the Powerwatch website. Available at £28 for a year, or £48 for a lifetime subscription, we feel this offers excellent value for money. A list of the current articles available for subscribers can be found here . These are free to download for subscribers.

This is a group which has a clear position on conflict of interest: although I’ve always found Alasdair from Powerwatch to be fairly okay, this lobby is obsessed with the idea that anyone who disagrees with them is doing so because they are paid off by some sinister backroom boys, or have something to gain. Meanwhile, if you’re feeling anxious about your insomnia, headaches, fatigue, and more then this is what you will find on the Cotton Electrocloth page.

EMFields Screening Products
Screening Material – Cotton Electrocloth

BUY (£35.25/m)Stock: 302m in stock
Further Information

Since the 1970s occupational exposure to microwaves has been linked to the following adverse health effects:

* Insomnia
* Skin rashes
* Headaches
* Fatigue
* Altered blood pressure and heartbeat changes
* Nosebleeds
* Mood changes, including irritability and depression
* Memory loss and concentration problems
* Epilepsy
* Nausea and digestion problems

That was discovered before the general public became exposed to microwaves as a result of the phenomenal increase in mobile phone masts or base stations.

Despite reassurances from the mobile phone system operators and some government officials that this radiation is safe, local communities are reporting the same health effects arising wherever a mast springs up. Planning regulations seem to be unable to stop the spread of masts.

If you suspect that you, or members of your family, may be experiencing health problems as a result of mast exposure, you can protect them from microwaves coming into your home, with the material you can see in the picture. It stops over 99% of incoming microwave radiation from 2G, 3G and TETRA systems.

If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

18 Responses

  1. jackpt said,

    October 12, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    I’m all for psychophysiologic illness being considered a disability. But giving a company that may help prolong such conditions zero VAT status sucks.

  2. marcdraco said,

    October 12, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    It sucks as long as you’re not running he company Jackpt! There’s wise investment going into some of this pseudoscience. I often feel that I should swallow my own pride and sell some b/s item that cures everything; an electronic bible perhaps?

  3. rob said,

    October 12, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    I’m sure there’s got to be something in tax law about misrepresenting yourself to the VATman to get your products zero-rated!

  4. zeno said,

    October 12, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    marcdraco said: “and sell some b/s item that cures everything; an electronic bible perhaps”

    An excellent idea! I’m up for it – we’ll make a killing (or is that the wrong word?). However, you’ll need to add the word ‘quantum’ in there somewhere to make it respectable. ‘Quantum Electronic Bible’, perhaps?

  5. John Craddock said,

    October 12, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    This reminds me of a Christmas film where a judge declares an old man to be Santa because the post office delivered Santa’s post to him.

  6. boatie said,

    October 12, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    The mental leap from VAT registration status to goverment recognised disability is quite beyond me. If I could jump that far I would be in the olympics.

    Maybe the O rate is because there is no “value”?

    How about a badscience bullshit detecting device that barks (or quacks) whenever it hears the words “quantum”, “field” and “resonance” in the same sentence…

  7. marcdraco said,

    October 12, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    I’ve already got a bullshit detector – came free with my copy of Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World and served me very well. Requires a certain degree of intelligence to use and the ability not to take things at face value, so it’s not for everyone.

  8. JasonKiddy said,

    October 12, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Not related at all really, but I ride a motorcycle and am *forced* to wear safety equipment (a helmet which I would actually choose to wear…) which is NOT zero VAT rated.
    How can this tosh be zero Vat rated when something that actually saves/protects lives isn’t?
    Bah humbug!

  9. BobP said,

    October 12, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    The criteria as far as the taxman is concerned are –

    a) the device must be useable solely as a therapeutic device (whether or not it works is irrelevant)
    b) the buyer must be disabled

    This form of tax relief applies to a wide range of devices and the majority of them are familiar to us – zimmer frames for example. The taxman is not in the business of deciding whether or not something works.

    However the buyer has to be chronically ill or disabled, and he has to sign a declaration in order to get the discounted price. I don’t think that anyone in the UK has been properly diagnosed by a qualified medical practitioner as disabled because of Electrical Hypersensitivity, so it is possible that no-one will ever be able to apply for tax relief legitimately.

  10. rongraves said,

    October 12, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    #3 I’m sure there’s got to be something in tax law about misrepresenting yourself to the VATman to get your products zero-rated!

    Yes, indeed there is. As a disabled guy I have to declare my disabilities on every VAT exemption form I complete (and it IS exemption, NOT zero-rating). Anyone making a false declaration is liable to prosecution. I don’t know for sure, but I think the only way disability VAT exemption claims could be verified is by comparing them with disability benefits records. That, or no-one checks and it doesn’t matter what you put on the form!

    Note: for the record, if a product is zero-rated, NOBODY pays VAT on it – as with food and (I believe), kids’ clothing.

  11. BobP said,

    October 12, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Actually there’s some disingenuous wording in the news release –
    “According to the VAT office’s definition of a disability, the symptoms most commonly reported by sufferers of EHS have a significant effect on people’s lives….”
    [so far it’s OK, they are only talking about symptoms]
    “…and therefore they classify EHS as a disability.”
    This bit is not correct – the VAT office (HMRC) do not have any list like this.

  12. Jut said,

    October 12, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    a campaign to inform the VAT office maybe?

  13. pv said,

    October 13, 2007 at 1:41 am

    “If you suspect that you, or members of your family, may be experiencing health problems as a result of mast exposure, you can protect them from microwaves coming into your home, with the material you can see in the picture. It stops over 99% of incoming microwave radiation from 2G, 3G and TETRA systems.”

    Note, it doesn’t say anywhere to get yourself checked out by someone suitably qualified; your GP, say, or a neurologist. Only if you suspect something. Who cares if you are suffering from anything as long as you are gullible enough to buy their stuff? Sick making vultures.

  14. SDensley said,

    October 23, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Quick comparison folks… Powerwatch point to research that says mobile phone radiation is dangerous and offer to sell us products to shield us from it, making perhaps a small profit (although I understand they are a non-profit organisation) and we decry their outrageous conflict of interest. Meanwhile the mobile phone industry point to research that says it is not harmful, much of it funded by themselves, so they can continue selling products that rely on this radiation, making billions of pounds in profits every year and we don’t think this represents a conflict of interest at all!

  15. Robert Carnegie said,

    October 24, 2007 at 12:15 am

    How do you sell Bacofoil at £10 a metre and run a non-profit organisation?

    And… the mobile phone industry isn’t monolithic. Won’t there be competition between companies to sell the least harmful product?

    Like Edison reputedly boosting his direct-current electric business by promoting the alternating-current electric chair, and electrocuting dogs with AC in demonstrations. But I might have made that up.

    Unfortunately there is no way to claim legally that your phone product is less harmful than the other guy’s in terms of radio wave radiation, because no one has found any measurable harm.

    Then again… I suppose the tobacco industry is a possible counter-example. However, there was actual evidence against their product.

  16. Mitton said,

    October 31, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Are there really no journalists who understand the difference between Microwaves and UHF? If there are, why do none of them point out that mobile phones don’t use microwave frequencies? If they did use them, they wouldn’t work indoors, would they?

  17. Harlequin said,

    January 24, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Mobile phone insomnia

    A study funded by mobile phone companies has suggested that radiation from handsets can cause insomnia, headaches and confusion in users.

  18. kerledan said,

    September 4, 2009 at 4:56 am

    A headline article in Thursday’s Cambridge News: ‘Eco-bulbs are a risk to health’. Apparently, the source is ‘The Bio Electromagnetic Research Institute’.

    A bit of digging finds the ‘Bio Electromagnetic Resource Initiative.’ A fascinating list of people can be seen at

    I saw the name ‘Roger Coghill’, and it struck a cord. Or a nerve perhaps. Roger features elsewhere in Bad Science not least because of work quoted in connection with the Bridgend suicides And then I found Alasdair Philips, who has been involved with Powerwatch.

    You can read the not-so-good article here:

    Fellow readers may enjoy doing more digging. I’ll post this also in the Bad Science forums.