Four local women are hoping to at least start a real dialogue in society about electromagnetic hyper sensitivity (EHS) and the impact wireless technology can have on our health.
Christel Martin recently spoke to Nanaimo city council about turning off wireless servers in city facilities, so EHS sufferers like her could use them without getting sick.
When the library introduced wireless service four years ago she started getting itchy and irritable, which soon escalated to include insomnia, nightmares, heart palpitations, dizziness and headaches.
While the symptoms can vary greatly, there are a lot of common elements explained Jacqueline Little, who also gets an irregular heart beat, chest pains and itchiness, with a lot of vision and eye complications thrown in for extra discomfort. Louise Campbell also had many issues with her eyes and ears before she discovered her house wasn’t properly grounded and that experience has since made her sensitive to the “electro smog” radiating from other electrical devices, both wireless and not.
Jean Pongratz-Doyle explained that it has a lot to do with how much wireless signal is present, pointing out that her symptoms got worse as new layers of overlapping cell phone and wi-fi service were added, especially in areas like downtown Nanaimo where many cafe’s, restaurants and offices have their own routers.
While the women eventually found some sympathetic ears and doctors, they have become experts in doing their own research into a field they admit is relatively new and lacks the mainstream acceptance for more people to take them seriously.
Despite the apparent uphill battle against “smart meters,” and the proliferation of cell phones and wireless infrastructure, the women are generally optimistic it is only a matter of time before the tide of awareness shifts in their favour.
Martin compares the “electro smog” produced by these technologies as similar to cigarette smoke a generation ago when some already accepted the dangers, but the rest of society was still struggling against powerful interests on the other side of the issue.
She also said it’s a problem of people having a nee jerk reaction to anything that threatens the connivence of their cell phones.
Estimates of the prevalence of EHS vary widely from a few people per million, to as high as five per cent of the population, with some suggestions of mild sensitivity going as high as 35 to 50 per cent of the population.
While official sources like the World Health Organization and Health Canada tend to downplay EHS as rare and possibly caused by unrelated things like stress, there is a growing recognition that some people are suffering legitimate medical issues that have to at the very least be better understood.
The most common advice at this point is to do what these women figured out themselves — limit exposure to electromagnetic sources.
While that might help with the problem at home or work, it doesn’t help in places like cafe’s and libraries offering wi-fi to their customers, or in cities filled with cell phone towers.
While they might dream about it, the women are not asking for a complete wireless ban, just that it be further studied and considered, especially in schools and homes where children — more sensitive to the effects — are spending unprecedented amounts of time with wireless technology.
When Martin appeared before Nanaimo council she was basically told the benefits of providing the service outweigh any health complaints at this time.