In West Virginia, "Wi-fi refugees" seek shelter from electromagnetic oppression

The BBC reports on the phenomenon of people who claim to have been made sick by wi-fi and mobile phones, and now seek refuge in Green Bank, West Virginia. This town is situated in the US Radio Quiet Zone, where there is no wireless allowed within a 13,000 square mile range to prevent interference with a number of major radio telescopes. Some of those "listening points" are part of the US government's spy network.

It's easy to mock the Wi-Fi refugees, as science does not support their claim that wireless waves are harmful to health. But the notion of living in a "quiet zone" sounds quaintly comforting. Snip:

There are five billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide and advances in wireless technology make it increasingly difficult to escape the influence of mobile devices. But while most Americans seem to embrace continuous connectivity, some believe it's making them physically ill.

Diane Schou is unable to hold back the tears as she describes how she once lived in a shielded cage to protect her from the electromagnetic radiation caused by waves from wireless communication.

"It's a horrible thing to have to be a prisoner," she says. "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."

Ms Schou is one of an estimated 5% of Americans who believe they suffer from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS), which they say is caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields typically created by mobile phones, wi-fi and other electronic equipment.

More: BBC News - 'Wi-fi refugees' shelter in West Virginia mountains.

(thanks, Cyrus Farivar)


  1. If ever there was an obvious case of a psychosomatic ‘illness,’ this is surely it.

    I’d say tough love is called for: put these people inside a faraday cage with a transmitter *inside.* After they show no symptoms at all for a few hours, tell them the truth and then watch as their brains try to reconfigure themselves around this new bit of information.

    Seriously, I guarantee that not a single one of these people would pass a properly blinded study.

    1. To me it seems to run parallel to other “modern” diseases like Morgellon’s, which seems to respond well to antipsychotics. Unfortunately, we (as a society) deal so poorly with mental illnesses, people feel that they can’t be treated for mental health because that would make them “crazy” or invalidate their experiences. 

  2. But, of course, they are not bothered at all by electromagnetic fields generated by the sun, the Earth, generators, power lines, televisions…  (OK, maybe they are, but the article, and the idea that moving next door to a huge radio telescope will help still seems a more than a little odd.)

  3. We can only hope that these people seek proper treatment for their mental illnesses, because it’s all very sad to hear about stuff like this.

  4. ok im confused. i looked at the quiet zone in wikipedia:
    and see it includes my childhood home of Staunton, VA. cellphones work there, people!  out in the sticks they don’t work well, but they work. and i had a wireless router hooked up to my mother’s dialup computer and it sent that dialup interweb through the air, shitty though it was.    so it’s not really all that quiet.

    1. Yes, that is the most hilarious part of this whole story – the NRQZ does not restrict the use of unlicensed radio transmitters (Wi-Fi routers or CB radios, for example) for all but the areas immediately surrounding the sensitive equipment. 

    2. Staunton is within the quiet zone, but is still significantly removed from the location of the telescopes, like 70 or so miles. The major restriction is within 10 miles of the site.

  5. you’re right, Xeni, it IS easy to  mock them. Especially as how this magical science of which you speak involves stuffing these people in a room with a transmitter (such as a wi-fi point), not telling them whether it is on or not, and checking (through questions and/or measuring physical response) whether they could tell that it was on or not.

    Remarkably, no one has shown reliable sensing of these otherwise pain inducing rays. They can thus only feel the pain reliably based on whether they are TOLD that the system is on (and yes, that actually HAS worked).

    Personally, I am only sensitive to magic bullshit rays and get a headache whenever a magic bullshit ray emitter comes too close to me. Sadly it seems that the only solution is to move to my moonbase, which is currently under construction. It will have a Domino’s pizza in the lobby!

  6. Being able to sense whether or not a device is emitting EMF frequencies without the aid of equipment or visual clues is a paranormal activity under the terms of the JREF Million Dollar Prize. I wonder if this woman is sick enough to win a million dollars?

    1. Oh Matt;  Look up RF hearing, Microwave Auditory Effect or Frey Effect, you will learn something.  I’m sick enough to win a million if you have a microwave repeater!

  7. Are radio telescopes completely passive? Otherwise you’d think that the magic killer waves they put out is even greater than what these nutters are trying to escape…

    1.  Yes, radio telescopes accumulate radio waves from the heavens, they do not transmit any.  Completely passive except for the usual support equipment like computers and electricity to run the facility itself.

  8. How about we show them a spectrum diagram and let them figure out that all that visible light must be dangerous as well.
    Writing this while getting a decent dose of actual ionizing radiation from the rocks in the walls of the basement office which is still probably less than what I would get if I were using the wifi to work on a chair in the sunny back yard (if it comes out today anyway)

  9. As we were told the last time I took the NRAO tour, there are different grades of restrictions in the quiet zone. Inside the area immediately around Green Bank even low-power stuff is prohibited. In the areas surrounding, the restrictions aren’t as severe, though allowed antennas are directional radiating away from the NRAO proper (for example, cell towers transmit away from the radio telescopes, not towards).

    A friend went skiing at a nearby mountain when his employer went through a bit of a kerfluffle. When the friend did get back in cell range, he had many messages and texts of increasing severity…. they figured he was just ignoring them, since *everybody’s* connected all the time nowadays, donchaknow…

    And, yeah, I guess while I can’t entirely disbelieve people who can perceive EMF, I sure would love to see a double-blind study. Don’t figure nearly anyone’s claims will pass muster, though.

    1. Tons of these. At last count well over 40, and there’s a good meta-study of them as well. Only a couple show any significant correlation (meaning, a statistical significant difference than chance, not a smoking gun). The rest do not.

  10. I’m guessing that anyone willing and/or able to support the idea that this is a real affliction, will be doing so at the paper version of Boing Boing.

  11. I feel sorry for these folks–they obviously need skilled psychological help–and I think part of my pity stems from the fact that they think being friggin’ ECHOLON’s neighbor will save them from the Death Rays. ‘Cause the NSA/CIA/whatever else would *never* do any sekrit work in a relatively quiet EM zone. 

      1. Oh man, I totally have the same symptoms as Toxa!  You should open up your mind to this, it’s totally true.  Any time my cell phone is ringing or in use my inner ear vibrates.  I can hear things, sympathetic sounds induced due to an oscillating magnetic field coupled to a mylar substrate.  It’s bizarre.  I bet you have the same symptoms, you just don’t realize it.

        1. Sorry, buddy. What you are describing is a classic example of the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc. 

          If you could *actually* demonstrate the ability to sense an oscillating magnetic field, you could very easily get the JREF Million Dollar Prize for having the super-human sense of electromagnetic sensitivity. 

          This is magical thinking. Take a logic class.

          1. Tim, what I described was a speaker making noise and my ear hearing it.  The point there is that you didn’t listen to – or understand – that which you were rather emphatically arguing about.  Yes it was a joke, but it also had a point: don’t bother to slam your shoe into the table until you understand why you’re doing it.  It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and end up arguing yourself in circles.

          2. Thanks, DC. I actually didn’t understand what you said. I thought briefly you might be referring to sound, but that made no sense since this was a conversation about EMF. It turns out you meant audio after all.

            I don’t think I’m arguing myself in circles or being remotely emphatic. I *did* find myself being redundant so I stopped posting (but not reading). I mean, how many times can you ask for proof? How many times can you ask for empiricism in the face of hysteria and magical thinking? Turns out not that many without sounding like a cliche of a scientist from 1950s.

          3. I know what you mean, I generally try to stay out of discussions like this where few people are willing to change their positions.  And just FYI, I agree with you – no flipping way is the radio energy from a cell phone going to interfere with a person’s well being any more than any of a dozen natural sources of background radiation.  Anybody harmed by a cell phone due to EMF would be completely disabled by a sunny day, a banana, or a granite wall.

          4. “Anybody harmed by a cell phone due to EMF would be completely disabled by a sunny day, a banana, or a granite wall. ”  That is an *excellent* point. Do you know, offhand, the numbers on those three things? I’d look it up myself but I’m under the gun on a project.I shouldn’t even be reading this. 

        2. My cochlea usually vibrates when my phone rings, does that count? I can even sense it from many yards distant.

    1. That’s totally believable. Cell phones put out lots of energy – not only radio waves, but also magnetic waves from the power supplies. There are even harmonics in the audio spectrum – especially with GSM (that beep beep sound you’ll get near a stereo sometimes).  This could be reacting with anything conductive or ferrous in your head (or eye, or sinus – machinists sometimes get these things).

      But, radio power follows the inverse-square law. So, if you feel it at 3 inches (which I’m sure you do), then the effect is 1/4th at double the distance (6 inches). If you’re 5 feet from the phone (20x 3 inches), the power is 1/400th; at 50 feet it’s 1/40000th. Soon it gets to the level of natural background radiation… if you were sensitive at those distances, then, well, I’d call for a double blind experiment.

  12. Black Hand Gorge is a state park southeast of Newark Ohio. The hiking trail uses an old railroad line that at one pojnt passes through shear rock cliffs that reach over 40 feet on each side. The cut in the rock curves, so that once in the middle you cannot see out either end, you are surrounded by rock. While hiking along this trail, I noticed a definite change in body sensation when we reached the middle, where we were completely shielded. My hiking companion also noticed a change in bodily sensations. I made the comment that this must be a quiet spot, out of reach of cell phones, power lines and all the other sources of emf radiation. My response to skeptics is this: if some piece of test equipment can detect the presence or absence of emf, then our bodies, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, either are or are not subjected to that radiation. Some people are more sensitive than others. –

    1. And you assume the change in bodily sensations is due to EMF shielding why?

      Have you considered other factors, like sound?  I remember once being in a room covered in anechoic foam.  Even with my eyes closed I got a weird sensation when I put my head near the wall.  You get cues about the space around you through echoes and small noises, usually unconsciously, and when that information is missing you notice it, even if you’re not exactly sure what’s wrong.

  13. @Everyone who wanted studies…Science generally doesn’t find proof. I wish I could find it, but I swear I read a piece a few years back about an experiment where they built a fake cell phone tower on an apartment with ‘sufferers’ of EM Hypersensitivity, and they complained of symptoms, and then tried to claim something else must have been making EM fields when they were told it was fake.

    1. I remember something about  EM sensitives bitching and moaning about a tower that wasn’t turned on yet. It was also a few years back.

      1. That sounds right, and makes me feel better that it wasn’t just me imagining it due to past-article-reading senesitivity

      2. Yup, there was an experiment here in the UK where a bunch of students who complained about the effects a cell tower was having on them were put into some apartments with a mobile cell tower set up outside. The students complained bitterly about headaches, skin complaints, eyesight problems, yada yada. The tower was inert. It was then switched on, but the students were told otherwise. Magically, all the symptoms disappeared. Odd, that.

  14. This and MSG sensitivity are equally psychosomatic. 

    I’ve made dishes for people with supposed MSG sensitivity and *loaded* it up with MSG and nobody ever had a symptom. And I asked! But these same people SWEAR they are “allergic,” “highly allergic,” or “sensitive.”  

    This and homeopathy, too. Load of horse poop.

    Psychosomatic magical thinking. All of it. 

    1. I get your point, but damn, I’d never eat your cooking. Kind of rude, to be honest. 

      I mentioned Morgellon’s above, which all available evidence points to psychosomatic, but then there’s things like gluten intolerance, which is real, but seems to “affect” far more people than actually have it. 

    2. I’ve made dishes for people with supposed MSG sensitivity and *loaded* it up with MSG and nobody ever had a symptom. And I asked! But these same people SWEAR they are “allergic,” “highly allergic,” or “sensitive.” 

      A good friend of mine and ex business-partner once did this to a roommate and almost put him in the hospital owing to the swelling and difficultly breathing.So yes, a lot of folks spuriously claim MSG intolerance, but this kind of stunt is kind of foolish anyway.

  15. There’s a lot of people with idiopathic chronic pain.  Mockery and haughty explanations that they shouldn’t be having the symptoms they’re having has usually been tried.  I’m sure they’d appreciate your help.  While pharmaceutical approaches should be tried, there’s not a good solution pharmaceutical solution for everyone.
      Just to emphasize from the Wiki Draxlith reference:
     The suffering is real, even if the underlying cause is not thought to be related to electromagnetic fields.

    1. And I think that’s what makes this especially neat- not that I think it’s neat that they feel pain, but because it is real, studying these folks could get us some much needed insight into psycho-somatic processes. Imagine if we find a way to harness it in the opposite direction, and can find ways to make people feel better just by playing with whatever is happening in the brain, maybe even just by convincing people they’re better

      1. Idiopathic pain is not the same as psychosomatic pain.  There may well people in this group with a “rational” physical reason that they’re in pain, it may be unusual enough, a poorly understood mechanism or an atypical presentation that it hasn’t come to light even after the patient has seen several doctors.  Had a patient with an atypical benign growth that wasn’t easily imaged.  Caused him chronic stomach pain since childhood.  Many doctors, many drugs, much talk therapy and much condenscension.  When he was finally opened up, couple decades later, for something else, it was obvious that “yeah, that would cause the pain you’ve been describing”.  No, I know vast majority of people in the story don’t have a tumour.

    2. I disagree. If they are mocked severely enough, eventually the reward they are getting for their attention-begging behavior will be outweighed by social pain for being an idiot. 

      Actually, never mind. You are right. If I were right, we never would have had the Mormon Church. 

      1. I think the mocking does something, but it’s more for the endorphin levels in your own brain more than it would help anyone else.  You have odd hobbies.

    3. And we care why. Reality is of billion of people in the world there are going to be hypochondriacs of one type or another. Do I fell for these fools, no not at all, I feel for kids with cancer not old fools who make things up in their mind. Virus and other things found all around us do more damage but we deal with them. The issue here is simple ignorance of reality which humans are so prone to creates what ever you have issues with. I am sure that there has been stuff like this in the old days, I know I did read about how when they first had telephone people complained of getting sick so I would say nothing new here. Way to many ways to die and get sick for us to waste time and money on this. Or are you going to drop your computer, phone, and anything else just to live like these people. 

      1. You’re not really getting my point, and it’s possibly my fault that I reacted angrily to defend people who are hurting, but didn’t explain my point well. 
        Example: Patient came in with what she called sciatica, said (with slight embarrassment), that she was able to control it by massaging reflexology points in her foot.  If I’d said “reflexology is a crock, if your pain goes away by reflexology, then you must be a hypochondriac”, I would have done her a disservice.  Instead I asked her to show me how she did it.  She promptly got her leg into a figure four position and vigorously massaged her foot, with movement of the leg.  I told her, after examining her and corroborating my suspicion, that it was likely piriformis syndrome.  The piriformis is a muscle in the glutes that gets tight, and can cause local pain, and pain down the    leg. If you google “piriformis stretch”, you’ll see that in getting foot close enough to massage it, she was also stretching her piriformis, and that was more likely a reason as to why she hurt, and why her “reflexology” improved it.

        This example was a gimme.  Most decent docs/chiros/PT’s would have likely guessed it if they’d had her describe her pain, and listened enough.   Pain is a good teacher, and gave her feedback to figure out how to do the right thing, for the wrong reason. 

        My guess is a lot of these people have real idiopathic pain, exacerbated by overuse syndromes.  Overuse, connected with computer use, phone use (on the ear or texting), TV.  So they “reboot”, have gotten away from all that, and crazily enough, feel better now. 

          Chronic pain is pretty common, 1/11 in the US.
        Read the report, it points out that the vast majority of these folks have been to doctors, some to multiple doctors, and a lot haven’t gotten good results with that.  People trust that doctors are the repository of current scientific achievement, and when they don’t get decent pain relief, they (wrongly) assume that modern medicine can no longer help them.  If someone suggests, hey maybe it’s the phone and your computer, and they stay away from it and feel a little better, it’s not that surprising that they’ll want more pain relief. So, West Virginia. Please bear in mind that it’s difficult to be completely rational when you’re in complete pain.  Consider what addiction does to people, and how people will do anything to make that itch stop.  Not exactly the same, but many shared pathways.

        So rather than assuming crazy wackjob and psychosomatic person pretending pain, open your mind, and realize they may have found a real way out of their real pain for a real reason, but likely not the reason they think it is. 

        1. OK, so if I follow you correctly you’re saying:

          A) it’s actually very unlikely that EHS is a real phenomenon, but
          B) it’s also quite possible that many of these people do suffer from real conditions that can be alleviated by staying away from certain technologies, like repetitive stress injuries from spending too much time at a computer keyboard.

          I can get behind that theory.

          1. It’s also possible that EHS is a real phenomenon for a small number of people, but has become a handy agent of blame for a host of other issues.

  16. > “It’s not that you would be contagious to them” [Diane Schou] says.

    You absolutely are contagious. Someone gave you the idea that light waves are killing you, and you’ll pass it on to other susceptible people if you’re around them. Like the antivaxers, but at least you’re only hurting yourself here.

  17. For christsakes no one tell them they’re living on a giant magnet. That would really blow the tin-foil hats off their heads.

  18. If you read the article – it does quote a study that supports this –

    However, new research by scientists at Louisiana State University and published by the International Journal of Neuroscience, claims to show that EHS can be caused by low frequency electromagnetic fields found in the environment. “The study provides direct evidence that linking human symptoms with environmental factors, in this case EMF,” says Dr Andrew Marino, a neurology professor who led the study.

    That ought to be enough info for someone to dig up and critique the study. It’s not impossible that there are some people that are sensitive; we react to visible light, and to infra-red (feeling it as heat) and ultra-violet (sun tan). It could be that some people have evolved sensitivity to other parts of the EM spectrum; this is probably an evolutional disadvantage in current climates.I’d be very interested to hear from someone who’d looked up the study and critiqued it. People queueing up to say “Ah, it must be rubbish” is somewhat less interesting.

    1. I just looked up Dr. Marino and it looks like he’s been trying to prove EMF is harmful for decades. . The ‘study’ quoted in this article involved a single individual and it’s not clear how it was controlled (double or single blinded). Meanwhile there have been a large number of double-blind studies involving larger numbers of people where no association was found.

  19. All tin foil hat and WV joke aside, I love Greenbank, and highly recommend it to people who really want to unplug and get away for a few days. There used to be this great little hotel in Bartow called the Hermitage (not sure if it’s still there), and last time I was there they didn’t even have telephones in the room.

    No cell phones, no radio, no computers, no Internet. Seriously, everyone needs a long weekend like that every once in a while.

    And it’s cool to visit the telescope.

  20. These people are suffering. Their pain is either psychosomatic or is due to some undiagnosed complaint – but it’s for darn sure not because they’ve acquired a mystical sensitivity to EMF. Coddling their claims about EMF sensitivity could actually be dangerous to them, if it means that the real source of some non-psychosomatic pain goes undetected.

    And if they’re having psychosomatic pain that is truly severe, some real treatment should be attempted. Or if analysis or pharmaceuticals don’t help, there are options for placebo treatment that are cheaper and less life-disrupting than moving them a thousand miles to rural West Virginia. Support your local artist and find them a nice copper bracelet, for example; tell them it will protect them. Totally useless, but pretty, fast, and easier than moving to the Mountain State.

  21. Alternative hypothesis.  We just had a whole thread on hyperacusis.  Maybe for some it’s the unplugged nature of the town being quieter that helps more than problems on the electromagnetic front. 

  22. Marketing people need to harness this effect by convincing people that Brand X computers emit deadly brain-rays while Our Brand computers emit a healing aura.

    Also, did you know that if you watch enough 3-D TV that you completely train your eyes to see 3-D, you can then move on to learning to see 4-D? It’s true, I read it in the preceding sentence.

  23. Reading all these comments makes me remember back when I was a teenage girl and my doctor explained very kindly to me that menstrual cramps were caused by psychological discomfort about one’s body as a woman. It was the going scientific theory at the time, presumably supported by some kind of research or other (though in retrospect, I’m betting the research now seems pretty weak) and since in my case, it was also true (at the time) that I was in fact not terribly comfortable with my growing body, and that tylenol, pamprin, aspirin, and booze all didn’t help even a teeny, tiny bit, it all seemed pretty logical to me.Imagine my surprise when years later, Motrin was made an over-the-counter drug, I gave it a try, and suddenly became perfectly psychologically comfortable with my body 20 minutes later.  The scientific method is all well and good- it’s the best thing we have for objectively figuring out causation. But just because it hasn’t found it’s way to the causation of a particular individual’s suffering yet doesn’t make that individual a nutball. Maybe these people are in error that their pain is caused by EMF or maybe they’re not, but science hasn’t done any better for them- so even assuming they’re wrong about what’s causing their problem, why do their problem-solving attempts make them crazy? Sure, their experimental design is massively weak- one subject, no controls, not even single-blind. But so what- they have limited resources, so that’s the best design they can muster.Perhaps their relief is in fact related to an objective external cause, but it’s one neither they nor science took into account (a confounding variable). Or maybe, as most commenters here seem to be assuming, it’s placebo effect. Or maybe they somehow did in fact get the right causation and we just haven’t figured out how that’s possible yet. Either way, they’ve managed to find some relief when other people with more resources have failed, so why all the investment in jumping right to the assumption that they’re crazy?

    1. But just because it hasn’t found it’s way to the causation of a particular individual’s suffering yet doesn’t make that individual a nutball.

      One great thing about science is that you don’t need to figure out the mechanism of causation to find out if a phenomenon is genuine or not. It’s ridiculously easy to run a blind test to see if an individual can genuinely sense the presence of an electromagnetic field.I don’t know if I’d necessarily use the word “nutball,” but “suffering psychosomatic symptoms” seems fair if said ailments only show up when the subject thinks they are in the presence of the supposed trigger.

      1. > It’s ridiculously easy to run a blind test to see if an individual can genuinely
        > sense the presence of an electromagnetic field.

        Yeah, one would think so- but try the scientific literature on allergy for example. Confounding variables are surprisingly difficult to get rid of.

        What if these people are getting objective relief from the presence or absence of something else in the area that has the low EMF? Or what if it’s really the EMF but only a particular frequency causes problems and the blind test doesn’t include that frequency (I’m making this example up -I know nothing about EMF, only about how medical research works- but for any study one designs, there will be issues one didn’t think of). Or it’s really a combination of the EMF and some other trigger the easy blind test doesn’t take into account (for example, it’s not that unusual for an individual’s allergies to vary based on what part of the menstrual cycle they’re in)? Or a particular amount of exposure in a particular period is necessary to provoke symptoms and the test didn’t give a high enough exposure. All of these are perfectly valid possibilities, and in all these cases, the person would “fail” the blind test and be presumed to be suffering from a psychosomatic problem but would actually have an objective external issue.

        Or it could be psychosomatic too- absolutely. But why the jump to that explanation over the others?

        1. Yeah, one would think so- but try the scientific literature on allergy for example. Confounding variables are surprisingly difficult to get rid of.

          Not for a simple claim like “that wi-fi router makes my skin itch.”

          1. Yes, including for a simple claim like “that wifi router makes my skin itch”.

            Patch testing with a standard allergen (“screening”) tray: rewards and risks.Division of Dermatology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, 66160-7319, USA.
            TRUE Test panels, which are the only patch testing devices approved by
            the Food and Drug Administration in the US, consist of 24 patches, one
            of which is a negative control. The remaining 23 patches contain 42
            unique allergens and four complex mixtures. Although these panels
            contain approximately 1.4% of the > 3700 known allergens, they
            perform robustly in detecting allergic contact dermatitis (ACD).
            Twenty-eight percent of patients are fully evaluated by application of
            TRUE Test((R)). The present paper reviews the appropriate use of the
            TRUE Test panels. The need to determine relevance of any positive reaction is stressed. The common causes of false-positive and false-negative
            reactions are outlined. Those product types where the TRUE Test panels
            detect the majority of relevant allergic reactions are reviewed, as are
            the other sources of exposure to the allergens on these panels. The
            impact of ACD on quality of life is significant. Only by patch testing
            can the diagnosis be made.

            Notice how in this article, which supports the idea that patch testing is diagnostically indispensable, it’s actually only diagnostic in 28% of patients. And I’m not saying the article’s conclusion is incorrect- on the contrary, 28% is a *good* diagnostic average for a single test in many kinds of illness.

            Or take celiac disease- the best blood test for celiac has the amazingly high negative predictive value (chance that if the patient is negative, he doesn’t have celiac) of 98%. It doesn’t get much better than that in medicine anywhere. So if aprox 3 million Americans have celiac, that means it’s “only” given the wrong diagnosis about 90,000 times in the US so far. (okay, these statistics are all vastly oversimplified, but you get my point, right?)

            The simple claim that “X makes my skin itch” or “X makes my stomach hurt” is actually a very complicated diagnostic puzzle, and a negative exposure to X definitely doesn’t rule out the possibility that some component of X in some circumstance or other is indeed the patient’s problem.

          2. The claim that “X makes my skin itch” is actually a very complicated diagnostic puzzle, and a negative exposure to X defintiely doesn’t rule out the possibility that some component of X in some circumstance or other is indeed the patient’s problem.

            You misunderstand me. I’m not talking about a claim as vague as “EMF signals make my skin itch under certain circumstances” (which would be more analogous to the study you excerpted), I’m talking about one like “the signals from that device in the corner are causing me to experience symptoms right now.” Test? Make the person turn around and see if there’s any correlation between their symptoms and whether or not the device in question is turned on.

          3. Right, I understand that. But “that thing right there is making me sick right now” isn’t usually what diagnosticians are faced with, and it’s unlikely to be the type of complaint these people are making.

            Even if the doctor was to say “okay then, if you’re ‘allergic’ to EMF, is my wifi router making you sick right now” and the patient said “yes” and the wifi router wasn’t on, that doesn’t do anything at all to rule out an external cause for the patient’s symptoms in general. It just rules out the fact that in that one instance the patient’s symptoms weren’t coming from the EMF not being produced by that particular wifi router.

          4. What I’m getting to is that there have been many reputable studies suggesting that, at the very least, these people aren’t suffering from what they think they’re suffering from.

          5. Yeah, I’m good with that. I also think it’s pretty unlikely they’re actually ‘allergic’ to EMF itself. I just think it’s not unlikely the actual issue is something more complicated than pure psychosomatic illness and that people jump to psychosomatic causes much too fast for individual patient’s welfare in cases of poorly understood causation.

    2. “Sure, their experimental design is massively weak- one subject, no controls, not even single-blind”: especially compared to 40+ studies that show no correlation that are double-blind, controlled, published.

  24. What I find dubious is the idea that five percent(!) of Americans believe that this is happening to them. That would be about 15,000,000 people. (Although estimates vary, it’s not crazy to think that about five percent of Americans are, for example, gay.) Where did this “estimate” come from?

  25. Hey, my mom works for NRAO (but not in Green Bank, although we’ve visited).

    Ya’ll should meet these astronomers that work for NRAO, they can pontificate on the craziest astronomical stuff.

  26. Is this a hoax?  If you google “US radio quiet zone” every single reference is based on the original story. 

    1.…RFI Regulations: “The NRAO Green Bank Site is a unique resource for Radio Astronomy. We are located in the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ) which provides protection from permanent, fixed, licensed transmitter services. […] Additionally, the West Virginia Radio Astronomy Zoning Act allows us to prohibit the use of any electrical equipment within a ten mile radius that causes interference to Radio Astronomical Observations.”Also see…, which describes the restrictions in Zone 1 (right around the telescopes) and 2 (support labs).

  27. I’d love to do a mythbusters style experiment. Several vans with radio antenna-like parts on the roof and labeled as such, complete with flashing lights roam around pre-determined sectors. 1/3 are fake. 1/3 emit wifi. 1/3 emit cellphone style signals. They then get the heck out before the cops arrive. Later we immediately have fake officials (blinded of course) do a house to house to ask the people there if anyone feels ill

  28. Besides all the issues about contributing factors is the problem of onset time.  Even with a skin test for allergy, they leave you for 15-20 minutes to give your body time to react to the allergen.  In fact, they get really nervous when you start to react before they have even finished the grid.  (They tend to keep you under observation for the development period, where normally they would set a timer and let you rest/read/whatever (don’t scratch!).)

    So, even if someone is reacting to some frequency of EMR, that isn’t to say that the reaction is instant or even quick.  It could take hours for the symptoms to become acute.  This complicates a study.

  29. The number and degree of sickness an individual(s) experiences, is inversely proportional to the level of education of said individual(s). There’s probably a religious relationship, as well.

    1. That inverse-proportional relationship is true for religion, but I wouldn’t assume the same is true for this. Look at all the educated, affluent people who are in the anti-vax movement. Or, look at all the people who buy into those “cleanse” rackets. 

  30. Make and live in a “Faraday cage”.   A room with copper screening will create a EMF quite area. When I worked repairing radio transmitting and receivers for home arrest monitors  I did the final check out and certification in one. It was a radio free environment and a perfect place to sleep.  The reception of external radio signals through an antenna within a cage can be greatly attenuated or even completely blocked by the cage itself. It’s that simple.

  31. I feel really bad for those who only feel these sensations.  The abuse they have to take is terrible.  Go ahead make fun.  I hear the hum and have talked to radiation personnel about it.  You know what they comforted me with, well it won’t give you cancer as far as we know.  It’s real and all the experts know it.  They just have not considered it a hazard.

    In God we trust and all others have to provide data, some of that data is contained in research on the microwave auditory effect and the neurological effects of radiofrequency.

    It’s making your brain’s cells leak and flipping your neural synapses and you don’t even know it.

  32. I’m surprised there isn’t a major research effort to help these people. Surely someone can develop a portable EMF neutralizer, perhaps one that could be worn as a necklace. It might not work perfectly, especially in dense EMF areas or where reflections intensify the radiation, but it could offer sufferers a great deal of freedom. My guess is that it would work best with a detector and indicator to let people know when it is actually neutralizing EMF, perhaps adapting technology from those WiFi detecting tee shirts. The neutralizing system should be user adjustable, so the wearer can adjust the counter system for ambient conditions.

    Personally, I think there is a big psychological component, but there is also a big psychological component in how we sense and endure pain. For many patients, it helps to give them more information and more control. Knowing you are able to give yourself an extra squirt of morphine can make the threat of pain much less stressful. It’s obvious these people are suffering, but it might be possible to give them tools to make modern life more bearable.

    1. It’s a great idea but likely would run afoul of the FCC. They don’t take kindly to any device which interferes with signals. Anything that could be classified as a jammer or a blocker is flatly illegal in the US. Prisons, for example, are not allowed to install devices that block cellphone signal in areas of the prison that house criminals. 

      1. The device wouldn’t actually do anything, but it would give a convincing illusion of doing something. I was trying to avoid actually saying this. Belief is very important in the effectiveness of a placebo. If people are convinced that their necklace is mitigating WiFi radiation, perhaps using N-rays or some such technology, then they can lead much easier, and happier lives. (N-rays, if Wikipeida is correct, are not subject to FCC jurisdiction for obvious reasons.)

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