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Electrosensitivity: is technology killing us?

By 29th March 2013.    Find Full Article Here:-

Is modern life making us ill? Yes, say those who suffer from electrosensitivity. Are they cranks, or should we all be throwing away our mobile phones?

Tim Hallam View larger picture

Tim Hallam, 36, sleeps in a custom-made silver-coated sleeping bag that helps block out electromagnetic fields. Photograph: Thomas Ball

Tim Hallam is just tall enough to seem gangly. His height makes the bedroom feel even smaller than it is. Muddy sunlight filters through the grey gauze hung over his window. His narrow bed appears to be covered with a glistening silver mosquito net. The door and the ceiling are lined with tinfoil. Tim tells me there is also a layer of foil beneath the wallpaper and under the wood-effect flooring. He says, “The room is completely insulated; the edges are sealed with aluminium tape and connected with conducting tape so I could ground the whole room. It’s a Faraday cage, effectively. Grounding helps with the low frequencies radiation, apparently. The high frequencies just bounce off the outside.”

Tim is trying to escape atmospheric manmade radiation caused by Wi-Fi, phone signals, radio, even TV screens and fluorescent bulbs. It’s a hopeless task, he admits: “It’s so hard to get away from, and it’s taken a toll on my life.” I offer to put my phone outside the room and he happily accepts, firmly closing the door. He explains the phone would have kept searching for a signal. “And because it wouldn’t find one, it would keep ramping up.” With the tinfoil inside his cage, the signal would hurtle around the room like a panicked bird.

Tim estimates he spent £1,000 on the insulation, taking photographs at every stage to share with others via ElectroSensitivity UK, the society for sufferers. He found the whole process stressful, especially after a summer sleeping in the garden of his shared house in Leamington Spa to escape a new flatmate’s powerful Wi-Fi router. How did he feel about the flatmate at the time? “Oh, I hated him. It wasn’t really him, of course. But I was so angry.” Among the symptoms Tim experiences – headaches, muscular pain, dry eyes – there are memory lapses and irritability. He now says his bed is the single most important thing he owns. “I climb in and zip it up so I’m completely sealed. Inside, I sleep extremely well. Without it, my sleep is fragmented, and without sleep, then lots of other things go wrong.”

Tim demonstrates the effectiveness of the tinfoil using a radiation detector called Elektrosmog, manufactured in Germany. It is blocky and white, which makes it look both retro and futuristic. On the front of the box, a picture of an electricity pylon is surrounded by jagged black lightning flashes. The machine gives a reading close to zero: Tim’s room is radiation-free.

As a child in the 70s, I watched a BBC science-fiction serial called The Changes, which imagined a future after humans became allergic to electricity. Pylons were the greatest danger, making people violently sick. On cross-country runs, I would speed up when I had to pass beneath a power cable, feeling the weight of the buzzing electricity above me. The idea that electromagnetic fields affect our health took root in the 1960s. A US doctor named Robert O Becker became the face of the campaign against pylons after appearing on the US TV show 60 Minutes. Professor Andrew Marino, now of Louisiana State University, was Becker’s lab partner. Marino says, “He’s the reason nobody wants to live near power lines.”

If electromagnetic radiation is dangerous to humans, there are far more risks now than 40 years ago, thanks to the telecommunications industry. More than a billion people worldwide own mobile phones. In the UK, there are more mobile contracts than people. The new 4G spectrum will cover 98% of the country, erasing all but the most remote “not spots”.

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