Radiation From Cell Phones and WiFi Are Making People Sick -- Are We All at Risk?
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Hertz soon discovered there were other people like her: "Electrosensitives," they call themselves. To be sure, they comprise a tortured minority, often misunderstood and isolated. They share their stories at online forums like Stopsmartmeters.org, the EMF Safety Network, and the Electrosensitive Society. "Some are getting sick from cell phones, some from smart meters, some from cell towers," Hertz tells me. "Some can no longer work and have had to flee their homes. Some are losing their eyesight, some can't stop shaking, most cannot sleep."
In recent years, I've gotten to know dozens of electrosensitives. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, I met a woman who had taken to wearing an aluminum foil hat. (This works -- wrap a cell phone in foil and it will kill the signal.) I met a former world record-holding marathoner, a 54-year-old woman who had lived out of her car for eight years before settling down at a house ringed by mountains that she said protected the place from cell frequencies. I met people who said they no longer wanted to live because of their condition. Many of the people I talked to were accomplished professionals -- writers, television producers, entrepreneurs. I met a scientist from Los Alamos National Laboratories named Bill Bruno whose employer had tried to fire him after he asked for protection from EMFs at the lab. I met a local librarian named Rebekah Azen who quit her job after being sickened by a newly installed wi-fi system at the library. I met a brilliant activist named Arthur Firstenberg, who had for several years published a newsletter, "No Place to Hide," but who was now homeless, living out of the back of his car, sleeping in wilderness outside the city where he could escape the signals.
In New York City, I got to know a longtime member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) who said he was electrosensitive. I'll call him Jake, because he is embarrassed by his condition and he doesn't want to jeopardize his job or his membership in the IEEE (which happens to have for its purpose the promulgation of electrical technology, including cell phones). Jake told me how one day, a few years ago, he started to get sick whenever he went into the bedroom of his apartment to sleep. He had headaches, suffered fatigue and nausea, nightsweats and heart palpitations, had blurred vision and difficulty breathing and was blasted by a ringing in the ears -- the typical symptoms of the electrosensitive. He discovered that his neighbor in the apartment building kept a wi-fi transmitter next door, on the other side of the wall to his bedroom. When Jake asked the neighbor to shut it down, his symptoms disappeared.
The government of Sweden reports that the disorder known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS, afflicts an estimated 3 percent of the population. A study by the California Department of Health found that, based on self-reports, as many as 770,000 Californians, or 3 percent of the state's population, would ascribe some form of illness to EMFs. A study in Switzerland recently found a 5 percent prevalence of electrosensitivity. In Germany, there is reportedly a 6 percent prevalence. Even the former prime minister of Norway, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, until 2003 the director general of the World Health Organization, has admitted that she suffers headaches and "strong discomfort" when exposed to cell phones. "My hypersensitivity," she told a Norwegian newspaper in 2002, "has gone so far that I react to mobile phones closer to me than about four meters." She added in the same interview: "People have been in my office with their mobile hidden in their pocket or bag. Without knowing if it was on or off, we have tested my reactions. I have always reacted when the phone has been on -- never when it's off."