These people claim to be allergic to WiFi - but is that even possible?
In 2015, a woman in France became the first person to be legally recognised as having a WiFi allergy. Marine Richard, who was 39 years old at the time, was awarded £500 ($669) disability allowance each month after arguing in court that her impairment prevented her from being able to continue working a regular job. As a result of her so-called affliction, she had to uproot herself from urban life and begin again in a rural area: one free of wireless internet technology.
Since then, more and more cases of WiFi allergies - commonly referred to as "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" (EHS) - have been reported... but can any of them actually be proven?
According to the UK's National Health Service, "Up to 5% of the general [UK] population believe themselves to be affected by electro- or radiosensitivity and experience flu-like symptoms, headaches, lethargy and nausea when exposed to various electrical appliances."
In order to prevent these symptoms, many people choose to live in more rural areas, with some going to the extreme lengths of building specially-made isolated houses or cabins that are far away from any potentially harmful phone signals or sources of radiation.
One woman - 44-year-old Rachel Hinks from Cheshire, England - said last year that she was forced to leave the home she'd stayed in for nearly two decades because her intolerance for modern technology was simply too much for her to deal with. She moved to a rural part of Wales, but - upon returning to Cheshire for a short amount of time - soon found that her time away had not cured her of her illness.
"While I was in Wales in a tent or sleeping in my car all my symptoms completely stopped," she said. "But now I’m near masts again I’m feeling so ill, I vomited twice this morning and it’s causing a lot of acute symptoms, the worst being it’s now affecting my heart and sending me into heart arrhythmia."
Accounts from the thousands of people who claim to suffer from this condition often sound convincing enough. Plus, as wireless technology is still fairly new, it is possible that there are some side effects that we simply have not discovered yet.
However, there is a problem with this: sensitivity to WiFi or phone masts or any other kind of wireless tech has never been proven.
To the contrary, one study conducted by Dr. Stacy Eltiti and Professor Elaine Fox with colleagues of the University of Essex found that people who claimed to have EHS exhibited symptoms when they believed there were active phone signals nearby, but showed no change in behaviour when they were actually in the presence of cell phone signals but weren't told about them:
"The reports state that the three-year study of 44 electrosensitive volunteers and 114 control volunteers, found that the people who thought that they were electrosensitive experienced symptoms when they were placed near to a mobile phone mast and told that it was 'switched on'.
"However, when the tests were repeated with the volunteers not knowing whether the masts were switched on or off, there was no relationship between their symptoms and the mobile phone signals. This, the newspapers suggest, may mean that any health effect of mobile phone masts is all in the mind."
If that's the case, though, why does Rachel Hinks suffer such severe symptoms when she's in an urban environment? And why was Marine Richard granted a disability allowance when there's no proof that such an affliction even exists?
It's easy to say that these people are making it up, but - in many cases, at least - they truly aren't, and do suffer from extreme discomfort or pain as a result. In 2015, for example, a teenage girl from the UK actually took her own life after the wireless signals at her school gave her such constant, unbearable headaches and nausea.
Speaking to Live Science, one expert, Dr. James Rubin, said that "People who say they have EHS are clearly ill, but the science suggests that it isn't [electromagnetic signalling] that is causing the illness."
This is backed up by the World Health Organisation, who say on their website that "There is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF (electromagnetic frequency) exposure."
As far as we know, then, this condition is purely psychosomatic. It may, indeed, be a real condition, but not in the sense that the people with EHS believe it is. Regardless of what causes it, though, people are still suffering, and more research must be conducted on the matter in order to determine how best to treat it.