There’s no such thing as electro-smog, but
link-baiting editors still churn out stories about WiFi frying our brains.
This month again brought a slew of stories
based on the ridiculous claim that WiFi and technology is somehow literally
frying our brains, giving us cancer, causing fatigue, headaches or depression,
and more than 100 other symptons: this is backed up by dubious data and paraded
around as ‘news’ by link-baiting editors. It surfaces every few years and every
time it does, I roll my eyes so hard I get a Yahtzee.
and technology is somehow literally frying our brains, giving us cancer,
causing fatigue, headaches or depression, and more than 100 other symptons?
As a tech-savvy non-idiot, you almost
certainly don’t believe that electro-smog, also known as the more
medical-sounding but equally silly ‘electrosensitivity’ is a genuine danger.
However, as you’ll certainly be surrounded by several computers, phones, a WiFi
network and all sorts of other kit, here’s the low-down.
Electrosensitivity is first and foremost a
self-diagnosed condition. You don’t get a bunch of symptoms, go to the doctor
and are asked, ‘Hmm, have you recently installed a new router?’ Instead, you
show more symptoms, get nowhere with your GP, start to scramble around for
causes and suddenly remember that everything started around the same time you
bought a new Netgear box.
Correlation doesn’t equal causation. It’s
the simplest, and sadly, one of the most common fallacies, especially when it
comes to health. I have a friend who didn’t eat cheese for ten years because he
suffered a migraine after eating Red Leicester. Turns out he was allergic to
the food colouring. Ten wretched cheeseless years because of a simple logical error.
is really harmful for all ours?
Electrosensitivity is the king of all
post-hoc fallacies. We’re surrounded by increasing number of low-hum-emitting
tech, invisible waves and phone masts in the distance. The chances of
developing some symptoms after being exposed to a new device (even seeing a new
WiFi connection is in the list) are 100 per cent if you live even a vaguely
modern life, as we all do. Blaming electromagnetic radiation from those devices
is like blaming the colour of your new car.
The evidence simply isn’t there. There have
been many experiments, and over and over again, those claiming sensitivity were
unable to distinguish between a real signal and a fake one. Reviews of those
experiments by James Rubin et al (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2005 and
Bioelectromagnetics, 2010), concluded: ‘We have been unable to find nay robust
evidence to support the existence of (electromagnetic hypersensitivity) as a
So why do people claim otherwise, and why
is it a problem if they do? It’s important to realise that the symptoms are
real. Physical pain or discomfort, or even visible symptoms such as rashes, can
have underlying psychological causes but that doesn’t mean they’re ‘all in you
head’. The people reporting problems are not lying or mad, any more than
someone with a phobia. However, it’s likely that the cause is a psychological
one, and not surprisingly, the treatment with the best success rate for
electrosensitivity is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), while other options
such as shielding, do nothing beyond placebo.
fact on electrosensitivity will be more helpful when trying to avoid a headache
And the problem?Same as always. You and I,
and our pro-technology communities, are the bad guys yet again – the monsters
in the closet. Some sufferers, fuelled by scare-loving media, needlessly more
house, change their lifestyles or buy expensive but worth less shielding
equipment to save them from their WiFi and gadgetry. Some councils have even
tried to outlaw WiFi in schools, depriving kids of the benefits of a major
technology and convenience. Evidence will win in the end but in the meantime,
being armed with the fact on electrosensitivity will be more helpful when
trying to avoid a headache.