Life with an "electromagnetic sensitivity"

The Guardian's Laura Page profiles Phil Inkley, a British man who believes that he is sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, and claims that he experiences convulsions and blackouts when exposed to WiFi and mobile phone signals. He lives in a caravan in the woods, with an Ethernet cable running to a distant mobile Internet dongle that connects his laptop to the rest of the world. He says that the research disproving electromagnetic sensitivity was sponsored by the mobile industry, and compares it to Big Tobacco-sponsored research "disproving" the link between smoking and cancer. Inkley says he used to earn his living fixing computers and that he isn't a technophobe.

I remain convinced that electromagnetic sensitivity is vanishingly unlikely, and that the research disproving it looks good. But I feel for this guy, whose symptoms are real, and who has not found anyone who can help him with them, and has been driven to a pretty awful life as a result.

Phil's GP simply informed him that there was no convincing evidence that electromagnetic radiation has any detrimental health effects. He then contacted the Health Protection Agency, leaving several messages, but no one ever got back to him - until he received a voicemail telling him not to call again.

In 2005 the HPA reported that considering only whether electromagnetic radiation was a causative factor was not meeting the needs of sufferers, although continued research in this area was essential. Whatever the cause, EHS symptoms are real and they can be severe and extremely disabling. Sufferers are not getting the support they need.

Phil describes his condition as "living in a nuclear war". He asks: "Can you imagine what it's like when your environment becomes so aggressive to your health?" His voice trembles and he looks desperate.

Phil could certainly do with moral support and financial help to stop him slipping further towards the edge of society. But what he really wants is for people to believe he is right about the causes of EHS. He'd like more independent studies to be undertaken and seriously considered.

Here's a good summary of the research refuting electromagnetic sensitivity.

The man living alone in the woods to escape Wi-Fi and mobile phones

(Image: Cellular Mast Disguised as a Tree, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from barbourians's photostream)


    1. Actually, he IS. That “caravan” has a metal shell and is pretty much closed. The real test would be to put him in a double or triple wall faraday cage with an antenna in one corner. Leave him there for a few hours. Intermittently and randomly apply RF carriers of various frequencies, modulated and not, then ask him to speak out if he feels anything. Can’t be all that hard.

      1. Unfortunately, he isn’t quite.

        You see that huge window he’s standing in front of? Unless there’s a metal mesh screen covering that, anything with a wavelength less than a couple of meters (wireless networking, mobile phones, etc. are in the region of 12-20cm) will not be blocked.

        I agree, I’d like to see more double-blind trials occurring. I have an anechonic Faraday chamber which would be perfect for this!

        1. If I felt sensitive to electromagnetism, I would want to know *PRECISELY* how much and of what frequencies I am prone to.  I would want to know if I walk by a Best Buy that I’m going to have a seizure, or if walking by a dude wearing an iPod is going to give me a heart attack.  I would want to KNOW.  So, yes, this guy is total bullshit unless he does the tests you suggest.  If it’s a real health threat, it should be fully described.  Otherwise it’s vague woo woo crap.

    1. You can view him as crazy or you can view him as someone who has a real problem that nobody has been able to diagnose.  Not that those are mutually exclusive.  But there’s a good chance that there’s really something wrong with him physically, but nobody has been able to figure it out, so he’s fixated on EM.

      1. I guess it wouldn’t be shocking if he were allergic to some of the nasty stuff we commonly find on tech gear (plastics, anti-smudge coatings, various things they use to deposit layers). Or other things you find when you get near civilization.

        I would still not be surprised if he were making himself sick, though.

      2. Although I think it’s likely he’s being made ill by something in his environment that he hasn’t identified (and thus is fixating on EM), let’s not dismiss the nocebo effect.  It can create very real problems – heck, it can kill you.  Can’t get more real than that.

      3. His problems are psychosomatic. They are very real and diagnosable, but he has rejected the correct diagnosis.

      4.  While I can’t quote you a bibliography, the medical research I’ve read says that people who claim to suffer from this disorder *only improve after psychiatric treatment*.  It was THE notable result of the white papers I read.  So no… there’s not a good chance.  Only a vanishing small one as the type of test suggested by Dave Nelson (above) has already been done to some extent.  NO evidence, other than a persistent claim, has been found.

  1. Have there been any scientific double-blind tests that have had *any* positive results for EM sensitivity?

    1. Not really. The symptoms most folks report appear to be curiously similar to those of generalized anxiety.

      Up here we’ve had concern trolls opposing smart meters, worried their RF transmissions are affecting them this way. I’m sure they talk about it to their friends on their cell phones all the time.

  2. I find it remarkable that the RF emitted by his Ethernet cable does not have deleterious effect.

    1. I find it remarkable that he is even alive. I hear the Sun is bombarding our planet with massive amounts of electromagnetic energy during every diurnal period. Wonder if he only leaves his van at night?

      1. They’ll tell you that the problem is that WiFi signals, unlike sunlight, are pulsed.  Whatever that means.

  3. “[…] A new cell tower went up and the local newspaper asked a number of people what they thought of it. Some said they noticed their cell phone reception was better. Some said they noticed the tower was affecting their health. To paraphrase the bottom line [of the study]: “think about how much more pronounced these effects will be once the tower is actually operational”.


    1. You should check out the “You’re not so smart (a celebration of self delusion)” podcast. Sounds like it’d be right up your alley, it’s all about studies like that.

    2. I had a nasty neighbour once and she was going out of her way to have me evicted many years back. I, being a radio ham used aerials of various sizes, and she would complain about all of them. So when a very large antenna was delivered and I and a mate spent the best part of a day assembling then erecting it. The following morning I has woken by this neighbour banging on the door so hard she cracked the glass. She was ranting and raving about interference to her TV reception (unlikely any how, the transmitter was line of site and only a few miles away) and how she couldn’t hear anything on her radio. I asked for proof and she wouldn’t show me. So I told her to call the RA to investigate who did pop round a few days later. It was luck that when they (the RA) were knocking on my door Fedex was also knocking on my door to deliver the Coax feeder I was waiting for to run up to the antenna. Needless to say when the gent from the RA saw this the visit was rather short. She was told not to complain to them unless it was a genuine complaint and she was ordered to pay costs for the visit too.

  4. Is he any good at dowsing for water?

    I used to live close to a big AM transmitter, and it was like living in a big theremin, If I was on the cordless phone, every metal object I touched would hum static in a different key. 

      1. We had one of those camping tables where the top is made of aluminum slats. and it was like a piano.

  5. If non-ionizing EM were causing a problem, brief sunlight exposure would be just about fatal.  The EM level is high enough that you can actually feel warmth, and there’s even an ionizing component.  However, whether these individuals have a physical illness or a mental illness, treatment should still be available to them.

  6. Maybe I’m missing something here, but can’t we put this poor chap in a room made of drywall and stand outside and turn efi on and off and see if anything happens?

    It should take ten minutes to figure out if he has a sensitivity, no?

    1. And when the test comes back negative, he’ll still likely insist that he has an EM sensitivity problem, and offer excuses as to why the test is invalid.

    2. “Wait… I feel vaguely anxious… no, I’m kind of nauseous… wait, what’s that tingling in my stomach? I can feel a vague pain in my head. I’m breathing too fast. I think my heart is beating too fast. Oh God please please stop the test I need to get out of the city!”

      That’s the problem right there.

    3.  Why ten minutes?


      If the effect was real, but the onset was over tens of minutes or even hours, that could explain one part of victim complaints and failed testing.

      A basic question for victims then is:  if a Faraday Cage really solves the problem, how long does it take for the problem to cease once you enter the cage?   How long does it take to reappear once you leave the cage or just open the door?

      Without knowing this time constant, we could be ignorantly turning RF sources on and off with no possible effect on the victim, then wrongly insisting this demonstrates lack of any effect.

  7. I can see electromagnetic sensitivity being a thing, I mean if Xeroderma pigmentosum can be a thing then why not sensitivity to electromagnetic fields?

    I mean they have already show that extreme EM fields can disrupt the brains functions. Perhaps there is indeed a rare case in which lower level fields can cause issues in a rare subset of the population.

    Course the Internet has a whole lot of “It doesn’t effect me so it must not exist” to go around. Course I don’t dismiss the possibility that it could be largely psychological. More Testing!

    1.  If it’s a “thing” then it is a measurable thing. Expose the allegedly sensitive to fields, or not, in such a way that they don’t know if it is on or off.  It it is a real sensitivity it will not be hard to get evidence.

    2. Yes, it sounds perfectly plausible, which is why numerous studies have been done on it over the years. Nobody has found any evidence that EM sensitivity is real.

    3. Course the Internet has a whole lot of “It doesn’t effect me so it must not exist” to go around.

      You spelled “Course the Internet has a whole lot of ‘the legitimate studies show no effect so you’re going to have to come up with something better than anecdote to prove it does exist'” wrong.

  8. It’s conceivable that he is allergic to something in the urban environment, does better in the woods, and has self-diagnosed himself incorrectly.  To eliminate the nocebo effect, the easiest way would be to set up a double-blind test; see if he gets sick when exposed to EM radiation when neither he nor anyone he comes into direct contact with knows whether the field is on or off.  If he reliably gets sick, wow, we have some new science (not holding my breath for that one).  If he doesn’t get sick at all, then maybe he has a real sensitivity but it’s to some other factor.  If he gets his symptoms at random times, it’s probably psychological (if he’s consciously or unconsciously guessing about when the fields are on).

  9. sounds like this would be a very easy thing to test – especially with people who are very symptomatic:

    put them in a large faraday cage and gauge their vitals and symptoms.

    then remove them from the faraday cage to a normal observation room.  observe.

    then put them in a particularly energetic em signal room.  observe.




    1. The subject’s awareness of being inside or outside of a faraday cage would render that particular experiment worthless. It would work, however, if he was randomly in a succession of rooms, some of which (unknown to the subject and to the experimenters) doubled as faraday cages. That way you have double-blind conditions. 

        1. If you set up the test, then yes, you know whether or not EM is being emitted from within the cage.

          Unless the sufferer tries to taint the test by bringing in his own EM emitter.

          Which would not lend credence to this supposition.

    2. Given the claims these people make – for example, that they suffer if a person in the same room is carrying a cell phone that is switched on – the test is much simpler than that. Put them in a shielded room, and give them a series of fifteen minute conversations with people who don’t know whether they’re carrying a real, switched-on cell phone or a dummy, which in any case never leaves their pocket. Then ask them which people had the real cell phones.

      But the even simpler answer is that tests of this sort, and simpler and more direct tests, have been done. And we know the physics. The claims of electromagnetic sensitivity are false. The suffering of these people is real, and they need help – but only the suffering is real, not the culprit.

  10. While I appreciate the creativity of those trying to figure out how he might actually be experiencing something physically real (he’s not) or that he could be reasoned out of it (he can’t), the actual reality is somewhat simpler.   He’s got a nasty case of delusions, and really all we can do with him at this level of technology is give him a double prescription for your favorite SSRIs and hope the end result is something like an acceptable life.   

    1. He’s got a nasty case of delusions, and really all we can do with him at this level of technology is give him a double prescription for your favorite SSRIs and hope the end result is something like an acceptable life.

      Just doing your part to make sure that we don’t have advances in diagnosis and treatment, eh?

      1. Antinous, I think you’re missing the  point.  The limit of our treatment for his condition pretty much is SSRIs.  The diagnosis is over.   There is more chance that he’s a hostile cockroach-shaped alien inside a human skin than that he’s sensitive to EM fields.

        1. There is more chance that he’s a hostile cockroach-shaped alien inside a human skin than that he’s sensitive to EM fields.

          Have IQs dropped sharply while I was away? I didn’t say that he was sensitive to EM fields. I said that he may have some real physical problem that needs to be diagnosed and that just drugging him to shut him up is shitty science, shitty medicine and shitty personhood.

          1. “he may have some real physical problem that needs to be diagnosed”

            Quite true, and if Mr. Inkley was asking “Please help me to get a diagnosis and find a treatment for this physical problem I’ve got” I’d be totally on his side.

            However, he seems to have made up his mind that he’s allergic to wireless transmissions and will brook no alternate explanation whatever.  That seems to limit the potential for any intervention on his behalf.

    2.  Yes, but unfortunately this idea doesn’t work for a lot of people. I am seeing a woman with delusional level beliefs (and hallucinations) that she is experiencing a common medical problem for which there is plenty of evidence that she is not (she qualifies for a delusional disorder diagnosis and an obsessive compulsive disorder diagnosis). All the cognitive behavioural therapy I’ve tried, and the four different antipsychotics she has been on, and the benzos, and SSRIS, and previous therapy haven’t swayed her beliefs at all. Frustrating, but most especially for her as it has essentially ruined her life (and cost her tens of thousands of dollars). I don’t know the answer, but I’d love to.

  11. Years ago I accidentally performed a double-blind test for EM sensitivity.  It turned out to be a genuine effect.   But it wasn’t the type of sensitivity being discussed here, instead it was a person who could “hear” Tesla Coils as loud annoying sound.

    She lived in Framingham MA, and claimed to hear all kinds of strange non-sound noises.  Unfortunately Framingham has a big division of Ratheon doing R&D for military radar & comm.

      1.  Dead silent.  Vacuum tube CW Tesla Coils tens of meters distant, with ‘plasma globe’ tops.

    1. Seems like she has taken good care of her hearing. I can still hear CRT screens that are turned on but not showing anything if the room is quiet, and i suspect any tesla coil would be quite a bit louder than that buzzing.

      1. Unwarranted confidence.

        One was 300KHz vacuum tube tesla coil, completely silent to normal ears, but also positioned in a separate room on the other side of a wall, perhaps 10M distant.   The other was 10MHz VT Tesla Coil about 30M away on a different floor of the museum, with a cable leading up to the display which was 10M distant and behind a wall.

        Was it caused by metal implants?  Perhaps not, since her daughter claimed to have the same problem.

    2. Sometimes in transformers you can get a mechanical resonance happening, hence the noise. The person isn’t detecting RF, they’re detecting sound made EM fields making something rattle.

      1. > Sometimes in transformers you can get

        These were VT amateur radio transmitters, they involve no ultrasound but produced 60 & 120Hz, 300KHz, 10MHz, plus were in a separate room.

        > The person isn’t detecting RF

        Not “possibly” or “probably?” Why such a confident decision?  It’s based on completely wrong speculation.  To avoid fooling ourselves, we must carefully avoid biases caused by belief *or* disbelief.

        After this event I later found out that human sensitivity to very strong RF fields is a known effect (though hearing radio stations far from transmitters, that’s not.)   Our signals were CW, no audio involved, FEW HUNDRED-WATT CW transmitters.

        The devices were in a different room, on the other side of a normal sheetrock wall (very bad for passing high freq audio.)  Their transformers were part of amateur radio transmitters: one was actually in a distant room on a different floor of the museum, the other inside a metal enclosure inside a wooden enclosure  …in a separate room from where we were standing.

        If she wanted to hoax it, she could have simply carried an AM radio with earphone: no need for hearing ultrasound (which almost certainly was lacking in the first place.)

        This was an older, very non-techie woman who was at the museum trying to locate a device which in the past had apparently produced the same “head noise-pain” effect she was experiencing at home.  Probably not acoustic, since she said plugging her ears didn’t reduce it.  We tried her on several different items from our physics-show before she responded strongly to VT Tesla coils.  STRONG response, yelling when we first turned it on.  She claimed to not be able to approach a third desktop-style two-tube CW VTTC coil closer than a couple meters, saying the effect was too painful to tolerate.  When she first responded to that one, she was about 10M away.

        Accidental blind testing: she responded strongly when the coil in a separate room was accidentally turned on by another worker who’d noticed the exhibit not working: she unexpectedly fled from standing 3m from the wall, saying “that thing’s back on!”

        The other shoe drops:  she lives in Framingham MA, a Ratheon national R&D center for military radar development.   Good luck with that. It could be far worse than living near commercial airport radar.  We told her about Faraday Cages and aluminum-foil foam insulation panels, but never heard back again.

  12. Uncontrolled mental illnesses – or for that matter, undiagnosed and untreated phyical complaints – are tragic. This man is suffering, and I hope he gets all the help he needs.

    What he doesn’t get is his own laws of physics, or the right to dismiss the convincing evidence that the causes he ascribes to his suffering simply do not exist. His suffering is manifestly real, and he should be aided to alleviate and hopefully eliminate it. That doesn’t mean we need to pander to his delusional explanations for it.

    1. >”What he doesn’t get is his own laws of physics, or the right to dismiss the convincing evidence that the causes he ascribes to his suffering simply do not exist.”

      What gives you the evidence to that conclusion? The fact that there is no “convincing evidence” that contradicts the opinions of a billion dollar industry?
      Oh. And by the way: the actually ARE tests that prove electromagnetic sensitivity to be very real in some individuals. Do a little research. There is one where a test subject’s heart rate is measured while a WIFI device is turned on and off without him knowing when either state occurs and the result is affirmative.

      1. I must point out that you fail to provide a link, reference, or even so much as a title, author, or publication of any of the research you propose exists.

        1. I realize this and I must exceptionally ask you to trust me on that one. I saw this in a TV program lawhotely of which I have, unfortunately, lost trace. They showed some test with a person whose heart rate was being measured while someone who was out of his field of perception was turning a WiFi network on and off. I think it was on the frech/german programm ARTE.

          1. *[citation needed]*

            I can just as easily argue that the pyramids were built by aliens because I saw it in a documentary. That doesn’t make it true.

      2. Do you have any links to this alleged research? Because all I can find is bad lab work by people who have conclude a priori that EM sensitivity is real.

          1. Those are significantly more powerful than anything you’d experience in the urban environment. Some military radars can cook meat at short ranges.

          2. @Saltine That was kinda my point.   But sarcasm doesn’t translate well on the Internet. 

        1. I will try to find the program that presented the research. As I already said: I think the source was ARTE television.

    1. Before that, they had only demons to chose from.   Now it’s demons, aliens AND electricity.

      Choice is good, right?

  13. I am suffering from elecromagnetic sensitivity myself and no, I’m not a tinhat nutter, nor am I paranoid. I don’t live on organic food. Actually I’m rather a technology-embracing nerd.Had to get rid of my (brand new, high quality) DECT phone due to violent headaches and pulsating eyelid on the side where I held the phone, which both stopped since. I can tell if a WIFI device is turned on or off. In areas of strong WIFI, I feel like I had been drugged. I’m on ethernet right now. When I’m in a bunker, I suddenly feel enexplicably clear. Not far from where I live, a large bunker from the war has been turned into appartments (I’m in Germany). I really consider moving in there one day soon. Being electromagnetically sensitive is hell these days. I get about 30 WIFI networks at my home. Most of them run night and day. People should, at least, turn off their WIFI at night, when the go to sleep.

    1. There’s no such thing as “strong WiFi”. The max transmission of a WiFi router is 100mW. A properly functioning microwave oven leaks as much as 500 times more EM than that, in the same range.

      If you were really “electromagnetically sensitive”, your symptoms would not be limited to WiFi and DECT. Besides, DECT isn’t even at all in the same band as WiFi. So if you are affected by WiFi (2.4GHz) and DECT (1.9GHz), then you would also be affected by your microwave, your car alarm, and heck, most of the television and radio signals being beamed down to you by communication satellites overhead.

      Actually, if you did wear a tinfoil hat, you might have some chance of mitigating the symptoms. If they are actually being triggered by the actual act of EM radiation being emitted onto you.

      I don’t doubt that you have real symptoms that occur when you consciously or subconsciously are aware of WiFi presence or clues of its presence. But I wonder if you’ve had symptoms where there is zero WiFi present — and if you’ve ever been somewhere with WiFi but you didn’t know it, and had no symptoms.

      I’m not saying you’re having debilitating symptoms. I’m saying you could probably make them go away with something as simple as hypnosis or placebo.

      1. So basically, you are trying to explain to me that the horrible headaches I was permanently experiencing during the time I was using a DECT phone, which I wasn’t even tracing back to the use of the latter, and which stopped immediately when I exchanged it in favour of a non-DECT phone, were created by my subconscious which believed that I must obviously be getting them, all-the-while I, myself, basically didn’t have the smallest suspicion towards that device? I’m sorry to say that but the arrogance of some people who don’t perceive a malaise towards those who do is sickening.
        Imagine you had some food allergies and I would dismiss any argument you propose because I can eat whatever I like without getting ill. How would that make you feel. Imagine me calling you a nut because you can’t eat fig or walnuts or whatever? How would you prove to me you can’t? Think about it for a minute.

        There is, of course, a big problem each time a certain phenomenon occurs that has to do with either technology or chemicals: every paranoid esoteric nutcase will happily jump on the bandwagon pretending that he too is feeling ill.
        As I already said: I embrace technology. I love gadgets and I honestly HATE my condition. Also, I would gladly offer myself for non-armful experiments including what you propose: hypnosis, placebo, double blind tests of all sort and I would be extremely happy if the result was that I’m actually imagining this condition.

        To finish, I will consider the beginning of your argumentation. In the late 80’s or early 90’s, when WIFI and DECT phones were still far away, I noticed that, although I had had enough sleep, I didn’t feel relieved at all. I started to search for a possible cause. I had no idea what it was so I used try and error. At a certain point, my attempts went to unplugging all electrical devices that weren’t necessary, especially charger and lo and behold, I could at last find some relief in my sleep.

        1. You say you’d gladly offer yourself for non-harmful experiments — there’s no need. Those experiments *have* been done, and they’ve found *nothing*. Not on you, apparently, but why should you be any different to all the people who did take part?

        2.  “the horrible headaches I was permanently experiencing during the time I was using a DECT phone”

          What? So these were “permanent” headaches that came and went based on your proximity to a phone? You understand why your claims sound a little hinky?

          And, PLEASE: ’80s, ’90s. Apostrophes mean things.

          1.  Why?  If he’s always experiencing a headache whenever he’s using a DECT phone, he can describe it as a “permanent” phenomenon.  What’s so hinky about that?

          2. Sorry. In this case I fell victim to a “false friend”, due to the fact that my mother tongue is in fact German. We Germans tend to say “permanent” for “recurring”. So I hereby apologize for the misuse of the term “permanent” and kindly ask you to replace it with said term “recurring”.

        3. It’s most likely psychosomatic. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

          Humans just aren’t made out of the right material. WiFi is legally limited 100mW, though most commercial devices don’t go much over 1 mW. That is a vanishingly small power.

          I understand you don’t like hearing this, but you are quite simply mistaken regarding the etiology of your symptoms.

          1. Firstly I’m not talking of WiFi in association with my recurring headaches. I was clearly mentioning a DECT phone. Secondly: I find it quite arrogant to call me delusional without even leaving me the benefit of doubt.

            Here’s a fact you should acknowledge: Let’s take violent video games. I have played them a lot and I never ever felt the urge to go on a shooting spree. Also, the people who tend to attack this sort (or any sort) of video games are in my eyes for the most part puritan, paranoid conservatives. This last fact results in me dismissing any argument that wants to link some video games with tragic events as the ever recurring sermons of backward thinking nutters. But if I am really honest to myself, I have to admit that I actually don’t have any idea about anyone but myself and how I react to these games. What I want to say is that electromagnetic sensitivity is widely linked to magical thinking and paranoia or just ignorance, esoterism, hippie crap, ufologism, you name it because many of these guys, as I already said, happily jumped on the bandwagon (often to sell some crappy shielding devices or pseudo-therapeutic humdrum) and it’s quite hard to see that not all belong to this certainly widely delusional group. I certainly don’t, I can assure you and I’m also quite a fan of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit ;)

          2. “Firstly I’m not talking of WiFi in association with my recurring headaches. I was clearly mentioning a DECT phone.”

            Your fixation on a “DECT phone” doesn’t change the situation radically from this “WiFi allergy”, which has been researched theoretically and directly.

            “Secondly: I find it quite arrogant to call me delusional without even leaving me the benefit of doubt.”

            And your assumption of the flawlessness of human understanding, certainly yours isn’t arrogant? Just because you feel that it can’t be psychosomatic doesn’t make it somehow not psychosomatic.

            Delusion is only a perspective, if you choose to distance yourself from reality you can’t possibly expect everyone to assume you’re correct because you’re sincere.

      2. I have to say, desite all of the “brain power”,  the smarmy “geeks” on this site have actually contradicted themselves repeatedly with their dismissals of the “EM illness” phenomenon.

        So… you discard this guy’s logically-solid case history because it doesn’t fit with your pre-conceived paradigm about what could be happening.  Could he be lying?  Yes.  But you didn’t accuse of that.  Interesting.

        I’ve also now seen “debunkers” on here now admitting that certain frequences and powers (i.e. sunlight, radar, cell phones) might indeed effect people (with effects supported by mainstream studies+evidence), but making a knee-jerk dismissal of any problematic symptoms due to anything that might be found in a consumer device. And on what grounds have you determined that there is no sensitivity out there in the wild that would actually register severely for some small percentage of the population , even if most of us have no or a small measurable reaction?
        Rather, it seems to me a logical near-certainty that if there is ANY measurable adverse effect from EM in “edge case” frequencies/powers, the effects are probably more widespread in the edges of the bell curve for subject (population) distribution.

        And, oh yeah, people evolved for sunlight and other commonplace aspects of EM exposure.  Duh.   You wouldn’t stick your head in a microwave oven.  Power density is not the ONLY thing that distinguishes it from sunlight.   You simply didn’t evolve to be exposed to that frequency of EM.   Its perfectly plausible that very low-power frequencies that are not common in nature could have an outsized effect in a minority of the population.I think there’s as much superstition, and “scientitianism” on this site as anything out there.

        1. You’re also arguing by your biases instead of logic.  I can tell because you’re actually mischaracterizing the arguments you’re trying to rebut.  You must realize it looks pretty bad to criticize everyone for doing something and then do that very same thing yourself.

          In this case, we have a phenomenon that is very easily testable, and yet there isn’t much in the way of established science on it.  You also seem to have a poor understanding of EM.  For example:

          And, oh yeah, people evolved for sunlight and other commonplace aspects of EM exposure.

          Unless you can demonstrate that there is a difference between the EM radiation emitted by the sun and EM radiation emitted by literally anything else that emits EM, this argument is completely meaningless.  The sun emits across a massive range of frequencies so:

            You simply didn’t evolve to be exposed to that frequency of EM.

          Simply makes you sound even more poorly informed on this subject.  And its inevitably the anti-science “everything you know is wrong” mysterians who makes these kinds of basic mistakes with the science, not the skeptics. 

          Maybe you’re right that there’s a credibility and bias problem on both sides, but that doesn’t mean those problems exist at the same level.  Let’s also not forget that along with the EM radiation issue skeptics have to deal with homeopaths, vaccine “skeptics”, and dozens of other varieties of health fraud, of which this EM sensitivity thing really looks like just another example.

          larisa001 linked to a few studies above.  That’s problematic because she only linked to studies supporting her position which makes it impossible to compare those several positive results against similar studies with negative results, but it is a far more credible approach than yours.

    2. I think most people get those symptoms in the presence of very strong transmissions – I have felt the same things you describe. I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that some people might be more sensitive to it such that weaker transmissions will cause the same symptoms. I think most people haven’t experienced strong transmissions in close proximity, so they don’t make the connection and think it’s bunk.

      I do think that in cases like the guy in the article, there’s probably a huge psychological component. But at least part of the effect is real.

      I get replies to my BB comments occasionally saying that I should seek professional help because some asshole thinks something I wrote indicates mental illness. The mods usually delete those but Disqus sends them to me via email. They usually come a day or so after the article is posted. I’m writing this in my comment so I can preemptively say fuck you to anyone planning to make one of those replies in this thread.

      1. Psychosomatic doesn’t mean your symptoms aren’t real or that you’re crazy.

        You have created a connection in your mind based on correlation. While a correlation may exist, that’s not the same thing as causation. There is no plausible reason why any human should react to RF, and no effect has been reliably measured. Thus we are left with but one conclusion: While the correlation may be present, it is not significant. The cause lay elsewhere.

      2. You’re not crazy, you’re mistaken.

        “there’s probably a huge psychological component. But at least part of the effect is real.”

        Absolutely. That’s the very definition of psychosomatic.

        It’s exactly like real symptoms, but the problem is self-generated and not from external forces.

    3.  Hiya Mat,

      Sorry to hear you have these issues.  Have you spoken with a building biologist, who can take readings in your home with a radio frequency (RF) meter and a gauss meter to see what is affecting you and from which direction it’s coming?

      There is shielding paint and window film / curtains available which may be cheaper than moving, and have provided relief for other people suffering from EM sensitivity.  There are bed canopies which are easier too, if you just want to get good sleep so you can face the day.  :-)

      Incidentally, those of you who wish to know, these meters mentioned above are nice, scientific meters, with measurable, provable, scientific results… (repeatable, too)

      I agree, wifi should be turned off at night, let everyone get a good night’s sleep.  The RF meter I use has the optional volume control, so you can hear the signal… horrible.  Even if the body / brain can hear that signal (because you can “hear” things below hearing level and it can be an issue) it would be very irritating and tiring… I’m not saying this IS the issue, but if it is, it’s potentially harmful, just like any noise is.

      As for “proof” that this is an issue, please see these links:

      I also agree with Antinous – just because current science doesn’t have a diagnosis for this issue doesn’t mean it isn’t real.  I will cite the old cases of people with stroke or epilepsy being treated as insane, demon possessed and “treated” with electroconvulsive shock therapy or exorcism.  Just because we don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it’s not real.  There are millions of people around the world using and enjoying the effects of gravity, without a clue how it works or what it is.  :-) 

      Arbitrarily deciding, with no medical experience (and none of you have mentioned any) and without actually speaking to this guy, that you “know” that this guy is delusional or speaking rubbish, or full of it, is extremely arrogant and I might even say rude.  I don’t want to wish horrible things, but honestly, is there no-one in your acquaintance who has an issue which has been misdiagnosed or takes some time to diagnose?

      Have you never had something which seems inexplicable?  I hope you never do, but at the same time, have some compassion!

      1. I don’t want to wish horrible things, but honestly, is there no-one in your acquaintance who has an issue which has been misdiagnosed or takes some time to diagnose?

        Is there no-one in your acquaintance who insists they have some sort of health problem when it seems fairly clear that, in fact, they have no such problem?  Munchausen Syndrome and hypochondria aren’t exactly rare; less rare than complaints of EM sensitivity certainly.

        Have you never had something which seems inexplicable?  I hope you never do, but at the same time, have some compassion!

        I don’t see how doubting this guy’s dubious self-diagnosis is mutually incompatible with compassion for the guy.  Mental illness is still illness, and hypothesizing that this guy’s illness is mental rather than physiological (as most posters have done) or that his symptoms are physiological but not due to EM sensitivity (as Antinous has been arguing) does not denigrate the man or betray lack of compassion on the part of the writer.

        If I had a friend who was down on his luck and insisted that it was the result of some bizarre conspiracy bent on ruining his life would I only be “compassionate” if I took his word on it?  Of course not.  I’d feel even worse for him in that case than if he chalked it up to bad luck and got on with his life.

  14. I’m absolutely sure that he has been in a place with WiFi, but no visible router or signage or users, and has had symptoms.

    I’m SURE of it.


    I’m also sure that if he were to wrap the ethernet cord around him, he would also have symptoms. Since that is also giving off EM radiation.

    And cell towers, and radio transmitters, and walkie talkies, and, heck, the electrical cables running to his trailer… all cause him to get these symptoms.


  15. I’m sorry Antinous (who seem really passionate about this) but this is bullshit. Its not bullshit as in “he’s a creep who is faking it”, but more like “its been disproven and he’s suffering from dellusions which is a very real mental health problem”.
    Is there ANYONE else from Sweden here who remember that family of people who claimed they where so allergic to electricity that they wanted to force a whole county to stop using wireless internet?

    There has so far been no evidence this exists in the way that many sufferers claim. If for some reason they have a certain sensitivity that is unknown to science and all current research has just missed it, well that would suck. But chances aren’t high that is the case. This is not the first case of communal delusions and it wont be the last. Anything from werewolf attacks, to curses and being the reborn Napoleon. 

    It doesn’t make his suffering easier though, but playing along with it is just as bad. I mean this guy is obviously suffering that much everyone can probably agree on and just like any delusion we can laugh at it (which we shouldn’t) or we can take him seriously to the extent that we can take his symptoms as something real (even if we disagree with his self-diagnosis of the cause).

    1. Do you know how many people over the last century or so have been told that it’s all in their head when they had a real physiological problem?  He may have misidentified the cause of his symptoms, but saying that his disease is purely delusional is profoundly unscientific, backward, arrogant and mean-spirited.

      1. The implication of what you are saying appears to be that ‘delusional’ is synonymous with  ‘less real’, or ‘not physical’. He could well have mis-identified the cause; it could be a form of mental disorder. Are you suggesting that wondering if this person has a mental condition means taking their issue less seriously than wondering if it might caused by something else?

          1. Frankly, as an individual who suffers from mental illness, is disabled by it and requires medication to treat said illness, I find your comment offensive.

            Medication for mental illness isn’t just “drugging them up”. It is for treatment of illness no different from a stroke patient taking warfarin and a diabetic one taking insulin. Off-handed dismissal of mental illness such as yours harms a great many people and perpetuates the stigma attached thereto.

          2. Medication for mental illness isn’t just “drugging them up”.

            you have no idea whether this man suffers from a mental illness. Medical history is full of people being dismissed as mentally ill when they simply had physical conditions that had not yet been recognized. Diagnosing someone with mental illness because you can’t figure out what’s actually wrong with him, then drugging him based on that assumption is evil.

      2. Oh I’m sorry I prefer to assume that the research done so far in this subject is, if not correct, atleast an indication of the truth.
        But yeah – since I can’t argue with “all research done and al findings are incorrect and its proven by research done in other subjects being incorrect” then I can only ask: what do you want me to take away from this?

        I am sorry if I insulted you or someone in some way though – and I do believe we should take his symptoms seriously. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the research done. Blind faith doesn’t cut it for me I prefer the actuall scientific research. Sorry again

        1. I can only ask: what do you want me to take away from this?

          That the people who are saying, “He’s just crazy; give him anti-depressants.” are no different than doctors giving patients cocaine to pep them up before they understood and could test for hypothyroidism. Or doctors who sedated women because they regarded their symptoms as ‘hysterics’. Just because we don’t know why he’s having his symptoms, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a physiological problem that could be uncovered by further diagnostic work.

          I would also like you to take away better reading comprehension since I never once suggested that his problems have anything to do with EM, just that sedating people to get rid of their symptoms is bad medicine.

  16. I beleive the best way to alleviate the symptoms is to have somebody make a phone call very close to a glass of water. This can then be diluted several times over and imbibed by the sufferer.
    Seriously though, perhaps the best way to counter a nocebo is with a placebo.

  17. If your head doesn’t explode every time the big ultra-bright fusion reactor in the sky comes up every morning, you’re not really sensitive to EM radiation….

  18. He does have a point. But like Tobacco companies they wouldn’t admit to liability till it is grossly obvious. 

    Electromagnetic radiation is a concern when welding. The welder should never work in between the positive and ground connection as years of exposure to EMR will indeed harm a persons internal organs. 
    Use short leads, not long looping ground lines that will generate larger EM fields. Have the ground line as close to the acutal weld as possible to reduce EM fields. 

    Living beside a giant EM field would be a health concern, IMHO.

    1. *[citation needed]*

      I find it interesting that the handbooks from the AWS make no mention of such a hazard.

    2.  Welding generates UV, which is ionizing radiation; a known hazard.  The type of radiation produced by radio, WiFi and cell phones is non-ionizing radiation.  Unless the level is high enough to cook food (hundreds of watts of energy, not a watt or two), no harmful effects have been found.  The only effect of non-ionizing radiation is heating.  That’s why sunlight feels warm; the (very strong) EM radiation.  If you can survive a walk in sunlight or the heating pad you put on your back, you have nothing to fear from household electronics.

  19. It’s interesting that the symptoms of EMS mimic that of general stress. 
    Electrical equipment can, if not properly protected, generate low frequency sound. Sensitivity to such sounds, particularly at or below the range of human hearing also produce stress-related symptoms in individuals who are sensitive to it. That makes me wonder if some small portion of those who report EMS are really experiencing reaction to low-frequency sounds. 

  20. I feel for the guy. I had a long time misdiagnosed issue with my leg. After surgery didn’t fix me, they were beginning to think it was all in my head. It wasn’t, but it also wasn’t what it was first diagnosed.  Keep looking.

  21. This is the sort of thing that can be tested in about  45 minutes with minimal cost and hassle by placing the individual in a visually screened enclosure inside a Faraday cage and testing to see if he or she can tell if various RF emanating devices are active or not.

    It is my understanding that testing of this sort has been done on some people who claim this sensitivity and their rate of accuracy is equal to the random guessing accuracy.

    Easy claim to make, easy claim to test but like “psychics” I will imagine such people will resist real testing since reality is not always high on their value system.

    1.  Test me.  Please.  I’m serious – contact me and I will happily offer myself up for a brain scan, or any other form of testing.  I get a localized pain behind the right ear when I’m exposed to cell phone radiation for more than 1/2 hour.  It has to be fairly strong cell phone radiation (i.e. a cell phone right next to my ear) – but I’m sure a suitable test can be contrived. 

      Any of you “skeptics” want to apply real scientific methods to test your “skepticism”, or are you just going to continue to maintain your untested belief that RF radiation does nothing to the human body?

      1. “Any of you “skeptics” want to apply real scientific methods to test your “skepticism” ”

        The very descriptions of your problem have nothing to do with science, I don’t think anyone’s concerned.

      2. “Any of you “skeptics” want to apply real scientific methods to test your “skepticism”, or are you just going to continue to maintain your untested belief that RF radiation does nothing to the human body”

        It has been tested, extensively, and has been found to be false.  If you are experiencing pain, please seek medical attention.

  22. Cranks aside, what I wonder about is what the RF radiation – i.e. microwaves – generated by cell phones is doing to our brains.  I know that I experience a localized pain behind my ear whenever I use a cell phone for any length of time.  When I use it with an earphone, the pain appears later and is not as strong.  It is always in the same place, and it is always the same kind of pain.  Wi-fi doesn’t trigger it as much, though if I am really close to a wi-fi transmitter, I can sometimes feel it. 

    I want a real test.  I’d like to be put in a brain scanner or some sort of scanner to see exactly what the RF radiation is doing to my head.  But I don’t even know whom to approach about this.  Do any BoingBoing readers have access to a brain scanner and a RF transmitter?  I’m volunteering myself as an experimental subject.

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