The 1995 Todd Haynes movie What is this now? An acute Wi-Fi allergy is plaguing five percent of Americans? EHS, or Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, is a condition defined by headaches, muscle spasms, burning skin and chronic pain.
The cause: over-exposure to mobile phones, wireless internet and the satellites and cell phone towers that keep them pumping.
One sufferer, Diane Schou, described her symptoms to the BBC this way: "My face turns red, I get a headache, my vision changes, and it hurts to think. Last time [I was exposed] I started getting chest pains - and to me that's becoming life-threatening."
To alleviate her discomfort, her husband built her "radio-wave resistant" wooden cage lined in wire mesh to sleep in. When that didn't work, she moved from her Iowa farmhouse to Green Bank, West Virginia. Population 143.
For 13,000 square miles around the town wireless networks are obsolete. The Radio Quiet Zone was originally designed for scientific research, but it's becoming a haven for EHS refugees.
Come on, is this really about radio waves and electromagnetic frequencies? It could be. The BBC points to a study in the International Journal of Neuroscience that backs up the EHS claim. We already know about laptop burns and exploding batteries. And there's plenty of evidence out there that cell phones aren't doing our brains any favors. (So just wear this protective plexiglass helmet and dangle my iPhone from a ceiling fan and I'll be fine? Great!)
But the World Health Organization has another take: "EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure. Further, EHS is not a medical diagnosis, nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem."
Here's what's clear: West Virginia is the last frontier. If you're trying to outrun the future and all it's potential hazards, you go there. Survivalists consider the Appalachian mountains a 2012 safe zone in the event of a polar shift, and it's steadily becoming the hot spot for post-apocalyptic bunker communities.
But you can't run forever, at least if you think you've got EHS. Cell phone towers are starting to go up near the state's Wi-fi free area, which means Schou and company will have only to turn to Eli Lilly for an inevitable pill cure...and its inevitably more painful side-effects.
As a side note: The perfectly prescient 1995 movie "Safe", starring Julianne Moore, presented a similar condition and a similar question: Does the way we live now make us sick or does it just make us more prone to believing we're sick?
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