from the i,-uh,-wait,-what? dept
In the realm of conspiracy theories, I suppose the baseless claims that WiFi signals can make people ill doesn't really rank up there with chem-trails, Kennedy assassinations, and that one time former President Bush personally remote controlled alien inviso-missiles into the twin towers and the Pentagon before shooting down another plane over Pennsylvania. Still, the press likes to eat this stuff up, because what harm could come from scaring the hell out of everyone without doing a little fact-checking?
The result can be equal parts sad and hilarious. Take Green Bank, West Virginia, for example. Green Bank is a town of 147 residents that's experiencing a relative population boom simply because it's in an area where WiFi, radio signals and the like are not allowed.
At least 36 people moved to live in Green Bank last year, claiming that they suffer from a condition known as "Electromagnetic Sensitivity", where symptoms include acute headaches, heart palpitations, tinnitus, eye problems and feeling the sensation of burning skin. Green Bank has only 147 residents and sits within the National Radio Quiet Zone, a large area of land measuring 34,000 square kilometres that restricts radio signal transmissions in order to protect radio telescopes, antennas and receivers belonging to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Sugar Grove US Naval Radio Station.If you're sure you've heard of Sugar Grove before, it's probably not because the alien overlords are beaming those thoughts into your noggin through your wireless router. Instead, Sugar Grove is one of the prime hubs in which the NSA monitors communications of foreigners, domestics, and all those pets of ours that have somehow set up their own Facebook accounts. The delicious irony in a town growing because people don't like electronic signals as it sits directly next to a government facility gathering all those signals would be pure fun if some of the personal stories of the residents weren't so sad.
"It began with a constant ringing in my ears. I couldn't sleep in the house anymore and felt sick all the time. Any food I brought into the house would make me feel ill. I got heart palpitations. It was like I was slowly being poisoned," Deborah Cooney, a former bank vice president from San Diego told the Daily Mail.So we have a former VP at a bank, ostensibly a successful woman who was otherwise happy with her surroundings, moving to a completely different small town due to the unsubstantiated fear of the same WiFi signals that don't seem to have any effect on the general population. That's what you get when you have a press that refuses to take a critical look at these claims. Even this article gives too much credence to an organization with a clear conflict of interests.
Cooney, 50, claims that her symptoms began in 2011 after hundreds of Wi-Fi enabled smart meters were installed near her home, and that the Wi-Fi even affected her purebred Himalayan cat Mimi.
"Mimi went from being a typical house cat to one that would never stay home and eventually she ran away and never came back," she said.
Powerwatch, a not-for-profit, non-funded UK public information service has been studying the research done on how electromagnetic fields affect health for 20 years. The organisation feels that the evidence points to Electromagnetic Sensitivity likely being a real condition that is in some ways similar to Photosensitive Epilepsy, where some types of light can cause a person to have an epileptic seizure.Missing in that section of the article is the minor note that Powerwatch profits from the fear they push on people -- and has been hyping up bogus claims of WiFi sickness in the UK for years. They aren't a study group, they sell "tools" to "help" ward off the "effects" of WiFi signals, your cell phones, and ELF waves. Here's a little tip for all you web surfers out there: the moment a home page for a lobbying group boldly features an entire section tab on "industry bias," you should probably run far, far away. Besides that, that quote from Mr. Lanburn should be carved into stone so that future generations can have a wonderful example of a non-scientific statement. Claiming to have lots of peer-reviewed work to back your claim to the point of it being conclusive, while both never bothering to cite the studies and subsequently admitting you don't have any research to prove it conclusively is one of the grandest exhibitions of bullshit I've seen this side of a politician. At the same time, actual studies have shown that that WiFi doesn't make people sick. Considering that Powerwatch has been called out before for these kinds of claims, it's kind of amazing that anyone still takes its claims at face value.
"I see no reason why it's not possible. I've seen lots of peer-review published work that is good enough to say 'Yes, we've found something,' but not good enough to say 'Yes, this is conclusively real'. What we're lacking is good research to prove it conclusively and it's difficult to get funding for the research," Powerwatch technical manager Graham Lanburn told IBTimes UK.
Meanwhile, duped people with wayward felines are flocking to Green Bank, passing an NSA snoop station on their way -- which likely has way more powerful radio waves emanating from its caverns -- all because these people want to pretend to do science. That's both funny and sad, though I think the latter takes precedence.