Can Wifi Give You A Disease?

In August 2015, a French court made a landmark ruling They granted 900 dollars a month in disability support to 39-year-old Marine Richard

While Richard had worked as a radio documentary producer in the city, she suffered constant headaches, itching, fatigue, nausea and palpitations No medication worked to relieve the symptoms The only solution she found was to become a recluse in the mountains of France, living in a barn without electricity or running water The cause of all her unbearable suffering? Wi-Fi Richard fought her successful legal case on the grounds that she suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS

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EHS is a controversial condition, and is not officially recognised in France However, it is recognised in Sweden and Germany People with the condition say they are affected by electromagnetic fields Electromagnetic radiation is all around us, emitted by virtually every electronic device It is a form of microwave radiation, which may be linked to certain cancers and Alzheimers

Phones and wi-fi devices use it to connect to networks Since the turn of the century, the number of wi-fi connections around us has increased exponentially as every home, restaurant, school and pub has installed wi-fi to facilitate our growing number of gadgets that utilise or even require wi-fi The number of people suffering EHS has grown, too According to surveys, up to 5% of people in developed countries report symptoms of EHS However, these surveys are 14 years old and relied on self-reporting

The last census of EHS sufferers took place before wi-fi became commonplace So the real number of people with the syndrome could be far higher The problem is, EHS is very hard to diagnose People who claim to have EHS have described a huge range of symptoms, including fatigue, depression, restlessness, skin rashes, problems with concentration and memory, changes in blood pressure, nausea, impaired vision, joint pains and tinnitus, a ringing and buzzing in the ears The consequences of EHS can also be far more serious

By November 2015, 15-year-old Jenny Fry had suffered from EHS for three years She told her friend that her Wi-Fi allergy was simply too much to bear anymore She then hanged herself Jenny killed herself despite the fact her parents removed all the wi-fi from their home But they couldn’t control the amount of electromagnetic fields from Wi-Fi outside their house

Her mother even requested that Jenny’s school remove its Wi-Fi routers to prevent Jenny’s suffering, and to avoid students developing the syndrome too The school refused, and Jenny’s family now campaign to raise awareness of EHS Meanwhile, some sufferers have taken to wearing gauze clothing made of silver and polyamide material Even more have felt forced to flee urban centres A nature reserve in Drome, France, has become a refuge for EHS sufferers

Devices that emit electromagnetic radiation, be they phones, computers or TVs are banned Likewise, Green Bank in West Virginia is becoming home to more EHS sufferers, since it lies in the National Radio Quiet Zone There are similar communities in South Africa, the UK, and elsewhere around the globe Yet the sheer amount of symptoms has led many medical professionals to doubt whether EHS even exists No syndrome could cause such a wide range of unrelated problems

The only pattern to the symptoms seems to be geographical – sufferers in different countries tend to report similar symptoms, which differ from the symptoms reported in other countries, or parts of a country Furthermore, numerous tests have been carried out over the last three decades to prove whether EHS is caused by electromagnetic fields Results show that people who claim to have EHS are not able to distinguish whether or not they are being exposed to an electromagnetic field, or wi-fi signal In other words, if people think they have EHS, they will suffer symptoms, and those symptoms will vary depending on the person This is known as the nocebo effect – the precise opposite of the placebo effect

The World Health Organisation notes that EHS is not a medial diagnosis The level of radiation from wi-fi is well below the legal limit It is about 100,000 times weaker than radiation from microwaves In fact, the electromagnetic fields from wi-fi devices is comparable to cosmic background radiation Cosmic background radiation is essentially remnants of heat from the Big Bang

It has been around since the beginning of the universe, and its effect on our health is negligible Generally speaking, scientists do not believe EHS is a real disease – they believe it is a psychological condition This was the logic behind the French court’s ruling in 2015 – the legal system felt Marine Richard truly suffered debilitating physical effects from being in a wi-fi soaked environment, but only because she thought wi-fi caused her harm In 2016 a study by the National Research Network in Advanced Engineering and Materials tested the effect of microwave radiation on bacteria They found that short bursts of radiation had little measurable effect – but constant exposure suggested some negative effects

The implication is that our constant exposure to low levels of radiation from mobile phones and wi-fi routers could have harmful effects It just hasn’t been studied yet Although the scientific establishment as a whole believes wi-fi is harmless, there is a growing number of medical professionals who are changing their minds Dr David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany in New York, believes too many people are claiming to have EHS for it to be fake The bigger issue, he says, is that nobody has investigated how to treat the disease

So as Wi-Fi becomes more prevalent and essential to modern society, more people might feel its adverse effects And there may be no safe haven for them

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