The wi-fi backlash begins: Man sues to shut off neighbor’s signal
In recent years, my buddy Christopher Ketcham has been taking a close look at the risks associated with cellphones and other gadgets that emit potentially harmful radiation. His conclusion? This persistent cloud of radiation in which we spend our days is fucking us up. From his February article in GQ:
Though the scientific debate is heated and far from resolved, there are multiple reports, mostly out of Europe’s premier research institutions, of cell-phone and PDA use being linked to “brain aging,” brain damage, early-onset Alzheimer’s, senility, DNA damage, and even sperm die-offs (many men, after all, keep their cell phones in their pants pockets or attached at the hip). In September 2007, the European Union’s environmental watchdog, the European Environment Agency, warned that cell-phone technology “could lead to a health crisis similar to those caused by asbestos, smoking, and lead in petrol.”
Ketcham admits that it’s “hard to talk about the dangers of cell-phone radiation without sounding like a conspiracy theorist.” But still — sober, legitimate concerns over public health shouldn’t be dismissed as the rantings of madmen. Personally, I don’t carry my cellphone in my pants pocket, for fear of nut cancer, and I barely ever talk on it. I don’t fall asleep with it (unlike 75% of iPhone users according to a recent survey); I don’t even keep it in the bedroom.
Is that enough to prevent a brain tumor? Probably not. Because we’re not just talking about cellphone radiation. In that same article, Ketcham writes:
All of these concerns—the danger of microwaves issuing from the phones we place next to our skulls, the danger of waves emitted by the cell towers that dot our landscapes—also apply to the Wi-Fi networks in our homes and libraries and offices and cafés and parks and neighborhoods. Wi-Fi operates typically at a frequency of 2.4 gigahertz (the same frequency as microwave ovens) but is embedded with a wider range of modulations than cell phones, because we need it to carry more data. “It never ceases to surprise me that people will fight a cell tower going up in their neighborhoods,” Blake Levitt, author of Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer’s Guide to the Issues and How to Protect Ourselves, told me. “They they’ll install a Wi-Fi system in their homes. That’s like inviting a cell tower indoors.”
In the summer of 2006, a super-Wi-Fi system known as WiMAX was tested in rural Sweden. Bombarded with signals, the residents of the village of Götene—who had no knowledge that the transmitter had come online—were overcome by headaches, difficulty breathing, and blurred vision, according to a Swedish news report. Two residents reported to the hospital with heart arrhythmias, similar to those that, more than thirty years ago, Allen Frey induced in frog hearts. This happened only hours after the system was turned on, and as soon as it was powered down, the symptoms disappeared.
Expect to hear more about wi-fi’s potential harm. For starters, there’s the case of the Arthur Firstenberg, who is suing his neighbor to turn off her router. From the Chicago Tribune (by way of the L.A. Times):
Arthur Firstenberg, who says he is hypersensitive to certain frequencies of electromagnetic radiation, saw the house at the end of a narrow lane as a refuge from physical and neurological symptoms that have plagued him for three decades.
“It’s been difficult because of my electromagnetic sensitivities,” he said. “I had a lot of difficulty finding a house that I could be comfortable in.”
So in September 2008, he bought the home on Barela Street, a few blocks from the newly redeveloped downtown rail yard here.
But last October, when a friend of his rented a house on the next block that backed up to Firstenberg’s property, the familiar waves of nausea, vertigo, body aches, dizziness, heart arrhythmia and insomnia returned — all, he says, because she was using an iPhone, a laptop computer, a wireless router and dimmer switches.
Firstenberg, 59, wanted Raphaela Monribot to limit her use of the devices. “I asked her to work with me,” he said. “Basically, she refused.”
So he sued Monribot in state district court, seeking $530,000 in damages and an injunction to force her to turn off the electronics.
The problem is, Arthur Firstenberg is no simple citizen. He’s a long-time activist in the battle to reduce microwave radiation. According to Wikipedia, he founded the Cellular Phone Task Force and then wrote an anti-wireless book, Microwaving Our Planet: The Environmental Impact of the Wireless Revolution. In short, he’s a crank. At least he acts like one, even if he truly does suffer from electromagnetic sensitivity. Which is why these discussions aren’t taken seriously. The opponents are branded as cranks more for their delivery than the message itself.
Will Firstenberg and Ketcham be heralded as prophets after we’ve sterilized ourselves and made brain cancer more common than HPV on a college campus? Let’s not forget the lesson of asbestos. The manufacturers damn well knew it was toxic.
Wi-Fi anxiety: Man sues neighbor to shut off electronics – Chicago Tribune.