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France

French woman wins disability allowance for 'gadget allergy'

media EHS sufferers claim that mobile phones and other everyday gadgets seriously damage their health Reuters

A French court has awarded a disability grant to a woman who describes herself as an "environmental refugee" because she claims to suffer from a debilitating allergy to electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones and other everyday gadgets, campaigners have revealed.

The court in the southern city of Toulouse decided that former playwright and radio documentary producer Marine Richard can claim a disability allowance, worth about 800 euros a month, even though her condition is not recognised as a medical disorder in France and most other countries.

Richard, 39, hailed the ruling as a "breakthrough" for people with Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) after the Robin des Toits group, which campaigns on the issue, made it public this week.

EHS sufferers describe symptoms that include tingling, headache, fatigue, nausea and palpitations and say that in some cases they become debilitating.

Richard, who described herself as an "environmental refugee" to the Dépêche du Midi paper, lives in the mountains in south-west France in a renovated barn without electricity, where she drinks water from a well.

She spent a year and a half searching for a location free of electromagnetic waves, she says.

The court accepted that her symptoms prevent Richard from working but did not recognise EHS as a medical condition.

Nevertheless, her lawyer, Alice Terrasse, said the ruling could set a precedent that could benefit "thousands of people".

The World Health Organisation lists EHS as a condition but says there is "no scientific basis" for linking the symptoms to electromagnetic exposure.

Sweden and Germany have classified it as an occupational disease.

French national health body Anses has found that exposure to electromagnetic waves can affect the body but said that scientific studies have not yet found an effect on health.

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