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.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.