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Wi-Fi sensitivity is an urban myth

PR stunt posing as science
Thu Jul 30 2009, 09:44

STORIES appearing in The Sun, The Telegraph, and The Daily Mail, and on Fox News have been claiming that two percent of the world suffer from an illness called "Wi-Fi sensitivity".

The stories focus on a British DJ who is convinced that Wi-Fi signals set off a variety of health symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, and nausea. He has found it difficult to pursue his career, but also simply to find a house, shops, and pub that he feels comfortable occupying.

The articles claim that two percent of the population suffers from the same problem. The Currant Bun tells us that Dave happens to have a new album out which is called Electrosensitive, but it also fails to point anyone to any medical data that backs up its story.

This is probably because there is none.

Ars Technica claims the whole thing is a PR stunt made up by someone claiming to suffer from a condition and promoting an album named after the nonexistent condition.

It says that the condition called electrosensitivity doesn't appear to exist and people who have claimed to suffer from it are incapable of determining whether there is an active wireless signal in their vicinity or not. In multiple blinded studies they did no better than random chance when asked to identify whether equipment that broadcasts on Wi-Fi or cellular frequencies is active.

Ars does have a point. Where did the hacks get the two percent figure? The scientific studies clearly indicate that, at a minimum, the number of people who claim electrosensitivity is much larger than the number of people who possibly could suffer from it, even if it existed.

While it is possible that a smaller group of sufferers actually exists within the larger group of people who claim they have the illness, so far all those who have been tested by boffins have been psychosomatic cases.

Besides, the part of the electromagnetic spectrum which Wi-Fi uses is more or less universal. If someone suffered from the illness they would never be able to get away from the radiation and would be sick all the time. It seems the illness is unique to the Wi-Fi standard and does not apply to mobile phones, microwave ovens, cordless phones and bluetooth.

The other problem is that the spectrum is extremely low energy compared to the energy involved in the sorts of chemical reactions that drive biological systems. In otherwords the energy is so low that it can't actually make anything happen to you.

If it could your biological system would be so sensitive that you could pick up Radio One and have Cris Moyles talking in your head, which would be a significant problem. µ



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