Friday, 24 July 2009

Wi-fi Stress makes you ill

With the country seemingly doomed due to pig flu, the Sun turns its gaze to another pressing and urgent medical condition which is on the verge of wiping us all out: Electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

It has an article about some DJ who claims that his life has been ruined due to wi-fi singals. He claims that whenever he goes somewhere that has wi-fi he gets headaches and feels dizzy. He also says that there is "anecdotal evidence", i.e. a friend of a friend, of it affecting people. However, I could say that a friend-of-a-friend suffers from being exposed to massive radiation whenever he uses a cash machine from the display screen, but nobody would give this any credence. It's simply a story, not data.

The problem is, from what he says it appears that he knows in advance whether or not a place has wi-fi. As anyone who has conducted medical trials knows this leads to serious problems with blinding: he expects certain things to happen and those things do in fact happen, but it could be due to something completely different to what he claims or due to a subconscious belief that wi-fi makes him ill, which would then cause his symptoms (a psychosomatic illness).

I suggest that people look at the Wikipedia article on the subject. It demolishes the claims using actual peer-reviewed evidence and systematic reviews (effectively taking numerous small studies and using various statistical techniques to combine them into one big study) to show that there is no evidence that the condition actual exists. This is probably why it's listed on Wikipedia's "List of topics characterised as pseudoscience". I would also recommend the episode of the Skeptoid podcast about this area as a good debunking of the claims.

On the plus side the Sun does state there is "no hard evidence that wi-fi is dangerous to your health", but it then goes on to give scare stories about teachers wanting wi-fi banned in schools and the German government telling people not to use it. The Sun also has a small comment from one of their doctors, which although not supportive, doesn't state that it is rubbish.

It is entirely possible that the guy's lifestyle - he's described as a top DJ who plays in major clubs in Ibiza - has caused a stress reaction and so leading to his symptoms which he attributes to wi-fi signals.

I don't know how old the guy is, but from his picture I'd say that he's at least in his 40s. I'd recommend that he takes a more relaxed approach, for example, by spending more time in his Cornwall cottage. He needs to realise he's getting old and his body won't be able to handle as much as it used to. If he does, then it's likely that his symptoms will resolve without the need to go to such extremes as to fence himself off from modern forms of communication.

[Disclosure: article researched from my laptop using wi-fi]

UPDATE (28-07-09): Just found this (via Mashable who reported it today) in the Telegraph which goes into further details as to why it's false, using the frequency of the radiowaves that are emitted.

UPDATE (29-07-09): The Sun's article has also reached Ars Technica. Their coverage isn't favourable to say the least...

Of course, a comment on shows it in simple language that surely even the Sun could understand:

I'll let you know if I see any other coverage.


eric the fish said...

It was a great article until you started having a go at the 40+ party peeps! We're not on Saga cruises yet.

D-Notice said...

It's nothing personal.

I was thinking of his health - it's for his own good!