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Using Wi-fi has Cost Me My Life
Sunday Express (UK), August 5, 2007
With teacher’s chiefs urging the Government to
suspend the use of wi-fi networks in the classroom until their safety
has been definitely confirmed, Joani Walsh reports on the symptoms of
electrosensitivity and talks to the victims who say that their lives
have been devastated by the effects of wireless technology.
FAISAL KHAWAJA, 28, above, trained in photography
and had been assisting a professional advertising photographer -working
for clients such as Mercedes, BT and Starbucks -for only a year when he
says he began to feel ill using mobiles and wireless laptops.
MY JOB was to keep everyone happy so I spent hours
on my mobile, liaising between equipment suppliers, ordering props,
talking to clients. After a year in the job, I began to get headaches
on the side of my head where I'd use the mobile, along with a feeling
of pressure inside my ears when I was on the phone. They even began to
ooze clear liquid.
At first the problem would last for minutes, then
hours, then days. And then I started developing symptoms when I used
cordless land lines, too. I developed a red rash on my cheeks and nose,
my face seemed hot and prickly, my head felt foggy and I was no longer
able to focus. I couldn't form sentences and my jaw would feel locked,
as if I was talking through sand.
The flashlights we used in the studio began to
have the same effect and then the digital cameras. When I couldn't even
use a laptop any more -essential for storing and transmitting
photography - because my fingers used to burn when I touched the
keypad, I had to resign. I lost everything I'd trained for.
I've had to move gradually farther and farther out
of London and into the countryside the more masts and wi-fi networks
have increased - if my neighbour goes wireless, I have to find
somewhere else to live.
I've ended up in a house in the Cotswolds with no
neighbours for 50 yards in any direction. I've been lucky in that my
girlfriend, Laura, 29, has moved with me and has even retrained as an
upholsterer as I'm trying to make a living as an artist so that we
don't have to rely on technology for work. We've had to start all over
Michael Bevington knows exactly what it’s like to
feel allergic to modern life.
Head of classics at Stowe public school in
Buckingham, the father of three became so ill after the school
installed wi-fi in his classroom last year that, within a week, he was
ready to give up a early 30 year career rather than risk his health by
continuing to work with what he believed to be the cause of the
symptoms. “I immediately began suffering from headaches, heart
palpitations, nausea and pains all over my body whenever I was in the
classroom after wi-fi was installed,” Michael says. “And yet they eased
when I left the classroom and dissipated completely at weekends.”
Michael , who is in his early 50s, checked on the
internet for other people reporting headaches connected to wi-fi and
was astonished to find hundreds of cases across the world of people
claiming to suffer exactly the same symptoms and believing they were
caused by mobile phones, mobile phone masts and wi-fi technology that
allows computers to connect to the internet wirelessly. It is a
phenomenon that has become known as electrosensitivity.
“I was shocked,” he says. “There are so many
people suffering, surely we cannot deny there might be a problem with
Michael’s situation has improved since his
headteacher agreed to remove the wi-fi from the classroom but his
concerns about the effects of its use in schools remain and were made
public last week through his union, the Professional Association of
Teachers. At its annual conference, general secretary Philip Parkin
called for a full scientific inquiry and proposed that schools should
be discouraged from installing further networks until the results are
known. Until then, Mr parkin said, his real concern “is that the
nation’s children are being treated as guinea pigs in a large scale
experiment.” he added: “I have never before been involved in a debate
which provokes such polarisation of opinion and such venom in some
Mr Parkin is primarily concerned with the impact
of wi-fi on children, whose developing bodies and nervous systems are
seen to be more susceptible to the effects of electromagnetic fields
and microwave radiation. – both of which are present in the mobile
phone and wi-fi technology.
But the polarisation to which he refers is being
sharply felt by adults such as Michael, who believe they are
electrosensitive. And it was felt most pointedly the week before Mr
Parkin’s speech when the results were published of a study by the
University of Essex investigating whether short-term exposure to mobile
masts increased symptoms in people who believe they are
electrosensitive. According to the results, it did not.
One of the psychologists involved in the study,
professor Elain Fox, was reported as saying: “We do know there is a
very large literature showing that the placebo effect – the power of
belief – is very powerful,” and adding that she is “pretty confident
that it is not the electromagnetic field causing these systems.”
These results are disputed by sufferers of and
experts in electrosensitivity, who point to the 12 "self-reported
sensitives" who withdrew from the study, some of them complaining of
such an escalation in symptoms as a result of the exposure required of
the study, they were physically unable to continue.
One of those "self-reported sensitives" who
withdrew was businessman Brian Stein, claiming he suffered a repeat of
the internal bleeding he says he experiences whenever he is exposed to
mobile phone masts or, indeed, wi-fi.
Mr Stein, head of a multi-million-pound food
manufacturing company that supplies supermarket giants including
M&S and Tesco and who lives in Nottingham, asks: "How can this be
psychosomatic? Maybe my gut is in league with my brain in deluding me."
Mr Stein says he has undergone internal investigation but that doctors
have been unable to find a cause of the bleeding. He is angry that,
having risked his health to participate in the study, his apparent
adverse reaction to the mobile phone mast signals to which he was
exposed ended up discounting him from the results. "It's a joke," he
FOR all his money, Mr Stein can't watch his
favourite football team, Liverpool, on TV drive a car, travel on an
electric train or stay in a hotel with wi-fi.
Dr Michael Clark, of the Health Protection Agency
(HPA), an independent body set up to protect Britons' health, is in
some agreement with Professor Fox, saying: "If you think something will
harm you, you get real symptoms."
Alasdair Philips is director of Powerwatch - which
he describes as "trying to be an independent advisory group on the
effects of electromagnetic fields" - and of EMFields, a company that
supplies measuring instruments and screening materials mainly used by
people who believe they may be electrosensitive.
'Sometimes people have so many triggers they only
have to see a mast, for example to feel ill'
HE SAYS: There are people who think they are
electrosensitive and believe they are being zapped by everything and
everybody. And there are people who feel grotty and are looking for
something to blame. But there are also people who are genuinely
electrosensitive. Sometimes they have so many triggers - mobile phones,
cordless phones, mobile phone masts, microwaves, wireless computers -
they only have to see a mast, for example, to feel ill. But that
doesn't mean all of their symptoms are in the mind." Mr Philips is a
member of the Department of Health's UK SAGE EMF Advisory Group, the
Mobile Operators' Association Stakeholder Group and Sir William
Stewart's HPA EMF Discussion Group looking at advice to be given to the
general public on electromagnetic fields (EMF).
When it comes to the official advice on wi-fi, Sir
William, who is head of the HPA, is reported as saying it would be
"timely to carry out further studies as this new technology is rolled
"It is emerging technology," says Dr Clark, "and
there is a need for more information, particularly on the levels of
exposure there may be in the classroom from a wi-fi system."
However he adds: "On the basis of the studies so
far carried out in-house, the agency sees no reason why wi-fi should
not continue to be used in schools."
But, as Philip Parkin of PAT says: "I'm not saying
there is a problem with wi-fi in schools, I'm saying we don't know
Both Mr Parkin and Mr Philips, remain hugely
concerned about the lack of information and research on wi-fi in
schools and urge them to stop using it.
"Absolutely no work has been done on wi-fi
specifically and its effects on children," says Mr Philips, "and until
there is, schools should go back to plugging in computers."
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