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OPLIN 4cast #419: Electrosensitivity

Posted in 4cast

caduceus symbolAfter last week’s 4cast about jamming mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, it was interesting to read some recent articles about Green Bank, West Virginia, where the federal government does not allow Wi-Fi — or cell phone towers, or radio, or electromagnetic transmissions of any kind — because the transmissions interfere with the operation of a number of radio telescopes located there. The side effect of this ban has been an influx of people who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), and while the medical community disputes the existence of this “Wi-Fi allergy,” such people do have health problems that they sincerely believe are caused by modern technologies.

  • The town without Wi-Fi (Washingtonian | Michael J. Gaynor)  “A few years ago, one disturbed electrosensitive flew into a rage at the local library, decrying the ‘dumb hillbillies’ who surrounded her, as the story goes. She rampaged from the post office to the bank to the auto shop, belligerently screaming before police finally ticketed her and banned her from a couple of public places around town.”
  • “Electrosensitives” flock to Wi-Fi quiet zone as teens set up rogue hotspots (Ars Technica | Jon Brodkin)  “A number of studies have looked at the existence of electrosensitivty. A survey of their results found that people who claim to have this disorder can’t recognize the presence of electromagnetic fields, and studies that showed health effects were either flawed or could not be reproduced. The World Health Organization says that ‘well controlled and conducted double-blind studies have shown that symptoms were not correlated with EMF exposure.’”
  • Refugees of the modern world (Slate | Joseph Stromberg)  “As such, the best predictor for whether a hypersensitive person will experience symptoms isn’t the presence of radio frequency—it’s the belief that a device is turned on nearby. An elegant demonstration of this on a much larger scale took place in 2010, when residents of the town of Fourways, South Africa, successfully petitioned for a cell signal tower to be taken down because of the sickness caused by its radiation—even though it was later revealed that it hadn’t been switched on during the time of their complaints.”
  • Enter the Quiet Zone: Where cell service, Wi-Fi are banned (NPR All Tech Considered | Elise Hu)  “But keeping the noise down around here is getting harder these days. ‘If you think back to 1956 when this site was first built, there were issues with radio noise, but most of those issues came about through cars and spark plugs and power lines. And now we’re living in a society where everything is wireless,’ [telescope overseer Karen] O’Neil says.”

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