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Attack Of The Killer Wifi

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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.

Description: WiFi and technology is somehow literally frying our brains, giving us cancer, causing fatigue, headaches or depression, and more than 100 other symptons?

WiFi 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.

Description: Wifi is really harmful for all ours?

Wifi 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 biological entity.’

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.

Description: the fact on electrosensitivity will be more helpful when trying to avoid a headache

the 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.

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