I drove through Sebastopol in July to see if it was a place where I wanted to live. I was encouraged in part by the fact that there had been a collective decision to avoid citywide wireless access downtown, which I had read about online when I was researching the area. Driving around Bodega Bay, I felt well and healthy, but upon leaving the coast and driving through Sebastopol, I noticed as I drove that I felt physically uncomfortable and anxious. I happened to look over to notice a cell tower near the center of town. Even if I had liked the look of the town, I wouldn't move there, because I couldn't drive downtown without feeling unwell. Now I read that the installation of universal wireless downtown is up for consideration once again ("WiFi Brouhaha," Aug. 27).
I'm one of an increasing number of people who is made either ill or suffers physical, emotional and mental symptoms from exposure to excessive electromagnetic radiation (EMR) fields and wireless technology. I've been aware of my own sensitivity for the past year, after a disastrous experience living in a new home with a wireless computer system. It prompted me to do a lot of research.
One of the things I found out is that about 3 percent of the population is officially incapacitated by exposure to EMR; another 30 percent-plus are symptomatic but still functional. That's a lot of people. My personal belief is that people are affected but don't know it because the symptoms look like other illnesses and chronic conditions of immune-system compromise. Their doctors will be treating them for arthritis, depression, chronic fatigue or any number of other systemic problems which have become common—or they'll be told it's all in their heads and they need therapy or a hobby. Admittedly, EMR is only one of the contributors to immune-system problems, but it is a significant one for many.
I believe that proponents of WiFi who are not consciously experiencing any effect from their exposure think that it is an insignificant number of people who are affected and that what we experience is not serious. I am not as adversely affected as some, but I can't visit certain friends with wireless routers in their homes, can't spend time in an Internet cafe or airport, and can't visit a library, store or hospital that has wireless without experiencing distress. My legs ache. Sometimes I feel like screaming and crying. I experience a sense of fear and anxiety. All of this vanishes when I get some distance from the building or airplane (except for the leg pain, which may take another day to go away). I am otherwise a healthy, happy, well-adjusted person.
I'm all for progress unless it has a significant cost to the health or well-being of a living being. With universal wireless, it's not as if I can cross the street and move to a safe zone or even move anywhere I want, because the more ubiquitous wireless becomes, the fewer places exist that are not saturated with this EMR disturbance.
Electrohypersensitivity is a condition experienced from overexposure to EMR disturbances. It's comparable to the type of extreme reactions someone with multiple chemical sensitivity experiences when exposed to items made from petrochemicals. It limits one's life severely, but the main point here is that once people are in this hypersensitive state, it is very difficult to make one's way back to health. Feeling OK now is no guarantee whatsoever of feeling well even five years from now. Sensitivity occurs after exposure over time.
Certain researchers will argue that the safety standards in place now are adequate. But tell that to someone like me who is now afraid to fly or afraid to visit my own father because his house is located down a mountain from 18 cell tower repeaters. It doesn't matter what the numbers are if people are getting harmed by the technology that is in use; individual accounts of adverse health experiences after exposure have to be taken seriously, whether they agree with the numbers or not.
I am a very fair-minded person. I always try to listen to both sides of any situation in an unbiased frame of mind. I've spent months trying to discern accurately whether or not what I experience is truly from wireless exposure. I have to admit that when I hear someone complaining because they can't pursue education via the Internet anywhere around town, I get a little angry. I would like it if I could give that person an experience in my body for, say, a week after I'm exposed to wireless that I can't avoid.
I would like them to feel what it's like in the middle of the night when your body heats up feverishly and the heat wakes you up in a bedroom across the hall from a router and the only way you can cool down is to either switch off the router or go outside—not so they would suffer but so they would understand. Direct experience is very enlightening.
Holland Franklin is a Feng Shui consultant living in Santa Barbara whose practice includes protection from EMR interference. Open Mic is now a weekly feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 700 words considered for publication, write firstname.lastname@example.org.