Thought the worst thing the internet could do to you was drag you into a rabbit hole so deep that by the time you snap out of it, it’s 3.47am and you can’t remember why you’re watching old Oscars acceptance speeches on Youtube?
Yeah, that’s pretty bad (and it happens to the best of us), but it could be worse: some people claim the mere presence of wi-fi is enough to make them physically sick.
This is known as Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity or EHS, and according to a World Health Organisation fact sheet, it’s characterised by “a variety of non-specific symptoms, which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to EMF [electromagnetic fields]”. These symptoms include dizziness, nausea, and tingling or burning sensations on the skin.
Despite the WHO’s sort-of acknowledgement of the phenomenon — it clearly states there’s “no clear diagnostic criteria” and “no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure” — it’s certainly contentious among scientists and health experts. Articles in The New York Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian among others have contended that it’s just about impossible for electromagnetic fields to yield adverse effects on health; and that any reported symptoms are likely psychological rather than physiological. EHS is also not recognised as a medical condition.
However, a new interview in New York Magazine‘s Science of Us section features a woman who says her “electro-sensitivity” is so bad she can’t use wireless technology.
Dafna Tachova’s symptoms first appeared in 2009 when she bought a new laptop, and noticed something “didn’t feel right” when she started using it. Even when she exchanged the computer a number of times, strange symptoms persisted.
“At one point I was talking to my ex-husband and I didn’t understand what he was telling me, it was like a brain disconnect. And my heart was jumping. My face felt like it was on fire. I was nauseated,” the 42-year-old attorney, who had been working with and using computers “forever”, explains.
Mobile phone and desktop computer were also unbearable; calling her family through the desktop caused a “strong pressure” in Tachova’s body, while her phone gave her head pains. However, initial tests by a cardiologist and a neurologist didn’t turn out any results. Tachova believes this is because she wasn’t exposed to wi-fi in either instance; when she’s away from radiation, she says her heart and nervous system act as normal.