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This woman claims she's 'allergic' to wifi. And it could be more common than you think.

Image: iStock.

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.

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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.

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“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.

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Tachova eventually spent three months in a remote area of West Virginia where electromagnetic signals are banned, and lived with a group of people who identified as electro-sensitive. Her symptoms desisted, but she eventually returned to her home in Princeton because she felt too disconnected from the rest of the world. Tachova says she felt the effects of radiation immediately and resorted to sleeping in her car to get away from it; otherwise she’d lie awake in pain.

“I’d sit and read in the car by a park. Every time someone came near I had to leave if they had a cell phone… the world felt so hostile,” she recalls. Tachova claims her wi-fi sensitivity eventually developed into a sensitivity to electricity, light, sound and anything else with vibrations.

Could health issues be stemming from wifi?

Now, Tachova lives in Israel, and says the wealth of wi-fi towers means she can barely leave her house or drive for long periods. She's immensely frustrated by doctors and other people who dismiss electro-sensitivity as "crazy" — and by the fact she may never have a definitive answer as to why her symptoms began.

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"[I think] something in the first computer caused the appearance of the symptoms. I think something was defective and probably created a strong electromagnetic shock to my body," Tachova says.

Dafna Tachova isn't the first person to describe her symptoms publicly. In 2009, a DJ named Steve Miller told UK press he'd been 'forced into exile' because wi-fi signals left him dizzy and sick; while in 2013 an Australian man was reportedly awarded worker's compensation for the "nausea, disorientation and headaches" he experienced when working with equipment that transmitted electromagnetic fields.

Undoubtedly, discourse surrouding the validity of this condition will continue. Wireless internet and other technologies aren't going anywhere, so it's certainly going to be an interesting area to watch.

Tags: health-2 , internet , technology-2
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