Claim: allergic to wi-fi

by Walter Olson on May 23, 2008

“A group in Santa Fe says the city is discriminating against them because they say that they’re allergic to the wireless Internet signal. And now they want Wi-Fi banned from public buildings. … [Arthur] Firstenberg and dozens of other electro-sensitive people in Santa Fe claim that putting up Wi-Fi in public places is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The city attorney is now checking to see if putting up Wi-Fi could be considered discrimination. But City Councilor Ron Trujillo says the areas are already saturated with wireless Internet.” (Gadi Schwartz, KOB, May 20).

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{ 13 comments }

1 Idene 05.24.08 at 2:34 am

Are you (the website owner) really an attorney? If so, why would you post this article? If the claim is as frivolous as it sounds, it won’t make it past summary judgment. What you do when you post this type of material is tarnish the legal profession as a whole-not just plaintiff’s attorneys, but ALL attorneys. Of course you have a right to post what you please, but there are things like common sense and responsibility that should limit your actions.

2 David Townsend 05.24.08 at 6:08 am

I confess that I am a bit confused as to how WiFi connections are any different to mobile phone signals, emergency service radios and any of the other innumerable radio signals that happily zap through our body every day.

3 Bob Neal 05.24.08 at 10:39 am

Idene, do you understand what it takes to GET to Summary Judgment? Of course you don’t, so let me enlighten you. SJ happens AFTER discovery. So, until SJ, the defendant has to retain experts, take depositions, turn over thousands of pages of documents, and tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees are paid. The Plaintiff pays little. Plaintiff’s attorney pays little and spends little time. The hope (for Ps) is Ds will make an economic choice, at the end of a gun, and pay something to make it go away. THAT is the point of this blog – to educate those like yourself who fail to understand the true cost of our system.

4 Richard Nieporent 05.24.08 at 11:58 am

David, all of these devices broadcast in different subbands of the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band which goes from 300 MHz to 3 GHz. WiFi uses the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) unlicensed 2.4 GHz frequency band. It is the same band that is used by Bluetooth, some cordless phones and microwave ovens. Cell phones normally use the 1700, 1800 or 1900 MHz (1.7, 1.8 and 1.9 GHz) bands. Emergency service radios use lower frequency bands (in the 300 and 400 MHz region). In general, the lower the frequency, the more the signal is capable of penetrating buildings which is why the 700 MHz analog TV band that is being freed up is such a valuable commodity. (Yes I know this is more information than you wanted to know!)

The bottom line is that these “electro-sensitive” people are constantly being subjected to UHF radio waves. Clearly if poor Mr. Firstenberg is “highly sensitive to certain types of electric fields, including wireless Internet and cell phones” so that he “gets chest pain that doesn’t go away right away” then it is our duty as a society to shut down all wireless communications including cell phones. After all we don’t want to be in violation of ADA. The other alternative is to lock Mr. Firstenberg and other “electro-sensitive” people away in padded cells. However, to show that I am a compassionate individual I am willing to make the padded cells into screen rooms so that they are shielded from all electromagnetic radiation. Then they will have nothing to complain about.

5 Bill Beeman 05.24.08 at 1:07 pm

Notice how none of these cases present any evidence that the supposedly “electro-sensitive” individuals can actually sense the presence of electrical or magnetic fields.

Experimental design would be simple. The individual would need to be placed in a Faraday shield for some time. The type of electrical field being complained of would be introduced into the shielded area at times unknown to the test subject. To my knowledge this type of experiment has never been done with positive results.

I have seen no credible evidence that this is any more than a fantasy on the part of the claimants, and a tool for the luddite faction to use to raise money from the legal system.

6 Quimby 05.24.08 at 1:42 pm

Perhaps lining hats with aluminum foil would protect these electro-sensitive individuals?

7 Richard Nieporent 05.24.08 at 2:31 pm

Quimby, I think you just solved the problem. Also it has the added benefit of preventing aliens from reading their thoughts.

8 John Burgess 05.24.08 at 3:24 pm

I’m going to combine the best effects of tin foil hats and the Faraday Cage! I will give this invention to the public and eschew my patent rights. I will, however, retain marketing and licensing rights. I will also retain a vicious patent attorney!

Run a copper wire from the hat to the sole of the shoe and, Hey Presto!

9 Bill Poser 05.24.08 at 5:17 pm

I can’t provide references offhand, but in fact double-blind studies have been on this issue with the result that people supposedly “allergic” to wifi do not exihibit symptoms if they are not aware of its presence. These people may have real symptoms, but if they do it is probably an anxiety reaction due to some sort of irrational fear of wifi.

Incidentally, even if some people really are “electrosensitive”, there can’t possibly be such a thing as “wifi allergy”. Allergies are caused by the reaction of the immune system to certain proteins. There aren’t any proteins in electromagnetic waves.

10 David Townsend 05.25.08 at 2:45 am

Can I just thank Richard for information on radio frequencies as I must confess that I was using ‘Lazyweb’ rather than doing proper research. As a follow on question, is there any reason why people would be more affected by high frequency UHF rather than the more penetrating low frequenct signals?

11 Steve 05.27.08 at 2:13 pm

…are on crack….

12 Bob 06.02.08 at 11:31 pm

I don’t think I’d let it get as far as summary judgment. I’d file a 12b motion and ask for sanctions right out of the box. How do these “allergic” plaintiffs cope with such things as radio waves, television, etc.

And if I didn’t get the 12b motion granted, I’d start discovery immediately and see what “medical” evidence these fruitcakes have.

The scary thing is that unless we go to a loser-pays system, such as exists in England, we’re going to always have some person who managed to pass a bar signing the pleadings for this type of crap.

13 Alex Richards 07.05.08 at 6:21 pm

I’m a technology exec in Silicon Valley and became hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields on February 29, 2006. Since then I have suffered head shocks, burning, rashes, sleep disturbances, memory loss, concentration issues, heart palpitations and more than 20 other symptoms from all forms of wireless technologies. A pain hits my head 5-15 seconds before a cell phone rings nearby. I can detect wireless networks by the sharp rodent-like biting across my scalp. I am affected by frequencies both from power-line fields (60 hertz) and radio frequencies (300 kilohertz to 300 Gigahertz). I can tell relative size of the wave by the pain sensation in my head. For instance, on a trip in the Rocky Mountains, where cellular and WiFi were absent, I experienced Park communications signals at UHF/ VHF like a thick 2 inch nail penetrating my skull. I experience cell phones signals as a drilling sensation. WiFi burns for awhile across a wide area of my head/ face like a rope burn and then starts biting like quick pricks from the tooth of a hamster. 2.45 Gigahertz is one of the worse (WiFi, microwave ovens and many cordless phones) frequencies for me. Later I discovered several scientists including Ross Adey have discovered ‘frequency windows’, where bioeffects attain at some frequencies but not others. I have removed all wireless technologies from my house (I had 11) and even had three of my neighbors move their wireless routers to divert their WiFi signal. I also had to sell my brand-new 2006 BMW 5 series because the GPS and BMW assist systems kept transmitting signals into my house, even with the car turned off. I had already disabled Bluetooth, but that was not enough. I got rid of my cell phone in late 2006.

I’ve personally met two dozen people with the same symptoms. Strange finding: almost everyone I’ve met with this affliction either went to top ten schools, or has an advanced degree. Sampling; five PhD’s, three attorneys, three media execs, five technology execs, two doctors, a pharmacist, several real estate execs, a handful of educators. Only two have ever had any previous psychological or emotional issues. In Sweden, between 230,000 and 290,000 (2.6% of the population) are registered with the government for this disability, which they call electric hypersensitivity (EHS). Britain recognized this disability in September 2006 and asserted that as about 3% of the population might be suffering from the affliction.

I understand that skeptics abound. I was an early adopter. I would never have believed that tiny radio waves that I could neither see, nor feel could affect my health. I bought my first cell phone in 1990 and began using WiFi (remember Ricochet?) in 2000. I’ve worked extensively with Cingular Wireless, Apple (iPhone), Microsoft (Xbox) and Google. I am anything but techno-phobic. Still you might use my experience and hundreds of thousands like me to curb your usage and consider the bet you are making that these signals are not harmful.

If you do the research, you’ll see that these waves are probably affecting us all. 632 studies link 51 bioeffects to low-level, radio-frequency signals (see http://www.marinproject.org for a complete listing). The 616 page BioInitiative Report (www.bioInitiative.org) released August 2007 by 14 international scientists, reviewed nearly 2000 studies and concluded a strong connection between electromagnetic fields and radio frequency (RF) signals to brain tumors, immune dysfunction, DNA damage, genetic aberrations, Leukemia, cancer, depression, suicide, ADD, Autism and Alzheimer’s. You also might check out http://www.wirelessStress.com to see how everyday nagging symptoms like headaches, anxiety, sleep issues and joint pain, which we typically attribute to the stresses of modern-day lifestyles, may in fact be triggered by our increasingly wireless world. Test it out: if you have been having sleep problems, or are feeling cloudy, or feeling over-stressed, especially in the past 5 years, unplug your wireless router and turn off your cell phone and move your alarm clock more than 5 feet from your body for a week and notice the difference. Why? Hint: the pineal gland is being disrupted by your WiFi, cell phone and cordless phone. The pineal gland is radio-sensitive and uses the Schumann Resonance (7 hertz wave at less than a picowatt) to trigger endocrine function at night. The pineal gland is responsible for the regulation of melatonin (free-radical scavenger), serotonin production (attitude) and the regulation of your biological clock.

Love to hear the results.

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