In the spring of 2013, a young boy at a prestigious Massachusetts grade school began coming home with headaches, itchy skin, and a rash. It was a mild start to a mystery illness that would later bring serious symptoms—prompting his parents to sue the school over what, they believe, is making him ill: WiFi.
According to the 45-page complaint filed this summer, G’s* symptoms always emerged during school hours, then slowly disappeared once he got home. On weekends and holidays, they were all but nonexistent; but as soon as he’d get back in the classroom, they would return. In 2014, they started to get worse. Headaches and itchy skin gave way to nosebleeds, dizziness, heart palpitations, and nausea.
When his condition stumped doctors, his parents “commenced research” of their own. According to the complaint, The Fay School, where G had been a student since 2009, had installed a stronger wireless Internet service in the spring of 2013—the same time he showed symptoms. After linking the two, his mother concluded that he had “electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS),” a host of symptoms allegedly caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields. Fay’s sophisticated WiFi system, she decided, was making him sick.
G’s parents say Fay should switch to Ethernet or find a way to lower emissions in order to accommodate his EHS, which they argue is a disability. The case is unprecedented, not simply because two parents are suing a school over WiFi, but that the condition at the crux of their case (EHS) remains, largely, a mystery. The decision has implications not just for New England schools’ Internet procedures, but the rest of America’s too.
Uri Geller’s Tooth Radio Patent. Figure 1 Puharich tooth radio receiver. Signals are received by the gold filling, converted to electric signals in the audio frequency range by the rectifier crystal, and imparted directly to the nerve endings of the live tooth. Drawing from US Patent 2 995 663
EHS is an enigma, a condition that’s as controversial as it is vague. Many who suffer from it are self-diagnosed. Those that claim to have it exhibit a range of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, rash, heart palpitations, digestive disturbances, and fatigue—all of which they attribute to electromagnetic fields.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has a “factpage” on its website that says, while EHS is not a “medical diagnosis,” that the symptoms are “certainly real,” and can cause people to “cease work and change their entire lifestyle.” Indeed, there have been stories worldwide of those with EHS being forced to retreat from society all together—like an Iowa woman whose husbandbuilt her a WiFi-free “cage” to live in in West Virginia.
Overall, scientists don’t dispute that the symptoms are present. When patients who claim to have EHS are aware they are being exposed to EHS, they often do present negative reactions like the ones described above. Alone, those could be seen as proof that the condition is real. But in subsequent studies, when the patients are not told whether or not they are being exposed, the reaction is not the same.
In a 2010 paper published in the journal Bioelectromagnetics, Dr. James Rubin performed a systematic review of 46 different blind or double blind studies on 1,175 individuals who self-diagnosed as having EHS. He found “no evidence” that exposure to electromagnetic fields alone was the cause. Instead, due to similar reactions that occurred when participants thought they were being exposed but were not, he hypothesizes that the problem may be more closely aligned with mental health. “As sham exposure was sufficient to trigger severe symptoms in some participants, psychological factors may have an important role in causing this condition,” he writes.
In a February piece for The Guardian, Rubin attributes the symptoms to the “nocebo effect,” or the “tendency for people to feel unwell when they think they have been exposed to something hazardous.” For EHS he says that “believing that you are being exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMF)” is harmful, not the exposure itself. He blames this, in part, on the media, for perpetuating theories about EMF that have not been confirmed by science.…More…