Science & Technology

This Teacher, Suffering from a Hoax Disease, Wants to Shut Off Wifi in Cali Schools

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity isn't a real thing



A teacher has made it her mission to bring California classrooms back to the Dark Ages by turning off the wifi service at public schools.

The teacher, Anura Lawson, believes she suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, which makes her allergic to certain kinds of radio waves. Lawson told that the headaches started when the water department first installed wireless smart meters outside her home.  She eventually succeeding in having those removed, and when wireless internet later appeared at the school where she teaches, she lobbied district officials to exempt her classroom.

One problem: electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome isn't a real thing. From The Guardian:

But what does the evidence say? The classic way to test whether someone is sensitive to anything noxious is to expose them to it under controlled conditions and see what happens. Dozens of such studies have been done with people who report having EHS, and the results are consistent. Those taking part do indeed experience symptoms when exposed to electromagnetic fields, more so than when exposed to a "sham" scenario involving no active exposure. But when the experiments are performed double-blind, with neither the participant nor the researcher knowing which scenario is which, these effects disappear. The symptoms are real, but they are not caused by electromagnetic fields. Instead, they seem to be triggered by something far more mysterious: the nocebo effect.

In other words, people with EHS only think the radiation is hurting them. It's a mental condition, not a physical ailment—the radio waves themselves are completely safe.

Lawson homeschools her children to keep them safe from electromagnetic waves. That's her right as a parent, even if she's doing it for indefensible reasons. I'm less comfortable depriving the kids in her classroom of wireless internet access, but perhaps that isn't such a big deal if they can spend some school time using the web in other classrooms.

Her ultimate goal, on the other hand—to eliminate wifi from all California classrooms—is insane and contemptible:

Lawson has started an online petition to get WiFi out of California classrooms. For more information, click here.

Her petition is filled with pseudo-scientific nonsense about the supposed harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation:

The microwave radiation from wireless devices has never been safety tested on children. The current regulations for the amount of radiation that children can be exposed to was set by the US army and was based on keeping recruits safe from short term exposure. Current guidelines are based on the premise that the microwave radiation is safe so long as it does not heat an average sized army recruit [6ft 1inch tall. 210 lbs] more than one degree centigrade in 6 minutes. Safety limits have not been adjusted for density/body weight of children. 

In addition to ZERO studies on the safety of long term microwave radiation exposure on children, there are also no studies on the compounded impact of metal/microwave radiation [braces, under wire bras].

Giving every kid in Los Angeles an iPad was a terrible idea, but so is taking away their wireless internet access over preposterous safety concerns. I hope that in the future, district administrators subject her claims to greater scrutiny than the gullible author of the profile of Lawson.

(AMC's Breaking Bad sequel Better Call Saul, which debuted this year, featured a character suffering from a dubious electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Though if there is any television character who can truly be said to have a love/hate relationship with electromagnetism, it's this guy.)

Hat tip: Raw Story