Your Wi-Fi is Making Me Sick

Few things can make life as miserable as idiot neighbors.  Imagine someone next door demanding you give up your cell phone and wi-fi because he’s allergic to electromagnetic radiation.

If you life in Santa Fe, you don’t have to imagine it.  Arthur Firstenberg is demanding his neighbors turn off everything to cater to his imaginary allergy to EMF.  He’s banded together with other idiots who are insisting that all wi-fi be banned in all public buildings.  “I get chest pain,” he says.  “It doesn’t go away right away. I suffer for a couple of days. If I walk into a room of a building that has Wi-Fi, my most immediate sign is that the front of my right thigh goes numb. If I don’t leave, I’ll get short of breath, chest pains and the numbness will spread.”  He’s banding together with other neurotics, trying to use the American’s With Disabilities Act to force everyone to cater to their nonsense.  (I wonder where they get together?)

This reaction to our wired world is somewhat popular among those claiming Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, another imaginary disease.  (When typing this, I misspelled “sensitivity.” My spelling checker suggested the correct word was “senility.”)

These people are suffering.  Their pain and symptoms are quite real.  The problem is with their self diagnosis.  They are not suffering from EHS, MCS, or any of the other long lists of diseases they whine about to anyone who makes the mistake of asking them, “How are you?”  Their real illness is severe hypochondria. There are treatments for that, but since they won’t accept a legitimate diagnosis they’ll continue to wallow in their self-imposed anguish and demand that everyone else change their lifestyle until they’re just as miserable.

I’ve found the best way to deal with such people: avoid them as if they had a real and contagious disease.

Add-On: Mike Tighe sent me this link about locals whining about the horrible things a local radio tower was doing to them.  There was just one little problem:  The tower had been turned off for weeks.

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29 Comment(s)

  1. Looking at the story a second time, those are all the symptoms of a panic attack. Some Ativan would clear that right up.

    Michael | Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

  2. Could also be Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) which Dr. Sarno wrote several books about. It’s caused by suppressed anger in the subconscious mind affecting the body – usually manifested as back pain, but other body parts are often affected as well. A type of hypochrodria I suppose.

    This is how “nanny-ism” gets started.

    John E. Bill | Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

  3. Easy enough to test..hang a wifi sign in a place with no wifi and see if he flips.

    johnny virgil | Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. Sounds like a great JREF million dollar challenge claim to me. I wonder if he (and the JREF) would go for it. Seems like it should be a pretty simple thing to set up as a double blind test.

    If he wins, he’ll get a million bucks, which should be enough to buy a really nice Faraday cage, and a leg to stand on when he’s asking others to turn off their wi-fi.

    I have a strong feeling that he isn’t willing to put it to an objective test. He could prove me wrong.

    Lowell | Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

  5. Tell them if they’re suffering that much to go live in a cabin in Alaska. It’s hard to find WiFi there.

    Hank | Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

  6. Great idea – hang the WI-FI sign up where there is no WI-FI. I love it!

    John E. Bill | Jan 13, 2010 | Reply

  7. The article says that he only feels ill if he enters the building, my my informal survey in Seattle shows at least 3 (usually 5+) wifi signals everywhere downtown. My own (quiet, affluent) suburb has some empty spots, but they are small.

    I wonder if this data would cure him or break him…

    Kneil | Jan 15, 2010 | Reply

  8. Kneil, I think he’s already broken.

    Hittman | Jan 16, 2010 | Reply

  9. He is certainly damaged, but appears to be somewhat functional.

    Kneil | Jan 17, 2010 | Reply

  10. I am a healthy forty year old, I work out 5 days a week, play soccer and golf at the weekends and can’t remember the last time I visited a doctor but I can tell you straight up that I had to get rid of my wireless router at home as it was making both myself and my wife sick. Count yourself lucky that you don’t have this sensitivity, I work in the IT industry and suffer from it and I can tell you it’s very real.

    Brian Mac Sweeney | Feb 26, 2010 | Reply

  11. I am a retired librarian, and very experienced at researching information. The truth about the health effects of radiofrequency and microwave chronic pulsed exposure is there are thousands of studies showing harm to cells and animals systems. Before you pass judgement, do some research. I recommend the book Disconnect by Devra Davis, a well-documented account of the power of the wireless industry and the techniques it uses (the same ones used by Big Tobacco) to help obscure harmful effects. Here is the question that should be asked in light of the non-industry funded studies since the 1960s and on that show harm: Would you rather employ the Precautionary Principle until conclusive evidence proves chronic pulsed microwaves are safe, or play Russian Roulette with public health.

    Charyl Zehfus | Dec 1, 2011 | Reply

  12. I prefer the scientific method over using precautionary principle to be afraid of everything. In double-blind tests people claiming to be sensitive to EMF can’t distinguish between real EMF fields and simulated (fake) ones, which slams their claim to the ground and stomps on its neck.

    Wi-fi makes my life much better: It gives me freedom of movement, keeps me informed and entertains me. Cell phones let me easily communicate with anyone, anytime, anywhere. I’m not going to give that up because a few hypochondriacs insist they’re suffering from imaginary ills.

    Dave Hitt | Dec 4, 2011 | Reply

  13. http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/bjc2011523a.html
    ***********************************
    See above that certain very low level doses of rf frequencies can KILL cancer cells. So to proliferate UNTESTED pulsed emissions of numerous frequencies in everyday devices is dangerous, since rf has THIS TYPE OF POWER. What price, convenience?

    Also, take a look at this scientific study for starters. Also please remember that one needs subjects for these studies that will not have to drop out due to ill effects.

    http://www.researchgate.net/publication/51525452_ELECTROMAGNETIC_HYPERSENSITIVITY_EVIDENCE_FOR_A_NOVEL_NEUROLOGICAL_SYNDROME

    ELECTROMAGNETIC HYPERSENSITIVITY: EVIDENCE FOR A NOVEL NEUROLOGICAL SYNDROME
    David E McCarty, Simona Carrubba, Andrew L Chesson, Clifton Frilot, Eduardo Gonzalez-Toledo, Andrew A Marino
    aDepartment of Neurology, LSU Health Sciences Center , Shreveport, LA , USA.
    The International journal of neuroscience (impact factor: 0.86). 07/2011; DOI: 10.3109/00207454.2011.608139

    Charyl Zehfus | Dec 4, 2011 | Reply

  14. First off, thanks for the link to Research Gate. I haven’t been there before, and it looks like a very useful site.

    Using EMF to kill cancer cells requires very specific frequencies, and the EMF emitters are very close and directed toward the targeted cells. I’m not familiar enough with the procedure, but I’d bet that the doctors doing it are right there in the room with the patent, as opposed to the X-Ray techs who get behind a barrier before they throw the switch.

    EMF loses power according to the Inverse Square law, which means it gets very weak very fast as you move away from it.
    The study you quote only studied ONE person, apparently once. They don’t provide the actual numbers, but a study of one person, no matter how carefully done, or how impressive the results, isn’t all that impressive.

    The following studies were at the bottom of that page. They involved more people and show no collation between EMF and illnesses, and counter the point you’re making.

    http://tinyurl.com/79pdbjs
    http://tinyurl.com/6t3xtgt

    Side note: Most comments are posted immediately, and the only ones I delete are the few spams that manage to get past every barrier I’ve erected and, very occasionally, extremely abusive messages. The reason yours went into moderation was most likely because it contained more than one URL, not because of anything you said. Please feel free to continue the conversation if you’re so inclined, and if any of your comments go into a moderation queue I’ll release them as soon as I see them.

    Dave Hitt | Dec 4, 2011 | Reply

  15. I read many medical studies, (probably about one or two a week, (I feel like that’s a lot because it’s probably more than I read when I was in nursing school;)) anyway, most medical studies are done with a fairly small number of subjects. (20 subjects is a huge number for most hospital studies for anything not proven.)

    I’m not really disputing the study, (I like my Wi-Fi and it hasn’t killed me yet,) but I thought I’d chime in before small number of subjects made the methodology look poor.

    Michael | Dec 4, 2011 | Reply

  16. Dave, You said, “Using EMF to kill cancer cells requires very specific frequencies, and the EMF emitters are very close and directed toward the targeted cells.”
    You are right. My point was that if the CONTROLLED exposure of very low levels of rf can kill bad cells, how can we be certain good cells cannot be killed or harmed from various UNCONTROLLED, UNTESTED exposures to the myriad of rf frequencies (and the MIXTURE of them) that are proliferating today?
    ***************************************
    More food for thought. An ongoing series of interviews called “Sensitive Inside Big Technology” shows smart, techie folks, who are logical and into technology, realizing these emissions make them sick.
    http://stopsmartmeters.org/2011/12/02/sensitive-and-inside-big-technology-views-from-the-other-side-part-five/

    Charyl Zehfus | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  17. Michael, a survey of the U.S. scientific literature in 1998 stated the following:
    “There is a controversy among professionals regarding whether radiofrequency radiation sickness syndrome is a medical entity. In this study, this controversy was evaluated with a methodology adapted from case studies. The author reviewed U.S. literature, which revealed that research results are sufficiently consistent to warrant further inquiry.”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9814721
    *********************************************
    Further inquiry requires money. See the book Disconnect by Devra Davis to see how easy it is to get money for this type of study if you are not working for the wireless industry.
    ******************************************
    Also see the Harvard Law forum speaker video from Nov. 3, Dr. Franz Adlkofer in his lecture titled “Protection Against Radiation is in Conflict with Science.” (note: Adlkofer had worked for the Tobacco Industry until his findings started to counter their belief that their product was safe and he was let go.)
    http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/2011/11/18_safra-center-cellphone-radiation-corruption.html

    Charyl Zehfus | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  18. trying this reply to Michael again:
    Michael, a survey of the U.S. scientific literature in 1998 stated the following:
    “There is a controversy among professionals regarding whether radiofrequency radiation sickness syndrome is a medical entity. In this study, this controversy was evaluated with a methodology adapted from case studies. The author reviewed U.S. literature, which revealed that research results are sufficiently consistent to warrant further inquiry.”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9814721
    *********************************************
    Further inquiry requires money. See the book Disconnect by Devra Davis to see how easy it is to get money for this type of study if you are not working for the wireless industry.
    Also see the Harvard Law forum speaker video from Nov. 3, Dr. Franz Adlkofer in his lecture titled “Protection Against Radiation is in Conflict with Science.” (note: Adlkofer had worked for the Tobacco Industry until his findings started to counter their belief that their product was safe and he was let go.)
    http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/2011/11/18_safra-center-cellphone-radiation-corruption.html

    Charyl Zehfus | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  19. Uncontrolled amounts of water has been proven in numerous cases to lead to hyponatremia and death. (I can point to studies and anecdotal evidence.) Normal usage of water is healthy and actually encouraged.

    People tend to think of health as a binary thing. It’s not a switch your body just flips. All of your metabolic values fall in an acceptable range. Too high is bad. Too low is too.

    Michael | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  20. Tiny amounts of water can kill. You can drown in 6 inches of bathtub water. You can go mad from Chinese water torture. Your argument using AMOUNT falls flat. The factor determining harm is the nature of the substance and how and where it is applied to the body. Pulsed microwaves do not equate to water.

    Health and well-being ARE binary in the case of certain physiological responses, such as allergy. If you are allergic to cats ad small amount of dander can affect you greatly. Same for peanuts.

    Charyl Zehfus | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  21. Small studies are only useful to determine if larger studies are warranted. Epidemiology is a rather crude science, because reducing human behavior to numbers can’t be done with precision. There are dozens of errors that pile up and make studies unreliable. We also need to remember that epidemiology can’t prove anything – it simply provides an estimate of a probability that A is related to B. You need hundreds (preferably thousands) of test subjects to get trustworty numbers.

    Screen dermatitis was a rare but (probably) real illness caused by old computer monitors that weren’t properly shielded. It went away with better CRTs. The idea that someone in his thirties suffered from it is goofy – it hasn’t been an issue since the days of 8088s, around the time he was born. There is also no biological reason why it would lead to EMF sensitivity. He is suffering from an imaginary disease, just like MCS suffers. Their suffering is real, but their disease is not.

    In a perfect world researchers would search for the answer to a question without any concern over who is funding it. Either A causes B or it doesn’t or it only does sometimes for some people. In the real world, though, for some issues it’s easy to find funding for studies supporting one point of view and impossible to get it for the opposing view. That is a very real problem, which means you have to consider the funding source of any study. It does not, however, automatically mean the research is invalid, just that you have to give it closer scrutiny.

    Cats and peanuts have been proven to cause problems for lots of people. We know what happens and why it happens. The same can’t be said of the very weak EMF signals we’re all constantly exposed to.

    But if you don’t have the time for all that, there’s another approach I find useful: asking if the assertion is reasonable. For instance, the relationship between cell phones and brain cancer is easy to determine. Have instances of brain cancer gone up as cell phones have become ubiquitous? No, they have not. Case closed.

    Here’s a fun story about a town complaining that a radio tower was making them all sick. Turns out the tower was turned off. Ooops.

    Dave Hitt | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  22. I’ll rephrase the water argument so it’ll still make sense. Too much potassium can kill you. (E.g. Too many bananas will kill you. Hyperkalmia causes heart muscle spasms and death. Before you try, I’m aware that small amounts of bananas in your lungs will kill you and I’m sure if someone threw enough bananas at your head, you’d go crazy. Chinese banana torture was too inefficient to catch on though.)

    As for allergies, you were wrong there. Allergies involve a threshold. If you get exposed to too much of something, you have a reaction. Over time your threshold drops so allergies can develop in older people. The thing with allergies is low-dose exposure can cure them. I used to get shots for my cat allergy, (first twice a week, eventually every three months, now not at all.) About a year ago I read my first study where someone had replicated the results in peanuts. (Figuring out the starting dose was extra tricky for some reason.)

    The thing with radiation exposure is that it’s irreversible. Once radiation has its way with your DNA, it’s stuck that way. The people claiming being away from wi-fi makes them feel better are probably dealing with something else.

    Michael | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  23. Chinese Banana Torture has been abandoned, but the phrase it spawned is still with us. Sometimes these threads drive me bananas.

    Hittman | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  24. You say, “the relationship between cell phones and brain cancer is easy to determine. Have instances of brain cancer gone up as cell phones have become ubiquitous? No, they have not. Case closed.”

    Dave, I could show you reports from people who attribute their brain cancer to cell phone use of ten some years exist, but you would dismiss them as anecdotal, so what’s the point? The truth is brain cancer takes time to develop, grow and become symptomatic. But you should be happy because we have a perfect sample that should meet your criteria for “hundreds (preferably thousands) of test subjects to get trustworthy numbers” – the general population.

    (note: thanks for including my point of view instead of only people who agree with you. Take care.)

    Charyl Zehfus | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  25. How convoluted are we going to let this get? But okay, you say, Allergies involve a threshold. So does exposure to EMF (electromagnetic fields) and it can result in permanent damage. Symptoms during the processes of damage could vary, depending upon the type of damage and the person’s sensory system. Here is an account, along with test results verifying damage.
    http://www.rense.com/general78/rad.htm

    I realize you will dismiss the article, but post it for the benefit of any readers stumbling upon this. Cheers.

    Charyl Zehfus | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  26. That last response was to Michael. And thanks for the spirited debate.

    Charyl Zehfus | Dec 5, 2011 | Reply

  27. What a cancer sufferer attributes his or her cancer means nothing. As you pointed out it takes quite a while to develope which masks the cause. I’m not sure that even rises to the level of an anecdote.

    But we can easily see that the overal incidence of brain cancer is not increasing as you would expect if cell phones caused cancer.

    Kneil | Dec 7, 2011 | Reply

  28. Kneil,
    Please see this 2008 Congressional Hearing, which revealed a marked rise in brain cancers over the last ten years for young people, age 20-29, echoing a similar finding in Sweden. The article also reveals the kind of statistical shennanigans that occur on this issue.
    http://www.microwavenews.com/kucinich.html

    And from this article,

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/devra-davis-phd/cell-phones-cancer_b_874361.html

    here is a quote that says it all:

    Fortune magazine asks: If cell phones caused brain cancer, then why don’t we face an epidemic now? To those who understand the long latencies involved, the absence of a general brain tumor epidemic at this time provides no comfort. Survivors of the atomic bombs that fell on Japan experienced no increase at all in brain cancer until four decades after the war’s end. Cell phones were not heavily used until quite recently. Three out of every four cases of brain cancer occur in someone over age 60 — a group that had not used cell phones extensively even a decade ago. In contrast, every major study ever conducted has found that those who use cell phones half an hour a day or more have a doubled risk of brain cancer, and those who began using cell phones as teenagers have four to five times more disease in less than 10 years.

    Charyl Zehfus | Dec 8, 2011 | Reply

  29. Microwave News appears to be a very biased site, which makes the needle on my bullshit meter twitch. The Huffington Post is an incredibly biased site, which always pins the needle, and they’re quoting the WHO, who has a history of outright lying about studies. (Here is my, admittedly biased, report on just one instance: http://www.davehitt.com/facts/who.html) Huffpo also has a rotten record for reporting on science, especially health related stores, giving incredible credence to woo woo that has long since been disproved. I put them in the same category as the National Enquirer and the (sadly) defunct Weekly World News. (I wonder how Bat Boy is doing these days?)

    Dave Hitt | Dec 9, 2011 | Reply

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