Publication Details

Loughran, S. (2015). Can you be allergic to your Wi-Fi?. The Conversation, 7 September 1-3.

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Electromagnetic fields are all around us. They are a part of our natural environment, produced by the Earth and the sun. But they are also becoming increasingly prominent with advancements in technology, such that we are surrounded daily by many different sources of electromagnetic energy. Mobile phones, Wi-Fi, personal computers, smart meters, radio, television and even the TV remote control - they all emit this kind of energy. Mobile phone base stations are continually being installed, and Wi-Fi hotspots are increasing all of the time. Cafés and restaurants, libraries, hotels and even some city centres and parks now offer free Wi-Fi. But with all of this new infrastructure it is also getting harder to avoid exposure to the electromagnetic fields that these technologies emit. And the question often asked is what does all of this exposure mean for our health? It is an issue that has continued to gain exposure, culminating this month in what's being touted as a "breakthrough" case, with a French woman being awarded compensation for an allergy to Wi-Fi. Martine Richard, who suffers from what is called electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), was granted disability payments due to claims that her symptoms, which she attributes to electromagnetic energy, prevent her from being able to work. This ruling was made despite the science saying that no relationship between exposure to these fields and symptoms exists. So what is EHS, what do we know and what don't we know about this condition? And what does this case mean for the future?