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English DJ Claims Wi-Fi Allergy 515

Posted by samzenpus
from the TV-gives-me-hives dept.
path0$ writes "British Ex-DJ Steve Miller claims that his Wi-Fi allergy is making his life one big misery , forcing him to live in an iron-clad home far from any neighbors. According to the article, more and more people are suffering from an allergy like his. The only positive side to this is that at least Miller didn't think of suing anybody yet, like these people did, who claim to suffer from the same condition and were mentioned in a Slashdot article in 2008."

*

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English DJ Claims Wi-Fi Allergy

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  • Crazy people (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) * on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:43AM (#28838123) Journal

    Crazy people are everywhere. Stop giving them attention.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder if he has a microwave in his place...

      or even a bluetooth adapter somewhere.

      • by Dr_Ken (1163339)
        I agree. I am just asking here but have the people that claim to suffer from this malady ever been medically tested to see if their claims are valid?
        • Re:Crazy people (Score:5, Interesting)

          by canajin56 (660655) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:11AM (#28838709)
          Yes, they've tested it many times. No correlation found. The way they tested it was easy. They wheeled a scary looking device covered in antennas, and the people reacted in pain whenever the green light came on. The only trouble is, it was a big inert piece of metal. The only electronics in it were, well, the LED to show it was "on". Meanwhile, under the dropped ceiling there was an actual massive wifi antenna that would randomly blanket the room in "evil radiation", and they were completely unaware. In other words, they only react to wifi at all if they "know" it's there, even when it isn't.
          • by ThatsNotFunny (775189) on Monday July 27, 2009 @12:07PM (#28839769)
            Don't mock people with LED allergies!
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by vertinox (846076)

            The only electronics in it were, well, the LED to show it was "on"

            Maybe they are allergic to LEDs?

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            For those who disbelieve that EM waves can have an affect on organic tissue

            - disable the "door open" safety feature on your microwave
            - insert head
            - press start
            - remove head when the pain begins

            Wi-Fi signals may be similar to bitter tastes. Some people think broccoli tastes bitter; others think it tastes fine. This is natural variation in the tastebuds and it's entirely possible that the ultrashort EM waves are having a similar unpleasant effect on 1% of humans.

            • Re:Crazy people (Score:5, Insightful)

              by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:32PM (#28842231) Journal

              Dude, no one disbelieves that EM waves can have an effect on organic tissue. For a much safer and less sarcastic and condescending proof, GO OUT IN THE SUN. I don't believe that low level EM waves can have such a deleterious effect. I also believe that no scientific study has shown any correlation. Finally, I believe that people claiming to have such a condition respond to fake exposure they know about, and do not respond to real exposure they DON'T know about. In conclusion, while I accept the fact that this may possibly have a slight chance of being real, my working hypothesis is that these people are making shit up because they are crazy hypochondriacs.

            • Re:Crazy people (Score:5, Insightful)

              by MaXintosh (159753) on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:33PM (#28842249)
              You're bathed in EM fields. Constantly. Even if I went to the furthest point on the globe, I'd still be surrounded by Electromagnetic radiation. Most of it is from space/the sun. The only people I know who claim are allergic to it are vampires.
              Well, I guess the hungover are also fairly allergic to sunlight.
              People wouldn't be able to function in a city if they really were allergic to what they claim they are.
      • Re:Crazy people (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:17AM (#28838825) Journal

        And can he walk outside? Why haven't power lines played havoc with him?

        Either the guy is a liar, or he has some mental problems.

      • Re:Crazy people (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sunderland56 (621843) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:20AM (#28838913)

        I wonder if he has a microwave in his place... or even a bluetooth adapter somewhere.

        Or, racks and racks of electronic DJ gear....

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by NotQuiteReal (608241)
          If he is a DJ and has to take music requests from the general public, well, that could make anyone sick, judging from the charts of what's popular.
      • Test This Claim: (Score:4, Insightful)

        by popo (107611) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:24AM (#28838987) Homepage

        This is an incredibly easy claim to test.

        First: See if he can identify when the "Wi-Fi" is on or off.

        Second: If he can (which would be highly unlikely and scientifically amazing)... see if he can differentiate between Wi Fi, Bluetooth and his Microwave.

        Why do we report bizarre claims to Slashdot without requiring the scientific method to be applied.

        If I claim to be psychic and to be able to use ESP to read emails out of thin air, does qualify for the front page of Slashdot?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ls671 (1122017) *

        Well many syndromes have just been recently identified, for many centuries people suffering from them were considered crazy.

        This guy problem might be psychosomatic, but I would be prudent before drawing any conclusion and keep an open mind. Further research on the topic could bring new knowledge. Wi-Fi is pretty new by comparison with man evolution ;-)

    • Oh, you mean like the millions spent on a certain pop star's memorial in LA?

      Seriously though, according to TFA it actually affects about 2% of the population. Which seems insane because I've never heard of it before.
    • Re:Crazy people (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jeffasselin (566598) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ednilocamroc]> on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:57AM (#28838421) Journal

      Seriously, this is 100% psychosomatic.

      Put these people in a faraday cage with a WiFi router without being able to see the unit, and have them report when it's on/off, double-blind the test and report and see if they're more than 60% reliable over a good number of tests. We'll see if it's real.

    • Re:Crazy people (Score:5, Insightful)

      by samkass (174571) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:44AM (#28839357) Homepage Journal

      Crazy people are everywhere. Stop giving them attention.

      This attitude is unhelpful.

      The symptoms this man describes sound similar to anxiety disorder with agoraphobia. It's not uncommon, and is very treatable with cognitive behavioral therapy and an anti-anxiety medication such as an SSRI. Sufferers of this have physiological symptoms which are subjectively-- and sometimes objectively-- indistinguishable from anything from allergies to more serious medical conditions. The body creates a feedback loop in the endocrine system and the mind assigns causative correlations with anything that was happening at the time. It can result in anything from hot flashes to stuffy noses to a full-on asthma attack.

      Calling such a condition "crazy" just exacerbates it, and attention to it is something that has to be managed carefully to try to break the feedback loops.

      Disclaimer: I'm not a psychotherapist, just a patient.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by scribblej (195445)

        I'm glad you pointed this out. I felt just like the grandparent post at first; this guy is a nutcase and should get no sympathy for it. But you make a great point; he really is suffering from his problem, even if it's "all in his head."

        I'm currently going through all kinds of medical tests for a problem that feel to me like the onset of a heart attack. It could very well turn out to be "just anxiety." If I am crazy, the pain is no less real, the fear is no less real, and it's not pleasant in any sense.

  • Seriously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by His Shadow (689816) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:48AM (#28838219) Homepage Journal
    What's left to say? Isn't this just a matter for psychiatrists and sociologists now? Engaging these idiots in discussions would just make your own IQ drop without affecting their worldview in the slightest.
  • Cordless phones? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:49AM (#28838233) Journal
    From the 70s, man. Cordless phones. And baby monitors. And cell phones. RC cars are in the 2.4GHz band. And walkie-talkies like security guards use. Also power lines, radio stations, and other things cause EMI on other bands besides 2.4GHz. Man this guy's entire life must suck.
  • by burtosis (1124179) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:50AM (#28838251)
    And I got a nasty rash just reading the summary.
  • Easy to test (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Eisenstein (643326) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:50AM (#28838271)

    Put him into a room. Randomly switch on and off a WiFi-net and ask him to tell if it is on or off. If he manages to get more than 50 % right there might be something to it. He would also be the first person to manage this in years and years of testing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by halligas (782561)
      Add in a placebo of a "WiFi blocker" in pill form and see if it helps him.
    • And He Can Profit! (Score:5, Informative)

      by FroBugg (24957) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:01AM (#28838493) Homepage

      A properly scientific proof of this would most likely qualify him for the JREF challenge. If he can physically detect relatively minor electromagnetic radiation on these frequencies, he could win himself a million dollars. http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge.html [randi.org]

    • Re:Easy to test (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Reziac (43301) * on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:04AM (#28838551) Homepage Journal

      This comment following TFA says it all:
      =====
      The problem with this claim is that WiFi uses the 2.4 gigahertz frequency spectrum along with Bluetooth phones, cordless home phones, and just about any other consumer wireless device. If he really had an 'allergy' like that, he wouldn't have been able to leave his house for the past 15 years. He should try to promote himself a different way than this.

      - Dr. Black, Los Angeles, CA, 24/7/2009 14:30
      =====

      Not to mention that cosmic radiation doesn't conveniently omit some portion of the EM spectrum. Has he ever been outdoors??

      There have always been people who claim that some particular class of witchcraft is making their lives hell. In days of yore it was the evil eye; during the hippie era it was Bad Vibes; today it's some portion of the EM spectrum, because that's the Newly Widespread Thing That We Know Is There But Can't See, So It Must Be Causing Our Ills.

      Crank these people's tinfoil hats one notch tighter, and they'll claim it's thoughtwaves from aliens instead. Oh wait, we've already had that one!!

    • Re:Easy to test (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe (564877) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:05AM (#28838577) Journal
      It has been done with other electro-sensitive subjects : the sight of a fake cellphone gives them headaches. All the symptoms usually listed are those of psychosomatic diseases. But MPs are never the wisest and the "precaution principle" keeps popping up. Apparently it is admitted that a medical study can prove the existence of a risk but not disprove its existence. Which is a real problem.
      • Re:Easy to test (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dmala (752610) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:35AM (#28839171)
        I'm embarrassed to say that I've experienced this. I was horrified to learn that they were installing a cell tower on top of an apartment building I was living in at the time. The day it was supposed to go online, I could "feel" it; I started getting dizzy and nauseous going up in the elevator. A few weeks later, I learned that there was a delay and they hadn't even powered the thing up until a week later. Fortunately, finding this out "cured" me of what was essentially a phobia and I haven't had a problem since.
    • Re:Easy to test (Score:5, Informative)

      by timholman (71886) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:11AM (#28838699)

      Put him into a room. Randomly switch on and off a WiFi-net and ask him to tell if it is on or off. If he manages to get more than 50 % right there might be something to it. He would also be the first person to manage this in years and years of testing.

      Quite right. People who claim to be "allergic" to modern technology invariably fail to prove it in properly designed double-blind scientific tests. In extreme cases, you find people who claim to be allergic to anything "artificial", be it synthetic fibers, plastics, electronic equipment, automobiles, or any one of a thousand other modern conveniences. Their complaints are real, but the root cause is psychological, not physical.

      Some EHS (electro-hypersensitivity) sufferers go so far as to line their rooms and clothing with aluminum foil to supposedly "shield" themselves. In the most extreme cases, they move out into the country and adopt a 19th century lifestyle to completely divorce themselves from the modern world. Of course, they're still being exposed to EM radiation even in remote areas, as AM and shortwave radio transmissions span the globe, not to mention the EM radiation emitted by the sun. But once they believe they are safe from EM radiation, their symptoms abate.

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:34AM (#28839151) Homepage

        But once they believe they are safe from EM radiation, their symptoms abate.

        Whoa, that's weird. I believe I'm safe from EM radiation too, and I've never had any EM allergy-related symptoms. Coincidence? I think not!

        You know what this means? The allergy is real, but believing it doesn't affect you is a cure! It makes sense, too -- allergies are an auto-immune response of the body, which can conceivably be affected by the central nervous system, if not consciously then subconsciously. People can learn to control their heart rates or body temperatures, maybe we unknowingly control our immune systems to respond or not respond to things it shouldn't. Thus the luddites fear of technology creates the very allergy that makes them fear technology. A vicious cycle!

        But hopefully we can make use of this, and I can believe my way of of this annoying mold allergy -- THAT I DON'T HAVE BECAUSE I'M SAFE FROM MOLD. I KNOW I'M SAFE I KNOW I'M SAFE.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:55AM (#28838373) Homepage

    He should contact the James Randi foundation for their 1M prize for paranormal proof [randi.org], as they might very well consider "WiFi sensitivity" paranormal behavior.

  • by hal2814 (725639) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:56AM (#28838407)

    Some people call him the space cowboy
    Some people call him the gangster of love
    Some people call him Maurice
    Because he has to stay in a Faraday cage to block out the wi-fi signals he's allergic to...

  • by slifox (605302) * on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:58AM (#28838449)
    Microwave ovens tend to have a lot of emissions in the 2.4GHz band, the same frequencies that most Wi-Fi uses.

    If he were really allergic to Wi-Fi, wouldn't he have an extreme allergic reaction to microwave ovens too?
    • by mikael (484)

      Microwave ovens have a cage (the sheet of metal with all the small holes) that reflects the microwave energy back towards the food.

      Whenever I have the wi-fi network unit on my laptop (or a GPRS/3G modem), I do feel a certain dryness in my eyes, and a slight metallic taste on the underside of my tongue.

    • by timholman (71886) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:34AM (#28839139)

      If he were really allergic to Wi-Fi, wouldn't he have an extreme allergic reaction to microwave ovens too?

      Absolutely. Yet if he does use a microwave oven, and you were to point this out to him, he would quickly declare that the WiFi transmissions must have some additional quality that makes them "bad" as compared to microwave oven radiation.

      You must always keep in mind that you are dealing with people suffering from a psychological disorder. Logical arguments means nothing to them; they'll simply ignore what you're saying, or rationalize their behavior in one way or another. I've heard that some drugs for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder can be helpful in extreme cases, but these people are completely convinced that their ailments have physical causes, and will reject any suggestion that "it's all in your head".

      • by vlm (69642) on Monday July 27, 2009 @12:52PM (#28840591)

        You must always keep in mind that you are dealing with people suffering from a psychological disorder. Logical arguments means nothing to them; they'll simply ignore what you're saying, or rationalize their behavior in one way or another.

        So, you're saying the mysterious wifi allergy disease is actually a religion?

    • by zjbs14 (549864) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:35AM (#28839181) Homepage

      Exactly. Microwaves are allowed leak up to 5 mW/cm2 at 5 cm according to the FCC. Half that leakage (2.5mW/cm2), is almost exactly the same output as a typical wi-fi access point. Which means if he can stand next to the microwave while he nukes his burrito, he shouldn't have any issues with wi-fi.

      So unless he's actually 802.11b/g sensitive, I call BS.

  • by deisher (188389) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:04AM (#28838561)

    "Steve navigates normal daily chores with the help of a âwi-fi detectorâ(TM) which spots areas he should avoid."

    Let's see, if someone could sense WIFI why would they need a separate detector??? Hmm...

    • by mooingyak (720677)

      I think the guy is either full of it or imagining it, but if we pretend for a minute that he's legit, then it could be more of something like "Am I sneezing because of a cold or is there some wifi nearby?"

      Think of it like radiation. It affects us badly, but we still use detection gadgets to find it.

    • by ODiV (51631)

      Apparently him sensing it causes "dizziness, confusion and nausea". Maybe his sensor has a longer range than his "allergy"?

      There's a lot of things in this article and this condition to be skeptical of, but I don't think this is one of them.

  • by Useful Wheat (1488675) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:11AM (#28838705)

    I've heard of this before, and I've always been skeptical of it. Not because that I think it's impossible for people to absorb electromagnetic radiation, but because the first people to expose me to this sensitivity believed pyramid shaped crystals could fix them. I really blame them for killing all of the credibility this condition may have had with me, but it's their own fault. This always struck me as a powerful example of the placebo effect. People want to feel sick when electromagnetic waves are around them, so they do. I've had a few friends deeply wrapped up in holistic medicine, and you could pick any random ingredient on your soda (anything man made) and they give you a story of how they feel sick when they are in the room with that ingredient.

    I'm not going to sit here and bash the people who think they have this symptom. You're going to get 50 posters who have done that thoroughly by now. Instead I'm going to offer them a suggestion. Find a person who exhibits a visible symptom when they're exposed to the types of radiation you object to. If we can take a person and reliably give them a rash with a wifi router, then we're in business. Until then you're...well this lady who had her house covered in tin foil.

    "But beneath the coats of magnolia paint, she points out, the walls are lined with a special paper that contains a layer of tin-foil; and upstairs, the windows are hung with a fine, silvery gauze."
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-450995/The-woman-needs-veil-protection-modern-life.html [dailymail.co.uk]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wi-Fi also causes me pain. Every time I jack up the power output of a laptop or my PC at home the wireless starts to give me a headache, it also bothers my wife, child and brother-in-law.

    We also ended up taking the microwave out of the house because every time my wife would use it while pregnant the baby would go crazy and start lashing around in the womb. Shes 5 months old and still cant use it, her brother is the same it gives him an instant migraine if hes near a microwave in use.

    • I think you're claims are funny as well. You and your family need to seek pyschiatric help. In short, your fucking lunatics.

  • Hold on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aphoxema (1088507) * on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:17AM (#28838831) Homepage Journal

    Just because it's all in someone's head doesn't mean they aren't suffering from it.

  • by SilverHatHacker (1381259) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:36AM (#28839183)
    He needs one of these [thinkgeek.com]. So he can always tell when he's in danger.
  • by David_Hart (1184661) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:39AM (#28839261)

    Like others, I seriously doubt that the cause of his symptoms have to do with Wi-Fi. One of the the the things not mentioned in the article is whether he has explored other possibilities. The highest concentration of Wi-Fi signals are in urban areas. By its very nature, there are environmental factors tied to urban areas that go hand-in-hand with Wi-Fi. For example, urban areas tend to have higher concentrations of pollution, noise, etc., any one of which, or in combination, could cause his symptoms.

    David

  • Well now.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Rocky (56404) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:52AM (#28839497)

    ...we finally have an instance where a tin-foil helmet will actually be beneficial!

  • Allergies (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nasarius (593729) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:54AM (#28839537)
    Since everyone has already pointed out that electrohypersensitivity is simply a psychological problem (though probably no less real to the sufferer than panic attacks or depression, for example), I thought I'd add that even if it were a physical reaction, it almost certainly wouldn't be an allergy, which specifically implies the immune system reacting when it shouldn't. A general feeling of unwellness or pain is rarely a symptom of an allergy, unless it's among the symptoms of anaphylaxis, which is pretty much fatal if not immediately treated.
  • EMF sensitivity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mike449 (238450) on Monday July 27, 2009 @12:13PM (#28839865)

    As a kid, I could actually hear some EM quite distinctly. It was only the stronger pulse-like stuff, like arcing transformer a hundred meters away, or lightning strikes within about 2km. I can still hear lightning strikes that are fairly close as a faint crack in my head, a second or so before the thunder, but this ability seem to be diminishing as I age.
    Of course, there is no frickin way anybody can feel 100mW of 2.4GHz radiation from any distance, and not feel 1kW (although shielded, but leaking a lot more than 100mW) microwave oven.

  • by mattr (78516) <mattr&telebody,com> on Monday July 27, 2009 @12:33PM (#28840253) Homepage Journal

    FWIW take a look at this study (http://www.aehf.com/articles/em_sensitive.html [aehf.com]) which shows after weeding out people who are affected by fake situations, that this is a real health issue. An M.D. is involved in the paper. After weeding out people who got faked out by placebos and "active challenges", they got 100% positive, 0% negative. (I just briefly flipped through the paper so read it more carefully please.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by glassbeat (1035452)
      Here's some more info about William J. Rea. The "M.D." in the 1991 paper you linked: http://www.casewatch.org/board/med/rea/complaint.shtml [casewatch.org]
    • by Cytotoxic (245301) on Monday July 27, 2009 @05:08PM (#28844513)

      Thanks for the link. This is a very interesting article.

      The experimental design of selecting for "true responders" before proceeding with double-blinded tests is interesting. After reading through, it seems that their may be some bias on the part of the experimenters, as they express belief that those responding to placebo could be suffering delayed reaction to previous challenges. They also report delayed responses that included lapsing into depression and unconciousness for hours or days. This seems highly unlikely. If EMF exposure was really causing these people to fall unconscious for days they would never be awake.

      Also, they don't seem to have ever heard of a Faraday cage. They tested in the dark because some were sensitive to the florescent lighting, but a simple wire mesh should eliminate that possibility. I also wonder about their test equipment. As described the equipment is sitting right in front of the subject, so it seems that they might be able to ascertain if the emitter is on by means other than EMF sensitivity. There doesn't seem to be any reason not to have the subject acoustically and visually isolated from all test equipment.

      I didn't put more than a couple of minutes of thought into it, but it is odd to me that a list of authors from a wide variety of institutes of higher learning would come up with an experimental design that was easy to question. Perhaps I'm misreading something. When I used to do medical research, I noticed that the medical doctors and particularly the behavioral sciences people were not very good at experimental design, so maybe their panel is full of those types. The "not good at experimental design" means that they allowed their biases to enter the results way too easily. Because the tenor of the article is that the authors believe that not only the 16% of patients they measured as sensitive to EMF, but as much as 75% of those claiming EMF sensitivity are in fact EMF sensitive, I would suggest that they may have strong biases that are affecting their design and interpretation.

      This is just a hunch based on a brief reading though. Hey, for Slashdot that counts as informed expert opinion! If I was a researcher in this field, I would try to reproduce their results while correcting possible deficiencies in the experimental design. It should be easy to get a Science or Nature article out of this with strong enough results. If this high hit rate (16%) is really true, similar results should have shown up in any study of reasonable size. The fact that it hasn't is another reason to be skeptical of their methodology.

  • The truth! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Bazman (4849) on Monday July 27, 2009 @12:42PM (#28840467) Journal

    Surely we all know the truth about wifi?! Wifi eats babies!!

    Here:
    http://miscellanea.wellingtongrey.net/2007/05/27/the-truth-about-wireless-devices/ [wellingtongrey.net]

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