Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wi-Fi Allergy?

I've heard a lot of wacky things in regards to technology, but this may take the cake. A group of people in Santa Fe are claiming to be allergic to wi-fi. Now I don't doubt that there is a possibility of people being sensative to particular forms of energy or radio broadcasts, but something about how these people are describing their problems makes me wonder if they're just looking for a way to complain. It seems that if you're allergic to cell phones you'd be sick pretty much all the time, especially in a major city like Santa Fe. And with wi-fi being so prevelant it seems like it would almost be impossible to go outside. I don't know, this just sounds fishy to me. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I hope that cities are not forced into taking action based on a few people's complaint regarding this so called "allergy" to the electrocurrents created by cell phones and wi-fi. If there is no testing available to see if this is truly an allergy, then I don't see any reason to assume this is a real thing.
I think it is much more likely that these "allergic" reactions (such as headaches and chest pain) are created by the anxiety associated to make-believe paranoid thinking. I mean, come on, where is the factual proof that this actually exist? I've seen no peer reviewed studies reagrding this. If someone has one, please copy link in a reply.

Nomad said...

This is the one confirmed case that I am aware of:

This woman is reactive to strong electromagnetic fields and has been extensively studied. Doctors studied her with both real cellular phones and "placebos" (plastic shells with the right weight) and she reacted only to the real mccoys.

However, unlike the Santa Fe group, she does not insist that others alter their lifestyles to meet her disability. She has constructed her house to be a kind of faraday cage and wears signal-proof clothing when venturing into the city.

This is definitely one of those cases where the question of "reasonable accommodation", as spelled out in the ADA, is going to be tested. Ramps, elevators, and special software to allow the legally-blind to read PC screens have been ruled "reasonable accomodations", but - for example - banning peanuts from schools for those with severe allergies have not... although some school has voluntarily done so.

But the problem with WiFi is it is its ubiquity. If there is a peanut in the room, you can stay on the other side of the room. A wifi signal will seek you out.

This will be an interesting case to watch.

Suricou Raven said...

Actually it's quite easy to test if someone is allergic to radio signals - simply put them in front of an RF transmitter with a controller set to turn it on and off at random and see if they respond. It wouldn't do much legal good though - for a start, those bringing the case have little reason to undergo the inconvenience and expense of professional testing (A good sample would be at least a week of study). Then there is the standard quack problem: For every test run, there is an excuse. "Oh, the frequency isn't right," "But the continuous wave pattern isn't realistic for the communication system," "I had a cold that masked the symptoms," or "So I wasn't affected, but thousands of others might be." Set the standard of disproof high enough and it can never be reached.

There is a story told by technicians, which is in all probability nothing more than an urban legend, that tells of a school installing a wireless network. Soon after the access points were fitted the teachers started complaining, saying they were coming down with headaches and tiredness and the pupils were having trouble concentrating because of the effect of the radiation. The technical staff listened to the complaints, and calmly explained that although the hardware was installed, it was not yet turned on.

There is an alternate version that substitutes a phone mast in a village for a wireless network in a school.

Jason said...

Nomad, there was nothing in that article about her being tested. There was one doctor who claimed to have witnessed anecdotal evidence mentioned, and a study that showed people with such allergies didn't respond any different to the "real McCoy" than the placebos.

There is nothing in that article that confirms anything as far as her symptoms really being linked to electromagnetic radiation. It says her symptoms are real but also says the reason is a self diagnosis after some time spent on Google. Sorry, but unless you have this "study" you mention, I am going with the fact that there is overwhelmingly no evidence to show low powered electromagnetic frequencies like the one in question due to the fact that it is physically impossible for these frequencies to disturb the chemicals in the body that respond to electromagnetic radiation over one womens googling. Especially when there are other diagnoses for this type of behavior that are clinically sound and have nothing to do with radio waves.

Nomad said...

Jason, I grant you that the article does not reflect any double-blind study. I could not find another article I had read elsewhere where a reporter had tried some basic tests on her and she reacted to hidden electromagnetic fields and failed to react when the same devices were brought in inactivated. Still, my point was really to back up yours - that as far as I know there is scant to zero evidence to support the claims of this group.

Jeremy "Null" Sakilahti said...

I have read a more then a few articles about this topic, and it seems that the few that have qouted any medical studies, have said that any person that claims to be hyper sensitive to electro magnetic fields, are actually not. Al thought it would be a major inconvenience for many businesses that are public buildings, it would be a problem for these peoples neighbors who wish to use wireless home networking. How far would the city bend to these hypochondriacs wants

Anonymous said...

Ok can we say INSANE!!!!! Seriously this is going way to damn far. When do we say enough is enough already. We have this great technology wireless communications and now all of a sudden after how many years of RF waves being present on planet earth there is a group of people that have a so called allergic reaction. I think they just want 5 mins of fame. Fame at the price of everyone finding out they are freaking crazy.

spacklewoof said...

Could it be possible that the RF is doing nothing more than attracting more pollen and dust, thereby giving the impression that RF is responsible?

I never connected the two until now, but for the first time in my life several years ago, I broke out with severe allergies, having never had them before. It does also correspond to about the same time as I installed my first wireless wireless network at home, but I cant be sure.

It's also possible that I'm just an old fart and I was going to develop allergies at that point in my life regardless.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop? the world may never know....

tahrey said...

Spackle... you might be on to something there. I'd have to have someone double-blind test it for us, of course... but my mother has developed asthma and an intractible cough over the last couple years, and my latest bout of rhinovirus is refusing to go away. Anything to do with us - and an increasing number of our neighbours - starting to make strong regular use of Wifi in our homes?

Or it somehow attracting dust and other irritants? (I'd love to know how, though - the access point is in a little-used box bedroom, and the "local" transmitters are embedded in the bodies or screens of our laptops - the only fixed-position one I had was on the back of a hulkin' great desktop shoved in a corner (mum not hot on having ethernet cables around the house) that was retired more than 18 months ago. Even if they were fixed in an open place, I have no idea how sub-100mW transmissions in the millimetre band could have that effect.

Maybe it's just that it's caused us to be more sedentary, more hooked into the web than going out and doing activities in the fresh air (and so breathing more of the cave-like household air, encouraging sick building syndrome), with our heads canted downwards towards the screen.

In any case, I only ended up on this page because I'm searching for information on the potential validity of this quackery. I'm a tech having to adapt - with some difficulty - a public lecture theatre in a college for an evening presentation by someone who claims to have Wifi Allergy in a couple days time. Causing me much "grr" because I've worked in nuclear medicine before, I'm quite well up on my alpha-beta-X-gamma emissions vs ultrasound, laser, UV, IR waves etc, and know what is and isn't potentially harmful. A sub-watt pulsed microwave has nothing on a small accidental release of waste Rubidium from a Tc99m generator (whoops. I didn't do it. but i had to help clean it)... people freaking out about completely benign stuff and making life difficult for the rest of us (another case in point: the gradual reduction of speed limits and the creep of other restrictive road laws until we reach a point where "no-one" ever dies on the roads (impossible - we're already quite close to a level where on-road fatalities are practically background noise vs the general population death rate) with no mind towards what further quality-of-life reductions, or even harm/death, may occur as a knock on effect) really fails to grape my squildo.

Cuz, guess what upgrade we just did to it a few months back in order to give a welcome boost to the functionality of the place, and the flexibility of presentations? Added a wireless system controller and remote desktop panel that the lecturer can carry with them away from the usual podium. Which is knitted in so closely to the other systems as to make everything break if you turn off the access point. Arrrgh. So now we have to take everything back to the stone age (like we did last year when everything actually broke) because of someone's fake radiosensitivity. I'm quite tempted (and had already independently thought of) having a go at that urban legend, but in the opposite direction - make it look like, and make a great play of showing that we've deactivated it all and put it onto manual control mediated with a load of random push-switches from the science dept on long wires (i shit you not), but hide five or six spare access points in the surrounding rooms, deep inside the podium etc, make sure everyone's phone is turned on with bluetooth activated. And make scientific history when either they come out of it A-OK ("oh, thank you for being so accomodating so I didn't get ill" - nevermind that the residential block opposite is a buzzing hive of wifi that will NOT get turned off anyway), or collapse on the floor in a massive anaphylactic fit and require us to sprint for the crash kit and hit them with an epipen.

So yeah ... I'm open to the idea that something like this MAY be possible, but pre-armed with non-prejudiced (simply hard scientific) knowledge that it almost certainly isn't - and statistically speaking, that's about as good as it gets - I'm still very skeptical. Come back to me when you have results, guys, then I'll unplug all our systems for you.

(Unfortunately I can't say that last bit, because they're here at the Principal's invitation ... so our jobs will be on the line if it's not done. Hence, no names.)

What of the powerlines, etc before? Or the now reasonably faded phone mast controversy that barely registers a mutter in the local papers when the regional arm of the anti-mast loonies (unfortunately I count family amongst them) decide to get up in arms because a phone company has erected a transmitter within sufficient proximity to {sensitive location x} that you can successfully make a phone call on their network from .... {sensitive location x}. (Said family members are often on their cell phones at all hours of the day. I suspect such anti mast groups are run either by landline, voip or satellite phone operators in the background... the reason that they've cooled their jets a bit being the utter failure of satphones for anyone except wilderness explorers, and that most major landline AND voip providers have a finger in the mobile comms and each others' pies nowadays) ---- and you know they'd complain til they were blue(r) in the face should they need to call for an ambulance at the gates of such-and-such school which they'd managed to keep a mast away from, and find there was no coverage.

(Presumably they have no concept of the inverse square law, or that the mast operator isn't going to have the general public at any kind of risk - because their workmen would then be at greater risk when they went inside to do any maintenance on the thing before they got to the power kill-switch, and the unions can get kinda pissy. Microwaves can be harmful, by penetrating your skin and heating things up (a lot like X-rays, or, oh I dunno, sunlight?), but they have to be pretty powerful (tens of watts) if not indeed focussed (like a point to point transmitter dish, or an oven... not an omnidirectional or yagi radiator) to actually do any damage.

Trust me. I used to wear a white coat and dear sweet old ladies with distressingly terminal diseases used to think I was a doctor.

I've probably missed some important point I wanted to make there, but the edit box is small and my ire longwinded. Apologies.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read all of this but I'm going to comment on what you may not entirely understand about RF technology

wifi is iether in the 5.4 or 2.7 ghz rf spctrum

these are radio wave that exist weather there is wifi are not they are naturally occuring hypothetically the same radition pattern that tranfer porn movie could hypothetily happen naturally

the a wifi router send the signal in patterns intentionally in order to send actully data

these intentional or orginzed pattern structure could hypothitcall happen naturlly although i strongley doubt your going to be able to mod a router to pick up random signals that turn into magic web pages

the fcc has power output and range limitation in that you can not willing creat or alter device that violate those rules so thse people with allergic reactions should go to fiji where they are 5 mile out of any city if they still have problem its not wifi it naturally occuring healt scine anc industry band frequencey that occur natrually at best

really there probably tring to get a law suit it will not work ada does not apply it is unreasible to ask ever company and home owner in californai to not use wifi un do burden mean that the person who is providng accomdaitio has to spend more money then it cost to pay you

it doesnt apply a neibor who has wifi

if she moved next to me i point omi direction 5.7 ghz at her house all day

this is riddulus riddelon generation
solve our problems by blaming everyon else but our self
ive ranted enoug

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