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Hypochondria, or is Wi-Fi Allergy real?





quex
The broader, more scientific term for the condition is apparently electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,534732,00.html
Again, I'm posting a link from Fox News. I feel a little ashamed of myself.

Now, I have heard of this before on random local news and talk radio. A woman in New Jersey complains that the cellphone tower recently built near her neighborhood gives her excruciating headaches. Her solution was to wave-proof her home with aluminum foil and a "special" spray. There's also a young boy in Indiana whose parents believe his asthma attacks have increased by several fold in frequency since the apartment complex in which they live covered the whole property in a Wi-Fi bubble.

But how?

How is the ambient electromagnetic field affecting these people? What organ does it interfere with? The electric pulses in the nervous system of the average human being are small and intracellular, skipping the only physical gaps by a secondary chemical mechanism, as near as science is aware. The EMF of the planet and what we add to it with microwave technology shouldn't have any opportunity to interfere there. Is there some other, less obvious function that the levels of electromagnetic radiation in Wi-Fi and communications can disrupt? And, if so, could it really be interference strong enough to bring about these physical symptoms? Even if one wants to investigate if an individual's subconscious recognition of higher electromagnetic levels is somehow triggering a psychosomatic reaction, one must still figure out how people are sensing the ambient EMF... but how?

The easiest experiment, of course, would be to take these patients into a Wi-Fi zone that is entirely unmarked and unremarkable. Not at a Starbucks or an airport, but, say, to some outdoor venue with a reasonable level of distracting stimuli, and observe if they become ill or otherwise affected after certain intervals of time, increasing the stability of the field, etc. I wonder if it's been done yet...

Anyway, are you affected? Do you know anyone who is? Do you believe this phenomenon has a physical basis, or is it a new hypochondria for the Wi-Fi age?
HamsterMan
I'd say Hypochondria, especially since the symptom is something as vague as headaches which can be caused by just about anything (diet, caffeine intake, migraines, stress, tension, etc. etc. etc.). As far as I know the actual radio frequency radiation from radio towers are greatly overshadowed by local appliances such as cellular phones. I've quoted this before but here it goes again.

Quote:
One way to do that might be to put some hard numbers behind our general assertions that cellular towers pose no risk. As a worst-case scenario in terms of exposure to RF radiation, consider a cell tower located only 30 meters (about 100 feet) away, and transmitting a total of 500W effective radiated power (ERP). Of course, if you are only 30 meters from the transmitting antennas, you also are likely well below their horizontal beam centers even if severe downtilt is used. But for the sake of our worst-case analysis, let's assume that the full 500W is aimed right at you. In that case, the RF power density where you are standing would be 4.4 microwatts per square centimeter. For comparison, the FCC's mandated power density limits for continuous uncontrolled RF exposure by the general public are 600 and 1,000 microwatts per square centimeter for 900 and 1900 MHz signals, respectively. Even in our highly unlikely worst-case scenario, RF exposure levels would be well under 1 percent of the maximum deemed safe by the FCC.

Of course, analysis based upon government regulations won't satisfy everyone, so here's another way to look at it. VHF TV broadcasts often transmit at power levels exceeding one megawatt ERP from antenna towers well within 1 kilometer of residential areas. At a distance of 1 kilometer, a 1-megawatt ERP transmission would result in a power density of just under 8 microwatts per square centimeter, still nearly twice our worst case value from a nearby cell tower. Yet nobody seems worried about health risks from VHF TV broadcasts.

If these objective numbers still are not convincing, consider this factor. Handheld cell phones, because of intimate proximity to the user's head, provide RF exposure levels to their users that are orders of magnitude higher than transmissions from cell towers. If one accepts that there is at least some question about health risks from handset use, then it follows that this risk is reduced by lowering the handset's transmit power.


Also, shame on fox news for posting anecdotal evidence like facts, but it is hardly surprising.
quex
HamsterMan wrote:
I've quoted this before but here it goes again.


Fantastic information, sir. May I ask where the numbers initially came from? I can think of several places where this could come in handy. :D
RubySlasher
I don't know. But it definitely seems plausible. All the technology we have so far was developed from the genius of the human brain, so it makes sense that this technology may be similar to our brains in some way. If I think about it that way, it seems that things like wifi and radio towers should be capable of interacting or causing interferences with our body in unknown ways.
quex
RubySlasher wrote:
I don't know. But it definitely seems plausible. All the technology we have so far was developed from the genius of the human brain, so it makes sense that this technology may be similar to our brains in some way. If I think about it that way, it seems that things like wifi and radio towers should be capable of interacting or causing interferences with our body in unknown ways.


"...in unknown ways" is my entire point. Mankind has enough understanding of itself and its technology to preemptively assess all avenues of interference between the two. If there is some method by which individuals among us can sense the electromagnetic field - a phenomenon for which none of our five credited sensual methods can account - we ought to know (or at the very least quickly determine) what it is.

EMF sense has been attributed to birds and other long-distance migratory creatures as a sixth sense. Could it be vestigial in man? Or even newly developed...?
imera
I believe to much electronics can cause headache, if you sit with the music loud or talk on the phone most of the day you can get a little ill, I have a job where I do have to answer the phone, luckily for me I rarely get headache because I know when I need to take a pause (ask someone else to take the phones for a little while)


I also believe (in my own little mind) that it's interfering with us because we think a lot, using our brain too much gives us headache and so electronics which is not something natural for us even if we are around it all the time can interfere with our mind signals?? I have no idea what I want to say but that is what I have been thinking.
Magicman
It seems very unlikely that WiFi could cause physical discomfort any more than all the other electric waves emitted from every electrical device. It definitely is possible though, since the waves are not something normally found in nature.
quex
imera wrote:
I believe to much electronics can cause headache, if you sit with the music loud or talk on the phone most of the day you can get a little ill


This is called overstimulation, and it regularly happens whenever an individual is exposed for longer periods to any strong stimuli, not only those of an electronic origin. If you listen to any loud music for hours, be it live or from a phonograph or an mp3 player, you will likely suffer some adverse symptoms. Same thing if you spend several hours in the presence of a noxious odor, or experiencing particularly bright or pulsating light. Extended periods of concentration on a single sense can also cause a reaction, even when the outside stimuli are of tolerable levels. IE, listening intently for several hours to voices on the phone, or a marathon session of watching a computer screen or television.

Quote:
I have a job where I do have to answer the phone, luckily for me I rarely get headache because I know when I need to take a pause


This is the whole key to avoiding negative effects; take a break from the repetitive stimulus. Go have a coffee break or take a short walk away from your station. The human nervous system can refresh fairly quickly if one regularly diverges from a single, driven activity.
AftershockVibe
As has been noted by others, this kind of thing is reguarly dismissed as complete rubbish. No-one with this afflication has ever shown any evidence under testing (e.g. double-blind).

Furthermore, PR agencies have gone so far as to exploit the "news" hysteria surrounding this. For example, the recent prominent story was debunked as purely a publicity stunt:
http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/07/there-is-no-wifi-allergy-newspapers-misreport-pr-as-science.ars
quex
AftershockVibe wrote:
As has been noted by others, this kind of thing is reguarly dismissed as complete rubbish. No-one with this afflication has ever shown any evidence under testing (e.g. double-blind).

Furthermore, PR agencies have gone so far as to exploit the "news" hysteria surrounding this. For example, the recent prominent story was debunked as purely a publicity stunt:
http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/07/there-is-no-wifi-allergy-newspapers-misreport-pr-as-science.ars


お世話になりました。Thank you very much, Aftershock, for exactly the information I was looking for. :D You nailed down the precise story and everything! (You wouldn't also happen to have a link to any of those studies done on supposed sufferers, would you?)
quex
youngmiki13 wrote:
I received an e-mail before that one woman is allergic to electronic device.


Was this an email from a medical professional who had contact with the woman's case, or a chain sent along by bemused acquaintances? If we're counting the later, I have received emails that state using deodorant causes breast cancer, and that I am the lucky winner of a billion-dollar sweepstakes held by the United Nations.

Please, please, please consider your sources (and counter-check them!) before you assent to believe anything. If you can link me to a medical journal detailing this woman's case, I would certainly be pleased to read it.
deanhills
I would tend to agree that anything electronic can have an affect on us. For example, people who have had heart surgery and have pace makers, can't get through surveillance systems without putting themselves at risk. Our whole body is "electric" to a certain extent, it is the "force" in us. Some of us are more sensitive to disturbances than others. For example some of us can be sensitive to the presence of others, i.e. other people's "force", so by implication I would think that anything electronic, including those high-intensity wires that cut through certain neighbourhoods, can cause something to go wrong. Problem of course is to prove it, as head aches can have a million reasons other than electronic as well.
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