'Wifi equals Death!' the battle-cry of electrosensitives / PsiCop, based on originals by shokunin & johnny automatic at Open Clip Art LibraryThere are many forms of woo and nonsense cluttering up the world of healthcare. A lot of them are causal claims that many people believe exist, but which haven’t been demonstrated scientifically. I’ve blogged many times about the antivax movement, for example, claiming that vaccines cause autism — which is absolutely untrue — but there are many more forms of this pseudomedical phenomenon.

One of them is “electrosensitivity” … the notion that EMFs cause any number of health issues, ranging from the mildly annoying to the downright debilitating. The Santa Monica Daily Press reports one electrosensitive in California is suing that city because she thinks their wireless parking meters are harming her (WebCite cached article):

What is the value of human health?

Denise Barton has a number: $1.7 billion, plus another $1.7 million every month thereafter.

Barton, known amongst City Council regulars for her detailed reports during public comment periods, filed a claim against City Hall for that hefty sum alleging that new “smart” parking meters were impacting her health.

In the claim, Barton asserts that radiation from the wireless signals emanating from the meters, which is similar to Wi-Fi Internet or cellular waves, is causing ringing in her ears, ear infections and tightness on the back, left side of her neck.

She’s convinced the city’s new meters are causing her health issues:

Barton’s problems began in April, not long after the meters began rolling out throughout the city.

But let’s examine the nature of the injury the wireless meters supposedly caused her:

She went to the doctor in late May with an ear infection, which required antibiotics to cure.

That’s funny. I’m no doctor, but I’m fairly sure that infections are caused by pathogens (e.g. bacteria or viruses). I wasn’t aware that infections were caused by radiation. But then, what could I possibly know? Ms Barton’s supposed “evidence” for the connection between her problems and the wireless meters is reported — uncritically — by the Daily Press:

Barton is concerned because there is some evidence, including a flag raised by the World Health Organization, that the low-level radiation may cause cancer and other illnesses in humans.

What the paper does not relate, is that this is NOT at all what the WHO has to say about low-level radiation. The truth is, the WHO says precisely the opposite of what Barton claims it says (cached):

In the area of biological effects and medical applications of non-ionizing radiation approximately 25,000 articles have been published over the past 30 years. Despite the feeling of some people that more research needs to be done, scientific knowledge in this area is now more extensive than for most chemicals. Based on a recent in-depth review of the scientific literature, the WHO concluded that current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.

So here we have two problems. First, Ms Barton lied about what the WHO has to say about EMF and health. Second, the Daily Press didn’t bother to confirm the WHO’s views about EMFs … when all they had to do was go to the WHO Web site and look (as I did)! Note, it’s not unusual for the proponents of pseudomedicine to lie, nor is it unusual for the media to refuse to call them on their lies. In fact, it seems to be standard operating procedure. The mass media have long been complicit in the promotion of woo and nonsense.

Allow me to conclude this by noting that I do not claim that people who think they’re electrosensitives have made up their problems or that they’re only “in their heads.” I’m not saying their maladies are fictional. I’m not saying Ms Barton didn’t have an infection. Electrosensitives’ afflictions are no doubt very real. What I — and nearly the entire medical world — dispute, is whether low-level EMF is causing the problems they have. There are very likely other causes, which simply haven’t been found yet. EMF becomes a convenient scapegoat, but it’s not the culprit. Something else is. And since electrosensitives’ symptoms run the gamut of just about everything that could go wrong with a person, I assume there are actually many different “somethings” causing their afflictions.

Photo credit: PsiCop graphic, based on originals by shokunin & johnny_automatic, both via Open Clip Art Library.

Hat tip: Consumerist.

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One Response to “Electrosensitive Sues Over Wireless Parking Meters”
  1. PsiCop says:

    Test comment – please ignore!