have been attempts in the not-so-distant past where citizens strapped on their
tin foil hats and complained of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS), which
is an illness typically caused by electromagnetic fields created by mobile devices
and Wi-Fi. Earlier this year, for instance, some San Francisco, California
residents pushed legislators to force cell phone sellers
to display labels providing the amount of electromagnetic radiation their devices
produce. This law was shelved in May 2011.
While this attempt may seem ridiculous to those who believe EHS is a fictitious
illness, about 5 percent of Americans say they have become sick due to
excessive exposure to electromagnetic radiation from wireless devices -- and
some of that 5 percent have found a safe haven in West Virginia.
Wi-Fi refugees have found a hideout from wireless
technology in the mountains of Green Bank, West Virginia according to Discover Magazine. This area is part of
the U.S. Radio Quiet Zone, where wireless technologies are banned for 13,000 square
miles due to the number of radio telescopes in the area that can’t be exposed
to electromagnetic interference. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory and
the U.S. military both own telescopes in this area.
Cell phone-fearing people from around the U.S. have flocked to Green Bank in
order to live a life without electromagnetic radiation. Many of the people who
moved there claim to have EHS, which is not a recognized illness in the United
States. Nevertheless, some say they experience negative side effects when
exposed to wireless technology.
Diane Schou, a former Iowa resident, is among those who have left their homes
to live in Green Bank. She claims to have experienced symptoms such as chest
pain, headaches, rashes and vision changes due to radiation from Wi-Fi and
other electromagnetic fields in her home state.
Back in Iowa, Schou lived solely in an insulated living space known as a
Faraday Cage. Her husband built the cage for her as a form of protection from
the radiation. The cage consisted of a wooden frame with two layers of wire
mesh and a door that had the ability to be sealed shut. Inside was a twin
mattress on a plywood base, where Schou spent much of her time.
"It's a horrible thing to have to be a prisoner," said Schou.
"You become a technological leper because you can't be around people. It's not
that you would be contagious to them - it's what they're carrying that is
harmful to you."
Schou's symptoms eventually got to a highly uncomfortable point, and that is
when she decided to abandon the family farm and move to West Virginia.
"Living here allows me to be more of a normal person," sad Schou.
"I can be outdoors. I don't have to stay hidden away in a Faraday Cage.”
EHS may not be a recognized illness in the United States, but there's plenty of
debate surrounding the matter.
The wireless association CTIA has said that scientific evidence shows
that wireless devices do not
pose a public health risk or cause adverse effects because of the
limits established by the government.
The World Health Organization (WHO) agreed, saying that "EHS has no clear
diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to
EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure. Further, EHS is not a medical diagnosis,
nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem." However, WHO
does recognize that the symptoms are genuine and even labeled cell phone
radiation as a possible carcinogenic hazard back in May.
On the other hand, research from scientists at Louisiana State University
showed that EHS can be caused by low-frequency electromagnetic fields. They
made this claim after testing it on a 35-year-old physician who had diagnosed herself
with EHS. They seated her in a wooden chair while applying voltage to metal
plates for 90 second pulses to produce a series of magnetic fields. After each
exposure, she was asked to describe her symptoms. Some of the exposures were
fake, where no voltage was applied. But the physician was unaware when there
were real exposures and fake ones.
The physician described headaches and muscle twitching during real exposures
and no symptoms during fake exposures.
"The study provides direct evidence that linking human symptoms with
environmental factors, in this case EMF," said Dr. Andrew Marino, who led
the study. "It's a watershed in that regard. There have been no previous
studies that scientifically assess whether electromagnetic fields in the
environment could produce human symptoms. And the symptoms matter because they
are the first steps that show how EMFs produce human disease."
Still, other professors, such as physics professor Bob Park from the University
of Maryland, say Wi-Fi is too weak to cause any changes in the body that people
who claim to have EHS describe.
"The bigger problem that we face is that our society, driven by
technological change, people have very little education," said Park.
"There are lots of things people need to learn and they're not learning
it. The thing that's going to kill them is ignorance."
Currently, Sweden is the only country that recognizes EHS as a real syndrome.